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Question du jour

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So why does Helen Zille say that Lennit Max’s affair is a ‘private matter‘ but she says that Zuma’s conduct is “a matter of public concern, for example, if a politician does not practice what she or he preaches“. Could it be that she would be OK with Zuma’s 22 children if only he wouldn’t ask citizens to practise safe sex?

Or is Helen only protecting Lennit Max because he’s a member of the DA?

Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

February 15th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Politics

What and who is POC/WOC?

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Why should anybody want to define himself by what he is not? — William Safire

I recently received an email from Jason, one of my readers, who wanted to know what POC and WOC are. So I gave him a short explanation. And then I wrote that if he doesn’t know the terminology, I might have to do a post about the two acronymns’ meaning.

I remember my introduction to the term in 2006. I was on a date with an older guy who is a Kenyan expat. He called me a woman of colour. Something in the phrase made me uncomfortable. I have no idea what it could have been. But I didn’t like it and for that week I kept introducing myself to my friends as  –  “Hi, I am Joy-Mari Cloete and I am a woman of colour.” We thought it was funny.

Fastforward to 2009, only 3 years later, and I have done a 360° on this phrase. I now realise that the word black isn’t always descriptive of the majority of people in this world — many are something else: Creole, coloured, Jews, Latina/o, Indian, Native American, Aboriginal, Inuits. And the term ‘black’  has negative connotations in many parts of the world. So it makes sense to call myself a woman of colour instead of coloured when I’m speaking to my Canadian friend who flinches when she hears what she calls the C-word.

POC means either person of colour or people of colour, depending on the context. Similarly, WOC means woman of colour or women of colour, depending on the contex.

No-one can safely say when the term was first used, nor do linguists know who had used it first. But an 1818 pamphlet, ”Report of the Committee, to Whom was Referred the Memorial of the President and Board of Managers of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States.”, may be one of the earliest known usages of the term. French colonies have used gens de couleur liberes to speak of emancipated black people. And the oldest known usage is from 1781, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. But I’ll be damned if I can find a credible link on that piece of information.

And yes, immigrants and refugees could be people of colour. The term has expanded since it first became en vogue in the late 20th century, when Frantz Fanon and Martin Luther King Jr used it.

Activists created it as a counterreaction to ‘non-white’. Why do white people [get to] set the standard? And we have to define ourselves on what we are not? But perhaps my initial dislike of the term stems from yet again being ‘othered’. White people are just that — white. They don’t seperate themselves into categories, as they did with people of colour: quadroon, mulatto, quintoon, octoroon, Eurasian.

I have incorporated the words into my vocabulary but am still more than a bit reluctant to call myself black, even though I can identify with Steven Biko’s definition of black as everyone who had suffered under Apartheid.

Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

December 1st, 2009 at 10:23 am

Political spectrum quiz

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My Political Views
I am a center-left moderate social libertarian
Left: 1.86, Libertarian: 2.67

I did this test in January 2009 and it told me I am a center-left moderate social libertarian. I wondered whether my views on these issues had changed since January…so I took the test again today.

My Political Views
I am a left moderate social libertarian
Left: 6.58, Libertarian: 1.77

It’s a difficult test because you can’t make decisions in a vacuum; context matters. And all our decisions are tainted with bias, whether we’d like to admit it or not. Another factor that makes it difficult is when you want to tick the ‘liberal’ or ‘libertarian’ answer but know that it would be intellectually dishonest to do so. So you remain neutral, for fear of being outed as a ‘conservative’. Yes, even to yourself. Eep.

This test scores you on how you feel over certain civil issues: personal freedom; government and church involvement in everyone’s lives; the economy; and nationalism.

Go take the political spectrum quiz and see how your views had changed since Pol Sci 101. I’m surprised to see that my views have shifted more towards the left. And I’ve always thought of myself as a liberal. Funny, eh?

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

November 13th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Governance,Politics

Your sexist writing style isn’t professional, dude

with 17 comments

There is sexism in language, it does enhance the position of males, and males have had control over the production of cultural forms. (Spender 1985: 144)

Sexist writing takes one of a few forms: you could assume that all your readers are men or you could use gender essentialist views of women and men.

Why does this matter? Surely, women have made many advances in the last 100 years? And surely, no-one means to subjugate women by something as simple as language?

My answers: it matters because women are human beings. Women and men should receive the same social, political and economical treatment. Yes, women have made many advances over the last century  or so. But that does not mean that the process is finished: we still need to eliminate much man-centric language and thought processes. The former will only happen once the latter – modifying our thought processes – becomes the norm. And changing our thought processes is dependent on changing our language; the one cannot happen without the other.

