Time for a new state of mind

To achieve true gen­der equal­ity, we should call for a fe­male pres­i­den­tial can­di­date based on her

CityPress - - Voices - Mag­da­lene Moon­samy voices@city­press.co.za Moon­samy is an at­tor­ney and founder of Women’s Jus­tice Foun­da­tion. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @Mag­gieMoon­samy

Cur­rent global elec­toral pol­i­tics are en­grossed in a fear­ful gen­der con­tes­ta­tion over tra­di­tional male lead­er­ship hav­ing to con­test and pos­si­bly re­lin­quish power to what they per­ceive as a weaker op­po­site sex. We wit­nessed an in­tense cam­paign trail in the US elec­tion. The global spillover of women con­test­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tions may come at a cat­a­strophic price to the fem­i­nist strug­gle, in an at­tempt to sus­tain pa­tri­archy.

On the dawn of In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day on Wed­nes­day, we find our­selves ap­proach­ing an epoch-mak­ing mile­stone in the strug­gle for gen­der equal­ity – the en­trance of women want­ing to con­test po­lit­i­cal power in one of the old­est lib­er­a­tion move­ments the world over.

Be Bold for Change is the theme for In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day this year. The bold­ness that is ne­ces­si­tated, is a bold­ness to ef­fect change in the state of mind. Pa­tri­archy is the state of mind that dom­i­nates pol­i­tics. The change of mind­set may af­ford vic­tory to the fem­i­nist strug­gle; a vic­tory of cu­mu­la­tive sig­nif­i­cance to the revo­lu­tion of the op­pressed and lib­er­a­tion of women from triple op­pres­sion.

Mama Win­nie Man­dela makes an as­ser­tion: “While the ANC ac­cords women equal sta­tus, it is highly im­prob­a­ble that un­der an ANC gov­ern­ment, women will, in fact, en­joy equal­ity of sta­tus with men, for equal re­la­tions em­anate from a state of mind and not from laws.”

My ob­ser­va­tions lend truth to her as­ser­tion and con­firm that it is in­deed the state of mind that will free the gen­der strug­gle and war on sex­ism. How­ever, this is not the case in the cur­rent dilemma fac­ing the gov­ern­ing party in re­spect of its highly con­tested up­com­ing elec­tive con­fer­ence.

Doom­say­ers pro­fess that the in­ep­ti­tudes of a fe­male con­tender are based on her for­mer re­la­tions, and this for­mula is to­tally and ab­so­lutely re­spon­si­ble for the ul­ti­mate col­lapse of the ANC. A scare tac­tic, un­sci­en­tif­i­cally premised on non-in­her­i­ta­ble traits of a for­mer part­ner (as was the case of Hil­lary Clin­ton).

South Africa finds it­self in a quag­mire, with 52% of its pop­u­la­tion be­ing women. The bold­ness for change there­fore can­not be sim­pli­fied to the as­sump­tion of the cre­ation of a dy­nasty or fac­tions, but lies in the strength of rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the ma­jor­ity.

The res­o­lu­tion of 50-50 rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women has pro­pelled women who have made no­table con­tri­bu­tions to the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic land­scape. How­ever, the ma­nip­u­la­tion of the fem­i­nist strug­gle by pseudo-fem­i­nists has mis­cal­cu­lated this as a means of “keep­ing her in her place” and they fear los­ing grip of the ship’s wheel to a fe­male. She ought to re­main both the rhetor­i­cal and anatom­i­cal back­bone of the strug­gle.

It reaf­firms that the gen­der strug­gle has been used as the most con­ve­nient po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated tool in times of lead­er­ship con­tes­ta­tion and mass mo­bil­i­sa­tion in or­der to en­sure that women main­tain their rel­e­gated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and never chal­lenge power re­la­tions to shift in their favour.

