Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A feminine feminist

By Rumbidzayi Dube, PDMM student

Until recently, being discriminated against as a woman had not been a huge factor for me. Don’t get me wrong, on countless occasions I have been objectified by my male counterparts, but I think it has become the norm so much so that I consider it a way of life. I am not saying that such occasions do not get mundane, annoying or just plain insulting. I am saying that overall, I get the occasional encounter, but in my life thus far, I generally have not felt discriminated against. It could be due to the fact that I am quite outspoken and am generally unafraid to stand up for myself so much so that discriminators cannot help but let me be.

It was not until my colleagues at the Sol Plaatje Institute made a presentation on the role of women in media that a switch suddenly went on in my head. I am now constantly aware of the degree of inequality when it comes to gender. After the presentation and discussion we had, I began to question the way in which women were represented in society- as sexual objects or victims of abuse. Reading an article by Colleen Lowe Morna further fuelled my interest. It gave me clarity on the levels of inequality and that it is not an issue being faced in African society alone- a society which is very much patriarchal. The so-called developed world still has a long way to go itself, and it makes me wonder, what more for ‘under-developed’ Africa and its low levels of education?

Listening to Harry Dugmore voice these issues during one of our lectures on the Essentials of Digital Media Management, an alarm bell sprang in my head. There seriously is an issue. Reiterating the need for change, I was disappointed to find out that a close friend who with a stable, well paying job and great credit rating was unable to get a bank loan because she was not married. Surely if even the educated banking professionals cannot see beyond gender how can we expect the average person with basic education to even fathom some sort of equality between men and women?

Truth be told, I have always been anxious of playing an active role when it comes to gender issues. I wonder to myself if it is possible to defend women’s rights and fight for equality without seeming like a fascist? I even hesitate to use the word ‘feminist’ because so often, it has negative connotations. To me, it implies a woman with no feminine qualities, dressing like a man and bullying the opposite sex into submission. Surely this cannot be the criteria used to qualify to be a feminist? I personally love to celebrate many of the ‘girlie’ activities that many associate with being a lady- going shopping, getting my hair done, watching romantic comedies whilst nibbling on some chocolate. I do not believe, however, that this takes away from my passion to promote the often silenced voice of women around the world.

I realise now that although certain things do not affect me on a personal level, I have the opportunity and resources to be the voice for many who have been silenced. I can be the voice not only in terms of issues pertaining to violence and abuse, but issues such as equal pay and women’s ability to succeed not just at baking a cake, but making our way up the ranks in many organisations donning high heels and perfectly manicured nails. I am beginning to realise that it can be done, and I can still enjoy the perks of being a woman and expect men to be chivalrous, but also have a say and make a mark on my way. I can be a feminine feminist.


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