50/50 campaign “politically incorrect?”

Date: November 13, 2011
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Name of the article: 50% representation politically incorrect

Name of publication: News Day

Name of publisher: Female Chauvinist

Date: 21 September 2011

Country: Zimbabwe

Theme: Gender Equality

Skills: Perspective, sources

Genre: Opinion

Gem classification: Gender Blind

Description:The 50/50 campaign in decision making by 2015 spearheaded by SADC Protocol on Gender and Development seems to be bringing with it mixed feelings, views and opinions. While for some quarters the campaign has brought with it the renewed hope of women empowerment and emancipation, others feel it is “politically incorrect”. They feel the campaign reinforces the superiority of men over women. This case study discusses newspaper article (a letter to the Editor) in which the writer feels that the 50/50 campaign makes women “second class citizens who cannot rise to the heights without push from men or a piece of legislation”.

“50% representation politically incorrect” is the headline of article. Though the article is an opinion, the headline does not reflect the content of the story fairly. The body of the article argues that the campaign to advocate for 50% of women in decision making positions is wrong and not the representation itself as the headline puts it. “50/50 campaign politically incorrect” could have probably made a good headline that could mirror the articles content according to the author.

The article is written from a First Person Point of View and the writer is the main source of the article. From the onset, she makes her feelings known that women can do it without a “push” or a piece of legislation. In making her argument, the writer cites examples of women who are excelling in their various fields of expertise which is very credible. However, the writer does not acknowledge the fact that there are only a few women who have risen to decision making or leadership positions compared to their male counterparts hence a need for a mechanism.
According to 2011 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer, only 19% of women are in Local Government authorities in Zimbabwean, 18% in parliament and only 16% hold ministerial position.

Another recent example is Zambia where the recently elected president, Michael Chilufya Sata appointed only two women in his 19 member cabinet. These examples demonstrate how the society has designed it that men are naturally born leaders compared to women. However, this is all wrong. This therefore can not be left to chance hence a need to put in place deliberate policies and mechanism that would ensure equal representation of men and women in decision making and leadership positions.

Further, the writer does not give show any evidence to demonstrate that the campaign is incorrect by highlighting impeccable evidence. In other word the author is simply telling and not showing. For instance, she writes: “see how many of us are filling the planes to Dubai, China or South Africa. Women business people have invaded the CBD”.

In addition to the above, the author uses sociologist CP Gilman to put across her argument in a wrong context. Gilman argues that “there is no female mind. The Brain is not an organ of sex…” By quoting Gilman, the writer suggests that gender equality activist advocating for this campaign perceives woman as having “”female brains” which is all wrong. To sum it up, inability of the article to use faultless facts, statistics and sources makes the whole article gender blind and incredible.

The language is so emotional but no sexiest or any language conveying any stereotypes was used. She writes: “I hate to meet someone who sees my achievement as affirmative action as opposed to merit and ability”. In addition the headline of the article could mislead/misinform the reader. The body of the article argues that the campaign is wrong while the headline says “50% representation [is] politically wrong”. The writer seems to be confusing herself because her overall argument is attacking the “push” or piece of legislation that wants to empower women and not the representation itself.

Visual Images
The story uses the picture of Grace Muradzikwa, one of the Zimbabwean leading women in the insurance industry. Though the picture could be relevant to the story, it fails to accomplish its purpose because it is not properly captioned. The caption simply gives the name without additional information. In other words, the picture is “bleeding.”

Story angle
The article predominantly illustrates the voice the writer. The author explicitly conveys that it is unjust to campaign for the 50/50 representation in all decision making positions. Through her writing, she believes that women can occupy 50% decision making positions without any help or a piece of legislation. This is depicted in a phrase “I believe the campaign for 50% representation of women in decision-making levels makes us second class citizens who cannot rise to dizzy heights without a push from men or a piece of legislation”. However the author is making her argument without substantial statistics, data or sources to validate it.

The writer insinuates that the dignity and respect of women (even those that will have excelled through merit) will be lost should the 50% representation campaign be advocated for. She clearly argues that “Reserving seats in boardrooms and in Parliament is a mockery of our ability to achieve things on our own capacity. It affects our ego as women. It is an insult to great achievers and ambitious women…”

Basing on her arguments, the author seems to have misunderstood the whole 50/50 campaign. The campaign does not say that women are not capable of making it life. But it (the campaign) rather acknowledges that people’s misconceptions and attitudes that look at men as “naturally” born leaders impinge on women’s abilities hence a need for a mechanism to empower them. In other words, the campaign is not meant to catapult every “Jim and Jack” but it is meant to motivate, support and empower capable women to occupy leadership and decision making positions in accordance with their abilities.

The author fails to acknowledge the existence of glass ceilings in most aspects of public and private lives life a thing that hinders capable women to rise to the level of their abilities. In addition, the author seems not to appreciate the fact that many men continue to control most factors of production a thing which gives them financial muscle hence occupying decision making and or leadership roles unlike women. Nevertheless, she could have noted women’s weak financial muscle does not mean that they are “naturally” incapable of taking leading roles.

It is irrational therefore for this writer to attack the campaign which was formulated by SADC heads of state who are largely men. Unlike the writer’s point-of-view, the 50/50 campaign is a catalyst for capable women who wish to rise to the levels of their abilities.

Training exercises
– As media scholars what is your understanding of 50/50 campaign?
– If you were given an opportunity to write and advocate for 50/50 campaign what arguments would you use to defend the campaign?
– What is the importance of using impeccable facts, statistics and authoritative sources when writing an opinion piece or analysis?

Other training resources
Glass ceiling research reports: women and men in Southern Africa media
Roadmap to Equality: DVD on the Southern Africa Protocol on Gender and Development
SADC Protocol on Gender and Development
Southern Africa: Zambia misses the 5050 by 2015 target
Roadmap to Equality


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