Dashiki Dialogues: Across the tracks with weirdos

2013-09-03 10:00

This week, while on a train during my daily commute, I was confronted by a boy peddling some nonsense as antiracism, and a pseudo feminist.

Let us start with the young guy, kitted out in baggy pants, who spoke with a practised twang.

He was going on about how we should all see one another as countrymen and not members of different communities.

On the surface, he sounded progressive and interested in nice ideas of social cohesion. But the conditions of our lives, as shaped by history, need to be addressed.

If we refuse to acknowledge difference, how will we address the disparity that exists?

The problem with an unhistorical nonracialism is that it creates a situation in which the effects of racism persist without there being people to account for it.

If the social structure stays racially lopsided and goes unchallenged, skin colour will simply be a by-product of the pre-existing unequal access to opportunities.

And a society will emerge much like the one created by exclusionary political policies.

Racial inequality will be naturalised because we won’t see a difference in relation to a particular history.

Anyway, the other weirdo on the train offered, as thoughtful reflection, statistics unmediated by reason.

She was reading a news article on how South Africans use their time.

Part of the story’s focus was a study on the difference between men and women by the way we spend our time, and aimed to measure our productivity as a nation, or lack thereof.

The article pointed out that the number crunchers over at Stats?SA found that women spend, on average, about 195 minutes on household chores each week; compared with men, who spend, on average, 88 minutes cleaning the house each week.

This, to the peroxide-blonde-cum-feminist, was a reflection of women’s oppression by lazy men.

At this point, I was either going to change seats or enter what could easily be a fast-track to the gutter.

I took my chances and offered some small talk.

I argued that these were remnants of patriarchy in a world becoming democratised, and that this world didn’t come with exclusive benefits for these chore-dodging men.

Take lobolo, for instance.

It belongs to a patriarchal system of logic.

It objectifies women by setting up men as individuals who must prove they will be able to provide for the women.

I reasoned from the dialogue of my fellow traveller, who was happy to celebrate chivalry in a man who opens doors and carries her luggage in the name of gentlemanly behaviour but protested her gender’s oppression, that she was little more than a patriarch wrapped in a pseudo-feminist dashiki.

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