For centuries, women across the globe have been thought to ‘belong in the kitchen’, expected to serve only the purpose of mother, wife and caregiver. Gatherers at home, while their husbands hunted. Up until not very long ago, even if women worked, the jobs they had were just that: jobs and not careers – something that kept them occupied in exchange for a minimum wage, unlike their male counterparts who held all the leadership positions and had substantially higher salaries. It’s 2018 and besides the fact that women can vote, get an education and work, not that much has actually changed for women. So now that the Cyril Ramaphoria has subsided, I have to ask if the state of our nation would improve if a woman ran South Africa.
I guess what sparked this brief thought that crossed my mind is the high calibre of black women who attended the Power Summit last week. I thought to myself, ‘Imagine our president were a woman. She would have been there.’
Join me and these incredible leading ladies at the @marieclaire_sa #PowerSummit in partnership with @audisouthafrica and @NelsonMandela. Be the Legacy 🙏🏾 @NomzamoMbatha @TumiVoster @KPutuma pic.twitter.com/gtlj1LCBKs
— Terry Pheto (@TerryPheto) July 17, 2018
A global overview
Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique discusses the plight of American university students who often abandoned their studies in order to start families before they could earn degrees (no different to South African women who endured the same sacrifice). The book stated that these women who opted for the housewife life later felt discontent with their lives.
‘A woman’s want for more was seen as masculine and labelled syndrome.’ – Betty Friedan
Society’s mind was so entrenched in patriarchal ideology that it could not perceive a woman’s want to be more educated. The holistic liberation of women in the affluent world took some time to get off the ground due to the labels often given to those who did not conform. If this were the case in an ‘affluent world’, can you imagine how much more dire it has been in countries where middle to lower income families are way more prevalent?
Living in a country that is still within the grips of an apartheid hangover means that black leadership (let alone female leadership) is but only in its fledgling years. We can count one hand the number of women who have once come close to running South Africa: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. We’re no anomaly, though – Barbados elected their first ever woman prime minister Mia Mottley in May. Brazil’s former president Dilma Rousseff was elected into office in 2011, while Croatia’s president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has been in office since 2015. Given that the current ruling party’s opposition parties are all male-led, it’s highly unlikely that SA will join this list anytime soon.
If not now, then when?
So one has to ask: is the reason that the possibility of a female president is questioned based on the fact that a woman in office might actually mean women in this country will get a peek into what justice and the ability to fully exercise their rights feels like? I say a peek because we all know cabinet seats would still remain predominantly occupied by cis men, who would then use the ANC Women’s League (which needs to be dissolved by the way) as a front.
Inappropriately making women assume the role of low-paid functionary in an exploitative corporate system would be failing to acknowledge female leaders, chief executive officers, business owners and politicians (going as far back as Margaret Thatcher). It would be undermining the work of the likes of Angela Merkel (Germany) and our very own Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Thuli Madonsela, Lindiwe Mazibuko and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who are all powerful, influential women in their own right.
Right now we are an infant democracy in need of a stern feminine hand to smack this country into shape.