The Justice Hypocrisy: Racism and Sexism

By Jonathan Smith

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.


4 thoughts on “The Justice Hypocrisy: Racism and Sexism”

  1. Perhaps in South Africa there is this innate sensitivity to racism above all else, as a result of the horror of apartheid and the extent to which other races were confined.
    But South Africa was not really a part of the feminist waves – we did not get directly involved in the international movements – we sort of flowed with the rest of the world regarding feminine rights.
    Perhaps, if we wish to garner the same response regarding sexism as we due regarding racism, women in South Africa need to take a hard stand against this sexism – we need to take part in a real revolution – in order for the entire country to be sensitive to it as well.


  2. Jonathan, I agree with your premise about the problem of racism trumping sexism when in fact sexism is the oldest form of oppression and discrimination on the planet.

    However, two points:

    1- A better equivalence between what Manyi said would be if he has said “Women should leave the rural areas for urban areas as the conutry is open to all” or “there is an over concentration of women in the rural areas.”

    2 – Black people are structurally paid much less than their white counterparts. It is not “generally dealt with”, it is evaded and in fact perpetuated by institutional practices and it is not “isolated incidents” is it the entire foundation of the economy.

    The only place where one can truly say blacks and whites are being paid equally is probably in government.


  3. Today most rural people do have connections with nationals of colour, their son or daughter may be dating or their best friend may be a person of colour. Colour is now part of the rural setting and it shows a lack of creativity to exclude that from his story lines. It goes back to those awful days when people excluded themselves by saying that they were just reflecting attitudes. We have a responsibility to go farther than that.


  4. I am very excited to see this article. It is high time that we start to acknowledge that, like Jonathan said, “We have let the fight for racial equality overshadow the fight for gender equality.” South Africa did not go through the same social struggles or changes that the rest of the word went through regarding gender equality, because of apartheid and our continuing struggle with bridging divides created by it. It is time we take a very strong stand for respect and equality for women in South Africa. Thank you for writing this Jonathan.


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