And yes, most people do use [sexist] language innocently but that is a poor excuse for using sexist language.

I recently started reading Die Burger again and was offended at the subtle jabs at women in this Afrikaans daily: journalists write of companies, the SA government and processes as ‘he’, ‘his’, and ‘him’.

I had a look at my copy of the Afrikaanse Spelreëls but I couln’t find any rule that promotes the use of the male pronoun when writing of inanimate objects.  And even if there exists a rule such as that, surely Afrikaans – and, by extension, Afrikaans editors – should change the ‘convention’ to something more fitting the 20th century? Surely we should lobby the Afrikaans media to change their writing style to include, and not exclude, women.

One of the excuses apologists offer for using sexist language is that it’s a reflection of today’s society. And that’s where they leave it; they’d rather not try to change the language – that’d be too drastic and would give to much power to the ‘PC brigade’.

I wrote Henry Jeffreys, Die Burger’s editor,  a few emails – first email on 17 August – and only received a response from Hendrik Coetzee, Die Burger’s ombudsperson, on 2 September. He offered one reason why they support the male hegemony: it has been thusly decreed by the compilers of Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls and Sakboek van Regte Afrikaans.

Here’s the problem I have with that argument: it’s lazy and does nothing to change the status quo; instead, it approves of, and justifies women’s oppression. Another excuse Hendrik offered was that other languages — English, French, Dutch — use sexist ‘conventions’; therefore, it’s OK that Afrikaans follows their example.

I wrote an email to Die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns and received – instantly! – an email from Professor van der Elst: he’s referring this issue to Professor Kotze, the head of their language commission. Professor Kotze doesn’t agree: he reckons that this has nothing to do with sexism; it’s part of the language conventions.

Professor Kotze from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University answered one of my many questions about the gendering of pronouns. I wasn’t satisfied with his answer and tried to prod a bit more. And then he wrote an incredibly patronising email to me – and to me alone; he had not CC the other respondents in on this last mail – with the hopes that I’ll have a wonderful life: “Sterkte met u lewe vorentoe.” It is OK for him to disparage me; however, it is not OK for me to be offended at his actions.

I’ll try to contact a few Afrikaans and Women’s Studies professors to see what they think.

I don’t know whether they’ll agree with me that this is sexist; many women are indoctrinated by society — they don’t see sexism. And they are some of the key people we need to speak out and voice their disapproval — if they do disapprove after they had given the issue deep thought. Your organisation or company needs an anal grammarian to obsess over everything you send out – to internal as well as external clients. But this person needs to be progressive, or at least aware of all the -isms out there.

So many of us wordophiles — my word — obsess over whether to use may or might; few of us obsess over non-ableist language. A few of us claim to watch our sexism but how many have a definitive stance on which term is more appropriate — gypsie or Roma? How many are there who still use ‘men’ and ‘guys’ as generics?

I’m not sure what to do next. The gatekeepers have spoken and I feel powerless. I feel powerless because of my inability to have a conversation with them without getting told off for my tone. I feel powerless because of the lazy arguments they use to justify the language rules. And I feel powerless because far too often I have to hear how I should rather fuss over more ‘worthy’ things. What those things are I don’t know.

For a far more intellectual discourse on how language affects our reality, read this University of Stanford article and this Shakespeare UK pdf.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

November 9th, 2009 at 11:03 am

The internet is no meritocracy

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Meritocracy, noun, “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.” — Merriam Websters.

The internet is not an equal playground. I thought this is obvious to all but I was wrong. Many think that as long as you’re online, you are just a line of text. And that your awesome content, eg, will rise to the top. This thinking claims that we cease to exist as men and women, white and black, African and American; we become citizens of the net. And that we can all be achievers, if we’re good enough.That’s what the Internet Founding Fathers thought back in the beginning.

But that isn’t true. There is plenty of misogyny online; POC bloggers are still left behind or shunted off to virtual reserves; and expensive bandwidth still prohibits many people all over the world from becoming active on the internet. It helps to be a white man in a white collar job who has access to fast broadband that doesn’t switch off every half an hour or so. It really does.

So please do not think the internet is the Great Big Hope. Yes, sure, we can’t see that someone is fat but when you write a fat acceptance blog or when you write a personal blog that upset people — for whatever reason — you do put your safety at risk. Even  software programmers can receive death threats.

