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Down with the absurd Women’s Day campaigns

Challenges faced by women and children in SA have reached crisis levels, so the least corporates and government could do is implement what women have been pleading for instead of vapid displays of solidarity
Author: Ree Ntuli
Thu, Aug 04, 2022

Enough is enough. PHOTO: Meg Jenson via Unsplash

Over the years, it has become the norm for corporate brands to reduce significant moments in our country’s history to tasteless advertising gimmicks in exchange for a quick buck. Every year, South African women enter the month of August with a heavy premonition cloud hanging over their heads because of the collective knowledge of the amount of ridicule that lies ahead under the guise of celebrating National Women’s Month.

By 1 August, women have already put on the necessary armour to fight corporate organisations for their tacky, dismissive and overall reductive advertisements. A tad ironic when you consider that out of 365 days in a year, and in a democracy, this is the one month where women are given what resembles opportunities to address the plethora of issues facing them in a patriarchal society – this is when they aren’t fighting men to vacate platforms meant for women.

In 2015, pen manufacturer, Bic had to issue an apology for its offensive advertisement that many criticised as sexist, it was closely followed up by Brand SA’s tone-deaf #IAM campaign in 2019 where men adorned red lipstick to encourage all South Africans to be active participants in the fight to end violence against women and children. To this day, I cannot, for the life of me, find any link between men in red lipstick and the end to gender-based-violence and yet, every year, we are subjected to some variation of these stunts.

If they aren’t wearing lipstick, they are ‘marching’ in high heels or wearing pink tutus ‘in solidarity’ with women and children. One has to wonder what it is about red and pink that screams ‘women empowerment’.

Having seen the backlash that some of these organisations have received for their offensive advertising, you would think their counterparts would take note and commit to listening to what women want but instead, each year, they rinse and repeat.

It was no surprise then, that just two days into the new month, Loot thought they’d be the keynote offenders for this year’s Women’s Month by creating a tailor-made ‘Women’s Day Empowerment Defence Bundle’. Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.

The very reason that National Women’s Day exists – and it is an embarrassment that this bears repeating – is because in 1956, approximately 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the then government’s racist pass laws that required Black South Africans to carry passbooks that served to maintain Apartheid.

And 66 years later, Black South African women are faced with our own set of issues that entitle us to platforms that will ensure that we are heard and that meaningful action will be taken, not insulting and meaningless displays of fake solidarity in pink tutus and high heels.

So instead of big business opting for silly gimmicks on Women’s Day, perhaps they can start with paying the women in their organisations their money’s worth? Work towards actually closing the vast wage gap that exists between men and women? How about compensating the female-keynote speakers for their time and the work they put into making these events a resounding success with actual money and not the usual pink cupcakes and pink drinks, how does that sound?

Workplace sexual harassment, domestic violence, single parenting, the rape and impregnation of teenage girls by elders in their homes and communities, femicide are just some of the modern-day issues faced by women, these are urgent issues that require urgent action and not the reductive stunts pulled annually by corporate and government. Organisations would do well to listen to the people about whom this month is, and perhaps go beyond the call of duty and extend it to 365 days a year and see if that will not move this country forward – no stilettos required.

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