This Women’s Day the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP) would like to commemorate not only the women's march to the Union Buildings on the 9th of August but also the consistent and varied struggles that women in this country have fought. Women in South Africa have asserted their independence and challenged racism and patriarchy in many ways that are often forgotten or ignored. For example it was black women, often single, who fought against imposed municipal beer halls and led struggles in the locations. Between 1920 and 1950 it was women who formed the core of the most successful unions and often served as their leadership. This history for survival and independence in addition to the protests around passes being extended to black women are only snippets of consistent and varied struggles.
Thinking about women’s day requires acknowledging, asserting and remembering this history, however it is also about examining what women’s day means now. Women’s day has far too often become a depoliticised ‘holiday’ sometimes simply reinforcing women's position in society as the nurturers, and as gentle maternal creations. Other commemorations are more progressive and focus on women's empowerment and activity and the critical struggles facing women today.
What both of these fail to do however, is to talk about the broader issue of gender relations- we forget that men are part of society too: women's oppression happens partly because society allows men to behave in certain ways. Domestic violence, rape and other abuses of women’s bodies do not happen in a vacuum. The kind of society that does not address patriarchy and its relationship to capitalism with assertions of gender binaries, the sanctity of heterosexuality and heterosexual marriage, is a society where women will not ever be free. If structural inequalities, a consideration of masculinity and the context of what it means to be a “real” man are not addressed, then we cannot effectively and thoroughly address issues facing all women, in their diversity.
This Women’s Day, the LGEP commemorates our history by committing to advancing multiple struggles of today.