Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘leaders’

Where Women’s Day fails

In Eish!, Free-thinking, Politics on August 8, 2015 at 9:53 am

National_Women's_DayThis is, and is not, one of my favourite times of the year. Every year in South Africa 9th August is National Women’s Day, and it’s a public holiday. It commemorates an important day in the country’s history when approximately 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country’s pass laws that required South Africans defined as “black” under The Population Registration Act to carry an internal passport – known as a ‘dompass’.

The event is considered so important that the entire month in which the date falls is declared National Women’s Month. To be fair, the Government should be commended for trying to lead the country towards normalcy. There is a balanced representation of women in the cabinet, arguably far more so than in most other countries. Moreover women command key positions such as Minister of Science and Technology (Naledi Pandor), Energy (Tina Joemat-Pettersson), Environmental Affairs, (Edna Molewa) and State Security (Ellen Molekane). The media may claim their performances are patchy – as the Mail and Guardian’s infamous annual report card attests – but this is purely representative of the ANC’s rather dodgy selection of leaders in general rather than an indication of the performances of women versus men.

However, by recognising women as natural leaders the Government is addressing a critical failure in traditional African culture – a still fiercely patriarchal mindset that regards women as second class citizens best left behind at home to bear children and cook food. (A litmus test for this is the number of women allowed to drive minibus taxis – in all my years driving I’ve seen one). This is compounded by a strong religious undercurrent that draws on the many biblical references that portray women in this way (not to forget original sin, which, according to Ecclesiasticus 25:24 was all Eve’s fault!) I have written about this before, and, as you can expect, it found me no friends amongst my fellow men.

However, where I get frustrated is how the media and commercial sectors portray Women’s Day. It seems to be all about the femininity of women (search ‘Women’s Day’ in Google Image and see what I mean). An example is the South African iStore that sent out its ‘Celebrate Women’s Day’ mailer that included links to apps it felt were suitable. These were limited to apps for changing hair colour, shopping, and monitoring the menstrual cycle (called, I kid you not, Period Tracker). Such things, in my opinion, risk entrenching the stereotyping of women – in accordance with cultural and religious mindsets – as shallow and weak.

Women’s Day and Women’s Month, should not be about celebrating femininity – it should be about correcting historical and current imbalances in the mindset of men. The South African government should be lauded for trying, we now need the country’s men to step up to the plate.