Powerful Women are Not Necessarily Heroines By Cheryl Roberts

10 Apr

Margaret Thatcher showed that not all powerful women are heroines for women. I have no respect for those women whom, when they have some sort of power, go all out to trample the lives of working class women. And I certainly have no respect for women who use their power to abuse, bully and suffocate women ‘subordinates’ (this especially happens in the work situation, particularly in government and corporate sectors). And I don’t have respect for women who seemingly think they ‘have arrived and achieved’, but don’t support women also hoping to ‘arrive and achieve’ and women’s struggles.

In the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s transitioning from this earth, I place into my context, women heroines and how we celebrate women. The first woman prime minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher certainly was. However, Margaret Thatcher is a perfect example of a woman who attained power, but didn’t use that power to further unshackle women’s chains or advance women. Thatcher, by using her power to prop up the male-dominated world of the rich, elite and capitalists, showed a version of women, increasing in their power, who don’t use their power to protect women.

What I do know, through my observation of contestation battles with those in power, being a woman doesn’t mean you necessarily support women’s struggles or challenge patriarchal domination. And this is because not all women have the same consciousness of the context of their gender within the patriarchal system.

Gender structure and make-up may ‘unite’ women as a gender. However, it’s becoming increasingly evident that layers of women are developing. And amongst these layers are women with varying consciousness in relation to women in society.

And these layers, although they come largely from struggle backgrounds of class, gender and class, are surfacing women who care more about their personal development, don’t have any interest or give support to women’s struggles. These women separate themselves from those who have a social justice consciousness and feminist expression.

Admittedly, I have not done any empirical research on this and have no research findings to back this up; my opinion here is based on observation. Through observation, I am becoming aware that an increasing number of women, when reaching higher career or money positions, are not associating with the struggles of women who are challenging male-dominated systems which oppress and suppress women’s leadership, organization and initiative.

Women are not connecting with each other because of shared and organic experiences of oppression and subsequent struggle. Its becoming an in our face thing, that class barriers are being erected around various groups of women. This can be seen in social justice activism of working class women, where these challenges to working class oppression are mounted by the unemployed, marginalized and vulnerable women, yet are not supported by the emerging middle class women and those elite bracket women.

So what does this mean for campaigns waged by women in the interest of working class women? Seemingly, women ride on the backs of women’s struggle and social justice activism by enjoying the rights once they are achieved, like gender equity in whatever sector. Yet, the women who benefit from these victories rarely, if at all, support ongoing struggle campaigns by and for women.

And then you get those women, who once they have attained some position of power, are more interested in keeping other women down, instead of assisting, encouraging and enabling women to achieve. There are those women who are content to be the only one with some sort of power.

Almost 20 years after achieving a non-racial, democratic government, which implemented gender equity through a progressive constitution and gave women their rightful gender spotlight, what has been happening in South Africa is that women have been advancing, some on their own efforts and battles, others via assistance through the system. Today, women are government officials, have high ranking civil servant positions, occupy powerful corporate positions, some are successful business women, others are emerging within business.

All women who have achieved have had the groundwork laid for them because of the struggles and campaigns conducted by women in the interest of all women. Yet, women do not want to acknowledge this. They are quite content to see themselves achieving and being seen as role models and torch bearers because of where they at. However, these women individually and as a group are significantly missing from the arenas and battle grounds of gender contestation which are ongoing in our South African society.

I can go on and on about women, privilege and power; what matters for this blog is that we must be on guard to know that not all women are united in unchaining women. Those women who have seemingly been unchained, yet remain under the yoke of patriarchal domination, are satisfied with their personal achievements and don’t show support or care for the millions who remain chained.

Whilst we should be honest and admit that some women are not supportive of women and their struggles, neither should we be scared or afraid to interrogate this situation as it confronts us. This honesty, reflection and interrogation will assist feminist and social justice activism and women’s struggles to know who is with us and who is against us. At this juncture, women are not the enemy as is male-domination, sexism and patriarchy: However, to failure to acknowledge the existence of those women who care only about their own advancement, will surely haunt future women’s struggles.

Having become aware of how women change and become absorbed into power structures and manipulative/bullying situations, the woman that I endeavour to be, hopes to never ever succumb to power which would be used to shut women down. Should I ever have the privilege of power in my hands, may I never use it to further oppress women who have no power, particularly vulnerable, struggling and disadvantaged women.

Women who use power to suppress and oppress women must be called OUT!      

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