International Women`s Day provides an opportunity for all South Africans, men and women alike, to recall and honour the immeasurable role played by women in sustaining and nurturing our young democracy, our country and indeed our very humanity. Most importantly it creates an opportunity for South Africans to reflect on the gains made and the challenges still faced by women in our country.
Like any other illustrious day of a public holiday in South Africa, like “youth day” and “67 minutes”, this day has also been unlucky of being a casualty of a boxing match between political clutches and pretenders alike in a committed attempt to claim relevance and simulated approval. Of course, we cannot overlook the undying spirit of liberal capital of forever penetrating definitions, meanings, descriptions, explanations and cognizance towards its own egocentric pseudo vicinity.
As we all know, liberal capital is vigilant, it is stubborn and has a mind of a rat. Unfortunately, this action of capital has occupied the public space and has astonishingly enrolled all its delegates and observes alike into its own way of philosophy to such an extent that women themselves have been reduced in their level of dialogue about Women’s Day. Capital celebrates, delights and sustains itself in the scene of disengagement and thus specializes in the production of three things only: myths, distortions and lies.
Among many myths, distortions and lies spread across the public spectrum by the liberal capital agenda from the West on women empowerment, I will only mention a few so as to create perspective and avoid intellectual sloppiness and carelessness.
1. Men oppressed women
2. Women oppression started in Africa
3. Women must be equal to men
4. Women make emotional decisions not rational decisions
5. Gender equality means being equal to men
6. Women empowerment means careerism
7. Women independence means single mother hood
8. Gender equality means women must do men jobs
9. Women empowerment is having a female President/CEO
10. Being a “Deputy” is not women empowerment
11. Black women must sound like whites to be successful
12. Being an African woman is being backwards and awkward
All these are hogwash, foolishness, senselessness, gibberish, rubbish, drivel, vomit, gag, puke and bunkum that is spread, sponsored and subsidised by the champions, campaigners and activists of Westernized liberal feminist retch and they must be rejected with the discontent they deserve!
I will not dwell in justification of my reasons for each and every argument that I’ve stipulated above from point 1-12 but I would rather contend all of them collectively and briefly.
Firstly, liberal feminism is guilty of disgruntlement by focusing too much of its attention on a transformation of women into men, and in doing so, disregards the significance of the traditional role of women in society. Secondly, by always focusing on the transformation of women into becoming men is actually a shoot in your own foot in the sense that it makes a perception that men are this superior thing that needs to be chased after in order to be “empowered” or be of “standard”. Thirdly, it creates a perception that women, naturally, were created weaker than men and we are now faced with a responsibility of “enforcing” equality using laws, campaigns and public holidays.
This goes to the question of Africa as being the “first” sight of women oppression in the world. This is another Westernized liberal myth that needs to be interrogated critically. The Bible, which comes from the very same West discloses its own gender prejudice by labelling God as a “He”. Furthermore, the Bible is guilty of creating Departments of creation and date of births for people on the basis of gender. The Bible portrays four Departments of creation by saying firstly there’s a God who’s a He, secondly a Jesus who’s a He, thirdly an Adam who’s a he, and lastly a helper who’s a female called Eve.
In Africa, the superior being of Africa called Qamata does not have a gender. When Africans pray, there is no reference to gender. In fact, during traditional ceremonies a woman is allowed to speak to a cow in order for it to shriek as a symbol of acceptance from ancestors. When the father, the uncle or the grandfather have given up on attempting making the cow shriek, it rests on a woman to do the job and in most instances, it is always a woman that makes a cow shriek through speaking with ancestors through the cow. I can attest to this as it happened in my own Mzileni family in the traditional ceremony we had on 26 November 2011.
In Africa, the question of gender has never ever been about “equality” but about “definition”. In other words, Africans have never looked on gender on the basis of a maths but rather on the basis of roles. Africans ask “what is your role”, not “how equal you are to me” and this has been a trend without contest. A man and a woman are looked upon on the basis of their traditional roles not comparisons. In fact, the very first encounter between a coloniser and the colonised was an encounter of a woman with a coloniser. The coloniser had to setback the woman first before defeating a man. An African man only received a message of a colonial trespasser being on the land a while after a woman received that message. In fact, it is a woman that passed a message of a coloniser trespassing to a man. The Westernized liberal programme does not reveal this fact in history because it has portrayed Africa as a dark continent without its own history.
