The period of soul-searching continues and, of course, I have realised that the task is not simple, the method not straightforward and the work is endless, but I also realise that it must be done. And to do it one must have no illusions, or delusions, of ones self or those around you. A major part of the problem that plagues us is expectation.We don’t just expect, we demand that which, for any of several reasons, cannot be delivered.
As a woman who is interested in politics and working towards engaging in the political process, the whole dynamic of women in politics is something I need to take a close look at. There is a belief, misplaced, that women are better suited to soft jobs like art and culture, tourism, education and women’s development. No one thinks the most qualified, most capable person is the one who should get the job. Jobs are largely handed out based on gender and not merit. And while that seems like the least of our problems, it goes to the core of the problem — the stereotyping of women. Stereotyped if you do and stereotyped if you don’t.
Television has taken all that we knew to be true and brought it out in to the open. There is no retracting now. The naked, ugly truth is out there, immortalised forever on digital tape in your own words.
Scratch the liberal surface, and all the bigotry lurking beneath rears its very ugly head. All it takes to hit the soft target a serious body blow is for political parties to decide to attack one another. Heaven forbid that there should be a discussion on policy. No, far from it. The attacks are always personal; it’s as though our political forces exist in a world free from political thought and policy. So it’s: I give you drunken men, I raise your drunken men and give you bald men with hair transplants and men who are serial monogamists. But then we know that won’t fly, as in this country a married man is a man’s man and a thing of envy and no one cares whether you have had a hair transplant or not. It’s looking bad, you are looking desperate and in the absence of anything that makes any kind of political sense like ideology, governance or performance records, the attack shifts to women.
Inevitably, the debate shifts from ‘your leader is more debauched and disgusting than mine’ to ‘the women in your public space are of no moral character and are therefore fair game and should be paraded on the airwaves’. What is the difference between those who should out this kind of abuse and those who gang rape women, those who strip women naked and parade them through the streets? Nothing, as far as attitudes are concerned, women are, after all, soft targets and it doesn’t end with abuse or assault. Imputing the chastity of a woman is to cast aspersions on the honour of society and we know that the rule of thumb is to get rid of that which brings dishonour to society.
The kind of sexism and abuse women in public space have to deal with everyday is astounding. No, it is not true that the worst detractors of women are women. What is true is that there is a transference where women are expected to conform to the male code and it becomes a case of: if she’s attractive she has slept her way in. The discussion focuses on the amount of eyeliner used or the colour of her lipstick. What has internal security, inflation, foreign policy, education or health got to do with anything — that’s for the boys. No wait, they are the ones focusing on drinking habits, wigs, bad dietary habits and what lurks under the bed. If that’s all everyone is interested in, then who’s running the country? Scary or what.
Perhaps what women really need to do is to live up to this reputation and harness that power to bring society to its knees, it surely can’t be much worse than the world we live in now.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2010.