Female nakedness and political protests: analysing female nudity within University protests

Moosa, Yasaar
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Female nudity in political protests has become a global phenomenon over the last few decades. This research is contextualized within two political protests that took place in 2016: #RUReferenceList and #FeesMustFall, in which nudity was used as a means of conveying a message. This research is aimed at investigating how third-year university students perceive the use of nudity in female protests. The overarching research question asks: how has the use of nudity as a form of protest been perceived and interpreted by third-year university students? The research was underpinned by using a intersectional feminist theoretical framework, specifically discussing Africana womanism. A qualitative research design was used. Twenty-four third-year politics students were purposively selected to participate in this study. Data was collected by using questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and tweets on social media. The data was analysed by using thematic analysis to identify, investigate and report on issues and patterns that have been identified in the data. The objective of the study was to analyse how female nudity is perceived by third-year Political Studies students as they represent a small portion of the larger society. The research showed that many students disapproved of the use of nudity in student protests and was met with a great deal of disapproval from fellow students, many of them viewing nudity as inappropriate, sexualized and attention-seeking. Society has made the idea of public nudity dirty, with nudity being linked to notions around indecency and immorality. This highlights the nuances that society plays an influence of how different acts are perceived. This study recommends that more emphasis needs to be placed on providing better support and programming to raise awareness and counter gender-based violence within university campuses
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment for the degree of Masters of Arts in Political Science, in the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, 2020