This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email email@example.com
Liberation in the Liberation
Reprinted from Sechuba
Reprinted from Sechuba, a South African liberation magazine.
It was Shirley Chisholm, the black American Congresswoman, who said recently that she had faced discrimination all her life-but that she had suffered more as a woman, than as a Black.
Under the regime of Apartheid, it would not be possible for any black South African woman to say the same; in this society, colour oppression is overwhelmingly predominant. Nevertheless, it would be possible to say that discrimination bears even more heavily on African women than on African men.
Because of apartheid’s assault on family life, it tends to be the woman who bears the major family responsibility, the major burden of daily anxiety.
Despite this, women have played a magnificent role in the political struggle in our country. In resistence, in protest, in political commitment, they have been uncrushable. Rightly, at the massive women’s demonstration against the Pass Laws, held in Pretoria, did women sing “Strike a woman — and you strike a rock.”
Women have a vital role to play in every area of the struggle. Our movement can never be one of those in which ‘revolutionary’ men see woman’s political role as that of a “hewer of wood and drawer of water” -or to put it more precisely, a “typer of letters and maker of coffee.” Our movement cannot be one where the mention of Women’s Liberation is greeted by jokes about the burning of brassieres. (This inane laughter is a sure sign of that classic petit-bourgeois attitutde: male chauvinism.)
Let us constantly check up, and ensure that our woman are playing a full and equal part.
- Let us ensure that women are represented on the leading decision-making and executive bodies of our Movement.
- Our Movement, from time to time, sends people overseas from South Africa, to represent it in various countries, and to organize solidarity work. Let us ensure that a good proportion of these representatives are women.
- Women have played a full military role in liberation struggles in, for instance, Cuba and Vietnam. Let us ensure that there are many women amongst our freedom fighters, and amongst those who are receiving military training.
- In many areas of solidarity work, women can be more effective than men. For instance, women’s groups, church groups, and most humanitarian organizations are likely to be more impressed by a concrete account of life under apartheid given by a woman who has had to bring up a family in this situation, than by a lecture from, say, a young male student. When our Movement is asked to send speakers to meetings, let us ensure that these are often women.
- Youth and Discussion groups within our Movement often hold seminars and prepare political papers. We must encourage women to participate in these activities. I say ‘encourage’, because as a result of their conditioning and, in many cases, their inferior education, women are tentative about volunteering their opinions.
- When our Movement holds public or internal meetings, let us ensure that women frequently speak, and are present on the platform.
It would be unrealistic, in view of woman’s history of subjugation and of man’s history of dominance, to expect women, immediately, to play an equal part, in terms of numbers and of contributions. But this is the position towards which we should be thinking and working, in order that we can ensure, both in our fight today and in our freedom tomorrow, that all people are giving all of which they are capable.