How on Earth is it possible that some of today’s young women enter a competition in the hope of winning a title that will define them by their relationship with a man? Miss South Africa. Miss?!
We’ve been through the stage in the liberation of women when beauty pageant organisers recognised that some emphasis had to be put on the intellectual capacity of the competitors.
Youth is often seen as a time for rebellion against existing norms; for idealism and zeal.
So, why do these intelligent young women describe themselves by the absence of their marriage to a man?
There are many aspects to our lives, and an intimate personal relationship with a life partner is an important one of them, but to actually use a title, before her very name, that refers specifically to whether she is allied to a man, is to deny a woman’s individual value.
Think about it: she first identifies herself by someone else.
If information during the season of Women’s Day doesn’t reach them, are South African youngsters not taught at school about the August 9 1956 march of about 20 000 black women to the Union Buildings, against the imposition of restrictions on their movement in urban areas?
Have young women who use Miss not heard about, or do they not care about, the efforts of women before them to claim their equal place in the world?
Do they not appreciate the efforts of, for example, Emmeline Pankhurst, a leader of the fight for women’s suffrage in the UK?
Why had women not been allowed to vote? Because they were not educated. Why were they not educated?
Because men had not allowed them to be, because then they would not only have learned opinions, but also express them! Why did women not overcome that restriction? Because men are physically stronger than them.
This is not to entirely disparage men, believe it or not. There are millions of decent, enterprising and valuable men in the world who respect women.
But, unfortunately, there are enough of the oppressive and violent kind who make too many women’s lives anything from miserable to unbearable and even nonexistent.
They should have equal opportunities to men to decide on how they want to spend their lives.
Yes, indeed, if women should have the right to choose, some of them have the right to use the androcentric titles of Miss and Mrs.
And others have the right to think that’s letting the side down.
Usually the idea would be to publish an article like this during Women’s Month, but it’s appropriate for it to be done in any other month, because the subject of women’s rights should never fall silent.