The F-word: Stupidity is gender neutral

2012-08-18 12:07

I have always wanted to publicly ask what the point of Women’s Month was. I have been reluctant to do so because even in safe spaces, such as when with female relatives, I have found the responses hovering around quite hostile.

So I’ll go ahead and risk beloved cousin K not inviting me for dinner at her house again, and repeat that Women’s Month is ill-defined and therefore susceptible to all sorts of commercial shortcuts and political opportunism.

For example, the oft-given reason that the month is meant to celebrate women is inadequate.

We logically have to ask why we “celebrate” women.

It is one thing to say that we should commemorate the struggles and efforts of the women who marched on the Union Buildings in 1956 to demand that they be exempt from carrying the dompass like their husbands and male relatives, but it is another thing to celebrate women.

Being a woman cannot be an achievement or a failure. It is just what it is. To me it is like being proud to be black or gay, as if it was of your doing.

If we were to celebrate an event on the basis of the sex or gender of the people involved, where would we start and stop?

Would we, for example, have Men’s Day to commemorate the day Bambatha ka Mancinza led his “men” against the British in 1906? Surely not.

Which brings me to what I think August 9 and the whole month should be about. I would like to see the month being dedicated to reversing all forms of gender prejudice and discrimination.

It must be a month when men are made to face up to their own negative attitudes and false assumptions of their superiority, just like it must be for women to push back against those who seek to demean them because of who and what they are.

Instead of it being the month where women get free beauty spa vouchers, I would like to hear men and women use it as a measure of how far we have come, compared to the same time last year, in addressing gender-based injustices.

If we understood gender justice as more than just “being nice to women for a month”, we might have appreciated the backwardness of reducing Mandla Mandela’s stature as a man simply because of his inability to father children as a gender issue.

The ridicule that the younger Mandela has had to face about how he is less of a man because he cannot give his tribe an heir was one example of how stupidity can be gender neutral.

It was, of course, a reminder of the cruel world women who, through the roll of nature’s dice, face discrimination and are regarded as inadequate wives or partners simply because of a genetic condition that was beyond their control.

In many communities, the inability of a couple to conceive a child has always been a woman’s fault. Some religions tell of how one woman suggested that her husband simply overcome the little obstacle by extending the domestic worker’s terms of employment.

It might have been the thing to do more than 5 000 years ago, but in the alleged age of enlightenment we must do better.

Having conquered so many forms of unfair discrimination, we must become alive to the bigotry we unleash on those who would have wanted to have children but cannot.

The fact that men are often the perpetrators of the delusion that they are the prototype of creation and women are mere factory faults does not make delighting in Mandla’s misfortune any more acceptable.

We must inculcate in ourselves, especially those fortunate enough to conceive, that thinking of themselves as “more of a man” or “more of a woman” and forgetting it was not of their doing that they have this privilege is as stupid as thinking you are special because you are right handed or light skinned.

» Follow me on Twitter @Fikelelo

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