Warrior Girls: violence against women and gender-based activism in a Pentecostal-Charismatic church in Stellenbosch

Marx, Danya (2021-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Levels of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa are unacceptably high, and manifest in a social context marked by patriarchal forms of power, authority, family organisation, and religion (Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, 2016: 8). Gender-justice movements, particularly in response to violence against women (VAW), have become increasingly vocal both nationally and globally. In a country where a large majority of South Africans identify as Christian, a faith that is often described as patriarchal (Robbins, 2004: 132-133), some churches have joined these movements. This study looks at how a South African Pentecostal-Charismatic church, Hillsong Stellenbosch, alongside other local branches of the church, reacted to the issue through its women-centred development and VAW-justice programmes. These programmes were Hillsong’s Sisterhood women’s ministry, their Shine Women women’s development course, and the WAR (War Against Rape) campaign. I used participant observation to explore and gain insight into how these Hillsongers understood gender-based activism through a faith that is viewed as restrictively patriarchal. Activism at Hillsong was overtly spiritual, a fact that shaped the church’s perceptions of what women’s empowerment and VAW activism looked like. Hillsongers believed that God could change the world, but that they also had a role to play in the process. Towards this end, Hillsongers focussed on strengthening Christians in order to partake in spiritual “warfare” through transforming themselves. This transformation was often gendered, with the church’s programmes highlighting specific ideals regarding the role of women, as well as men, in the Christian mission of healing the world and ultimately bringing God’s Kingdom down to Earth. The ways in which these Hillsongers used words and physical space to “confess” prosperity and dominion also played an important role in the creation of this new world. Through this phenomenological study, I aim to provide secular activists with a deeper understanding of Pentecostal-Charismatics’ gender-related activism in the hope of expanding the conversation about VAW activism between both religious and non-religious groups. In this way, I hope to further extend the space in which both forms of activism can exist as different ways in which differently-situated women react to VAW.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die vlakke van geslagsgebaseerde geweld (GGG) in Suid-Afrika is onaanvaarbaar hoog en manifesteer in 'n sosiale konteks wat gekenmerk word deur patriargale vorme van mag, gesag, familie-organisasie en godsdiens (Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, 2016: 8). Bewegings wat hul beywer vir geslagsgeregtigheid, veral in reaksie op geweld teen vroue (GTV) het toenemend hul stem dik gemaak, nasionaal en wêreldwyd. In 'n land waar 'n groot meerderheid Suid-Afrikaners hulself as Christene identifiseer, 'n geloof wat dikwels as patriargaal beskryf word (Robbins, 2004: 132-133), het sommige kerke by hierdie bewegings aangesluit. In hierdie studie word gekyk hoe 'n Suid-Afrikaanse Pinkster-Charismatiese kerk, Hillsong Church Stellenbosch, saam met ander plaaslike takke van die kerk op die kwessie gereageer het deur vrouegesentreerde ontwikkelings- en (GTV) geregtigheidsprogramme. Hierdie programme was Hillsong se Sisterhood-vrouebediening, hul ShineWomen-ontwikkelingskursus vir vroue, en die WAR (War Against Rape)-veldtog. Ek het 'n mengsel van onderhoude gebruik en ook deelnemers waargeneem om te ondersoek en insig te kry in hoe hierdie Hillsong-lede geslagsgebaseerde aktivisme verstaan deur 'n geloof wat as beperkend patriargaal beskou word. Aktivisme by Hillsong was openlik spiritueel, ’n feit wat die kerk se persepsies oor hoe vrouebemagtiging en GTV-aktivisme lyk, gevorm het. Hillsongers het geglo dat God die wêreld kon verander, maar dat hulle ook 'n rol in die proses moes speel. Met dié doel het Hillsongers hulle daarop toegespits om Christene te versterk om aan geestelike 'oorlogvoering' deel te neem deur hulself te transformeer. Hierdie transformasie is dikwels geslagsgetrou. Die kerk se programme het spesifieke ideale oor die rol van vroue sowel as mans beklemtoon in die Christelike missie om die wêreld te genees en uiteindelik God se Koninkryk na die aarde te bring. Die maniere waarop hierdie Hillsongers woorde en fisiese ruimte gebruik het om welvaart en heerskappy te "bely", het ook 'n belangrike rol gespeel om hierdie nuwe wêreld te skep. Deur hierdie fenomenologiese studie beoog ek om sekulêre aktiviste 'n dieper begrip te gee van Pinkster- Charismate se geslagsverwante aktivisme in die hoop om die gesprek oor GTV-aktivisme tussen godsdienstige en nie-godsdienstige groepe uit te brei. Op hierdie manier hoop ek om die ruimte verder te vergroot waarin albei vorms van aktivisme kan bestaan – as verskillende maniere waarop vroue in verskillende situasies op GTV reageer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/110098
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