#PatriarchyMustFall In Our Lifetime

We’re in August, Women’s Month, a mere 31 days out of 365, that are meant to celebrate everything female; highlight successes; focus on the challenges that lay ahead and how to overcome these. Since everyone wants to be heard and seen ‘to do the right thing’, we are confronted by many, corporates included, that offer their acknowledgement and use this as an opportunity to grandstand.

 

Manglin Pillay, CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering [SAICE] really got into it in full patronising mode; “To the women in STEM – you know I am your friend. I wrote you Character Currency, gave you poetry and even sang you songs, so you know I am on your side. But we need to discuss a few things”. It all went downhill from there.

 

We continue to live through the abuse of women; emotional, financial, physical, and many fatal.

 

Without going into too much detail on that piece, other than to mention that the very organisation he leads categorically distanced itself and is “horrified at the innuendo that girl-children are less in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)”. My only hope is that swift action is taken. We continue to live through the abuse of women; emotional, financial, physical, and many fatal.  The #TotalShutdown march took place a few days ago on 1 August as a signal that we will never be silenced.

 

These are my thoughts on this disease of patriarchy.  Cause I think we have to name it that: a disease.  As a mother of two boys under five, I’ve mentioned the daily intention to dismantle the seemingly innocuous ways we entrench gender bias. Just this morning, I had to convince my 4-year-old that the pink toothbrush – one of only two left from a pack of 5 multicoloured ones – was as good as the blue one. I didn’t succeed, but I guess I could say it was countered by his recent musings on why the PJ Masks trio “only has one girl?”.  To which I replied, “that’s a good question. There should be two girls and two boys as we’re all equal”. My explanations will get more expansive as they grow. The point is that we must lay the foundations at an elementary level in the hope that society won’t have to deal with two more obnoxious adult men.

 

He most probably thought that he was being quite clever and endearing, perhaps even thought-provoking.

 

Patriarchy, much like white privilege, has its claws so deeply entrenched in ‘common culture’ and ‘it’s always been like this’ that the advantaged often don’t concede to their positions of power and therefore rarely question them. Oh, and when confronted, they vehemently deny. The aforementioned CEO is merely one case in point. He most probably assumed that he was being quite clever and endearing, perhaps even thought-provoking.

 

After the public shaming, he has supposedly ‘acted alone’ even though the piece was published in an industry magazine and on his Facebook page. This points to two possible scenarios: he was either advised against it and went ahead. You know, I’m the CEO aka the man who doesn’t get questioned. Or the more plausible explanation that he actually got a pat on the back for his fabulous piece. And I suspect that much like most of my writing is based on discussions and thoughts I regularly have, this is the usual boardroom/bar/golf course/locker room banter he’s familiar with, often accompanied by high-fives and raucous laughter.

 

It makes me sick to my core and another reason why I’m convinced that our boys should not be educated in a same-sex institution. It’s inspiring to see some schools embracing gender-neutral uniforms as well as sporting activities. These small changes will go a long way in levelling the playing field and hopefully create the gender-equal societies that will benefit the world over.

 

When we make it seem so ‘complicated’, we’re setting up stumbling blocks before we even begin.

 

Sexism, like racism and all other forms of discrimination, requires the perpetrator to acknowledge their bias before any meaningful intervention, let alone healing, can take place. So, Mr. Pillay believes that “gender equality and equity need deeper understanding than simplification into male dominance, patriarchy and companies providing baby care in the office”. When we make it seem so ‘complicated’, we’re setting up stumbling blocks before we even begin. What’s the take-out? It’s really not that easy to dismantle; it just is.

 

Every woman knows and feels patriarchy daily. You don’t have to do any research to tell us what we experience; the devastating impact it has on our lives. From the sister fetching water in rural Tzaneen to the one driving a Porsche, occupying a top position in Sandton, and everyone in between, we loathe it, we despise it and it must end. It starts by speaking up when we’re uncomfortable. Questioning when there are no women in the room. Being conscious and deliberate in our parenting of, and interaction with, both girls and boys. And finally, supporting each other through our struggles to overcome this despicable disease.

 

We have witnessed the fall of apartheid in our time, I pray that we will see the death of patriarchy.

 

#PatriarchyMustFall

Our Mental Health Is The Key To Health

I love the fact that we’re living in an era of transparency and access to information. Social media and the rise of the ‘eyewitness reporter’ deliver more data that we can consume. And while the issues of gender equality and women empowerment will always remain close to my heart, I’m finding the increased discourse around mental health equally significant.

 

I, for one, am being educated on this illness, its silent effects, the masks those suffering are ‘forced’ to wear and maybe most importantly, the use of language in describing this devastating condition which is on the rise globally. What stands out for me is that by saying someone ‘committed suicide’ alludes to a logical, clear, healthy mind making a decision, then taking action. Nothing is further from the truth.

It took me more than 18 months and a fortune in self-medication and naturopath healing to finally receive a medical diagnosis of a hormone imbalance.

This has made me reevaluate my own struggles that I nonchalantly ascribed to having young kids when some of my peers are welcoming and preparing for grandkids. It took me more than 18 months and a fortune in self-medication and naturopath healing to finally receive a medical diagnosis of a hormone imbalance. I’ll write about this in more detail, but the point is that my anxiety, stress and what I now understand as post-natal depression, were never going to go away by ‘snapping out of it’ or ‘being grateful for the beautiful children’ or ‘that I’m so much better off than many others’.

 

As much as I prefer natural, healthier options, medication is the critical factor to my health and wellness right now. A few months back, I had found myself in a slump driven by the treatment regime that had me feeling like a hypochondriac; take this before food, after food, make sure there is no skin contact within 2 hours and so on. So, bundled in a ball of tears and as I am sometimes wont to do, give up, I announced that I was going to leave the medication and try the natural route.

 

The reaction from Mr T told the whole story. “You can’t just do that without consultation, you can’t make that decision on your own as it affects the family”. In that moment, I realised two things. First, I had been in such a bad state that my family was ‘terrified’ of me without medication and then, positively, that I was actually on the mend.

There’s very little that we are in control of.

I often have conversations with my dear friend, Sindile on when to ‘treat on your own’ and when to reach for the pills. What’s clear for me is that we are alive during extraordinary times of mass manipulation. There’s very little that we are in control of. Walk into Pick n Pay or your grocer of choice, read the labels and weep. At least 95% [my guestimate] of the food we consume has ingredients that we can’t even pronounce, let alone know what they are. What we put into our bodies on a daily basis is not pure.

 

Then many of us forgo exercise and moments in nature as we have a million and one excuses. And we’re continually bombarded by information overload, excessive consumption and deadlines – 24 hours is never enough – that hamper our pursuit of peace and quiet.  That’s really what our souls need. For the pain and trauma to disappear so that we reach our full potential and live out our purpose.

This is a real illness and must be treated with the same vigour as any other health issues.

What I’m trying to say is that there are times when we need help. All of us. Whether it’s sharing with friends and family, speaking to a professional and/or taking medication. If you feel sad, anxious, ‘empty’, negative, irritable, desperate, worthless, tired and without energy for longer than two weeks, you’re most probably depressed. This is a real illness and must be treated with the same vigour as any other health issues.

 

We are not defined by our weakness, rather we are given strength through it.

 

And to all my sisters, Happy Women’s Month!