BEING A VICTIM OF YOUR FEMALENESS
By: Kwandokuhle Njoli
Gone are the days when it was insisted that a woman’s place is in the kitchen- bare-foot, pregnant and obligated to submit to her partner.
Sexism has been around for centuries. Even in a modern, democratic and liberated society it still exists. It has become the norm, almost acceptable to hear males talk about how superior they are to women and even go as far as to mock the average feminist and accuse her of attempting to be a ‘man’. What is alarming about these comments is that they come from educated, modern men.
We often hear male cynics joke about how there is no such thing as gender equality and males will always be the ‘better’ sex, men are naturally “smarter, more logical and more driven” as opposed to your average “weak, emotional” female.
A few tweets came to my attention earlier this year that illustrate just how sexist we are without even realizing it and how we battle to accommodate modern and traditional women; not realizing that the two are not mutually exclusive.
On twitter @ThembaRadebber said “Asking me questions about lobola and you’re female. It is not your concern. Shut up. I don’t discuss such with females.”
Much like the practice of lobola, most traditions and customs are entrenched in archaic gender roles that are fundamentally sexist, because the man is somehow always the priority and the woman is always second best. The same applies to the practice of adopting a man’s surname after marriage but the sexism creeps in when the suggestion is made that the traditional way is somehow linked to being a better wife and partner.
There are women who simply take a lot of pride in their identity before marriage and that doesn’t have to change after. Does this now mean that you are more admired as a woman or wife if you take your husband’s surname?
Lydia Hlophe says, “I am a happily married mother of four and chose not to use my husband’s surname not because I ‘do not know my place’ but simply because I did not feel the need to. For many years I used my mother’s surname and at 21 I started using my father’s surname and I love it. I haven’t had it all my life and I’m not ready to let it go yet.”
Some people still believe that a double-barrelled surname is proof that you don’t actually know what it means to be married
Thandazile Zungu says, “I am a happily married woman. I have been married for four years now and I chose not to use my husband’s surname, not because of disrespect but simply because I am proud of my maiden name. I started using fathers surname at a very late stage in my life and felt like keeping it.
Anyone who has ever read Nervous Conditions, a novel by a female Zimbabwean author, Tsitsi Dangarembga, understands where this sexism and sense of entitlement in males stems from.
It stems from the fact that from the time males were little boys they are implanted with the seed that there are certain domestic duties they will not perform simply because they are male. In the book the author’s older brother (Nhamo) feels superior because he is male, getting a better education than his sisters and hence he does not take part in their daily domestic chores.
Lwazi Mntambo says, “I refuse to do chores in a house full of women. It does not make sense to stand in the kitchen while there are women in the dining room watching reality shows. It is these American tv shows that make these girls think that they are now men”
Men appear to be more socially valued and viewed as more competent than women in a number of activities.
These ideas or stereotypes should have no place in a society where we are all socially and economically equal.