Have you noticed how often you use the word “just” in a professional context, particularly emails? I’ve been thinking about why I use it so much in tricky situations and if it’s something that women use more than men.
I often find myself using it when I feel like I’m being annoying to a client (while I’m trying to do my job), for example, “I just wanted to check in with you about…” or “I’m just following up on…”. It makes the sentence feel like a smaller inconvenience, like what I’m really saying is “I’m sliding this tiny little thing it into your stack of to-dos but it’s not a big deal” while batting my eyelashes.
Using “just” helps to make me feel like I’m less of a nuisance. But I’m doing my job, so why should I want to feel like this? While it might seem like “just” smooths the path for requests, it also makes us appear small; it diminishes respect for our work and ourselves. Why shouldn’t we take up as much space in someone’s to-do list as anything else?
Compare the same phrases without “just”: “I’d like to check in with you about…” and “I’m following up on…”. Do you hear how much more clear and direct the requests are? It’s as if you’ve sat up straight while asking. That’s what a professional relationship should be.
Ellen Leanse, a former Google executive wrote a 2015 LinkedIn blog about the word “just”, when she noticed women (including herself) using it way more than men, and how she tackled it in her office. She began to notice that “just” wasn’t about being polite,
“it was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”
Try this experiment, which we also did in our team. Search or read through your emails for the next couple of days and count the number of times “just” appears. Notice why you used it and how it changes the tone when you remove it. We were astounded by how often we use it and have committed to clarity and confidence by removing it.
Liz Fletcher is the co-owner of Pomegranite, a boutique online presence consultancy which she set up with her business partner Sarah Gurney, in 2013. The pair met studying English literature together at Rhodes University and grew the business through developing thoughtful storytelling on digital platforms.
The Pomegranite offices in Cape Town and Joburg service clients which are predominantly in the SME, NGO and education sectors.
Liz gets a kick out of bringing the magic out in her team and developing systems and plans that help the business run smoothly.
This is the reprimand we have gotten since we were small girls, curious about what was going on between our thighs.
Boobs? Sure. Legs? Cool. Hips? Fine. But this vagina thing…with its ability to change temperature, moisture levels and make you tingle all over, what is it? What is it about?
Unfortunately we were never allowed to know.
There is a need to have conversations around all the taboo around masturbation to break that taboo down. So this is for everyone who touched themselves and felt bad about it. Everyone who was told off for digging for pleasure, everyone who was told only boys spank the monkey. For every woman who heard they would grow hair on the palms of their hands.
Masturbation is vilified. You know it’s bad when even the boys are not allowed to do it, and they are seemingly allowed to do anything. But gender relations aside the idea of masturbation is so powerful it had to be shut down and fast. Because with masturbation women can make sex fantastic.
And then the world might end. And anarchy will ensue.
With the idea of pleasure being marketed as a male dominated activity and women seemingly picking up the scraps there is a need to change the phallocentric approach to sex.
The vagina is a powerful cosmic space which people must respect and understand, especially those who have them. You need to be well educated in the way it works but you cannot get an education without taking some classes. And unfortunately some things are better learned on a practical level.
Masturbation is sex with someone you should love, deeply and wildly. It is about taking back your sexual power and your sexy and knowing what makes you tick so you know what time you are coming.
This chat is to tackle that stigma surrounding masturbation, give some tips and open the space to have that conversation. Because late at night, when you just want a little taste of your own awesome and you take it, you are really not the only one.
So you really should go right ahead.
Don’t feel guilty about it. Or do, if that’s what gets you off.
Join in the dialogue this evening on masturbation. 7pm South African time. Follow the hashtags #TouchUrself and #SexTalkNaija
Kagure Mugo is the intoxicatingly scary gatekeeper of HOLAAfrica, an online Pan African queer womanist community dealing with sexuality and all things woman.
She is also a writer and freelance journalist who tackles sex, politics and other less interesting topics. During weekends she is a wine bar philosopher and polymath for no pay.
As South Africans it seems that it is impossible to go a day without seeing a news headline of a violent attack in some form. Between 2006 and 2013, more than one million crimes were committed against women. Common assault was the most common contact crime, followed by assault with the intent to commit grievous bodily harm. The Table below provides a breakdown of the SAPS statistics.
But before you get there, statistics of this scale are often hard to process. It’s difficult to imagine what more they represent. So when you see these numbers, I want you to think of the images you know of the 1956 women’s march that changed our history. In that march, there were roughly 20 000 women.
