Mothering experiences of lesbian women in Harare, Zimbabwe.
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This study provides a Sociological and Anthropological understanding of how lesbian women accomplish and negotiate their mothering journeys in Zimbabwe given the fact that they are operating outside the idealised family constellation. It explores the mothering journeys of 8 self-identified lesbian mothers, the ways/ mechanisms used to accomplish motherhood, the challenges faced and coping mechanisms adopted in these mothering journeys. The data was collected from June 2016 to January 2017 through unstructured interviews, diaries and repeat interviews. The theoretical formation of the mothering journeys is pursued through examining a dyad of Anthropological and Sociological theories, featuring specifically Herbert Blumer (1969) Symbolic Interactionism and Michael De Certeau (1984) Practice of everyday life. Lesbianism and motherhood is highly contested and regarded differently across the world. The phenomena is embryonic in Zimbabwe and little is known as a result. This explorative study is informed by Situational Symbolic Interactionism as an epistemological tradition embedded in the qualitative research paradigm, accommodating therefore the researcher to view the research encounters as relational, impromptu, emergent, negotiated and pragmatic in nature. The analysis and results show that in order to accomplish motherhood lesbian women sought the services of informal sperm donors, ‘manipulated’ men and ‘requested’ men to sleep with them so as to conceive. As a result of being mothers the respondents faced a number of challenges relating to heteronormativity, stereotyping, discrimination and homophobia. So as to cope and negotiate the challenges emanating from normative expectations regarding family and motherhood, participants resorted to a number of self-management mechanisms such as normalization, naturalization, neutralization, resignation and ritualization. By doing so lesbian mothers can be regarded as active agents as they faced challenges with resilience and fortitude. Thus, resonating with the Michael De Certeau (1984) Agency theory and Herbert Blumer symbolic interactionism as the enlisted theoretical frameworks to illuminate this study. This study concludes by suggesting that mothering experiences of lesbian women in Harare, Zimbabwe can be understood as experiential, circumstantial and situational as it varies within and across individuals as well as with social spaces and time. The challenges faced by these lesbian mothers can not only be understood as challenges of their ‘lesbianism’ but also as challenges of inter-sectionality as some of these challenges related to them as single mothers and not as lesbian mothers per se.
Additional Citation InformationKuyala, R. (2017). Mothering experiences of lesbian women in Harare, Zimbabwe. [Unpublished masters thesis]. University of Zimbabwe.
University of Zimbabwe