Let me also unpack the question of “oppression” before discussing “women oppression”. Was there oppression in Africa before Europe came? Was there capitalism in Africa before Europe came? Quite frankly, am I asking an African question?
Is male dominance a creation of capitalism or is capitalism one expression of male dominance? What does it mean for a sex-based analysis if one can assert that capitalism would not be materially altered if it was controlled by women?
I also wish to dismiss the Western liberal myth of always portraying women as people who make “emotional decisions”. Moreover, the myth graduates itself into labelling Africans as people who make “emotional decisions”. This is so far from the truth in the sense that it over emphasises the rational over the emotional, whilst a human being is inartistically both. Furthermore, Africans are very fortunate to be labelled as emotional as that is proof that they are human and they have every right to be emotional because their suffering in the hands of colonialism was very emotional – it and still is moving hearts across this continent.
But the question is – liberal myth labels women as “emotional” in making which decisions? This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about gender roles. A man has a role to play in society as much as a woman has its own role to play. A process of role playing includes making decisions, choices and conclusions. If we say a role of a woman is to teach children humanity, how do you even begin to do that without emotions and rationality? If we say a role of a man is to ensure safety, warmth and security in a home, how do you even begin to do that without emotions and rationality? The course of rationality and emotions goes hand in hand with existing in society as a human being. However, this does not seek to suggest that women cannot provide warmth, security and safety or a man cannot teach children humanity – it also does not suggest that these two separate roles should be done by two separate people independently.
Another thing that liberals are guilty of is the lack of separation in roles between men and women at home and “somewhere else”. Instead, liberals seek to reduce that discussion into making the gender question a competition between a male and a female for roles at home and “somewhere else”. I mention “somewhere else” as reference to any institution outside a home where women and men encounter each other. Liberals seek to make women empowerment the basis of a female being “head of the house” or a “50/50 parity” as if parenthood should be a calculated political hegemony. This is a lie of the highest order in the sense that it creates a perception that a woman is oppressed at home when a man is heading the house and further seeks to suggest that there will be harmony and empowerment when a man is 2nd best. That is scientifically incorrect and does not hold any water. Hence, I say, in Africa, the gender question is on the basis of roles not competition. Africans ask “what is your role”, not “how equal you are to me” and this has been a trend without contest.
Westernized capitalist liberal myth continues to slay itself on the gender question in Africa by promoting an individualistic posture to empowerment, and in doing so, discredits the importance of the community. The campaign is always based on careerism, selfishness and egocentrism. Liberals encourages young people to be a Khanyi Mbau to be empowered. Community developers like Albertina Sisulu, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma but to name a few never make the list. This then becomes a self-sustaining voyage not to empowerment but to a particular class position characterized, defined and maintained by whites! It seeks to produce women who are of betrayal to their communities, families and our people.
Westernized capitalist feminism is of bourgeoisie character both in theory and practice, it works in the interest of the ruling class. Analysing society in terms of gender only ignores class divisions that exist amongst women themselves, thus dividing their working-class mass character. In fact, the dispute of isolating men from a discussion about women issues makes men the subject of such a discussion and erodes the question of divisions that women have amongst themselves and even the definition of their roles as I’ve mentioned. Bourgeoisie feminist demands, actually, if you get to think about it, can be fully satisfied within capitalism and so the pursuit of liberal feminism is just another segment that undercuts and deflects the efforts for basic change in society.
Whatever women have in common is considered based in nature, not society and this demonstrates a situation whereby the cross-cultural analyses of women’s social conditions are seen as a historical and lacking in cultural specificity and spirit.
I must also touch on the hypocrisy of the ANC Women’s League and how much it continues to divert from its principal cause. The ANC Women’s League is the biggest and the only political platform that is exclusively centred for women in Africa. We all saw how it deposited its own constituent in 2006 during the rape trial of the then Deputy President of the ANC Cde Jacob Zuma. That “rape victim” received no support from a political home of women in the country and shockingly there were even t-shirts printed “rape me Msholozi” from such ANCWL militants. We may argue that as members of the ANC our first role is to defend the revolution when it is under attack. As correct as that may be, bottom line is that there is nothing revolutionary about a rape accusation and that woman should have received the necessary mass support from the ANCWL.
