Mary-Anne Plaatjies-van Huffel

Trailblazing journey off the patriarchal beaten track


  • Miranda Pillay University of the Western Cape



Mary-Ann Plaatjies-van Huffel, patriarchy, debunk, second-generation gender bias, virtue of unctuousness, church


There’s no doubt that Mary-Ann Plaatjies-van Huffel is amongst the women who “have moved into the academy, assumed religious leadership, and claimed their religious agency and heritage”. However, as a woman of colour Plaatjies-van Huffel’s life and work reveal that she had to navigate her leadership and exercise her agency along a well-beaten patriarchal beaten track. In this article I foreground some “first woman to…” milestones on Plaatjies-van Huffel’s trailblazing journey through the ecclesial ranks of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA), highlighting that her academic research and community engagement reflect the social, economic, and political realities of racism and sexism, and its complex ramifications in post-apartheid South Africa. The main argument I make in this article is that, while women may no longer be excluded from leadership positions, it is second-generation gender bias that maintains the patriarchal beaten track in “the church”. Thus, I call for the debunking of second-generation gender bias which, I argue, will require a virtue of unctuousness.