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Rising above own femininity



Disclaimer: I’m not a feminist. Well, at least that’s what I keep telling myself. There are reasons why I choose to maintain this position despite being told on more than one occasion that I belong in that group.
This discrepancy has prompted me to ask some important questions: what is a feminist anyway?
The common definition by the world renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie might be recognisable to many.
According to Adichie, a feminist is “a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”.
On the other hand, Wikipedia defines feminism as “a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women.”
So basically it all boils down to equal rights. This is key because many people on both sides of the spectrum tend to misinterpret this school of thought.
The manner in which people perceive feminism reminds me of the way people view psychology.
Correct me if I’m wrong but when a person mentions that they are a psychologist or that they are studying psychology, the response is usually along the lines of: “oh, so you can read my mind? What am I thinking right now?” As if a person is psychic.
In any case this is where I’m driving at – generally we don’t know what feminism is[1] . Instead, people associate feminism with anger; anger towards men in particular for failed relationships and other domestic grievances.
Moreover, if someone is a feminist, then they must be sad, lonely and broken into pieces.
Perhaps that’s why I’m reluctant to be associated with this ideology, but I digress. At least now we’ve all learned that equality is what it is all about.
And when you really think about it, it’s okay to be a little angry considering the challenges that women have gone through to fight for equality.
Even though some of us are now living in a society that largely recognizes all our human rights as females, the battle is only half won in fighting against patriarchy because it’s still a man’s world.
In case the word equality is also a little fuzzy, let’s also define it.
Essentially it means that a female should be treated in the same way as their male counterpart without any discrimination. In other words no one should experience any form of prejudice based on their sex.
But practically it’s not that simple is it? If it were, then the Senate Masupha case for instance would be non-existent because a provision that allows discriminatory customary practices would not be enshrined in the constitution as an exception to the right to equal rights.
Nevertheless we have come a long way.
Many years ago a large group of women marched against the apartheid pass laws that perpetuated the racial segregation of black people by ensuring that they remain spatially confined in order to limit their right of association and economic advancement.
Hence the celebration of women’s month particularly in the Southern African region during the month of August.
I assume that the commemoration is widespread because these discriminatory laws did not only affect South Africa as a country, but also the neighboring countries as well where many fled into exile.
Even though the march took place way back in 1956, today the role of women in society is reflected upon during that month in particular due to the pivotal role that these women played in combating the oppressive system of apartheid.
An awareness of the challenges such as gender based violence, unequal pay in the workplace and domestic issues are highlighted during the month.
The celebration in particular challenges us to introspect and assess whether there is progress in moving towards a society that upholds women’s rights.
Being a woman is difficult. Perhaps I have said this before but a lot is expected of women. Everyone seems to have their opinion on what a woman should and shouldn’t do.
Even a country like Saudi Arabia sees it fit to limit the right of women to drive.
The Bible also dictates that women should submit to their husbands, while there’s an unspoken expectation for women to take care of generations of in-laws when getting into marriage.
It’s a lot, and women have been carrying these and more burdens for centuries. While there’s still a long way to go, let us celebrate the work that has been done in order for some of us to walk with our heads held high because of those who told us that being female should never be an impediment to achieving one’s dreams.

Thato Mokhothu-Ramohlanka

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