Anneke Scheepers

Lessons from my mother

2017-07-07 08:41

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I’m sure most women have experienced a sexist undercurrent in some or other form. Maybe we’re so accustomed to it that it seems normal. It’s unbelievable that in this day and age, women are still talking about how they are not treated as equal and why they should be.

It is the battle of the ages and it rages on.

Over-looked and undervalued is often the experience of women. The same can be said for young people who often have their views ignored or dismissed simply because they are young.

When confronted with the stomping and posturing of male dominance, I am reminded of my mother. There are a few things that she dislikes more than being mentioned online, and one of those is sexism.

I’m lucky to come from a long line of very strong women. Women ‘of colour’ who were also farmers. It makes it easier to dismiss Mr Know-it-all when he stumbles along. My mother holds two Masters degrees and is the most courageous person I know. She is a warrior: a modest but fierce warrior. She faced this issue throughout her career and her battles are now my battles.

One thing that she does with the utmost of cool is to scoff at ignorant and bullish men. She does not take them ‘kop toe’.

She’s not perfect but she is highly intelligent and regards the pretence that men are superior as outdated and backwards. So she scoffs, and so do I.

All around us, women are used as pawns to sell goods or as proxies. Women are victimised and brutalised and are not protected as per the Constitution. It’s almost as if women are second class citizens, unworthy of the same protection and rights to safety and security.

I often reflect on the book On Deconstruction by Jonathan Culler, in which he applies Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction to the experience of women.

Deconstruction inverts hierarchy, thereby redefining meaning. In the book, Culler suggests, as philosophers do, that women have an entirely different experience to that of men. He goes on to suggest that, therefore, women are ‘radically other’ than men – not opposite but wholly different from that of men. Deconstructionism is a fascinating exercise and I’d encourage anyone to engage it.

What would be equally fascinating is to say to a man ‘women are radically other’ and see how far you get…

Women experience the world uniquely and that experience is of utmost value. So in the face of sexism, this is not the time for us to retreat. We must rather express ourselves more. We must challenge set ideas and norms even more. We must be vocal and present. It is not easy and it is not always pleasant but perhaps if we persist, our daughters will have it a little easier.

The first step, of course, is to acknowledge to yourself that you are of value, just like any other person.

So when they talk over you in a meeting, express yourself anyway. Pursue excellence anyway. Give yourself a chance to excel by putting in the work even in the face of this unfairness. Deliver in a manner that is beyond comparison, unique only to you.

In the case where women are the victims of crime or abuse, we must lay charges and follow up on them. We must use the local press if need be. It is up to us to call the practice of sexism and male superiority out and to point out where our social systems foster this falsehood. So do it.

Don’t be afraid to recognise your own value, and to give Mr Know-it-all a little scoff when he comes fumbling along.

- Anneke Scheepers is a former Politics and Cultural Studies lecturer and is currently the DA's Gauteng Communications Manager. She writes in her personal capacity.

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Read more on:    violence against women  |  feminism  |  sexism
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