Open Letter to the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities

Dear Minister Susan Shabangu

I am terribly disappointed in you and the example you are setting for girls in this country. You are in a position of power, yet you are a woman. How is this possible? Were you not taught that your place was to be a typist, secretary, nurse, teacher, receptionist or personal assistant*? Because those jobs are reserved exclusively for women.

Women cannot aspire to be engineers, policewomen, doctors, athletes, CEOs or take on other fields dominated by men. Men, not women, must be Cabinet Ministers, because men work under ministers in government departments. How, then, can you head a department if you’re a woman and have men in your staff? This is a violation of the natural law.

Women have a nurturing, welcoming, helpful, pliant and submissive nature, and that is where your talents as a woman lie. You exist to be seen but not heard; to beautify front desks and warm homes with your loving, accommodating presence. The warmth of that presence flows out of a feminine disposition that – by some mysterious secret hidden in Nature’s Bosom – inexhaustibly gives of itself, never says no, never asserts boundaries, never exercises power in a way that intimidates men, never makes decisions as decisively as men, never takes pioneering steps like those that men take (what was Madame Curie thinking?), never tires of looking out for the needs of others at great expense, takes all the blame when abused and never walks away from dangerously abusive relationships. This disposition is infinitely nice. You are sugar and spice. Your identity is peripheral. Why are you a minister?

Leadership is unthinkable if you’re a woman, and anyone who says otherwise is lying to you about your actual essence. You only feel like you can run a government ministry. But you can’t because you are emotional (understandable, because you’re a woman) and as wonderful and adorable as those feelings are, sweetheart, they deceive you. If you studied and worked your way up – well, good for you! You know, every woman needs a hobby to occupy your time and isn’t it just cute that you’d try politics? But ministry? Government? That’s taking your hobby too far. Politics is serious business. It’s not right for men’s work to be taken on by women. It’s unAfrican. Women shouldn’t be in such power-driven fields.

Speaking of feelings and how they disqualify women from being in politics, I should point out that a position such as yours ought to be filled out by a man because men have no such feelings that cause lapses in judgment. Okay, that’s not true: men are allowed to feel anger, especially when they’re protecting women, fulfilling the role you’ve arbitrated to them. Because nothing quite says “protector” like invulnerability, and nothing quite says “invulnerable” like anger. Of course, men are allowed some tender and vulnerable emotions, but not when dealing with other men: they’re only allowed something approaching these emotions when with women, who are less-than men. Tender emotions are sissifying and it’s okay for men to experience and express those emotions when with women because women aren’t to be feared, as fellow invulnerable men are. Women aren’t fully human because women aren’t men. Even then, men mustn’t be too open, too vulnerable with women. What’s the solution? Oh yes, I know: the best way for men to mask any unmet emotional needs behind that façade of invulnerability is through sex. That’s why men want sex with women, many women, all the time. It makes perfect sense, now.

Never mind that this places an incredible burden on women to meet men’s suppressed and, by that point, distorted emotional needs through sex, and that the need is never fully expressed or met, for that matter. What a burden your worldview places on both men and women. But what shall we do? It’s the way things are, the natural given. When you agreed with sentiments that women should submit to their husbands – or when you failed to challenge such sentiments, but instead nodded at them – you foisted a worldview on this country that cannot be limited to just intra-marital relations. Women submit to husbands because men and women are inherently such that women must submit to men, no? If this is to happen within the home, then it is to happen outside the home, because the requirement for submission presupposes things about men and women that must be true of men and women whether they’re at home or not. Men do not go to work as subordinates-to-women and then return home where they magically transform into kings-over-women. Women do not go to work where they call shots and make strategic decisions only to return home to transform into dainty, delicate supporters and trophies. Such orchestrated, inorganic transformations would betray role-playing. We’re not a society that encourages people to be other than what they naturally are, are we, Minister?

If women are to submit to men, it’s because they’re naturally inferior. That’s the only thing I can work out from your words.

We don’t like resigning two politicians in the space of 8 days but Former President Jacob Zuma was resigned because he wasn’t admitting accountability for anything within or outside his jurisdiction. A President who keeps passing the buck may as well not exist. And you have asked for your own resignation because – like another female minister – you have presented the country a fundamental contradiction. This is no wonder, for you’re both women. Minister Lindiwe Sisulu once said that 20 years is not enough time to fix apartheid’s effects. After elections, she said nobody under 40 was affected by apartheid. History changed to her convenience; she undermined the argument she used to get people to vote ANC. Likewise, you’ve made a statement that’s undermined you as a female politician. We have not resigned you, nor would we call for your resignation. We don’t have to. Out of your own mouth you have spoken words that make you irrelevant to your own portfolio: you’re a woman, and you have – by saying that women should submit to men – unseated yourself.

If the protection of women is to fall to men as though it were a permanent role, and women must submit to husbands, it follows that women’s place is as wives and helpers to men from whom they receive social and physical protection. I will not point out the irony in combating violence against women and children by appealing to the patriarchal mindset that causes such violence. I will, however, state that in their rush to prove that they are good protectors and therefore “real” men, men end up destroying the women they’re supposed to protect. Nor will I point out that in a country wherein all are equal before the Law and the State does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, men who do not fit into your definition of men will forever be “othered” by the worldview you’ve brought to the table.

Minister, you are not fit for office. Leave the big jobs to the boys. In return, we’ll look at their gender before we look at their capabilities or results. Whether you see that or not, you have taught us to do exactly that.

Thank you.

*In my personal capacity, I have played the roles of typist, secretary, nurse, teacher, receptionist and assistant, and would take absolute pride in having any of them as an actual, permanent career if my talents were in any of those directions. But Minister Shabangu’s worldview has taught me that it’s inferior of me as a man to wish to exercise helpful, nurturing or empathetic aspects of my nature. So glad we’re all clear about our places, now.


Another post-script.
If men have the role of protectors, are other-abled men lesser men, insofar as their disabilities interfere with their role as protectors? Hm. You’re their Minister. Let us know


One thought on “Open Letter to the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities

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