This myth of meritocracy is so entrenched that very few are aware of it. Similar to fish swimming in water. Or the Matrix. And everyone has been born into this prison for the mind.

Racism on the internet

Blogging While Brown isn’t always fun. Whenever someone at a newspaper or an online media house makes a list of the top blogs, chances are that the list will feature very few POC bloggers. Gina McCauley, a WOC blogger,  said that

“Black bloggers link to other black bloggers, and progressive white bloggers link to other white progressive bloggers,”

There are few such studies on this subject, and David Sasaki’s blog post caused a big fuss in SA last year. But it’s true that white bloggers have mostly white blogging friends to whom they link. Either that or they just tend to read blogs that other white people write. There’s no branching out to read voices other than theirs, with experiences that differ to theirs. These apologists will claim that they read the best of what the web has to offer, regardless of who the author is. And they’ll probably also use the all-too-familiar catchphrase to ensure that we know they aren’t racist — “My best friend is black, ya know?”.

Sexism and the internet

Women are slut-shamed for the tiniest thing. Many comment threads — on blogs and on forums — start off  civil but  descend into chaos. Few of the tops users of any social community are women. Why? Could it perhaps be that men still have greater access to technology and that they still have more free time than women do? Women still do most of the household work and this means they have little time left for themselves, never mind editing Wikipedia.  But, I forget — “There are no women on the internet.” And the few women who are on the internet — who aren’t men with boobs, or boys — tend to get demotivated when they constantly observe how male-centric, ie,  old boys club,  the intertubes is.

And yes, social conditioning is also at play here. How often do young girls not feel that they aren’t qualified to speak or write about a topic? I see it in myself, too. I’d far rather edit a Wikipedia article than post a new one. Unless it is client related, of course. And most of the time I would only correct the grammar, not the facts. So perhaps it is based on personality and on gender. Not sex. Gender constructs shape our world and we all have to dance along; gender is a performance. And the perfect version of female gender — as per 1950s magazines and books — is unfortunately passive, coy, intellectually dull, and sexless.

Internet economics

Bandwidth isn’t cheap in most developing countries, some websites are considering limiting content to developing countries, and sometimes that interesting video you want to watch isn’t available or can not be viewed in your region. Other sites that restrict access based on geographics are Hulu, Pandora and Spotify. Techcrunch did a great article on how to get around these restrictions; however, the people who read Techcrunch are still an elite minority.

Lo-fi sites and broadband access

Computers are as big an indicator of economic success: not everyone can afford a Mac; fewer still can afford or be bothered to get proper software.

So yes, our hypothetical internet user has a 3G-enabled cellphone on which to use the internet. But the screen is tiny and the keyboard is as tiny; 2 things that might deter them from commenting on blogs or writing their own blog to promote their brand. Yes, they benefit by being on the internet already but very many things deter their full enjoyment of what the internet can offer: Flash websites, web browser compatibility, censorship, broadband cost.

Mobile web browsers are far more advanced than they had been 2 years ago. But they’re still getting a couple of things wrong. And the general public does not know that these browsers exist. Especially not with companies building  ‘lo’ versions of their sites. These versions are supposed to bring the internet to the masses. Um, OK.  How will that happen when the masses can only access a ‘lo’ version of a news site?

Internet reception is one of the biggest factors that limit uptake. South Africans get different signals, depending on where they are. The signal could change from 3G to EDGE by just moving the cellphone around a bit. That messes with the user experience and could lead to frustration aka ‘watching paint dry’. A few European countries — France, Switzerland, and Finland — have either declared internet access a ‘human right’ or have declared it a ‘legal right’. Other countries that have short-term and long-term broadband speed plans are Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Denmark and Taiwan. And the UK government has a 245-page pdf available on their Digital Britain initiative, which aims to introduce a universal 2 Megabit/s line internet access by 2012. And the Federal Communications Commission — US-based — released a 168-page report on how to get all American citizens wired up, and by when.

I’m not even going to contrast this to South Africa — with promises of broadband for the masses; however, there are a few private initiatives that wants the South African government to adopt a broadband strategy.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

October 29th, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Do you know what your natural hair texture feels like?

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I only realised I had curly hair when I was 10 years old. Really. I remember being envious of my cousin’s curls. I remember being envied because I had a gladde draad hare. I even remember asking one of the older girls at my primary school how I can get curls like hers.

So imagine my shock after I had had my hair cut. Suddenly my hair had volume. Suddenly my hair minces when it’s humid. Suddenly my hair is like theirs.

