Guest Column

Time to cancel Women's Month

2019-08-05 18:15
This women-led organised campaign wants the country to include women all year round, not just in Women's Month.

This women-led organised campaign wants the country to include women all year round, not just in Women's Month.

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Wouldn't it be truly impactful if women withdrew entirely from every breakfast or high-tea or rose-giving ceremony until our demands (which are quite concise: pay us the same and stop violating us), are met, asks Jahni de Villiers.

It's almost Women's Day again. The day and the month that we pretend that things will change and that women will finally be able to take up their equal, rightful place in society, and not be subject to violence in their personal and work-lives. 

It must be mentioned that this commentary does not seek to invalidate the contributions of women in the history of our country, or that these women should not be honoured. This is a reflection on the distortion of their legacy into a puff of pink smoke.

We will all come together and we will speak of striking rocks, and we will pretend that we don't notice the irony. We will forget that we live in a country where between a third and a half of women will experience violence from their intimate partner during their lifetime, and three-quarters of women will experience sexual harassment in the workplace. We will not lump in the garden variety harassment like workplace bullying and a patriarchal system where performance is measured against time spent at work, despite the demands of having a family falling squarely on most women, because that will surely mean that we will run out of paper to list examples.

We will gracefully accept speeches in our honour. We will listen to all sorts of commitments, none of which explain why we aren't the focus of workplace-policymaking, or any policymaking for that matter. We will smile and push away the unwelcome certainty that those in power are not motivated to change a system that benefits them. 

It is uncomfortable to face the fact that large-scale change is needed in an entrenched system, and that the changes need to be led by women. The question is if it has come to the point where perhaps we need to bid Women's Month farewell if we are not willing to make the necessary changes. Perhaps it is time to say that harassment and violence against women will not stop, so let's rename this month and carry on with our lives. There must be a plethora of other causes that could take over the month of August.

The alternative would be for women to turn into large rocks in the path of patriarchy:  What would the so-called Women's Day celebrations be with no women present? Wouldn't it be truly impactful if women withdrew entirely from every breakfast or high-tea or rose-giving ceremony until our demands (which are quite concise: pay us the same and stop violating us), are met? 

I believe women who have a choice and a voice, should use it to start causing massive embarrassment to the perpetrators of these painfully awkward social events aimed at placating us for another 12 months. I will not be handing out or receiving any roses or attending any Women's Month-themed events until my sisters and I are paid the same and not violated, and I will not hesitate to use my voice for those who are not able to. 

Time's up, time is now, call it whatever you will, but enough is well and truly enough.

- Jahni de Villiers is the head of labour and development at AgriSA. She writes in her personal capacity.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

Read more on:    women's month  |  women's day
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