There’s a piece in the Zambia Daily Mail by Zangose Chambwa called Work hard, First Lady tells women. The second sentence is as follows:
Mrs Banda said women should not wait to be appointed because of men feeling pity for them, but should showcase their hardwork.
“Zambia has women who have excelled in many fields, and it is cardinal for them to work extra hard and take up decision-making positions on merit,” she said.
Hmm. Well, I don’t know how accurately the first quote represents what Thandiwe Banda actually said, and I like the gist of a lot of what she says in the article, so my beef is not with her in particular. I’ve got to take issue with the second quote, or, rather, the narrative into which it is playing.
Is it important for decision-making positions to be taken up by those who merit them? Definitely: a nation needs competent decision-makers. My beef is with the idea that women are obliged to work ‘extra hard,’ to ‘showcase’ their efforts, in order to show everyone that they are worthy. I don’t think that women owe the world extra effort in order to make up for the shortfall of a system oppressing them. I think women should have to work the same amount as anybody, be as talented as anybody, to succeed.
It’s not that women aren’t working hard enough and don’t merit particular positions. It’s that, although a woman might be making the same amount of effort as other candidates, she doesn’t get the position because she is a woman. It’s not up to women to fix that; they’re already working hard. It’s up to the beneficiaries of gender gaps, that unfairness, to fix them: the men with those decision-making powers.
Implicit in the idea that women wait to be appointed ‘because of men feeling pity for them’ is the idea that women aren’t really worthy of those appointments, anyway, and that men are under no obligation to lift a finger in the name of gender equality. That’s not so. Women are simply waiting to be appointed.
Women are already working quite hard, thank you very much. It’s time to shift the obligation to make those efforts towards gender equality from those who have to make them to those who ought to be.