“We are Equal”! Gender Constructions in a Group of Middle-Class South African Muslim Couples
- 20 Downloads
This study, situated within a social constructionist theoretical framework, explored how a group of South African, middle-class, Indian and Malay Muslim, married couples constructed gender in their relationships. Most of the studies that have been conducted on gender in Muslim marriages focus exclusively on women’s issues and included only female participants. Similarly, the few gender studies available on South African Muslims highlight the experiences or rights of women and relied on female participants. None of these studies incorporated dyadic, or couple data. We adopted a feminist social constructionist framework to explore how eight South African Muslim couples between the ages of 23 and 36 co-constructed and negotiated gender in the daily practices of their relationship. We conducted 12 (totalling nearly 24 h) joint interviews and used a thematic analysis method to analyse the data. We found that the couples constructed men and women as essentially different and complementary, and that they strongly proclaimed their relationships as equitable. Participants’ felt sense of equality seemed to be grounded in perceptions of their gendered roles as chosen, negotiable, and appreciated rather than enforced, compulsory and taken for granted. We conclude that participants’ gender ideas and practices enabled them to feel, claim and/or negotiate agentic positions in their relationships with their partners, but some of their ideas and practices may limit agency and scope of experiences.
KeywordsGender constructions Muslim couples Gender complementarity South Africa Marriage
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study has been approved by the appropriate institutional ethics committee and have been performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- 1.Albrecht, M., Jacobs, B., Retief, A., & Adamski, K. (2014). Female Muslim student’s dress practices in a South African campus context. Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, 42, 24–38.Google Scholar
- 4.Ali, K. (2003). Progressive Muslims and Islamic jurisprudence: The necessity for critical engagement with marriage and divorce law. In O. Safi (Ed.), Progressive Muslims (pp. 163–189). Oxford: One World.Google Scholar
- 5.Ali, L. (2005). Not ignorant, not helpless (cover story). Newsweek, 146(24), 33.Google Scholar
- 8.Amien, W. (2015). Rand daily mail. Muslims angry over new marriage law. http://www.rdm.co.za/lifestyle/2015/11/16/sa-muslims-angry-over-new-marriage-law. Accessed 24 May 2016.
- 9.Badran, M. (2009). Feminism in Islam: Secular and religious convergences. Oxford: Oneworld.Google Scholar
- 10.Barlas, A. (2008). Engaging Islamic feminism: Provincializing feminism as a master narrative. In: A. Kynsilehto (Ed.), Islamic Feminism: Current Perspectives (pp. 15–24). Tampere, Finland: University of Tampere.Google Scholar
- 14.Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2013). Successful qualitative research: A practical guide for beginners. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- 19.Burr, V. (2003). Social Constructionism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- 20.Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- 24.Dadoo, Y., & Gunduz, S. (2011). Muslim South African families. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 12, 221–226.Google Scholar
- 35.Gordon, S., Roberts, B., & Struwig, J. (2013). Shouldering the burden: Gender attitudes towards balancing work and family. South African social attitudes survey, HSRC review. http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en/review/hsrc-review-september-2013/Shouldering-the-burden-gender-attitudes-towards-balancing-work-andfamily. Accessed 15 Sep 2015.
- 36.Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (2008). Gottman method couple therapy. In A. S. Gurman (Ed.), Clinical handbook of couple therapy (pp. 138–164). New York: Guildford.Google Scholar
- 39.Hassan, R. (2011). Identity construction in post-apartheid South Africa: The case of the Muslim community. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Edinburgh, UK.Google Scholar
- 42.Hojat, M., Shapurian, R., Foroughi, D., Nayerahmadi, H., Farzaneh, M., Shafieyan, M., et al. (2000). Gender differences in traditional attitudes toward marriage and the family: An empirical study of Iranian immigrants in the United States. Journal of Family Affairs, 21, 419–434.Google Scholar
- 46.Jacobson, C. M. (2004). Negotiating gender: Discourse and practice among young Muslims in Norway. Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, 17, 5–28.Google Scholar
- 48.Kagee, A., Toefy, Y., Simbayi, L., & Kalichman, S. (2005). HIV prevalence in three predominantly Muslim residential areas in the Cape Town metropole. South African Medical Journal, 95, 512–516.Google Scholar
- 50.Kugle, S. S. H. (2003). Sexuality, diversity and ethics in the agenda of progressive Muslims. In O. Safi (Ed.), Progressive Muslims (pp. 190–234). Oxford: One World.Google Scholar
- 56.Mahmood, S. (2005). Politics of piety: The Islamic revival and the feminist subject. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- 60.Matthee, H. (2008). Muslim identities and political strategies: A study of in the greater Cape Town area of South Africa, 1994–2000. Kassel: Kassel University Press.Google Scholar
- 64.Moghadam, V. M., & Mitra, N. (2014). Women and gender in the Muslim world. In J. T. Knight & E. Moosa (Eds.), Islam and the modern world (pp. 151–176). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- 66.Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- 70.Ratele, K., Shefer, T., Strebel, A., & Fouten, E. (2010). ‘We do not cook, we only assist them’: Constructions of hegemonic masculinity through gendered activity. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 20, 557–567.Google Scholar
- 73.Sader, F. (2008). The identity of Muslim women in South Africa: Married couples’ perspectives. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.Google Scholar
- 75.Shaikh, S. (2003). Transforming feminisms: Islam, women and gender justice. In O. Safi (Ed.), Progressive Muslims (pp. 147–162). Oxford: Oneworld Publications.Google Scholar
- 77.Shaikh, S. (2007). A tafsir of praxis: Gender, marital violence and resistance to change in a South African community. In D. C. Maguire & S. Shaikh (Eds.), Violence against women in contemporary world religions: Roots and cures (pp. 66–89). London: Penguin Press.Google Scholar
- 78.Shaikh, S., Hoel, N., & Kagee, A. (2011). South African Muslim women: Sexuality, marriage and reproductive choices. Journal for Islamic Studies, 31, 96–121.Google Scholar
- 81.Simmons, G. Z. (2003). Are we up to the challenge? The need for radical re-ordering of the Islamic discourse for women. In O. Safi (Ed.), Progressive Muslims (pp. 235–250). Oxford: One World.Google Scholar
- 83.Statistics South Africa. (2012). South African statistics, 2012. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa.Google Scholar
- 85.Tayob, A. (2003). Muslim personal law—Women’s experiences and perspectives. Centre for Contemporary Islam: Annual Review of Islam in South Africa, 1, 30–34.Google Scholar
- 87.Vahed, G. (2007). Islam in South Africa: Prospects and challenges. Journal for Islamic Studies, 7, 116–149.Google Scholar
- 88.Vahed, G. (2014). Muslim women’s identities in South Africa: A Zanzibari perspective in KwaZulu-Natal. New Contree, 70, 107–129.Google Scholar
- 89.Willig, C. (2001). Introducing qualitative research in psychology: Adventures in theory and method. Berkshire: Open University Press.Google Scholar