The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Another year. Another August. Another gross act of violence against women just in time to usher in women’s month.
While my intention is not to speak for all women, I can argue that for many of us, celebrating women’s day is somewhat of a balancing act. On one hand it is one of the very few opportunities we as a country take to stop and celebrate, even if not fully recognised, the role women had in fighting for the freedoms that so many of us enjoy today. On the other hand, it is celebration amid all the reminders of the ways those women, many of whom are still alive today, were failed and continue to be failed by a country that swears women are its backbone but doesn’t miss an opportunity to degrade and disregard those very women.
Another thing? I think many of us struggle to understand why there is such a disconnect. How are we to reconcile these celebrations of women, these very loud very elaborate expressions of love and appreciation for women with the steady normalisation of violence against women – with the fact that a lot of people still don’t view women as their own person. However, I don’t think these things, our celebration/praising of women and the violence women in this country are subject to daily, are as disconnected as many of us might think they are – the problem is already evident in the things that we are celebrated for and how we are celebrated. Our praise and celebration of women always seems to be rooted in who they are to us whether they be a mother, aunt, sister, girlfriend, friend (rarely)… and what they do for us – make sacrifices for, take care of, raise, forgive, feed…
The rhetoric used to celebrate women suggests that for a woman to be worthy of said praise, she must be someone to you – whether it be someone one you love/ are attracted to, and she must have done something for you – made a sacrifice, fought. She can never just be. Moreover, the very things that women are praised for are also expected from them, under conditions that many simply don’t or refuse to recognize. This makes the tasks that they do, which are expected of them, that much harder to complete. Here I think of Tshegofatso Pule who was about give life (subscribing to motherhood being the biggest thing women are praised for) only to have hers violently and callously taken by a man. Nothing I have said here is new authors like Pumla Dineo Gqola have long since rung the bell on how we as South Africans “speak of women’s empowerment’ in ways that are not transformative” and how our discourses of women’s empowerment “exist very comfortably alongside evidence that South African women are not empowered…”
What needs renewing is the way in which we address this issue. I am not calling for us to stop celebrating the women in our lives and the things that they do for us. I am asking us to reframe this celebration outside of who they are to us and what they do for us, to who they are as people and what they do in their lives outside of you. Furthermore, to recognize that these conditions – the cloud of violence and the treatment of women as second-class citizens – are not conducive to them constantly and consistently showing up and being the backbone of this country but they do it anyway. Moreover, understanding that true celebration of women is working towards and ultimately eradicating said conditions from our society.