Many oc­cupy the me­dia space, grand­stand­ing their ridicule and ex­pos­ing their fear of the same gen­der strug­gle that they have been pur­ported to be the torch­bear­ers of. The in­sa­tiable de­sire for the cap­tur­ing of power and ac­cess to re­sources has sent shock waves across the world by the very pseudo-fem­i­nists who roll out the red car­pet for a fe­male pres­i­dent and un­leash venom in times when they have lost con­trol. Such have been the ex­pe­ri­ences of Prime Min­is­ter Julia Gil­lard in Aus­tralia and Pres­i­dent Dilma Rous­eff in Brazil.

The state of mind that Mama Win­nie refers to is one of the “emas­cu­la­tions men most fear – [be­ing] in­sub­or­di­nate to women”. The ev­i­dence of such is the at­tack on or­gan­i­sa­tions ad­vo­cat­ing gen­der equal­ity and pro­pel­ling the path of vic­tory in the fem­i­nist strug­gle.

Fem­i­nists as­serted that, de­spite their ex­clu­sion from the pa­tri­ar­chal au­toc­racy of the ANC in 1912, the for­ma­tion of the Bantu Women’s League in 1918 would force ac­knowl­edg­ment of their cause and con­tri­bu­tion. Women even­tu­ally gained ac­cep­tance as mem­bers of the ANC in 1943 and sub­se­quently formed the ANC Women’s League as a means to avoid be­ing out­side the or­gan­i­sa­tion (and, of course, for pur­poses of con­trol).

The state of mind can there­fore cur­rently be premised on the ex­pe­ri­ence and con­vic­tions of 99 years of un­bro­ken com­mit­ment against op­pres­sion and sets the tra­jec­tory for vic­tory against triple op­pres­sion.

Triple op­pres­sion can­not be de­feated if fac­tional bat­tles that draw power lines do so in terms of al­lo­ca­tion of ten­ders (a prac­tice ap­par­ently re­served for the male cau­cus). It fails dis­mally at re­al­is­ing true gen­der equal­ity and who ought to be the dis­pensers of po­si­tions.

Pseudo-fem­i­nists call for unity in the same breath as they dis­rupt the fem­i­nist agenda; in­tended to prop­a­gate prin­ci­ple at the foot­stool of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency.

It can only be the ef­forts of the col­lec­tive to be bold for change and re­solve on in­tegrity and not nar­row, sex­ist in­nu­en­dos that will re­ju­ve­nate the en­tire body politic of South Africa. Or­gan­i­sa­tional in­tegrity should be the ba­sis of re­newal and not part of a de­gen­er­a­tive or­gan­i­sa­tional cul­ture.

True rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies will not flip-flop from time to time out of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency, but ad­vance the fem­i­nist revo­lu­tion as an equal pil­lar – po­lit­i­cally, so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally – in the am­bi­tion to change the state of mind in the con­ti­nent and on the globe.

To shift the mind-set means chang­ing the at­ti­tude from women be­ing “num­bers” and only be­ing con­ve­nient vot­ing cat­tle in elec­tive con­fer­ences. It re­quires al­ter­ing the dec­o­ra­tive 50-50 to gen­uinely shar­ing power, as op­posed to as­suag­ing women’s lobby. The rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion of the state of mind to­wards the call for a fe­male pres­i­dent is the rad­i­cal eco­nomic free­dom that will eman­ci­pate the ma­jor­ity in South Africa, be­ing women.

The les­son of Polok­wane was the fail­ure to heed the cau­tion of a lobby in the women’ league about the ma­cho as­ser­tions of power, at­ti­tudes of sex­ual en­ti­tle­ment and ho­mo­pho­bia dis­played by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma dur­ing his rape trial. This nour­ished pa­tri­archy re­verted the role of women to the pa­tri­ar­chal au­toc­racy of 1912.

It can­not be that the state of mind re­mains un­changed for over a cen­tury. It must be that we af­ford the lead­er­ship con­tes­ta­tion and the call for a fe­male can­di­date to be premised on her ster­ling cre­den­tials and con­tri­bu­tion.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

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