Friday, May 22, 2009

Doing the right thing — the wrong way

By Fran Blandy (Thoughtleader)

Baron McCroesus runs his hands along the shiny exterior of his new car, his eyes gleaming with delight at the superb finishes and power that lay beneath the hood of this pricey little number.

Partially bored, his dear friend Sophia Ragette slid into the passenger seat, immediately relaxing back into the luxurious upholstery as she breathed in the woody, leather notes.

“Hmmm, I like it,” she murmured, suitably impressed.

Baron, who had jumped in beside her, raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“What do you mean you like it, I haven’t even switched on the engine yet?”

“I meant, I like the look and feel of it,” said Sophia.

Baron laughed loudly, shaking his head “Is that how woman judge cars?”

“Well, maybe. After all, that is how men judge women,” retorted Sophia.

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Cars and sexism and their respective misunderstandings have dominated the social discourse in the past week.

A near vehicular mishap was averted when the gift of a shiny Mercedes safely made its way into the horse’s mouth, in an honourable and rare display of moral fibre.

While one section of the political power-wheel was doing the right thing, the right way, another seemed to be descending further into the gutter, spewing vitriol into the public arena and somewhat successfully sharpening the ire of public sentiment to turn our very own White Lady of Hope into the Chewer-up and Spitter-out of Suffragists and All Their Dreams.

In fact such is state of the whittled-down fingertips of the angry youth movements, communist and otherwise’ weary threat-crunching spokes-children and their overused typewriters, that the amount of names given to Helen Zillche-women rivals only the titles of Libya’s Moammar Gadaffi.

The tiring argument over who was right or wrong does not seem to be fading from the public eye, as threats continue to rage from angry unionists, former minority voters and the we told you so.

One wonders if, given the rare and precious mandate and opportunity to eat away at national ANC support, scuppering this by presenting your voters with such a controversial cabinet was the best idea. Many of these voters may have supported the ANC in the past. Desperate, hopeful and trusting they took a risk and voted for change. I don’t know enough about those put in the provincial cabinet. I am sure they are up to the job, but quite frankly, it isn’t the lack of females that poses the greatest question.

But somehow, the chance that South Africans might ever vote in a minority party — even one with growing black support — has probably died along with their leap of faith. Because that party, hypothetically given the majority, has proven no qualms in fielding a mostly white cabinet, reinforcing the fears that 15 years of democracy have not calmed.

However, it is the attitudes towards women by some of our young leaders that is the most gut-wrenching. They say they are concerned about gender equality, but it is only by virtue of the gender of Zille that they could refer to her as a whore, and make such disgusting comments about her sexuality.

It is infantile, and shows deeply ingrained sexism of the patriarchal nature that truly reinforces gender inequalities in this country. The kind who make any woman who dares to speak out a slut, deserving ill-educated reprimand. Like a good old-fashioned smack around the chops.

These are the kind of people who preach gender equality as far as it serves a political purpose, but back home at the ranch see women as sexual objects. If you really saw her as an equal why not take her on with a decent argument. The ANCYL cannot even say what “sleeping around” means, stuttering and stammering over it not meaning what it actually means and somehow meaning something about a “political prostitute” while, you know, “sleeping around means sleeping around”.

I would argue that as much as women need to be empowered, men need to be educated. A lot of what hampers female progress is the male attitude.

Why do women suffer so from Aids? One reason is the behaviour of men, whose machismo allows them to sleep around and put the fear of God into their wives, preventing them from demanding a condom be used.

The saddest thing of all is that these raging abuses have made that okay. To millions of men who follow the mudslingers it is now shown as acceptable to view a woman as a good-for-nothing harlot who can be verbally abused in such a poisonous and emotional way.

It incites gender hatred and the damage that causes to the national psyche is far worse than the make up of a cabinet.

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