Women, Society, Stereotypes, Patriarchy and Presidency

2015-08-11 08:31

This past Sunday we celebrated and commemorated the heroic acts of our women (and thanks to our calendar set up, for Monday as well). We paid homage to our South African women who came together from all races in 1956 and stood up against unjust laws. We also remembered the 1913 women that resisted against pass laws of the time. This we do each year, we pay gratitude to our mothers and sisters that fought for this country to be liberated. We also reflected and in doing so, acknowledged that more needs to be done. We, as men, have an active role to play in ensuring the total emancipation of our women. We have a role to play in putting an end to the abuse and treatment meted out against our women. The government, the corporate world and society in general have a role to play in seeing to it that men and women are treated equally. From rape, abuse to workplace injustices that women are confronted with, we have an active role to play, especially as men, as perpetrators of these injustices, stereotypes and all forms of patriarchal acts meted out against our women. I wrote this article to focus on a question that came out of our media platforms right after the ANCWL went for their elective congress. Immediately after the elective congress that saw Bathabile Dlamini emerge victorious as the new president of the women’s league, the question came up and commentators started entertaining it. We also started reflecting. This question was entertained by different interest groups from different and mostly interesting angles. The question is; Is South Africa ready for a female president?

First let me start by looking at the question and how it’s structured before I ask questions and give my views on the issue. I see this particular question as inherently problematic. I am of a view that it somehow seeks to look at leadership, presidency in this case, from the gender perspective; it picks gender before the subject that is presidency. It supposedly looks at capabilities yet in the same breath confines itself in a gender funnel. If men and women are equally able, if both genders have same capabilities then should we really use this distinction in this question? And if we employ it is it progressive? Does it not carry subtle insinuations of lack of confidence in women?

Perhaps before we answer the question, we must ask ourselves this question, ‘what does it takes to be president in South Africa?’ Let’s go back to 1994. When Mandela was about to succeed De Klerk and usher us into a new dawn of democracy, the then pro-apartheid and anti-black conservatives asked is SA was ready for black president. It is not that they doubted capabilities of blacks per se, it’s not that they were not aware of black excellence, this they were well familiar with, they just had a problem with change which would be effected and disturb the status quo, that of white privilege.

All the fear of chaos, disarray and economic meltdown were just sudden excuses employed to hide genuine lack of confidence and unwillingness to see change in action. The paranoia was really unnecessary. Mandela came in and South Africa saw the smoothest and calmly unprecedented transition the world had ever seen.

When Mandela retired, liberals then came up with endless questions aimed at discrediting Mbeki. Some even considered leaving the country. We survived this. In essence, a capable president, whether black or white, male or female, can steer this country in the right direction. In fact if it took a black president to transform policies that were regressive to blacks, perhaps we need a female president to enforce implementation of that would stop abuse and all forms of acts that are oppressive to our women. Truth is we do not need to have a female president just to balance gender but we need a capable one to see this succeed and I believe we have a pool to choose from.

The question here should not be ‘is South Africa ready for a female president?’ but ‘who is the right female candidate for presidency?’

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