With August being observed as Women’s Month and August 09 as Women’s Day, we at Sheba often find ourselves at a cross roads. Firstly because as a community that celebrates and considers themselves inclusive, we find that the terminology surrounding women’s month is often exclusionary. In fact the understanding of womanhood is exclusionary. What is a woman? And secondly because there is very little to celebrate about being a woman in South Africa!
Merriam-Webster defines a woman as an adult female person (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woman). YIKES! Many of us have and still do believe this. If you did biology in the early 2000’s – you’ve definitely being taught this definition. Society’s understanding of womanhood is often implausible due to the lack of acknowledging one simple fact, sex and gender cannot be used interchangeably. “The distinction between sex and gender differentiates a person’s sex (the anatomy of an individual’s reproductive system, and secondary sex characteristics) from that person’s gender, which can refer to either social roles based on the sex of the person (gender role) or personal identification of one’s own gender based on an internal awareness (gender identity).” – Wikipedia. Even with this definition Wikipedia believes sex and gender always align. Sex is not a precursor to gender. But also, GENDER IS NOT BINARY! There exists of spectrum of genders that go beyond man and woman.
When you begin to understand this distinction, you begin to understand how your expression of gender could differ to the one that is traditionally understood to align with your sex. To be honest, I think our understanding of sex is also outdated. But, let’s leave that conversation for another day.
Simply put, gender is an expression and you are able to express yourself, any way you seem fit – irregardless of your sex.
Often times when we refer to “woman”, we do not include these experiences. When I see the word woman in South Africa, my experience reminds me that the women being referred to are those that have had wombs, those that can afford specific privileges, those that are white, those that are heterosexual, able-bodied etc. This is obvious through representation as well as by how the treatment of women differs. Some women seem to be considered as more “woman” than others.
Women are those that refer to themselves as a woman.
What is there to celebrate when “A woman in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning to read.” – Women For Change SA
The stats surrounding gender based violence in south Africa are harrowing. Today, 09 August 2020: On Women’s Day, Aljazeera reported that in South Africa, a woman is killed every 3 hours. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/south-africa-woman-killed-hours-200809103641024.html
Covid 19 is a pandemic now, however Gender Based Violence has always been a pandemic, we’ve just slowly normalized it. So I ask you, what is there to celebrate?
There is much much more that needs to be done before I begin to celebrate Woman’s Day. The work needs to go beyond legislature. We should be able to attend our schools, workplaces and homes and not see our rapists. If you want me to begin to celebrate Women’s day, GIVE US EQUAL PAY! SUPPORT WOMAN OWNED BUSINESSES! GIVE US OWNERSHIP! GIVE US FUNDING! PUT US IN EXECUTIVE AND MANAGEMENT POSITIONS! DO NOT UNDERMINE WORK TRADITIONALLY “FEMININE” WORK! NORMALIZE NEW SYSTEMS OF BEING AND KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION BEYOND PATRIARCHY. i.e Feminism.
Although I cannot celebrate Women’s Day, for now we celebrate YOU. The riveting people that continue to make make diamonds with the sand that they are given. If you have not, take some time to read “Sheba’s 30 People You Should Follow”. I promise you the faces on that list will inspire you.
30 People You Should Follow :
All my love you glorious bunch!
Founder of Sheba Feminine.