Yes, I know I’m not alone in this. I know there are many other WOC who wish they could have straight hair.

But I’ve had some strange happenings with my curly hair. I once walked into a Kloof Street hairsalon to find out whether I could be one of their hair models. This was years ago. Probably in 2002. One of their stylists had recommended I try something new — a different colour or a new style, or something — for free.

So I nearly cried when the lady — dunno whether she was a stylist or whether she was the hair salon owner –  told me “Sorry, we don’t use people who have ethnic hair.”  She hadn’t even touched my hair; she just assumed my hair is too coarse. And that none of the stylists will know what to do with my ‘ethnic’ hair.

So, yes, I was confused for a long time. I used to date a guy who wanted to believe I’m not coloured. I saw it as a compliment, by the way, back then. So he kept dissing my hair. And he kept telling me I should blow dry it so that I can look ‘white’.

Walk into any hair salon in a coloured neighbourhood and very rarely does someone walk out with curls. The women who do are mostly older; the young women prefer straight hair. You’ll find many women walk out with pin straight hair that had been relaxed or GDH’d to death. Oh yes. Ask one of the hairdressers for advice on curly hair and you’ll probably be greeted with silence. Or a frown. And a “you gotta suffer for beauty, luvvie.” Most of them just don’t know. Curly hair is not in fashion.

So what followed was 5 or so years of blow drying my hair straight. It isn’t painful nor does it take long — 15 to 20 minutes max — but eeep, why did I do it to myself?

These days I spend perhaps 5 minutes on my hair in the morning. I am no longer afraid of going to the beach. I like rainy days. And I’m saving money because I’m not buying all those haircare products that the media wants me to buy: I wash my hair with conditioner once every three days. And that’s that.

These days I see [more than] a few of my fellow WOC in Cape Town are embracing the natural look. I nearly always want to walk or run up to one of them and congratulate her on making such a good decision. And then I check myself. So I don’t. But I spoke to a WOC in Woolworths V&A — hi, Janine — recently about her hair. She was lucky: her parents had brought her up with an appreciation for her own hair.

But the women whom I see rocking natural curls appear to be mostly from higher socio-economic classes. Or perhaps I’m just not getting out enough to see WOC from lower income groups with natural tresses.

We do not fit into the mould of womanly beauty that the media have created for us. We aren’t white, most of us aren’t skinny, and we wear our hair in its natural state. And that doesn’t always mean ‘curly’ — some have afros.

My closest friends have all struggled with their hair. Their mothers, grandmothers, friends and even colleagues have all tried to box them: “You need to relax your hair”; “Pretty girls have straight hair”; “G-d won’t allow women with unrelaxed hair into heaven”.  Do you also notice how they never castigate men for wearing their hair natural?

I asked my mom why she had always gotten someone to blowdry my hair. She told me it’s because I have ‘goeie hare‘, ie, good hair. And once or twice she complained that my hair no longer looks pretty. I think she used the word ‘takhare‘, which is a massive insult to an insecure young girl, but not as stinging to a confident woman.

And then there’s something that really breaks my heart: the women who rave about my hair but complain that their hair can never be like that. They think their hair has no natural curl. They have been brainwashed into believing their hair is straight. Wake up, please. Your hair is damaged from blow drying, relaxing and those damn GHDs you use.

So yeah, it’s easy for me to preach the gospel of Natural Hair — I can have the best of both worlds: I can blowdry it and it’ll be sleek and shiny and tomorrow I can let it dry naturally and it’ll be bouncy. And yeah, it can be kinky, too. But just imagine not spending the entire Saturday at the salon. Just imagine dragging yourself out of bed and not having to spend two hours on your hair before going to work. Just imagine not being upset that your office staff party is at the beach. And just imagine how much freer you’ll be, how much money you’ll save, and how many more shoes you can buy with the money you used to spend on your hair.

So no, you don’t need to go natural tomorrow. But try it out sometime.

Here are a few resources and natural hair communities:




Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

October 26th, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Your lifestyle choices shouldn’t affect my budget

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I’m a bit late to this — 2 months or so. Helen Zille wants to debate the meritoriousness of providing state funded health care to those who make wrong lifestyle choices. Jack Bloom has a piece on this in today’s Politicsweb.

She starts off OK by talking about deaf people who need better assistance. This is a valid concern but then she mentions how the state cannot — and shouldn’t — afford to provide medical assistance to those who had inflicted the conditions on themselves.

