On the 19th of April we saw a heated and ground-breaking discussion take place at the Oppierif community hall about the status of women and men in the country and society. The discussion was hosted by the Umntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu initiative. The headline “If men are trash then what are women?” sought to dive deeper into the issues that plague men and women in the workplace and in society. A panel of five intellectuals and a packed hall of primarily women sat for hours debating and discussing common stereotypes, notions and gross injustices that people face in this country. The aim was to bring about viable solutions to such problems.
The panel of five intellectuals consisted of Luyana Duma, Simphiwe Ndaba, Lesedi Diseko, Karabo Monwamestsi and Thenjiwe Ndimande whom were providing great insight to the topics that were discussed throughout the night. The first round included topics like patriarchy, women’s disposition in the workplace, the prospect of a female president and the perception of men in the fashion and art industry as well as the dangers of masculinity. The heat came when they discussed the prospect of a female president in South Africa and how patriarchy is still plaguing society today – the unwritten social system that always seems to favour men over basically everything else since the dawn of time. Arguments were made that that patriarchy was the reason Cyril Ramaposa won the ANC presidency back in Nasreec last year and also the reason as to why women earn 27% less than their male counterparts for the same job. Patriarchy was in fact looked at as the primary cause for the issues the nation and society are facing today. Men’s refusal to let go of their sense of entitlement is greatly hindering societies’ progression.
When a depiction of a “leader” is requested, the first image that comes to mind is that of a man, this goes for the “head of the house,” a CEO, a protector, basically any positions with power and authority are associated primarily with men (culture and religion contribute largely to this method of thinking). During the first round of discussions a vast amount of different views and opinions were spoken throughout, key of which included; men not being able to dabble in certain careers for fear of losing their “masculinity”, how the idea of “masculinity” is actually entrapping and depressing men and how closed minded patriarchal-thinking is a serious issue that is affecting the country greatly.
After refreshments, the second round of discussions began. The struggles of the LBGTQ community and gender based violence became the topics of discussion. Karabo (one of the panel members) shared particularly shocking tales of his struggles as a homosexual man in this country. He talked about how he is shunned by society for expressing his individuality and receives harsh stares from his fellow students on campus. Throughout the discussion it was clear that even though the LGBTQ community have marches, rights and acceptance, being part of this community is an uphill battle in this narrow minded patriarchal time that we live in as people simply being themselves is too much for certain people to handle.
Further more, it was pointed out that men getting away with abusing women because of archaic systems that prevent women from reporting such crimes. It was also pointed out that it is not only women that can not report such crimes as men too do not report domestic abuse because they are never taken seriously.
One prominent solutions to these problems was that more and more events like this one should be endorsed. It was pointed out that talking about such problems may eliminate ignorance in the society. The university’s installation of gender neutral toilets was commended as it adds to creating a more opened minded society and other institutions following this change would also gather awareness on issues that aren’t frankly discussed enough and need to be addressed and corrected.