Doctor In South Africa. We have a constitution that guarantees equality between the sexes. However, our constitution reflects the kind of country we aspire to become, not necessarily who we are at present. This essay does not dispute that significant progress has been made with regards to equalizing men and women on a legal, political and social basis.
However, it Is problematic to argue that gender Is fully In transition in the whole of South Africa, largely because of the influence of patriarchy on the primary oscillation years of individuals, as well as complex cultural preferences between urban and rural people, and people of different socioeconomic and educational backgrounds.
Drawing on evidence from the South African context, this essay will discuss the aforementioned whilst paying specific attention to the social construction of gender identity, how it is influenced by patriarchal values and practices, and, finally, outline how gender Identity will evolve over the next 10 to 20 years. Gender is a social construction that refers to “the roles, responsibilities and obligations associated with being a man or a woman,” (Sullivan et al. 006: 100). It insists of sets of behavior that differentiate maleness and femaleness (Sullivan et al, 2006) and encompasses, but is not limited to, biological sex. As a social construction, we become gendered through constant oscillation, which takes place In the home, at school and In the workplace. As noted in the introduction, considerable progress has been made with regards to squalling men and women on a legal, political and societal basis.
Nevertheless, the colonization process mentioned before is heavily influenced by patriarchy, an Ideology that purports the superiority of men and the inferiority of women. Thus, inequalities are shaped between the two sexes, with women bearing most of the brunt. It Is problematic to argue that gender Is fully In transition. Especially If we look at the way parents treat their children in the primary oscillation phase (ages 0-10 years). Cambrian (2006) presents an argument that, although written in a Zimmermann context, can ineffably be applied to a South African context.
She notes how the toys parent buy their children often reinforce a patriarchal ideology; girls are given “dolls and kitchen utensils to play with whilst the boy child is given toy cars, puzzle games ND toys that require physical energy or mental ability,” (Cambrian, 2006: 3). The masculine and finalization of children’s’ toys socializes boys and girls differently, with girls expected to become soft, maternal and “emotionally sensitive” (Cambrian, 2006: 3).
This reinforces traditional patriarchal gender roles, which lays the foundation on which these children will conduct the rest of their lives. Additionally, when children enter the schooling system they are often exposed to the miscalculation and finalization of certain school subjects, and, more often than not, hose distinctions purport a patriarchal Ideology that places men as superior to 1 OFFS regarded as more suitable for females,” and that their future aspirations about future employment “do not go beyond the scope of what is regarded as ‘suitable’ feminine occupation,” (Acetone, 2001 : 303).
Furthermore, Acetone notes that, in school texts, women’s roles in history are considerably downplayed, writing that “women recorded to be invisible actors in the histories of Western civilizations,” (2001 : 303) and research into such texts portray women as inferior, domesticated and possessing a lack of intelligence (2001). Additionally, school texts tend to portray women in typically “feminine” occupations/ positions such as fairies, queens, mothers, etc. Acetone, 2001) which reinforces the stereotype that women are the “weaker” sex. With the aforementioned in mind, we can therefore deduce that South Africa has a schooling system that makes distinctions between men and women and their roles in society, the kinds of distinctions that reinforces a patriarchal ideology. Thus, it is problematic to argue that gender is fully in transition in our country.
In the above paragraph, I briefly touched on the way patriarchy and traditional ender roles influence the AS education system and, consequently, the way young women choose their future careers. Now I want to focus more on the latter. Despite freedom of choice with regards to the profession they can enter, studies found that highly educated women, for example, occupy positions in teaching and nursing, whereas men with comparable education enter business, the law and medicine; this causes an unequal distribution of earnings between the two sexes (Fitzpatrick, 2010).
Furthermore, by 2003, women “had lower incomes, higher unemployment, and less access to assets than men,” (Sideman Magenta, 2004: 3). Also, Acetone (2001) observes that there exists a “glass ceiling” with regards to how high a woman can get promoted within the professional environment, citing the absence of female school principals as an example. With these inequalities between men and women even in a post-feminist society, we cannot argue that gender is fully in transition.
