What want

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Gayle Ed­munds voices@city­press.co.za

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

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