The South African National Gender Machinery (NGM) is proclaimed to be more advanced than many of its counterparts across developing and post-industrial contexts. However, while the state has enacted various legislative and policy interventions to redress sexism, women’s subjective constitutions have not substantially transformed. Inspired by an interest in exploring the micro-level factors that either reinforce and reproduce, or challenge and transform systems of gender oppression in South Africa, this research study asks: How is the South African NGM discursively positioned in contemporary gender politics? The key theoretical assumptions guiding the study draw from social constructionist traditions, which suggest that NGM challenges are not static, but reinforced and reproduced through constant practices of conscious and unconscious compliance with patriarchal power systems. The study builds upon a contextual definition of gender transformation that recognises the historical complexities of South African women’s diverse subject formations, and by means of a discourse analysis, demonstrates the usefulness of observing the role of language in either sustaining or transforming gender relations. This is conducted through an adapted research method of Discourse Analysis, which provides useful tools for assessing how NGM practitioners conceive of and interpret their role. Although the general interest of the project is the NGM as a “package” of structures, it pays attention to interactions between the Department in the Presidency Responsible for Women, and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency. Crucially, the study finds that the NGM can be transformed into a viable machinery through which the aspirations of South African women can be articulated and realised. Consequently, this discourse analysis contributes an optimistic view to global and local debates on state feminism.
Mini Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2018.