?Pull her down? syndrome maintains the status quo

?Pull her down? syndrome maintains the status quo


Date: January 1, 1970
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Women who speak up and challenge the status quo are frowned upon by their communities and ostracised as ?bad women who don?t know their place.? Not wanting to be associated with this condemned behaviour, many women withhold their support and lash out at those they perceive as bringing ?good women? into disrepute.

What is it about the “pull her down” syndrome that sees some of our sisters not supporting and celebrating each other’s achievements and successes? Why is it that despite gender equality being high on the national agenda of most countries when a woman finds her way to the top other women do very little to support her?  And is there common agreement amongst women that we should be supportive of each other merely because we are biologically similar?
 
It is the same the world over. The Kingdom of Swaziland, the last country in the SADC region to have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), is no different. There remains an acute shortage of women in key decision-making positions.
 
But there has been some progress. For example, for the first time in history a woman has been appointed the Chairperson of the Board of the SwaziBank. The same applies to Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) one of the kingdom’s largest parastatals.
 
However getting there has not been easy. Many Swazi women point to a lack of support and encouragement from other women. SPTC board chairperson Winnie Nxumalo-Magagula says: "I have found that women tend to be less supportive of other women and are sometimes inclined to broadcast your weak points instead of what makes you a strong person. It then becomes a case of the higher you go, the colder it becomes." 
 
Her views are echoed by others. Gciniwe Fakudze, a Chief Executive Officer says women are not ready to support and uplift each other. "Women still vouch for and vote for men over women. I find that men readily accept me and commend my work and efforts more than women do. I strongly believe that if women supported each other more, the upward mobility of women would [increase] as they constitute more than half the population of Swaziland,"
 
But how do you show support when you have been socialised into believing that no matter what men are superior to women. Or rather, that women are “less than” men. How do you show support for someone who you consider “less than” in the first place?
 
Swaziland Water Services Corporation Regional Manager Bhekiwe Dlamini says there are a number of reasons for this: "Our culture is biased against women. Men are portrayed as being above women regardless of competencies. Another reason is that as women we do not believe in ourselves. We do not take ourselves seriously and we need to change this attitude. "
 
This begs the question? Are women responsible for their own plight? I think the answer to this is yes and no.
 
Yes, because many prefer to stay in their cocoons and do what they have always done since time immemorial – support men. They refuse to acknowledge that they can change their realities by recognising their own self-worth, and challenging the damage that their socialisation has done to them
 
No, because it is that very socialisation that keeps us in the same place. In our lives men head households, the church and occupy key positions in society. Women who speak up and challenge the status quo are frowned upon by their communities and ostracised as “bad women who don’t know their place.” Not wanting to be associated with this condemned behaviour, many women withhold their support and lash out at those they perceive as bringing “good women” into disrepute.
 
Civic education is essential if we are to challenge the stereotypes and assumptions about appropriate behaviour for men and women. Unless this happens, each sex will remain confined to the narrow roles assigned to them by society.
 
But we must also not fall into the trap of assuming that because there are more women in decision-making positions the rest will come easy. While a critical mass of women is important to effect change what is also necessary is that they actively contribute towards challenging the status quo.
 
Bongiwe Zwane is the NGO Services Information Programmes Officer at the Coordinating Assembly of NGOs (CANGO) in Swaziland. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.


One thought on “?Pull her down? syndrome maintains the status quo”

Nomsa Nabo says:

Yes, Pull Her Down Syndrome is a strategy of maintaining patriarchy in our society because it is based on assumption that women are not good enough, men are better. that is why many women would still elect a men not a woman even if a woman is more competent. Women are also a product of patriarchy but I believe that if they begin to understand what patriarchy has done to their thinking about other women, then they will begin to evaluate their attitudes and behaviour.

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