Defining Feminine Roles: A ‘Gendered’ Depiction of Women through Zulu Proverbs

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Evangeline Bonisiwe Zungu


In most African societies language reflects the subordination of women to men and the respect they must show to men and their elders. This paper is a preliminary investigation which aims to examine how women are portrayed in selected Zulu proverbs. The proverbs discussed in this article reflect how Zulu society perceives men as intelligent in conflict resolution and skilled in societal disputes. Proverbs discussed in this paper are informed by the way Zulu men are socialised and the manner in which young girls are brought up. Men are socialised into thinking that women need to start preparing themselves for marriage from a young age. Female behaviour needs to be socially acceptable, as every person encountered by an unmarried female is a potential husband and potential in-law. This grooming is evident in the proverbs frequently used in Zulu society. This article uses the African womanism theory which argues for a feminist critique of gender that draws from the experiences of African women, and also rejects the male dominance in African societies.


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How to Cite
Zungu, E. (2016). Defining Feminine Roles: A ‘Gendered’ Depiction of Women through Zulu Proverbs. Alternation Journal, (18), 221-240. Retrieved from
Author Biography

Evangeline Bonisiwe Zungu, University of Witwatersrand