Debate Club: Gender agenda

Gender not sex. Womanism not feminism. Patriarchy not masculinity.  These were some of the things brought up at the last debate club meeting of the year on November 25, 2014. The panel steering the direction of the conversation was made up by Panashe Chigumadzi, Lee Molefi and Lebohang Nova Masango.

Feminism, what it is and who it speaks to made up a substantial part of the debate on the night. Some described it as movement that seeks justice and equality. As women wanting to live in a world where they don’t have constantly “check” themselves to stay out of harms way. As vaginas and boobs not being the things that dictate where we belong and what we get to do. The most poignant description for me was:

The way patriarchy shapes what men should and can expect from women was another hot topic. I recall one guy in the audience saying he is all for woman empowerment and equality for “other women” just not his woman. He admitted that he had learnt to expect subservience and as a result that is what he now yearned for.

If I recall correctly he said he’s all for his sister becoming and engineer but his wife should have a more “humble job” as to not bruise his ego and mess with his role as the head of the house. The room, filled predominantly with women, was up in arms at that. This is the kind of thinking that reminds women that they are alone in this struggle, black men aren’t really here for us. Agreed with these comments on gender roles made on the night:

My biggest take away from the night was the fact that so few men were willing to understand what feminism is, some suggested that they can never identify because they aren’t women, that they need to be schooled and feel included to get on the train. In response, the panel said acknowledging patriarchy and how as a man you benefit from it, is similar to white people having to acknowledge white privilege. Something that was necessary to start trying to make things better.

There is a lot more that could have been discussed but time rules us all. This is a very short video of the night made by the good people at LiveMag:


Debate Club – Chats about the truth keep me sane

There are few things as freeing, as validating, as anchoring, as sitting in a room filled with young people talking about our lived realities.

Last month some friends and I joined Debate Club, an initiative by the good people at Live Mag. There have only been two “meetings” but so far so great. It happens once a month on the last Tuesday of that month at the Bannister Hotel in Braamfontein.

The first time we went, we discussed being African – what it means or what it should mean. We had a robust discussion about we can and should be doing to uphold certain traditions, how others should move on with the times and what kind of things “led us astray” if you will. Some of my favourite quotes from the floor that night:

  • “Townships are dormitories for cheap labour” – a comment on the ill notion of glorifying living in townships.

  • “We just don’t know ourselves.”

  • “We’re not living in a context that is made for Africanism.”

Last week at the second meeting, the proverbial heat in the kitchen got turned up a few notches as we embarked on a topic that was bound to be explosive – race. In particular race in South Africa in relation to the so called “rainbow nation”.

To try to sum up what people said would be reductive, luckily I was tweeting like a mad woman. Will embed a few favourites to give a brief peek into what went down:

It was a night for the “angry black” – a night to speak our minds with reckless abandon that brimmed with obvious frustration. It was a night to say we are here, this is what we see and we don’t like it.

It was so necessary, so enlightening and equally depressing. I’m glad that I’ve found this space – I look forward to many more nights like the ones we’ve already had.