A Hive Network Opinion Piece: w/ Sibongile Khumalo from Black Thighs
With South Africa’s national month of celebrating women upon us, we asked some of our members to share their thoughts about the legacy of this historical celebration.
Below, we share one of the responses that really got us thinking and talking about this holiday; and the realities of women in South African society.
What comes to mind when you reflect on National Women’s Day?
What comes to mind when I reflect on National Women’s Day is that we live in a society that has to put aside a public holiday to “recognize and celebrate” women’s contributions to our struggle for a free and equal society.
The narratives in our history books are dominated by the words and experiences of great men, many of whom lost their lives fighting for the political freedoms we enjoy today. With that said, when it comes to the contributions of women, the most recognition we get is this day – women’s day – when we celebrate the efforts of women, as if these contributions were a special feature to our historical fight.
If our country valued the work of women, like it valued the work of male historical figures who have become household names throughout the country, we would not only be celebrated on this day. Our value would’ve been known and seen and, would too, be centered in the narrative of our historical fight to freedom.
“…as evidenced by this very celebration of the march to the union buildings, and its theoretical and practical contributions, we were “all” fighting for freedom right?”
Moreover, when we consider how undervalued women are in South Africa today, it feels like an insult to celebrate this day. By just looking at issues like “GBV” and the impact that COVID-19 has had on the lives of South African women, we can clearly see why celebrating “Women’s Day” is a doubly disrespectful bind:
South Africa has to celebrate women because we are undervalued; yet women continue to be undervalued because we live in a country that celebrates itself for honoring women while dishonoring us.
It is my sincerest hope that a time will come that makes this day obsolete. I truly hope that we can get to a time when the historical contributions of women are not “included” or seen as a special feature in the history of our COLLECTIVE fight for freedom. I hope for a time when the work of women will be equally recognised and celebrated and immersed in the story of our national victory. So, when a young person (or any person) thinks of a freedom fighter, they are able to imagine a woman too.
This will only come with the collective effort to build that narrative, to center it, and to normalize it by continuous telling and celebration.
Sibongile Khumalo is the founder of Black Thighs, a Phd scholar in the women and gender studies department at the University of the Western Cape, an Andrew Mellon Fellow and a National Research Foundation Early Career scholar.
She’s cool people.