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Women, visibility and morality in Kenyan popular media

by Dina Ligaga

Women, visibility and morality in Kenyan popular media explores familiar constructions of femininity to assess ways in which it circulates in discourse, both stereotypically and otherwise. It assesses the meanings of such discourses and their articulations in various public platforms in Kenya. The book draws together theoretical questions on ‘pre-convened’ scripts that contain or condition how women can circulate in public. The book asks questions about particular interpretations of women’s bodies that are considered transgressive or unruly and why these bodies become significant symbolic sites for the generation of knowledge on morality and sexuality. The book also poses questions about genre and representations of femininity. The assertion made is that for knowledges of femininity to circulate effectively, they must be melodramatic, spectacular and scandalous. Ultimately, the book asks how such a theorisation of popular modes of representation enable a better understanding of the connections between gender, sexuality and violence in Kenya.

ISBN 9781920033637 | 194 pages | 244 x 170 mm | 2020 | NISC (Pty) Ltd, South Africa | Paperback


eBook ISBN: 9781920033651


‘Why are married women often the subject of ‘sex scandals’? Why is it scandalous for a married woman to have an extra-marital affair, but for men it demonstrates their ‘manhood’? Why is sexual desire ‘normal’ for men, but ‘immoral’ for women? Why are young, university-educated women framed in social media as money-grabbing hussies? What does it mean that women are challenging social norms about their place in society, and how they ought to conduct themselves? What are the social meanings of the media’s cautionary tales about the punishment meted out to women they mark as ‘wicked’, ‘loose’, ‘immoral’, ‘wild’, ‘difficult’, ‘educated’, when they step outside of patriarchal conventions of what it means to be a Kenyan woman? Ligaga innovatively shows us how we can read Kenyan women’s ‘transgressions’, not as moral flaws, but rather as demonstrations of how they negotiate the constraints of national cultural conventions, and in so doing offer new ways of ‘becoming’ a Kenyan woman.’

Lynette Steenveld, associate professor of Media Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa



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