“Imagine being the first African Union Chair from the SADC region and then find yourself referred to as President Zuma’s ex-wife. Imagine being a former managing director of the World Bank, just to be called Steve Biko’s mistress. Imagine being an entire human rights lawyer just to be defined as George Clooney’s wife”, once wrote Facebook user Diana Munyaradzi. The women in question that Munyaradzi was referring to were Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Mamphela Ramphele and Amal Alamuddin-Clooney.
Back in August of last year, the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) had come under fire for referring to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as “mini Zuma”. The African National Congress Women’s League loathed the incidents and referred to them as acts of ‘cheerleading male chauvinism’. That is not the first time male chauvinism had reared its ugly head against Dlamini-Zuma, or any other South African women with power for that matter.
A study done by financial company Grant Thornton revealed that only a bleak average of 28% of women hold positions in senior companies. Whether these positions be in economics, politics, and Non-Government Organisations, etc. The problem (according to the report) seems to be the same old reasons; namely male chauvinism. Men are heralded at a higher regard and often seen to have better capability than women in handling portfolios that come with power. In a society as patriarchal as South Africa’s unfortunately this has become second nature.
Our society is based on patriarchal values and out of that patriarchy stems male chauvinism. Male chauvinism can essentially be defined as an aggressive or exaggerated form of patriarchy. Basically putting it in a South African context, it is the belief that men rightfully hold more power than men. It is the pathetic notion that a woman is defined by the man she is linked to.
For example, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is less likely to be defined as a capable presidential hopeful but more likely as Zuma’s ex-wife because it is easier to define her by linking her to a man. The South African society is chauvinistic enough to overlook her accolade of being the first AU chair from the SADC.
Dlamini-Zuma is not the only powerful women who suffers the plight of male chauvinism. Medical doctor Tshepo Motsepe is a highly educated woman, holding a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, but if you google search her, almost all hits from the search are related to her husband, deputy president Cyril Ramanyusa….. oops sorry! Ramaphosa.
Dr Motsepe is often referred to as “Ramaphosa’s second wife” and mention is seldom given that she is the non-executive director of Wits Health Consortium and Wits Hospice. Instead of it being mentioned that she is a patron not only the South African Civil Society for Women’s Adolescents, and Children’s Health (SACSoWACH) but also for the Students Sponsorship Program (SSP), she is simply referred to as Ramaphosa’s wife.
As if male chauvinism has not reared its ugly head enough, Dr Motsepe’s brother is none other than billionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe. Therefore if she is not referred to as Ramaphosa’s husband on a good day, she’ll be addressed as Patrice Motsepe’s sister. Another Motsepe-linked woman who suffers this plight is Dr Precious Molio-Motsepe who is the Chairperson of Africa Fashion International (AFI), a company that owns Mercedes-Benz Fashion week. Instead of being applauded for running a company that brings African fashion to the global forefront, she is often identified or recognised by the public mainly as ‘one of the Motsepes’. So you see, here in this our, no matter how hard you work , you will always have a patriarchal ceiling above you that wants to come crashing down because it’s being sat on by male chauvinism.
This ugly mindset is fully embedded in our society and is a disorder that is recycled generation after generation. It is evident because factors like male chauvinism heavily contribute to South Africa earning a rank of 36th out of 58 countries in terms of gender equality – this is according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
It seems very likely that it will continue to be so because there are no adequate programmes designed to tackle male chauvinism as a predicament. There are no institutions or organisations that look at the root of this problem by confronting attitudes and ideas which support it.
~ Thabisile Ngeleka