Encountering the female voice in the Song of Songs : reading the Song of Songs for the dignity of Kenyan women

Juma, Dorcas Chebet (2014-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study investigates one of the central aspects of a Kenyan woman’s identity, namely the notion of sexuality, which unfortunately also underlies numerous socio-economic and developmental challenges currently confronting Kenyan women. The research shows that in Kenya, patriarchal ideologies are used to control the sexuality of women in the name of ‘our culture’. Thus, it is and has been difficult for many Kenyan women to live with dignity as beings equally created in the image and likeness of God. The study, therefore, sought to identify, expose, criticize, destabilize and to deconstruct patriarchal ideologies that deny Kenyan women the right to live with dignity. Patriarchal ideologies that have been used to mute the voices of Kenyan women on matters of sex and sexuality are challenged by introducing the voices of Kenyan women. The latter is done with reference to poetry that reflects the voices and experiences of Kenyan women as a means of expressing who they really are in the midst of a society that silences them. It is shown that, by means of poetry, the full power and energy of these women may be mobilized. Moreover, the voices and experiences of Kenyan women offer a contextual re-reading of the Song of Songs for their dignity. The study presents the female voice in the Song of Songs (a text from a male pen) as responding in a new way to the patriarchal Old Testament society on matters of sex and sexuality. In the process, a twofold strategy is proposed with which negative perceptions of the sexuality of women in the worldview of Kenya may be addressed: First, this study proposes that it is important to purposefully steer conversations regarding issues of sex and sexuality. The latter is done in the conviction that this is one way of creating a platform for addressing other gender-based injustices that deny Kenyan women the right to live with dignity. Second, by focusing on Kenyan poetry, as well as on the female voice in the Song of Songs, there is a possibility of reconstructing positive aspects of the sexuality of Kenyan women, which may allow them to live with dignity. To achieve the aim of this study, to re-read the Song of Songs for the dignity of Kenyan women, an African Women’s Theological approach is used within the broader context of feminist and womanist approaches to the Song. Through an African Women’s approach to the Song of Songs, the study asks how the female voice that spoke boldly in the patriarchal setting of the Old Testament can also be liberating in the Kenyan patriarchal setting. The female voice in Song of Songs presents issues of sex and sexuality in a new way. As such, it is proposed that the latter voice, read through the hermeneutical lens of Kenyan women’s poetry or poetry on Kenyan women, has the potential to inform and therefore to transform the patriarchal setting of the Kenyan society. It is only if Kenyan women are empowered to negotiate safe sex and to express their sexuality on their own terms and conditions, that this will be fully realized.

AFRIKKANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie ondersoek een van die sentrale aspekte van ’n Keniaanse vrou se identiteit, naamlik die idee van seksualiteit, wat ongelukkig ook onderliggend is aan talle sosio-ekonomiese en ontwikkelingsuitdagings wat Keniaanse vroue tans konfronteer. Die navorsing toon in Kenia word patriargale ideologieë gebruik om die seksualiteit van vroue te beheer in die naam van ‘ons kultuur’. Dit is dus moeilik vir baie Keniaanse vroue om met waardigheid te leef as gelyk-geskape na die beeld en gelykenis van God. Hierdie studie poog om patriargale ideologieë wat Keniaanse vrouens die reg om met waardigheid te leef ontneem te identifiseer, te kritiseer, te destabiliseer en te dekonstrueer. Die studie daag patriargale ideologieë uit wat gebruik is en word om die stemme van Keniaanse vrouens oor seks en seksualiteit stil te maak. Dit word spesifiek gedoen deur die stemme en ervarings van Keniaanse vrouens in poësie te gebruik (soms in die gedigte van manlike digters!) as uitdrukking van hulle lewens te midde van ”’n patriargale samelewing. Dit word getoon hoedat hiedie gedigte die krag en energie van hierdie vroue kan mobiliseer. Meer nog, die stemme van Keniaanse vrouens bied die geleentheid tot ’n kontekstuele herlees van Hooglied met die oog op die erkening en beskerming van hulle waardigheid. Die vroulike stem in Hooglied word verstaan as ’n nuwe reaksie op die Ou Testamentiese samelewing met betrekking tot kwessies soos seks en seksualiteit. In die proses word daar met ’n tweeledige strategie voorendag gekom waarmee die negatiewe opvattings oor die seksualiteit van vroue in die wêreldbeeld van Keniaanse mans aangespreek kan word. Eerstens word die noodsaak voorgestel van ’n doelbewuste rigtinggewing aan gesprekke oor seks en seksualiteit. Dit word gedoen vanuit die oortuiging dat dit een manier is om ’n platform te skep waar gelsagsgebasseerde ongeregtighede wat Keniaanse vroue die reg op ’n menswaardige lewe ontsê aangespreek kan word. Tweedens, deur op Keniaanse poësie en die vroulike stem in Hooglied te fokus, word voorgestel dat dat posititewe aspekte van die seksualiteit van Keniaanse vroue herkonstrueer kan word, wat dan kan meewerk om hulle met waardigheid te kan laat leef. Ten einde bogenoemde doelwit van hierdie studie te bereik, word ’n Afrika-vrouebenadering toegepas in die lees van Hooglied. Dit vind plaas binne ’n breër konteks van Feministiese en sogenaamde “Womanist” benaderings tot die boek. Met ’n Afrika vroue benadering as leesstrategie, word aangedui dat en hoe die vroulike stem wat vreesloos in haar eie patriargale, Ou Testamentiese konteks spreek ook bevrydend kan funksioneer binne die Keniaanse patriargale konteks. Daar word dus getoon dat die vroulike stem in Hooglied seks en seksualiteit op ’n nuwe manier aanbied. Gevolglik stel hierdie studie voor dat die vroulike stem in Hooglied, gelees deur die hermeneutiese lens van Keniaanse gedigte oor of deur vroue, die potensiaal het om die patriargale konteks van die Keniaanse samelewing eendersyds te ontbloot en andersyds te transformeer. Dit is slegs wanneer Keniaanse vroue bemagtig word om vir veilige seks te kan onderhandel en hulle seksualiteit op hulle eie terme uit te kan druk, dat hulle menswaardigheid ten volle gerealiseer sal word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/95821
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