The Black Female in Modern History: From South Africa, Khadija Sharife Narrates How History Has Often Reinforced Exploitative Actions and Failed to Dismantled Barriers Which Leave Women with Less Access to Platforms That Matter. Pertinently She Asks. Was and Is There a Male-Dominated Influence with Regards to the History Is Noted and Transcribed?
Sharife, Khadija, New African
In her debut book Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy aptly states that women have absorbed the rhetorics of the male mentality/ideology as it relates to commoditised versions of the female identity, reducing half the world's population to a state of being lesser than.
This tangibly translates to the de-emphasis of female achievements save for, at least in most cases, politically correct equity targets or alternately, exceptions to the rule.
And, of course, as per the Orwellian phrase, some women are more equal than others, for not only have women had to confront and defeat the historically entrenched patriarchal constructs of engineering social inequality--depriving half the world's population of rights, education and mobility, but simultaneously, women have had to challenge racism. Essentially, this double-edged sword ensured that women faced double the trouble from both without and within.
On the subject of diminished, colonised and branded gender identities, Levy tells African Woman: "It will never happen the way it does to women; it isn't comparable... This type of culture isn't created in a vacuum; men are valued and thought of as real people. You can't reduce a real person to a sex object. Women are seen as less than human."
And therein lies the crux of the matter: the general perception of females in the context of human rights, human ability and humanity recognised. Or in the case of women-only partially acknowledged, devalued and overwhelmed in historical narratives through male mediation that reveal far more about the narrator than the subject.
If and when strong, assertive and educated females surface, they are viewed as exceptional, and by default, 'manly' in their accomplishment of tasks often reserved for and occupied by, males; this naturally lends the interpretation that success lies in the domain of maleness and women are by nature inferior.
Even feminism has to a large extent built itself up on foundations of the male identity, affirming the standard, forcing integration (read conformity) vocalised by tones that undermine voices relegated to the margins.
Do women then achieve equality through the vehicle of maleness, reinforcing the male standing even further?
"It just makes me so angry and sad," says Levy, "that women cannot be the leading protagonists in their own life, but are taught instead to be the supporting actor."
Responding to questions on the documentation of female contributions recorded in intellectual histories, professor Julian Bond, Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) says: "Women were always engaged in the struggle for civil rights, and were generally marginalised."
Is this a general reflection of how women are perceived overall? "The treatment of women in civil rights histiography is a reflection of the treatment of women in society generally," he says.
Concerning female heroines such as Rosa Parks, Betty Shabazz, Albertina Sisulu and others, Bond states, "they were examples rather than exceptions. That list could be much longer. In recent years, Civil rights scholarship has included a wider concern for the efforts of black (and white) women."
Using Albertina Sisulu as an example, political commentator and activist, Professor Lubna Nadvi says, "Ma Sisulu was really an example, and as many have commented, she was considered as an equal to her husband at all levels. While she did play the role of wife, mother and caretaker, she was also an activist in her own right, and I think the literature does do justice to that fact.
"(But) she married into a prominent political family, which played a role in her profile being raised. There were other women, that did similar things but they didn't necessarily get the same attention, and there are various factors that have contributed to this. …