The kitchen and the boardroom: When roles become gendered


somIf you were asked to make a rap using the names of the greatest male thinkers in the world, chances are you could.

Now do the same, but with female counterparts of those thinkers instead.

It’s not uncommon to find yourself tongue-tied or in a slight choke when it comes to trying to name great women in history or contemporary time. An inequality between the sexes has existed long throughout history, and the problem is that the trend is that it still exists.  It is becoming more and more apparent that women are being roughly shouldered aside by their male counterparts in the world of politics and academia and in the literary world, leaving them floating in a shapeless limbo.

In an article in London’s The Independent newspaper, well-known feminist American Germaine Greer addressed the end of an era in which women wrote about “big ideas”. This was in response to authors such as Malcom Gladwell and AC Grayling comfortably nestling at the top of international best-selling lists, while female authors made an appearance now and then.

If we look back through history, equality has always been a crisis: Slavery, segregation and caste systems were, and still are, valid justifications for why some races and cultures are still looked at as inferior. The equality crisis we face in modern times, however, is between sexes, where the levels of testosterone have become overwhelmingly stronger in boardrooms, textbooks, economics and politics.  Even worse is the state of academia: The regular middle to upper class individual has spent an average of 15 years of schooling. Within those 15 years, only a handful of the theorists, philosophers and scholars would have been taught about would be women. Almost 80% would be men. By human nature, waging a war against the vices would be a feasible plan. But how far will a war take one when the vice itself is deeply-rooted in the very textbooks that are educating future generations?

A silent phasing out of women from primary roles in society is imminent: which is why political analyst Stephen Friedman is more likely to be consulted by South Africa’s media when people take to the streets in protest instead of Nathi Mazibuko, a political analyst from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It could be argued that the media favours Friedman because of his longer track record as an analyst and commentator of South African politics. Or it could be because Nathi Mazibuko is a woman, which would make it a little “unconventional” if such a powerful position were to be given to someone who can’t grow a thick beard. After all, nothing has a nation’s tongues wagging at television screens quite like an “official voice” of a man. This is not to say that the men in question do not have any substance. They’re quite the icing on the cake. Unfortunately, there is a tragic bias when it comes to the roles of men and women in society, where roles are now determined by one’s sex.

Click HERE to read the rest of the article on the MindMap eZine.

Written by Wilhelmina Maboja

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