Not long ago I found myself chilling at the Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton with a group of super-successful African male professionals.

They were four, middle-aged gentlemen wearing designer labels with their posh cars parked in the underground lot.

We had just decided to get together to play catch-up because we had increasingly become aware that we live to work instead of work to live.

What this means it that our successes, whatever that is judged to be, is allowing a widening gap to grow among us as we pursue money, fame and, of course, women.

Our interest was suddenly piqued when one of the gentlemen mentioned that he had listened to a radio programme that attempted to answer the question: “Why can’t successful women find partners?”

This is a controversial topic, of course, with no answers.

But people, including men, will always have something to say on this matter because, much as it is about women, it places men at the heart of it all.

So, if it is true, why is it difficult for so-called successful women to find lovers, partners and a husband?

There is the perception out there that successful women with money, position, status and those who own homes and cars are struggling to get hitched.

This was why one of the gentlemen thought he could entertain us by exploring this provocative subject on which everyone has an opinion.

There is no doubt that since the mid-1980s, with the advent of what magazines like Tribute or Cosmo called the “Single, Successful and Satisfied Woman Phenomenon”, the fairer sex has enjoyed unprecedented freedom and opportunity.

In the past 17 years, women have risen to the top of the government, corporate and business world.

There is almost nothing that men have achieved that women have not done in equal measure, if not better.

But there is this silly view that despite what they achieve, if they are without men they are incomplete.

I did not want to get entangled in this discussion myself and thus just sat back to listen to what some of my peers had to say. After all, I have long learnt that success is not only an elusive thing but a highly subjective matter.

As a result it is very difficult for people to know what constitutes success because, for me, it is not limited to money and the things it can buy.

The prevalent view at the table was that despite their material success, women are frustrated, pessimistic, lacking and generally not happy, especially when they are without a special man in their lives.

This the view peddled by some female talk show hosts, too.

Ironically, this topic always attracts scores of calls, emails and SMSs from men, women and other interested parties.

But is it really true that successful women cannot find men?

My friends and colleagues could not deliver what could be considered a scientific answer but their views were a general gauge of what society thinks on the subject.

From their perspective, the simple answer was, resoundingly “yes, successful women cannot find partners”.

In fact, they held the view that if you are a woman, you cannot pursue success — whatever that is — and still have the energy and time to find and cultivate a meaningful relationship with a good man.

They insist that women cannot have it both ways. Women will always be condemned by life to choose between success and a man. This view is not altogether surprising.

Despite the enshrined equality of the sexes in the Constitution, human beings don’t change much from generation to generation. You see, the gentlemen remain patriarchs, themselves, who are not keen to give up their power and influence that society gives to them simply because they are men.

To keep their dominant position, they have to subliminally uphold and promote their selfish views.

But what is surprising is that these same gentlemen do celebrate Women’s Day. It was in 1956 that women set out on a political mission to fight and resist oppression by men.

Of course, the success of women has got absolutely nothing to do with the absence or presence of men in their lives. Women, just like men, are as successful as they make up their minds to be.

After all, success is not only an elusive thing but is a highly subjective matter to such an extent that it does not exist. Women do not need men to affirm or validate their success.

If you are a successful woman, well … you can surely get any man you want when you want.

Just like a successful man, neh?



Sandile Memela

Sandile Memela is a journalist, writer, cultural critic, columnist and civil servant. He lives in Midrand.

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