There is a growing assumption that people have the right to behave as they like, and the state has the responsibility to pay for the consequences.

This is a fair point; however, there will always be a few who take advantage of things, especially things that the government provides.

Thus we spend 80% of the public health budget on the consequences of personal “life-style choices” ranging from unprotected sex, to alcohol and drug abuse, and the resulting trauma and violence.

Unprotected sex happens in marriages, too. It’s impossible to tell who got infected with HIV through their own carelessness. Why wear a condom if I believe that my spouse is faithful? And there are still many rape victims who are too ashamed to admit they had been raped; would these women ask for free Anti-Retrovirals when they’ll have to prove that they are blameless?

Consider two extreme examples. First, a healthy young man, fully aware of the dangers, nevertheless has unprotected sex with multiple partners. He gets Aids and asks that the state should give him antiretroviral drugs free of charge. Should the state provide?

Second, a baby is born partly deaf. Her parents ask that the state provide her with a hearing aid because they cannot afford it. Should the state provide?

We should give both free medical care. We can’t afford not to. The young man might go on to infect many other people if he doesn’t get treated. There’s no reason to believe that he will use condoms henceforth. And what’s to stop the young man from claiming that he got infected through some other method? Who’s going to investigate?

There must now be an equal emphasis on responsibility. The more we spend on treating preventable illnesses, the less there is for the unpreventable conditions that confront many of our citizens with severe challenges throughout their lives.

This is true but let’s also have a debate on which diseases are preventable and which are unpreventable. In that way we’ll have greater clarity. Where do we draw the line? The DA’s arguments are specious and illogical. The people who would be the most hurt by such policies would yet again be women and the poor. Not acceptable.

Mormons live a decade longer than other Americans. Is this because doctors who treat Mormons are better, or because Mormons avoid a lot of things that shorten people’s lives?

I’d like to see the source for Jack’s statistic.

Smokers have a tough time in Britain’s National Health Service as they are often denied heart surgery when over a certain age. Obese people are sometimes denied joint replacements. These decisions are defended on clinical grounds, taking into account risk factors and chances of survival.

This sounds like an appeal to popularity claim to me; they’re doing it over in the UK so let’s implement it here, too. Yes, we’re allowed to look at what other countries are doing and adopt their practices — but only if it makes sense, ethically and financially.

The debate we should be having is one about mismanagement of money, ie, corruption and theft. And let’s not forget about the poor salaries, which may be why state hospitals struggle to attract and retain staff.

Let’s give everyone an equal opportunity, whether they had intended to inflict pain onto themselves through bad lifestyle choices or not. Because, really, who lives a perfect life, full of the most perfect health choices?

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

October 15th, 2009 at 11:25 am

Posted in Governance,Politics

Logic: a scarce commodity among retail assistants and their managers

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It started innocently enough. It was my lunch hour and I quickly whizzed off to get my eyebrows done. En route to my scooter I decided I needed airtime. I walked into Woolworths in the Waterfront and the search started: their ‘Connect’ kiosk had moved to the back of the store.

I needed airtime to buy an sms bundle for R67.50. I pulled out R70 and told the assistant that I need R70 Vodacom airtime, please. She stared at me and I repeated the process: “R70 Vodacom airtime, please.” She told me that Vodacom airtime does not come in such a denomination.

What I had been hoping would be a quick transaction started to look as though I’d be there the entire day. I told her that it really doesn’t matter to me in which denominations she gives me the airtime; all I want is something that’s close to 70 bucks.

She did a bit of mental exercise and offered me R55 and 2 R12 vouchers. But that’d give me R79 and I only really wanted R70 or as close to that as possible; R70 being the minimum I wanted. I got frustrated and asked her to call her manager. He arrived and I asked him “Why is it so difficult to sell me R70 worth of Vodacom airtime?” He, too, told me that they don’t sell such a denomination. Oy, this guy was unhelpful. And I got ticked off — I used for fuck sakes. So yes, he wanted me to be calm, polite and just buy the R55 voucher. But I was having none of it: I asked for the store manager. Surely the store manager will use a bit of logic and arithmetic — or a calculator — to sell me an amount of R70 — minimum — or close to it?

He called one of the store’s management staff and she, too, was unable to find a solution.

Eventually one of the other assistants, who had been listening in on the conversation, said they should sell me 5 R12 vouchers. But that’s only R60, not the R70 that I had asked for. I asked him why only 5 vouchers? So he changed his stance; he told them they should sell me 6 vouchers that’ll cost me R72. No-one bothered to thank him. I told him that he, not they,  should be management instead.

