The recent saga around the comments made by Jimmy Manyi regarding ‘coloured’ people working in the Cape have been condemned from all corners as Racist and Unacceptable; and one needs to agree wholeheartedly and applaud this condemnation. However, this again got me thinking about the hypocritical differences that is seen in society and the work place between 2 key ‘Justice’ issues, that of racism and sexism.
You see, the issue is that Sexism is NOT seen in the same light as racism; and even more concerning is that this is considered socially acceptable. Surely the time has come to challenge this assumption.
Now, I am sure that if Manyi had said that women need to leave their jobs for men, he would have been rightly condemned. But would the reaction have been so strong? Or would the Justice Hypocrisy been evident? The gender gulf still exists so strongly in the workplace (as a reflection of society) and yet it remains one of the hidden injustices we accept. What would the uproar be if most black people were paid less than white people (and I know this does occur at times; but it generally dealt with or an isolated incidents). This would be viewed as an act of racism of the highest degree. Yet we allow Sexism like this to happen before our very eyes, and apart from some of us occasionally drawing attention to it, no Government leader has written a letter against it, it has not become a key part of someone’s election campaign. Even recently, in a company document I came across, the wording still refers to a person in a masculine form. Imagine if it referenced a ‘European’ to reflect all humans. This should be unacceptable, but it happens. Day in and day out. There has been no major march or strike or even threats of strikes about it. It is Ironic, as some of the first feminist strikes were on these workplace issues; yet they still remains, and we allow them to.
So is there space for feminism to be seen the same as racism in the workplace and society? Is there energy left for condemnation of our hypocrisy, in the public and political discourses, but as well as in our day to day lives and encounters. Are we willing to strongly disagree with someone who clearly doesn’t care. Racism and sexism, and any other “ism”, are injustices that cannot be allowed to continue, and need to be spoken up against, fought against. As equal injustices. The idea that injustice can be measured on a scale needs to disappear from our psyche. But I fear that in SA today justice hypocrisy is growing in strength; many think the feminist fight has been won. We have let the fight for racial equality overshadow the fight for gender equality. And this is so evident in the work place. We say that feminism is the radical notion that a woman is human as well. Let us not forget that.