From the margins to the centre

2011-04-16 11:23

In the election before last, the Democratic Alliance poster was mislabelled as “fart back” – a play on the party’s “fight back” slogan – a conservative campaign with the subtext that the country needed saving from “the blacks” who were, well, ruining it.

The DA was small then, its former leader Tony Leon had a high-pitched voice and so the campaign was pilloried as a fart back – lethal for a short while, but harmless really.

This time around, however, I like the DA’s poster. It features the party’s two strongest calling cards – the political sage Helen Zille and the streetfighter Patricia de Lille.

For good measure, the party included its leader of tomorrow, Lindiwe Mazibuko.

If you want to read it politically, it’s clear that the party is going for a cross-racial vote, and an inter-generational one at that.

The fact that they are all women is, for me, a happy byproduct. If they are trying to get the women vote, this is a good thing.

The ANC had us (black women) cornered for a long time and for many reasons but, as the party has become more conservative and patriarchal, there are many women who are looking for a new home.

If you add in the statistics that show women’s consumptive and decision-making power to be significant, it’s not a bad tactic.

Each of the women is clearly not an affirmative-action ticket (though there’s nothing wrong if they were – many of us would still be languishing barefoot in the kitchen if it wasn’t for equity policies) and each has come through the DA’s system of merit appointments.

So why, I wonder, is this poster “alienating”, as my peer Verashni Pillay tweeted recently, setting up a stream of comment that broadly sided with her. The poster was “unnecessarily alienating” of whom?

I didn’t hear the liberal people, who tweeted along, complaining all the years when the DA marginalised the women and the blacks in its ranks as it trotted out row after tired row of white guys.

The challenge for our public life is to jump out of our boxes, either racial or gendered.

The low numbers of women leaders in many spheres, be it business or the media and even in politics, suggest we are not yet comfortable with anything other than the gendered norm.

This is alienating for those of us who regard ourselves as feminists. But feminism is a dying form, as my colleague Babalwa Shota suggested recently when she pronounced herself ready to be a second wife.

The 60s, she said, is over, honeys.

This is true.

It feels like we are back in the 40s when wifey knew her place and it certainly wasn’t on an election poster.

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