Conscience of a Centrist
My mother has a strong work ethic, but she also has a fierce “ambition”. Self-regard in the face of oppression is her power bloc.
That word – ambition – takes on different dimensions viewed through a gendered lens. Ambition, it would seem, is associated with strength, which in turn is allied to prowess. These attributes, most in society would have us believe, are exclusively God-given to men.
The default assumption is that society gains when men are raised to become ambitious. Nothing can be further from the truth. There’s an entire bingo card to be made of all of the playground insults used to keep female ambition in line.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s historic choice of Kamala Harris to be his running mate ruffled a few feathers – with patriarchal society going back to its default position.
No sooner had Biden picked Harris, a black woman destined to get an entire generation closer to breaking the proverbial glass ceiling, had the establishment targeted her “ambition”.
The poster boy of these prisoners of the past was former US education secretary Bill Bennett. The old man proudly told Donald Trump’s soundboard, Fox News, that Harris was “very ambitious”.
So what? It is not in any man’s province to curtail the ambition of any woman under the sun. Female competitiveness cannot be equated with “bitchiness” and “cattiness”.
The roots of misogyny can be traced to ancient Greek mythology. According to Hesiod, before women came into existence, men were coexisting peacefully as companions to gods. How laughable, if not pathetic.
What Bennet forgot to tell the world is that the 55-year-old Harris is a highly accomplished human being and fit for purpose. A lawyer by profession, Harris has many firsts to her name. In 2011, she became the first African-American and South Asian-American woman to serve as California attorney-general. In 2017, she became the second African-American woman and the first South Asian-American to serve in the US Senate. With this track record, why would she be ambitious?
SA is not immune to patronising women leaders. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, an accomplished female politician and former chairperson of the African Union’s candidacy to head the ANC and ultimately the republic was marred by patriarchal insolence, not only in the ANC but enabled by mainstream media. Her extraordinary and proven leadership abilities were limited to the title of “Zuma’s ex”. This is the lot of our mothers, sisters and daughters.
Patriarchy eulogises men and downgrades women. It is toxic to men too – who feel the rise of women debases them. Poor men! I pray Harris becomes the first woman to hold the lofty position in US politics – being black is even more gratifying.