Because we live in a culture of victimhood, we South Africans seem to have a bit of a blind spot in our understanding of concepts like fairness and equality when people besides ourselves benefit. Take for example, last month’s entertaining brouhaha because Woolworths dared to obey the law.
It made me wonder how people too stupid to understand the need for transformation in South Africa could afford to shop at Woolworths in the first place. It’s really not that complex: treating everyone equally in a tragically unequal society can’t possibly result in equality magically appearing out of thin air. How can that be too hard to understand?
I’m surprised those boycotting idiots don’t demand that charity organisations donate money to rich people too. That sort of reasoning would fit in well with their warped sense of fairness.
But ultimately, is seems that the Woollies boycott was little more than sound and fury. I was at my local branch a few days ago to pick up some cheese and simultaneously become a race traitor, and the queue was just as long and just as white as ever – but perhaps not quite as thick. So perhaps we white South Africans are not as universally stupid as we appear to be on the internet. I’m an eternal optimist.
Although I was not at all surprised by reactions to the news report on the recent study that revealed South African women are still significantly under-represented in the workplace (wow, who didn’t see that one coming?).
The comments were almost as predictable as the study’s findings. “This equality-bs is getting SO TIRED,” opines one (male) reader, before longing for the good old days when everyone knew their place: “When Dad went to work and Mom looked after the kids, you had a 1000% better society and there weren't any children charged up on anti-depressants going on shooting sprees in high schools!” He concludes: “those who call me a chauvinist, are all feminists!”
If I may offer a word of advice: never trust anybody who thinks the word “feminist” is an insult. Ever. Or before you know it, you may end up married to some stuffed shirt who thinks The Waltons was a reality show.
Also well-represented was the clichéd argument that the inequality exists simply because “men work harder” – implying that not just women, but everyone working in low-paying jobs is a lazy shit. There’s an extra layer of irony here, when you notice that the vast majority of commenters are men, freely offering their wisdom during a working weekday.
But my favourite response of all goes something like this: “Women have babies – men don’t”.
Really? Obviously I missed the hot breaking news that women are now able to reproduce via parthenogenesis, because I was always under the impression that people have babies.
So here’s a thought: perhaps one of the reasons economic gender inequality is still an issue is because in a patriarchal society, it’s so easy for men to construct an unfair advantage for themselves in the workplace by absenting themselves from their own families.
Of course it’s easier for men to climb to the top of the corporate ladder when, unlike so many working mothers and wives, that’s pretty much all they do.
If the burden of responsibility was equally shared in the home, perhaps the playing field in the work place wouldn’t be quite as uneven. And men can only benefit by following the example of so many women and leading a fuller, more balanced life.