What's the deal with the ANC Women’s League?

*Martha is thinking about freezing her eggs. She has had bad luck with men. Martha thinks back to  her time in high school, she recalls how much she wanted to get married and have children all the while climbing up the corporate ladder.

Those dreams are gone now. Martha now chooses to live in her reality.

She is a 24 year old investment banker who studied at the University of Cape Town. Most of the women at the top in her industry have divorces under their belts, along with their many awards and careers intact.

Martha is thinking about freezing her eggs because she has given up on the idea that she could somehow juggle being a wife, a mother and a successful investment banker.

She now believes that she has to choose between being a family woman, and being a successful one.

Who is Martha?

Martha represents many young women with demanding careers. She represents me and my fears. She has so many opportunities ahead of her, but in a world where taking two years off to take care of her children is a blow to your career, what options does she really have?

In 2013, I am a young woman who believes in continuously recognising that sexism and gender issues are still a great part of our lives and in their obvious and sometimes subtle forms, still dictate our place in society.

What about feminism?

For years I have battled with the label: “feminist”. I have fought this label because of the negative connections attached to it. I’m not a man-hating militant who wants to wear suits and has ambitions to emasculate “the man” and remove him from his patriarchal throne.

Two weeks ago Professor Sheila Meintjes came to speak to us about gender and how it is portrayed in the media.

Meintjes is a passionate feminist who has done work in democracy in multicultural societies, feminist theory and gender politics,  violence and conflict transformation.

She asked what we believe a feminist is. Sarcastically I responded: “a man-hater”.

She said what was interesting to note is that although feminists are viewed as man-hating, a lot of hate is actually directed towards us. Note that I said us. I have a new found comfort in the fact that feminists, like all activists, will come in different forms.

Meintjes agreed with me on this, she said: “there is no single feminism”.

A political view

We debated about the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) and their role in redefining the gender agenda of a modern woman.

Meintjes said she believed the ANCWL was simply a “nursery of the ANC”.

She left us with this question: “Do they have a women’s agenda?”

When Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was at Wits University, she challenged us to question whether the female leadership in South Africa was representing us and our gender agenda. It was unfortunate that I was unable to challenge her myself regarding this but one girl asked her an interesting question that I thought might answer what I was thinking.

She asked Sisulu why the African National Congress (ANC), was generally quiet on issues of rape and gender violence. She asked her why they were quiet when a 4-month old baby was raped but when President Jacob Zuma’s penis was on display at the Goodman Gallery they took to the streets and picketed against that?

*sigh* I don’t even remember the response. It was a feeble attempt at answering a very straight-forward question, but I guess that’s what politicians do.

My question would have gone something like this:

“Minister, you say that we should challenge our female leadership and unfortunately the only leader I can question right now is you. Minister, would you say that the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) has a new gender agenda? Would you say they have a clear stance on issues of rape and sexual harassment and other gender related issues?

Minister I ask you this because the ANCWL was very vocal when Anene Booysens was raped and murdered, but during the Zuma rape trial you were rather silent. I ask because when Vavi was first accused of rape you were silent. Then, when his accuser withdrew her charges you released a statement about how disappointed you were in her.

Are these rapes different in the eyes of the ANCWL?”

What is our new gender agenda?

Are our struggles different as women? Do we believe in each other’s struggles? I for one realised just the other day how flawed my thinking has been.

Should the ideology behind the emancipation of women not lie in the fact that honestly we can do whatever the hell we like as long as it makes us happy (within the boundaries of the constitution of course)?

I do not know how to define our struggle, but I do see it everyday. I hope we’ll define it for ourselves soon. 

*Names have been changed

Visit Shandu's blog, BeautifulPersianStar.

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