Two things that two different people have recently said to me have had an impact on my thoughts about feminism. More accurately, I have started to think about discrimination in all its forms and how to change the society we live in. Admittedly, there is no one way we can change society, but we can change our thinking about society and perhaps through this, we can make small changes around us.
So what was it that these people said that so changed my life? It began with my lecturer at University, who said that when we think of the word “gender”, we associate it with women. But gender refers to men too; therefore, any policy which hopes to improve equality between genders needs to target both genders (or more correctly, all genders, trans-genders included). I agree with this wholeheartedly, having written about the need for a movement called “masculinism”.
The second profound comment came from the census guy. He told me that one of his fellow census workers was told by a white lady that she won’t allow any black people in her house, and that her census form should just be placed in her post box to be collected the next day. We both had a good laugh and I remarked that there are still people like that out there. He returned this by saying that it is mostly the older generation, whereas I told him that this is not really true. Even people in our generation (we are the same age) have racist thoughts. He agreed with me, admitting that we are all children of the “rainbow nation”. What touched me was that he said that we will be judged by how we bring up our children.
Discrimination has been entrenched firmly into the psyche of this country and all its unfortunate but blessed citizens. We cannot deny that we have not been tainted by the past. Centuries of racism, and concurrently patriarchy, shape our thoughts and actions. People discriminate, they differentiate, they alienate and they stereotype. It’s part of human nature.
Perhaps it stems from fear, but “ours” also comes from history. This is not an argument to condone discrimination, but rather to understand that it exists and that we can see its manifestations in everyday life. I would go so far as to argue that this is not about right or wrong, who should be blamed and hence feel guilty, but about curbing the negative manifestations, anyway we know how.
So how do we address it? Well, if we combine the two thoughts above, that we need to target all genders and that we should target our children, then we have one small, but possibly vital, answer. We must bring up our children to be the generation who breaks the cycle of discrimination. We all know that the scars of South Africa will not heal in one generation’s lifetime, nor because of the actions of this one generation, but we can make a significant beginning.
There exists no reason why our children should be raised in the same way we were. We must raise a generation of free-thinkers who have ideas about morality which are based upon those values which our country is supposed to live by; freedom, human dignity, self-worth, non-discrimination. My generation is so insecure, so violent, so confused. Apartheid erased the confidence of so many young people. However, we can raise our sons and daughters to feel worthy, loved, wanted. It’s a small gift to them, just like they are to you.