This year we have seen the forces of feminism and patriarchal political power collide in America. We saw millions of people march against discrimination, hatred, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and inequality. They used their voices and bodies and refused to be silent.
We’ve seen the debates arise over the female candidate to take over the reigns of the ANC, and how often the first female and former Chairperson of the African Union, anti-apartheid activist, former minister of health, former minister of home affairs, has been described as ‘Zuma’s Ex’, rather than a political figure in her own right.
Whether you like her or not is irrelevant – likeability isn’t a criteria for male leaders. Whether she’s perfect or not is irrelevant – perfection is certainly not a criteria for male leaders. Does that mean we should accept low standards for women’s leadership – hell no. It means that we should subject all our political candidates to the same level of scrutiny, and that shouldn’t have anything to do with their gender or genitals. It should be about their capabilities.
We’ll all know that political leadership is not the only gender issue to consider in South Africa. We have drastically high levels of sexual and domestic violence, sexual and gender minorities continue to face abuse from their communities and the political system that won’t let them access their rights in terms of the law, we have municipalities that award bursaries to girls based on their virginity, we still have child marriage, we still face an academy that remains predominantly white and male … I could go on.
It seems as though the struggle for gender equality is not anywhere near over. But, take a moment to think about those marchers we watched in the USA just weeks ago.
They weren’t just marching against – they were marching for. They were marching for equality, for freedom, for safety, for love, for power to mean something other than power over another. They were marching for themselves and for others.
In our own ways this year, let’s begin to consider what we need to be fighting for now, so that we don’t sit with a situation where we’re fighting against something later. All is not lost, but we can’t be complacent. We need to work together.
This doesn’t mean we all have to agree. There isn’t one feminism that is right for everyone. Feminism may, at times, feel exclusionary, hard, wrong, and uncomfortable. Challenging privilege and power often does. Diversity should be celebrated not feared.We need to promote gender equality, and recognise intersectionality. We need to know that our personal struggles may not be the same, but that each person’s struggle is valid.
The point is, things are not right in this crazy world, and we need solidarity towards the end goal – making this a free, equal, and safe South Africa for all people.
Feminists South Africa is back, and we need your writing to make us aware of issues of importance in your heart, in your homes, and in our country. Send it all through to firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s hear those voices, even if they shake.