Patriarchy not only purports the superiority of men and the inferiority of women in society, but also prescribes the way they should behave in that society, especially with regards to sexuality. In a South African context, patriarchal values and practices re most likely to be adhered to and performed in rural areas and regions lower on the socio-economic scale. In the rural areas of South Africa, patriarchy as an overarching system of rule is more common in urban areas, and I will thus pay specific attention to these areas.
Rural South African women, especially young unmarried ones, have significant societal restrictions placed on their sexuality and how they perform their femininity, with Sullivan et al noting that there is “an emphasis on maintaining modest behavior, protecting their virginity, and avoiding sexual relations until involved in a regular partnership,” (2006: 101). Furthermore, Sullivan et al explains that patriarchy has the effect that there is near universal double standards that give men greater sexual freedom and expression of sexual rights, whilst women are expected to be sexually passive (2006). Re disemboweled within (heterosexual) sexual relationships. Not only is this disembowelment caused by patriarchy, but it makes women, especially young women, more vulnerable to the risk of unwanted pregnancies and HIVE/AIDS infection. The latter risk is especially significant, as HIVE/AIDS is most prevalent among the 18-30 GE groups, and particularly among young women (Department of Health).
It is thus problematic to argue that gender is fully in transition in AS if a significant portion of the populace (young women) is still disemboweled to the point that their lives are at risk, especially since this disembowelment is rooted in traditional patriarchal values and practices. As noted, patriarchy has specific ideas on how men and women should behave in society. In Maneuver on the Cape Flats, traditional ideas on how men and women should behave in that society, exist (Solo, 2008).
Women, even young ones, are not edged by virtue of their intellectual, athletic or occupational successes, but by how well they conformed to the local ideal of femininity, an ideal that is no doubt influenced by a patriarchal standard of womanhood; Solo notes that “motherhood and domestic responsibilities were regarded as the ideals of femininity,” and “women are expected to confine their mobility to the domestic space,” (Solo, 2008: 13). We can therefore infer that it is problematic to argue that gender is in transition in South Africa if traditional (and therefore patriarchal) ideals on womanhood continue to resist in our country.
As noted earlier in the essay, several advances have been made with regards to equalizing men and women on a legal, political and social basis, especially after the fall of Apartheid in 1994 and the continual drafting of a constitution that is more egalitarian. Despite this, we cannot definitively argue that gender is in transition; mostly because of South Africans highly patriarchal society and the gendered inequalities it continues to propagate, as well as cultural differences between rural and urban people and people of different socio-economic statuses.
Nevertheless, what has been achieved in transitioning gender identities will continue in that same vein. As a social construction, gender is fluid and changing. History has shown us that gender roles and identities do change over time, mostly for the better. We can simply look at women’s suffrage, the gay liberation movement and the three waves of feminism to illustrate the change in gender identities. Our constitution has already outlawed discrimination based on gender, and, hopefully, 10 to 20 years from now, this egalitarianism will be enforced on grass roots level.
Once it reaches this level, patriarchal ideologies will no longer influence the way individuals raise their children, and subsequently, the way these children will go about conducting their lives as adults. Furthermore, the absence of patriarchy will change the way men and women conduct their (sexual) relationships, in that there will be no disembowelment of either partner. Lastly, the idea of only one feminine ideal will be wiped out, and women will not feel the need to conform to a patriarchal please.
Although I do not refute that certain progress have been made with regards to squalling men and women on several levels, it is problematic to argue that gender is in transition in the whole of South Africa. In this essay, I have attempted to illustrate the aforementioned point by demonstrating how patriarchy influences several phases of an individual’s life, including their childhood, education and occupation choice. Also, I have demonstrated how traditional (patriarchal) ideas on gender propagate inequalities between men and women, inequalities that continue to persist despite our constitution’s insistence on equality.