By Charlotte Lobe
Johannesburg – Have you ever felt like you have been in a particular environment for years and you still feel like you do not quite fit in?
It can be a church, a neighbourhood, an organisation or even your workplace.
I have been in this environment for five years, but I sometimes feel like a complete stranger because of established traditions and norms, all of which are patriarchal in nature.
I sometimes look at women around me and will silently say: did “she” really say that? Or do we still have “women” who think like this, in this day and age?
I also listen to men talk and will sit there in total awe, amazed at the patriarchal venom they spit.
Patriarchy by its nature is systemic, it is an amoeba that changes shape to fit into any and every aspect of everyday life.
It is about how male dominance manifests itself in conversations around boardroom tables, in the cafeteria or passages at the workplace, on the street, at church or even at home.
Patriarchy is particularly promoted at the workplace by men who have earned their power through the old-boys’ networks over decades.
In the boardroom, they usually target women and once a woman has said something profound, they will either rubbish it or turn the session into an ideathon (marathon of ideas not a battle of ideas) showcasing their knowledge of the subject matter but not contributing towards enriching the ideas put forward by a woman.
The idea is just to remind you that it is a men’s world after all. During lunch they will regroup around a particular table, very proud of themselves. Patting each other on the back and saying: “Mchana or chief you dealt with that matter properly, blah blah.”
You look at this pathetic liars and in your heart you are like but “bro, you ran away from the debate”.
In the midst of this conversation, they will be laughing out loud and lying to each other in order to feel good and protect their fragile egos. Now, having served in various capacities, I have seen it all.
You will raise a profound point in a meeting and your point will be ignored until it is raised from the boys’ club corner.
The chairperson, who is the leader of the boys’ club, will thank a fellow member of the club for raising a brilliant idea and will ignore the fact that as a woman, you are the originator of that idea.
A woman who stands for what she believes in will be isolated and other women will be used as proponents of patriarchy.
They will assume positions as spokespersons of patriarchy and justify why certain things cannot be done.
This upsets me even more, but I always come back to my senses and understand that these women were raised in a patriarchal society, so their posture is a reflection of our social construct.
What these sisters do not understand is that male privilege is very much still part of our social fabric.
Lobe is the acting chief operations officer at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. She writes in her personal capacity.
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