Roots

Whatever disconnects itself from the land becomes rigid and hard. High culture begins in the preurban countryside and culminates with a finale of materialism in the world cities. Cosmopolitanism is the essence of rootlessness, because it is not tied to the land. –Oswald Spengler

(via here.)

Does South Africa really need another gender equality bill?

Human resource experts in South Africa are skeptical about the practical implications of the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill.

The bill aims to enforce a blanket target of 50/50 representation in all sectors of the South African labour market, both public and private.

The founder and CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group, Sandra Burmeister, said that the problem with the bill is that it does not distinguish between markets where there may not be suitably qualified women.

“The question is whether we have the resources to meet the proposed 50 percent targets,” she said.

The Commission for Employment Equity reported steady gains for women in management positions, but a study compiled my MasterCard showed that South African women still do not enjoy equality with their male counterparts.

While I understand and even agree to some extent with Burmeister’s concerns, I think the bill is necessary to push forward a less gendered society and encourage women to enter traditionally male vocations.

In a country with a 25% unemployment rate, students are more likely to pursue tertiary education in fields where they stand a better chance of being employed.

The guarantee of after-school opportunities in technical fields might also have a positive impact on South Africa’s dwindling maths and science literacy rates.

J Brooke Spector writes that of the 400 000 students admitted to South Africa’s Matric (final) exams, “only 50,000 or so will have achieved a 50% passing level in mathematics, and less than 10,000 will have achieved an 80% level in that subject.”

In addition, stimulating employment opportunities for women might help to curb the rising levels of child marriage. A recent report by the The Women, Children and People with Disabilities Ministry found that

Girls with low levels of schooling are more likely to be married early, and child marriage has been shown to virtually end a girl’s education. Conversely, girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children, making education one of the best strategies for protecting girls and combating child marriage.

So while it is true that there might be an initial shortage of skilled women, a shortage caused by, among other things, the gendered labour market, I think the bill will be able to stimulate development to meet the demand in a way that market forces have not.

The Commission for Gender Equality is awaiting feedback on its request to speed up the bill.

Southern Baptist chain refuses to carry female author’s book

LifeWay Christian Resources, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention in the United States, is refusing to carry Rachel Held Evans’ new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

The book chronicles Evans’ year-long, literal submission to biblical injunctions concerning women.

Initial reports, including those by Evans herself, ascribed LifeWay’s decision to the inclusion of the word “vagina” in the book. However, since then, Religion Dispatches has published this opinion piece by Jerry Faught who claims that LifeWay’s decision has less to do with the word “vagina” and more to do with those who have ones.

“Although Evans was told by her publisher that the word “vagina” would likely keep her books out of Lifeway’s stores it is another word that better explains the ban: ‘fundamentalism’,” he writes.

A female writer will only be acceptable if she recites SBC rhetoric, fully supports SBC leaders, and knows her place at home and at church. As long as a woman is “Southern Baptist politically correct” she can find a place in the new SBC—although not a primary one. The agency that endorses SBC chaplains will not endorse an ordained woman as chaplain but will endorse a woman who is not ordained. Women are welcome to study at SBC seminaries as long as they do not have an eye on the pastorate. In some places female students are prohibited from enrolling in preaching classes.

When asked to comment on the decision, LifeWay’s director of communications told Slate writer Ruth Graham that they only carry resources in line with their values and vision as defined by the Southern Baptist statement of faith, which calls on women to ‘submit graciously’ to the servant-leadership of their husbands.

While I think it is unfortunate that LifeWay, a big player in Christian retails, refuses to sell Rachel Held Evans’ book, I also think it may be a blessing in disguise.

“Vagina-gate” has sparked a lot of media attention that the book might otherwise not have generated and has probably increased A Year of Biblical Womanhood‘s reach beyond those who agree/are inclined to agree with Evans’ views already.

Considering that we live in a time where men are still comfortable enough to make ridiculous statements about the treatment of women, and then to justify what they say with their version of the Almighty, the more readers this kind of book reaches, the better.

Tafelberg refuses to publish award-winning author’s new book

Writer Annelie Botes.

Annelie Botes’ latest book, Swart op Wit, has been turned down by one of South Africa’s powerhouse publishers following a controversial interview two years ago.

Tafelberg decided against publishing the manuscript in August, but Botes only recently went public with the decision.

Swart op Wit (‘black on white’) was intended to clarify comments she made in an interview with Rapport during which she admitted to not liking black people because she doesn’t understand them. She later told the Mail & Guardian that her attitude is partially fueled by fear.

This sparked a lot of controversy, most of it knee-jerk reactions along the line of “this sort of thing doesn’t belong in the new South Africa”.

This isn’t a view I disagree with. Like a lot of South Africans I share the dream of a non-racial society. But I find the reaction to Botes’ comments vividly disproportionate to the situation.

Our gross overreactions to any and all blips of racism seem even more bizarre when contrasted with our sanguine attitude toward corrupt politicians, crime, poverty, and education, which leads me to believe that the strong criticism of racism may be more indignation for its own sake than the product of true conviction.

That’s not useful in the new South Africa. What we need is honesty, even honest mistakes, and the empathy and maturity to learn and grow from them.

I think white South Africans in general are adrift in a cultural void. English-speaking white people are a minority within a minority. Afrikaans-speaking white people are divided among themselves, with many unable or unwilling to separate their ethnicity from ethno-centrism or to reinvent Afrikanerskap apart from Apartheid’s legacy.

Many have abandoned their cultural legacy entirely or don’t believe it ever existed.

Seen in this light, maybe Botes’ comments are not all that surprising.

“Only when we appreciate our own culture will we be able to respect and value other cultures and see in them the gifts of God,” writes Dr Madge Karecki, a lecturer at the University of South Africa.

Until South Africans figure out where in the cultural soup they go, toes are going to be tread on. But I’d rather we honestly, humbly blunder about than strike the pose currently in vogue.