The volksmoeder, ordentlikheid and whiteness

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On 6 November, the launch of Sitting Pretty: White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa took place at The Book Lounge in Cape Town. Political commentator, media columnist and academic Christi van der Westhuizen, author of Sitting Pretty, was in conversation with Adam Haupt, author and professor of media studies at the University of Cape Town. Menán van Heerden gives a broad overview of the main discussion points.

Volksmoeder, volkspoppie and ordentlikheid. The discussion of Sitting Pretty focused on ways in which white Afrikaans women are bound by very specific gender and sexual prescriptions. These prescriptions are informed by patriarchal structures and “a particular ethnic form of middle-class and heterofeminine whiteness”. The conversation about the imaginary volksmoeder, the contemporary volkspoppie and the notion of ordentlikheid was also framed by Christi’s personal struggle to negotiate her Afrikaner identity.

Christi van der Westhuizen

Adam Haupt

The ways in which white power, white privilege and whiteness still operate in post-colonial South Africa were also central to the discussion. Christi emphasised that Afrikaners in general ought to engage “with the historical legacies of domination and inequalities [with humility] and to work towards the humanisation of all people in recognition of our mutual and our shared humanity”. White people also have a duty to speak out against racism when confronted with it in, for example, interpersonal interactions. Furthermore, she advised that white women specifically need to be critical of “their own whiteness”.

Christi van der Westhuizen and Adam Haupt

Books by Christi van der Westhuizen and Adam Haupt

The Book Lounge, Cape Town

In addition, she emphasised that Afrikaners who are not reactionaries need to engage much more actively and prominently in public discourse. She recognised that very important work by Afrikaners in, for example, civil society is not always prominently taken note of in public discourse.

The question of redistributive justice in South Africa, as well as the general, current “dreadful cynicism” that does not consider “a vision of the kind of South Africa that we [want] to be”, was also highlighted.

  • Listen to the entire discussion:

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  • André Badenhorst
    André Badenhorst

    Looks like a monumental work of stereotyping white Afrikaans women through cliched language by ways of a typical white liberal mentality.

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    George Bekker

    Sommer aan die begin beklemtoon Christi dat die Afrikaners 'humility' moet openbaar as hulle die saak oorweeg. Behoort 'humility' nie nog sterker in ag geneem te word wanneer Christi en kie andere beoordeel nie? Skynbaar het die 'humility-aanslag' net op Afrikaners en heteroseksueles betrekking.

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    Wilhelm Fourie

    The fact that this book was written in English about Afrikaans/Afrikaner women gives one the impression that the author is not trying to communicate with Afrikaner women, but is rather trying to score points by stereotyping Afrikaner women and then distancing herself from them. An honest reflection (which is in general a good idea) would not look like this.

  • Ek kan eenvoudig nie help om te wonder wie die teikenmark vir die boek is nie - te meer nog so nadat ek na die dwalende gesprek geluister het.

  • ".... was also framed by Christi’s personal struggle to negotiate her Afrikaner identity."

    ie white guilt.

  • What an important conversation we all need to be having as white Afrikaners: looking deeply into our own white belly buttons and understanding our own wounding from the horrific system of patriarchal Apartheid! Hopefully this academic analysis can trickle down into popular culture.

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