To live and love across a spectrum
- Professor Lynn Morris
EDITORIAL: The way we choose to identify ourselves provokes questions and demands interrogation to ensure a more equitable and tolerant society.
Professor Lynn Morris, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at Wits University.
This 13th issue of Curios.ty is themed ‘Gender’. It features research across faculties and disciplines at Wits that relate to gender, feminism, masculinity, sex, sexual identity and sexual health. Non-binary and gender fluidity are increasingly prevalent as people claim their unique identity as complex individuals who live and love across a spectrum.
Language locates us in time and place and our two feature stories provide an historical-geographical overview of Being Queer in Africa – and the profound personal, social and legal impact. In Beyond the Binary, we challenge (through research) the misconception that people are either male or female, and how we might transcend and transform transphobia.
There’s no escaping the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide in SA and our stories on female genital mutilation, lesbian hate killings, and the politicisation of women’s bodies are horrifying and discomforting. Big Data and analytics can help detect and prevent gender-based violence – if the inherent biases in Artificial Intelligence are adjusted (AI traditionally defaults to the white male). Our stories on performing masculinity – as black, gay, and male – in SA and at Wits, suggest that toxic masculinity and patriarchy persist, and provide direction on how we might begin to change the narrative.
Alongside these dire but necessary stories are chronicles of inspiration and courage – read how our Female Academic Leadership Fellows (FALF) with the guidance of our formidable Chancellor, Dr Judy Dlamini, confront and overcome challenges in academia, while Wits female scholars in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, voice the clarion call to advance women in science.
Throughout our adult lives, we seek solutions to issues around our sexual health, yet sex talk remains taboo, to the detriment of public health. Similarly, in the geriatric phase of life people remain sexual beings, but ignorance and silence on sexuality in the elderly can be lethal.
Read our Gender in Sport story for what it takes to be an athlete competing at the highest levels in the 21st Century and how male and female cricketers differ, and why this matters. On a lighter note, read how our companions in the animal kingdom indicate and celebrate their sexuality and diversity (it may surprise you!) and pop culture representations of monsters and gender a’ la Corpse Bride.
At Wits University, which celebrates 100 years of research excellence in 2022, we proudly advance knowledge that is responsive to a new generation and embrace the LGBTQIA+ spectrum of identities and sexualities ready to confront the inherent challenges. Whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, intersex, or asexual, the way we choose to identify ourselves in the 21st Century provokes questions and demands interrogation to ensure a more equitable and tolerant society. Join us.
- Professor Lynn Morris is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation.
- This article first appeared in Curiosity, a research magazine produced by Wits Communications and the Research Office.
- Read more in the 13th issue, themed: #Gender. We feature research across disciplines that relates to gender, feminism, masculinity, sex, sexual identity and sexual health.