I must also add that the ANCWL of today is guilty of undervaluing women’s work and concerns, it has sort of neglected the role of feelings and attitudes in a focus on organizational and material change. It has denigrated from mobilizing and organizing women from all walks of life in race and class multi-character and has generally failed to distinguish itself from any other ideological deportment dominated by male interests. It has reduced itself to being a protest NGO that only becomes noticeable in society at an awakening of violence towards women. It is a reacting organization like an automatic SMS that you receive back when you send “ringtone” to 35050.
WOMEN IN INSTITUTIONS
The liberal capitalist society defines and values in terms of their “merit” by male standards. Worse off as a black African woman as she has to continuously prove herself as to why she has graduated from the kitchen all of a sudden. Women become as free as men to work outside the home while men remain free from work within it. Technology, which was introduced as a mechanism to make capitalist work more “efficient and effective” has not liberated women in the mainstream of the work that only requires a clicking of a mouse and mental fitness. In the factory floor, women are still second best as much as they are second best in the boardroom. This is not to suggest that women must be mineworkers for us to consider that “empowerment” or “equality”. There is nothing of gender equality about a woman carrying a spade. In Africa, we do not have gender equality as much as we do not have gender inequality – we have a definition of gender roles. However, a definition of gender roles does not seek to suggest that a woman must not be in a boardroom. She must be there because she has a role to play there and I must make it clear that there is nothing wrong with a woman being a “Deputy”.
Being a “Deputy” of a man is not a suggestion that the man is superior and a woman is inferior. In fact, finding something wrong with being “Deputy” seeks to suggest that a woman in that position is oppressed by the man who is a head. There can never be oppression in teamwork. Whoever seeks to contest a woman being “Deputy” is not an activist for women emancipation but is a materialist seeking to make opportunism find relevance in the name of “liberal feminism”. Fighting over positions in the name of “feminism” is a bourgeoisie characterized action that is not very far from patronage. The struggle for women empowerment is not a struggle for positions but a struggle against prejudice in position selection and abuse in such a position.
What happens then when both females are both Deputy and head? Do we say the struggle for women empowerment is complete? The answer to this question depends on the mental state of mind of both these women. If the Head begins to undermine the Deputy or the Deputy seeks to overthrow the Head, then that is also an act of opportunism dividing women. Women empowerment is also a struggle against fights amongst women themselves. In fact, for women to fight over bourgeois gain is a sign of mental oppression in the sense that there is a “male oppressive agenda” existing amongst themselves even in the absence of such a man.
What happens when the female is the head and the man is Deputy? For a woman, as the head, to grow an undermining attitude towards the man in the name of “women independence” is actually misguided empowerment that lacks logic. This seeks to create a perception that a woman doing it all alone is “independent” whilst a man doing it all alone is “undermining”. That is gender inequality existing in the conscious via the backdoor that needs to be defeated. Furthermore, “women independence” seeks to advance individualism amongst women. Hence, they begin to get titles of “superwoman” when they complete a task that was traditionally set for a man in the bourgeoisie workplace. Women empowerment must seek to empower and interrogate such thinking.
In closing: We must begin to ask more questions on the concept of gender “equality” and gender “roles” in the African context before we become victims of the West in our demands and thinking. Women must also be able to separate between a home and an institution but surround that discussion in the African context as well. We must also begin to ask ourselves WHAT is African and not WHO is African because you have a situation today of people who came to this continent and called us “Bantus” whilst they called themselves Africans. We have never had an opportunity to actually give names to ourselves and have time to discuss our problems.
I also ask young African women to start TALKING and stop COMPLAINING. Let us resist the temptation of riding over Women’s Month on meaningless rhetoric and continuous whining about our oppression but we should rather start talking rationally and emotionally, something of which we have not done so far.
Women must also stop isolating men out of their discussions because that makes their discussions centre around men as the primary enemy of which tends to erode them from noticing the class inequality amongst themselves caused by society not men. Women must also stop trying to “catch up” to men as a gizmo to define empowerment. There is nothing to be empowered about when you chase to be equal to a man, instead you are graduating the status of a man in making it something that needs to be chased by a woman for a woman to be relevant.
Lastly, women must start realizing that nobody else will liberate them other than themselves and the first liberation is the mind. When a mind is not liberated, you will have an organization or a company full of women but who will still push the male agenda like the ANCWL. Women must take up the opportunities that a democratic South Africa has to offer and begin to cling even more in using the policies created by the democratic government to emancipate themselves.