No. of comments: 85

Submitted by Claire Baker

I’m surprised no one else has written about this topic. Perhaps it is too trivial, or perhaps our contributors have been momentarily distracted by what the day has to offer. I’m even more surprised to find myself writing about it. After all, I don’t look that bad in a Wonderbra, so I really shouldn’t have anything to gripe about.

I have considered the fact that this is really just supposed to be a fun day and that I’m being a terrible killjoy. At the very least I’m doing the mountain/molehill and storm/teacup thing. But I’ve been easygoing about this sort of thing for most of my life, and I’m finding that I’m finally starting to get a bit irritated by it all.

“Oh, here we go,” I hear you sigh. Here comes another hairy-armpitted (in the words of one of the illustrious contributors here), raging feminist. For the record — not that it’s any of your business, I guess, but just so that we can dispense with any stereotypes in advance — let me just say that I shave my armpits regularly. OK, I’ll admit, sometimes I’m a little lax in that department around the middle of winter.

I also shave my legs. I haven’t ever burned a bra; not my own nor anyone else’s. I quite like lingerie, actually. I have a lot of it. I even have a couple of Wonderbras. I wear make-up to work. I’m a bit of a flirt (much more so when I’ve had a few). I have long hair. I’m a mother. Although these are not all characteristics limited to the female of the species, the point I’m making is that I’m a woman, and absolutely happy to be one. For the record, I have also been, at various times, an athlete, an attorney, a teacher, a writer and an executive. But a woman all the same.

I’m not a woman who wishes she were a man. I’m not a woman who hates men either.

At the moment, however, I am a slightly annoyed woman. Annoyed and heading towards angry. And I’m also going to own up to the fact that I’m a feminist. In fact, I don’t believe that anyone can be a woman and not be a feminist.

An angry feminist.

I’m guessing this is where some people are going to stop reading.

You’ve probably realised by now that the insignificant event that has ignited my ire is this silly National Cleavage Day thing. Yes, it’s just an overblown marketing campaign, but it’s also not just that. There are those who will argue that it’s just a bit of light-hearted fun; don’t take things so seriously, for heaven’s sake! Some will even say that it’s an event that actually promotes women; it’s a positive thing, it’s not as if it’s saying bad things about women, it’s not sexist or anything …

If you’re a man, this argument is facile.

If you’re a woman, you need to wake up.

Have you noticed what the Big Topic on Thought Leader is? It’s Racism. With a capital R. Racism is widely accepted as being a Very Bad Thing. A posting on racism will immediately inspire a flurry of energetic responses. The mere hint of a race debate will be snatched up by the readers like a dropped chop-bone by a hungry Rottweiler. But sexism? Hmmmm. Not so much. Sexism just kinda slides on by, right under the radar — where it can just keep on going without anyone really noticing it or saying, “Just hold on a minute there, mister.” There are the odd occasions when it is so blatant that everyone has to sit up and take notice, but it has to be pretty overt, unlike racism, which can simply be hinted at in order to provoke a response.

What’s my point, I hear the less patient of you grumble.

My point is that sexism is alive and well and thriving in South Africa. And we spend so much time vociferously denouncing racism (and rightly so, of course) that sexism is allowed to thrive unabated. When women (mostly) do express concerns over it, they are frequently dismissed as “bitter” and vague comments are made about their physical attractiveness, or lack thereof; the underlying, and incredibly insulting, suggestion being that they’re obviously only angry because they can’t get a guy.

South African men are developing some very bad habits these days. Apart from the ridiculously high incidences of rape and domestic abuse that have become so prevalent in this country, did anyone notice the more interesting developments like lesbians being raped (to “straighten” them out)? Or were you too busy being outraged by that one student pissing in the stew? And the ongoing harassment of women by taxi drivers? Well, that made the news right up until some fellow somewhere called someone a k … oops! I nearly said it. That would have got me into trouble!

So I’ve been thinking about this National Cleavage Day. It is not just an ad campaign. It is yet another insult that we’re letting slide because it’s “not that serious”. Like the Teazers ads aren’t that serious. I thought we should try to have a National Packed-Package Day. (That whole thing about size not counting? We all know that’s rubbish, don’t we? It’s something said by merciful women to insecure men.) Should we start taking a closer look at how much a man really has to offer? Since men are so willing to admire women’s breasts, let us return the compliment and give you points on your tackle.

It’s tempting in a get-your-own-back sort of way. But of course I’m being facetious. By doing that we would be missing the point. We would be perpetuating yet another damaging stereotype and encouraging the detrimental effects of the already rife over-emphasis of physical attributes.

No, what I’d like to see is people just taking a little more notice of what is said or written. We’re so damned sensitive about race. Our race radar is extremely fine-tuned. When it comes to sexism, it’s as if we’re looking down the wrong end of the binoculars. I would be interested to see what would happen to a Thought Leader contributor who posted an overtly racist blog. Yet there are one or two around here who are quite brazenly sexist.

I’m not going to single them out. I’d like you to find them for yourself. And while you’re at it, could you also explain to me why, out of the 134 contributors on Thought Leader, only 36 are women?

Claire Baker is many things too numerous to mention. She writes because she has to. She argues because she likes to

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On our Reader Blog, we invite Thought Leader readers to submit one-off contributions to share their opinions on politics, news, sport, business, technology, the arts or any other field of interest. If...

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