What do women want? A question that none of the businesses sending out endless invitations to lunches to “celebrate yourself as a woman” or to “enjoy a free spa day on us” ever asks.
Equally, despite having a department of women in the presidency, said department seems entirely unequal to the task of finding out what women want and getting on with implementing it. This year, the theme for Women’s Month was Women United in Moving South Africa Forward.
If there ever was an example of an entirely meaningless, anodyne statement, this is it. If even a small percentage of the people in change-making positions in both the private and public sectors cared even a little more about what women wanted, we’d have made at least a modicum of the progress enshrined in our groundbreaking Constitution.
By beginning the statement with the word “women”, the department has effectively given the half of the population that is responsible for the continued violence against women a reason to abdicate from the conversation.
It is business as usual that in this week of Women’s Month we have two particularly disgusting displays of toxic masculinity. A political leader that slaps a woman and a schoolboy beating up a fellow female learner. Let’s spare a good percentage of our wrath for the men who aid and abet these violent abusers. The men who stand around laughing, the ones that hold the women down, the ones who do nothing, and those who respond with the self-serving #NotAllMen. So, what do women want?
Here’s a start. Women want the same education opportunities as their brothers. Women want the same pay for doing the same work as their male colleagues. Women want their partners to carry half the domestic load. Women want to be able to walk down a street unmolested. Women want to be able to catch a taxi without being harassed. Women want to choose what to do with their wombs, always. Women want to be able to speak up without being shouted down. Women do not want to be objectified. Women do not want to build their self-worth around a man.
Women make up 51% of the South African population. In the private sector only 28% of decision-making roles are held by women, according to a report released by Bain & Company earlier this year. Government has better representation, but that doesn’t translate into advocacy for the majority of women. Too many women in positions of state power are shamelessly quick to toe the patriarchy line as soon as there’s a conflict between the rights of all women and the needs of powerful men.
What women want is less empty rhetoric and for #AllMen to take responsibility for delivering what women want.
In this week of Women’s Month we have two disgusting displays of toxic masculinity