It’s unfortunate that the crime statistics are not reported in a gender-disaggregated way each year that would allow us to track what types of crimes women are reporting. In 2012/13 however, the SAPS did report in this way, as detailed in the table above. In that year, adult females were more likely than adult males and children to be the victim of sexual offences and common assault. In terms of the total number of crimes, sexual offences against adult females represented 45 percent of all sexual offences, and common assault against adult females represented 48 percent of all common assaults.
So it’s clear that women are more likely to report certain types of crimes – namely sexual offences and common assaults. It’s possible to conclude that these common assaults represent some of the domestic violence statistics which, although tracked daily by the SAPS, have never been reported on.
It is important therefore for those listening to SONA to consider what commitments have been made to women in terms of protecting them from crime both outside and within the home. In the 2014 SONA the only commitment made was that the Government would ‘work to reduce levels of crime’. Following the deaths of Anene Booysen, Anni Dewani, and Reeva Steenkamp, a great deal of noise was made by many Government representatives from all parties about the need to address crimes against women. But now that noise has become an almost inaudible murmur.
Two years ago the Government via the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities launched the National Council on Gender Based Violence (NCGBV). This council was formed to address and monitor high levels of violence against women, as well as to consider strategies to prevent further violence. During 2014, after finalising its identity, the Council seemed to disappear. Another commitment made was the development of new sexual offences courts and the refurbishment of existing courts to become sexual offences courts. This is another development which seems to have disappeared from the agenda. There is also an inter-ministerial committee on violence against women. Yet, the relevant departments are not working together to improve the lives of survivors in a way that is evident, efficient or speedy enough. If these commitments are not discussed tonight, why not? If there is not sufficient budget for these important services, where is that money being redirected to?
Of course, as I explained in Part 1 a useful term to understand is intersectionality. That is, the intersection of various forms of oppression on different people. With crime and violence, it is true that certain categories of women are more vulnerable.
Sex workers currently face a number of human rights violations because of the criminalisation of the sale of sex in South Africa. These have been well documented by organisations like the Women’s Legal Centre and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce. Excellent arguments exist for decriminalising sex work, and ensuring that sex workers are able to perform their work without fear of violence from police, and from perpetrators.
Violence against Lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women is also prevalent, and there has unfortunately been a move away from South Africa’s active championship of LGBTI rights on the continent. The National Task Team on Hate Crimes was formed in 2011, and since then the Department of Justice has made several commitments to introduce new legislation to support LGBTI victims of violence. However, four years later this has not happened. This failure to amend existing legislation to enhance sentences for hate crimes, or to introduce new legislation that will effectively allow for the tracking of these incidents and the prevention thereof, is an indication of a lack of political will to really support the right to be free from discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation. South Africa’s failure to criticise other African states for ‘anti-gay’ laws indicates that we have moved back from the leadership role on these issues. In 2014, a transgender woman undertook a hunger strike after Home Affairs repeatedly failed to assist her in changing the sex status on her ID document.
This is not the time to be inactive or complacent about violence against women. There is a need to identify this as a core issue in tonight’s SONA, and if not, to question how the problem will be addressed in the 2015/16 period.
 South African Institute of Race Relations (2013) Page 770.
State of the Nation Speeches often begin with a discussion of the economic situation. So that is where Part 2 of this series will enter the discussion.
Women make up the majority of the unemployed across all age categories, but particularly amongst the youth. What is interesting about this figure is that whilst unemployment in general has grown, and simultaneous the number of employed people has grown (as the population grows, this happens), the percentage gap between the number of employed males and females has remained the same. Essentially, what this statistic tells us is that there continue to be barriers for women entering the job market, and these barriers affect men less than they do women.
These barriers are complex and differ for women from different backgrounds. Whilst the official SONA is likely to refer to the infamous triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment, for women there are often more than three factors affecting their ability to find employment, and to remain employed. Academics use the term ‘intersectionality’ to explain how different forms of oppression intersect to create different lived experiences for women, and I think this is a useful term to use here.
The NDP itself notes that patriarchal attitudes remain a barrier for many women. In the old days this might be reflected in a saying like ‘why hire a woman to do a man’s job’. Currently, economic chauvinists are required to keep these opinions to themselves. However, there remain sectors of the South African economy where women are the minority, and often women encounter a glass ceiling to their progress. Most women who were employed in 2013 were involved in trade or in community and social services (including government). As of 2012, only 3.6 percent of Chief Executive Officers were women and 5.5 percent of Chairpersons were women.
