Gender in the nation (SA women’s month 2009)

It has been a long while since the last post, but I am going to try and make up this woman’s month. For my readers beyond the Azanian borderline, 9 August is SA women’s day and August is women’s month. So, happy women’s month everybody from a cold Johannesburg!

I am ambivalent about this month every single year because I do wish that there was less to worry and complain about, to work against as far the state of gender in the nation. I wish that one August, we’d actually be able to have a real celebration of how far we’ve come. I look forward to the August when we won’t have to contend with double speak from those in elected power in SA, when the legal justice system will not be a huge violent patriarchal matrix, when violent masculinities will no longer hold us hostage, and when little boys and girls won’t be bludgeoned into submission to the regimes of heterosexist patriarchy.

Discussing the phenomenon that is August in South Africa with a few women friends and sisters a few weeks ago, we spent a couple of minutes on the usual bugbears, such as:

a) suddenly for a month everybody wants to talk about women specifically and gender more broadly in order to be in line with what matters;
b) feminists and gender activists are suddenly A-listers since everybody gets invitations to more events than s/he can get to;
c) it’s requests to write for this, talk about this, be seen here, sit on this committee and so forth;
d) the phone rings off the hook as institutions try to rent-a-feminist, etc.

But there was also a distinct pause this year – after we’d made the jokes about all running away, switching off and hiding so that there’d be fewer feminists-for-hire in August – to use this month to also retain the spotlight on what is wrong with the state of gender in the nation. So, this year, I am growing a sense of preservation and since feminists get more airplay this month, I will be using all my media space to speak about how far we need to go. I have only accepted writing and speaking gigs for people who think gender matters all year. In other words, if I don’t already respect your work on gender during and outside of August month, you couldn’t pay me enough to be anywhere near you – no matter how much being there would allow me to pass on to my favourite causes. Forget about it.

It’s wonderful that the 1956 March is marked by the 9th August long weekend, and a whole month. I love knowing that more often than not smart women are featured as experts on a range of topics on more radio and television shows than not this month – that smart women are everywhere, whether I agree with them or not. It should be the norm throughout the year.

So, this 9th August long weekend, I will be doing the following:

* spending time with my family and friends
* chairing a panel on Women’s Writing at the Jozi Book Fair, hosted by the fantastic Khanya College in downtown Jozi
* speaking on Umhlobo Wenene on Women’s Day, 6-7pm on gender based violence
* (re-)reading Pregs Govender, Marianne Thamm, Dominique Rizos, Andrea Dworkin
* editing my piece for the exhibition that Bongi Bengu curated that opens tonight (I LOOOOOVE Bongi Bengu).

This rent-a-feminist booth is closed.


Posted on 8 August 2009, in long weekends, Southern African politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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