What irritated me most was not the guy telling me I shouldn’t use foul language; what irritated me most was that only one out of 4 people could use their logical faculties to figure out 6 of these R12 vouchers equal R72. I’m unsure whom to blame. I used to blame companies for not training their staff properly. But it’s not that simple.

I, too, used to work in retail. Long hours bla di bla. Poor pay bla di bla. Bad working conditions bla di bla. And yet I could somehow solve such problems. Had it been my superior education at D.F Malan High School? Had it been my mother? What was it?

There will always be apologists; they’re everywhere. One of them is burning to tell me that I shouldn’t expect much from a Woolworths cashier. I ask them why? Why should I expect nothing from cashiers? They aren’t an inferior race/class; they’re human and most of them have high school certificates at the very least. Especially Woolworths cashiers.

Other apologists will tell me to expect nothing of the majority of South Africans; they’re stupid anyway. The problem with such logic is that the majority of South Africans control whom we elect as President. So critical thinking and problem solving skills are a must, not a luxury. The maority keep company CEOs accustomed to the good life; the majority never complain and they make life difficult for those of us who do demand better service. In all spheres, not just in retail.

We could even call critical thinking something else: common sense. We do not learn this at school. Instead they teach us about important things such as Jan Van Riebeeck’s arrival in Kaap de Goede Hoop. And we learn that 1 + 2 = 3

Yes, these things are important but only knowing how to recite facts parrot style won’t help an irate customer who wants to get R70, R90 or R400 airtime.

But governments do not want their citizens to have common sense; they want citizens who’ll fund their lavish lifestyles. Yes, sure, they provide us with things such as the basic infrastructure but they can do so much more with our Tax and VAT money. And to maintain the status quo means not investing in the next generation’s thinking skills. For to do the opposite would entice dissent and another round of Mandelas and Bikos.

There is a happy ending to my tale of 6 Vodacom vouchers: I had to go back to Woolworths for some of this and went back to the Connect counter. James was there and I told him that I truly believe he should be management. He seems like a bright enough young fellow who can remain calm and offer a solution when everyone around him falters.

Update: Seth Godin blogged about ‘Win the fight, lose the customer’ today. Someone at Woolworths should start reading his blog.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

September 21st, 2009 at 4:10 pm

The Management of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disability

without comments

Andre’s twitter status gave me a jolt early yesterday morning:

Gob-smacked at the lack of feminist reaction to the Women, Children and Disabled ministry. Where’re all the strong, vocal women that I know?

I replied that I have no idea what he’s referring to and asked for clarification, which he gave later during the day. So it seems that there are two new ministries: Economic development and Women, Youth, Children and People with Disability.Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya will head the latter department.

There is no outrage as yet. Few journalists have penned an opinion piece about this new ministry; I could only find one or two news articles. One major caveat, though: I only read online news. Andre wrote an entry about it on his Tumblr blog: OK, I’ll ask. And that’s all I can find on Google; the rest of the writing on the new ministry are press release fodder.

I concur with Andre: women do not need saving. We are not fragile creatures. And I’d wager that many people with disabilities feel the same — they also do not need saving. It feels as though the ANC is morphing into the NP with their God, Volk, Vaderland. Scary, no?

I’m concerned about the minister’s nursing qualifications and trade unionist background. Are such qualifications enough to be a Minister in our new parliament? I would’ve expected her to have a degree in Sociology, Gender Studies or some other related field.

It seems this ministry will only work towards equality for women, children and people with disabilities.

I do not like the ministry’s name nor do I like what it exemplifies. I’d prefer an inclusive name. Something that promotes equality for everyone, whether they are white men or black transgender people.

Yes, there does exist horrific sexism in South Africa. Yes, our youth need guidance. Yes, we could make life easier for people with disabilities. But many, many, many other groups are marginalised. And many, many, many individuals from differing groups need support. So how will such a patriarchal ministry help those people?

Some may now tell me that Denmark, Australia and New Zealand all have ministries that are similar to our newly created ministry. But that’s an appeal to popularity fallacy. Just because a few developed countries — and developing countries such as Kenya, Lesotho, Palestine and Afghanistan — have such ministries does not mean that we should follow their lead.

Is there anyone who thinks this ministry can be a benefit? I’d be grateful to hear learned opinions.

Update: Today’s The Times has an article and Colleen Lowe Morna’s audio clip response to the new ministry.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

May 12th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Feminism,Politics