Patriarchal attitudes also reinforce stereotypical gender roles meaning that women remain responsible for the majority of household work, even when they are employed. The annual average income figures indicate an even more significant gap between men and women. When the 2001 and 2011 annual income figures of men and women are compared, it is clear that the annual average income of a female in 2011 remains only slightly higher than the annual average income of a male was in 2001.
The NDP also recognises that the provision of basic services to women improves their ability to be healthy and supported workers. The NDP notes that basic services and human rights such as safe drinking water, electricity, and quality childhood education could “free women from doing unpaid work and help them seek jobs.” I would further suggest that the development of better transportation infrastructure that is safe, well-lit, and regular would mean that women would not have to brave violence in public on their way to and from work. In addition, I strongly suggest the consideration of equitable paternity and maternity leave so that the gendered division of child care is reduced, allowing new mothers and fathers to raise children together, and support one another during their careers.
We can all agree that unemployment is a bad situation for everyone and that solutions are necessary for both men and women, so why should we care specifically about unemployed women? For a number of reasons. Evidence suggests that around 38 percent of households in South Africa are headed by a single mother. The education of women also affects women in the future – educated mothers are more likely to have healthier babies, and their own children are more likely to attend school. Women’s education and resultant economic empowerment not only affects women, it profoundly changes the gendered functioning of the economy and society.
Furthermore, ensuring that women have access to their own income can mean the difference between leaving a violent relationship and staying. In a response to a 2013 Parliamentary Question, the Department of Justice reported that around 50 percent of women who dropped their domestic violence case did so because they were financially dependent on their abusive partner. Where patriarchal norms remain the norm, and where violence is readily used by many partners to ensure women are ‘put in their place’, the decision of the state to ignore the feminisation of poverty will mean that they relegate women to remain punching bags for the crisis of masculinity.
So women’s economic empowerment is essential to the development of democracy, and to a more equal situation for many people in the country. This is certainly something the Government has recognized, given the fact that the Department of Women in the Presidency has shifted its focus exclusively to this topic as announced in the 2014 State of the Nation Address. Whilst it is positive that more emphasis will be put on this element of women’s lives, it is certainly not the only topic that requires the attention of the Department, and the assumption that other Departments are mainstreaming women’s issues is problematic. In addition, it is not clear that any real progress in this regard has been made by the new Department from a casual observation of the Department’s work since May 2014. In the 2015 SONA it will be important to consider how women’s issues are being dealt with by other departments, and if they are not mentioned, whether any action will happen on them at all.
 Statistics SA (2014a). National and Provincial labour market: Youth. Pretoria, Statistics South Africa.
 Statistics South Africa (2014b). Gender Series Volume 1: Economic Empowerment 2001 – 2014. Pretoria, Statistics South Africa.
 South African of Race Relations (2013). South Africa Survey. Page 240.
 Businesswomen Association of South Africa (2012). Women in Leadership Survey.
Call for Papers: Women, Gender and Sexualities: An Anthology
Co-Edited Dr. Rujuta Mandelia (Temple University) and Moiyattu Banya, MSW (Temple University)
Papers are invited for an anthology that provides the historical foundations of diverse feminist discourses on gender, race, class, sexuality and disability vis-à-vis nationality, citizenship, and post-colonialism, the critical understanding of how women live their experiences in diverse cultural, geographical, and religious, worlds, the fundamental construction of sex, gender, sexuality and class as social constructions and how they are enacted within respective societies. In other words, how is gender perceived and enacted in different societies? This anthology also provides the integral intersections of sex, class, gender and sexuality as social groups and how they work within systems of patriarchy, and the foundational understanding that global affects the local in multiple ways just as the local affects the global. It will also focus on women as agents and subjects of change. In other words, how women/genders negotiate and bring change through activism? This anthology will provide foundational readings,personal narratives and essays.
Topics solicited include, but are not limited to, the following:
Violence Against Women and LGBTQIA Communities
Women in STEM
Nationalism and Citizenship
Law (both local and international) and Its Impact on Women
We are looking for personal narratives as well as essays not more than 1000 words.
All submissions must be final and fully edited. Please submit your work with a brief author bio of 100-150 words no later than February 15, 2015. Please submit your work as an attachment in Word doc or docx. Authors must have a record of academic/activist writing, have experience in women’s issues, women’s human rights work, and a sound understanding of feminist theories relevant to the anthology. Kindly note that only authors whose work are chosen for the anthology will be notified.