Accepted paper:

"How to be a good man of God?": change and continuity in the Pentecostal reworking of masculinity in Brussels


Maïté Maskens (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Paper short abstract:

In Pentecostal churches attended by converts of African or Latin-American origin in Brussels, interrogations about how to be a “good man of God” are frequent. These interrogations are shaped by the migratory experience lived by the large majority of followers and the religious guidance delivered by churches to help them cope with their new gender context.

Paper long abstract:

Pentecostal men in Brussels are, for the large majority, also migrants. This transnational event - the migration - is understood here as a kind of personal crisis provoked by a more or less radical changes of cultural and territorial references. In most cases, the geographical shift men face calls their way "to be a man" into question. According to several testimonials, their capacity in the role of breadwinner is undermined by women's privilege in the European economical order. In this uncomfortable position, where they experience a kind of vulnerability, religious speech provides assurance and self-esteem by affirming men as head of their religious space and chief of their household unit. Close to a model of hegemonic masculinity in the sexual division of domestic tasks, in the recognition of formal authority to men, or in an exclusive focus on young women as the purity "capital" of churches, the Pentecostal masculinity also reveals significant ruptures with the patriarchal model of masculinity. Religious discourse regularly value domestic implication, sensibilities and softness, which are encouraged as valorised masculine characteristics. Interlocutors speak about "being a gallant men" or "having a [good] heart" to legitimate the supportive way they act in their household, a lexical field that opens the debate about this type of alternative masculinity. By illustrating this paradoxical shift of definition of the man's self (by testimonies, predication, interaction, debates or conflicts), we will see how Pentecostal affiliation opens up possibilities for men to cope with the numerous gender changes provoked by their migratory experience.

panel W072
Masculinities in times of uncertainty and change