Jezabel is a final year BDiv student at the Faculty of Theology. She is a 21-year-old woman of colour with Afrikaans as both her mother tongue and her cultural context. She is interested in post-colonial, feminist and trauma research and has lived in both the Western and the Northern Cape. She sees her identity as intersectional and multi-layered in ways that shape her life today.

Four themes emerged in her PhotoVOICE 2.0 journey:

1. Religion’s role in gender inequality

Jezabel explores the roles of Christian religion at Stellenbosch University. She identifies religion as a key driver of campus rape culture by justifying male superiority and female submission, and by demonising women’s sexuality, silencing women, and underpinning certain harmful social norms.

“(C)hurches in general are known for cultivating patriarchal beliefs and values and this is also deeply situated within the Stellenbosch context because this is one of the first colonial churches that was established in the Cape Colony.”

“(so the Bible says…’(A) woman should not wear a man’s garment (or a) man put on a woman’s cloak. Whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord’, so its echoing into queerphobia, into violence against queer bodies. Also, violence against women’s bodies, if they do not obey these beliefs, and the last Bible quote says ‘Wives submit your husband as is fitting in the Lord.”

”I just realised how many multiple layers of trauma and female victimization…is within this picture…the layers of being a black woman and standing in front of a white church that carries so much of apartheid’s history.”

“…(F)ault has always been placed on women’s bodies… being portrayed as this seductive sexual being who lures you away from God and what is right.”

2. The female fear factory

Jezabel highlights the emotions of fear experienced by women students everywhere around Stellenbosch. She sees this as a constant threatening presence in her own life, and for other women. Her photos with their darkness and symbols evoke this emotion as ever present for women.

“I was lying in bed one night and I was looking at my door and the light shone through. The fear of who might…walk in there at that point. Who may walk in next? You never know.”

“This morning I was walking past (a specific co-ed) residence and I saw a piece of men’s underwear lying there…”

“…(A)s I was standing waiting for my Uber…we have just one security guard on the premises and his lights were off and he wasn’t there, and I cannot explain the fear…it just went all through my body.”

“Every three hours a woman in South Africa is murdered due to gender-based violence… when will enough be enough?”

3. Intersectionality and Campus Rape Culture

Jezabel identifies the intersectional nature of campus rape culture – which is shaped not only by gendered norms but also in compounding ways by race, class, language and cultural aspects. In this way she highlights the complexity of male/female power dynamics within these multiple identities.

“…(S)he didn’t want to be the angry black girl, because people of colour’s experience if they speak up they’re often disregarded.”

“…(W)hen you tend to ‘pull the short end of the string’ your oppression is built on, it’s just like another layer. …this intense sexualization of their (black women’s) bodies.”

“…(W)hen you as a woman of colour enter into a male residence, a lot of the time it’s the white males who treat you very very differently, and I can speak from this experience myself.”

“…(T)here are still so many cultures that does not facilitate or help women to get a education. …I think culture also plays a great role in this.”

“I knew power played a big role in rape and dynamics between men and women, but I didn’t know to what extent. I wasn’t aware of how locker room chats actually played out in interactions, and how men force themselves on women because of what comes out in the locker room chats. So I am making those connections between rape or assault and the things that lie beneath more strongly now.”

4. Men as allies against toxic masculinity

Jezabel tries hard to find men who are wanting to be allies around GBV, or who will speak about what they have experienced in all-male spaces that they find problematic. Even if a few men do speak to her, they are not yet willing to be made visible in her photos or to speak up to other men.

“…(T)he dentist studied at Stellenbosch University and he lived in (specific male residence) for his first year and a comment he made was saying that ‘hopefully it’s better now’.”

“…(T)he first thing that he said was locker room chats, and then he explained like what comes out in these conversations… how men think of women…the horrible things they say,”

“…(I)n that situation the guy that knows that this is wrong …they would feel afraid to speak up.”

“…(F)or him it’s also just about toxic masculinity and how men have been taught that they should act.”

Thank you for engaging with Jezabel’s journey. Please click below to move onto exploring Elizabeth Eyre’s journey.