Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Gender double standards and Botswana’s evolving society

“Thigh power!” this phrase which has become part of the Botswana work place lexicon is always bandied about whenever a woman makes it up the corporate latter.

It is almost an article of faith in Botswana that women sleep their way to the top while men make it on their own steam.

When a woman who has managed to break the corporate glass ceiling exercise authority she is bossy, bitchy or rude while a man is firm and decisive.

Even in the marital home, a man is forgiven for straying and sometimes acclaimed for being a “Penda” while a woman is disparaged as a slut or whore. In fact Botswana culture has a nod-nod wink-wink expression for philandering men: “a man is like an axe he is shared around or a man is like a seed, he spread around.” This is a tongue in cheek licence for men to sow their royal seeds.

Gender double standards have become so much part of Botswana’s social fabric that they have come to be accepted as normal.

Botswana Police Service has a special desk to handle cases of abused men, because men ashamed to report abuse. It is almost accepted that abuse should be reserved for women.

Senior Sociology lecturer Sethunya Mosime says gender double standards are very much alive though they are different and changing overtime. “ I think gender double standards are somewhat unfair, in Botswana because they are a lot more women it is somehow expected that because there are more women they should vote women into Parliament, it is somehow a woman’s business to vote another woman in, why can’t men also vote for women? For men, whenever there is danger men are always almost expected to be up and ready to kill or defend and men who don’t do that are termed weak and looked down upon. “ She says, although they are there, the gap is seeming widening as we see in developing countries men can now apply for paternity leave and men are now stay at home dads.

Keneilwe Babusi who works at a salon in Game City in Gaborone says “Growing up I was told to clean the house, cross my legs, learn how to cook but my brother wouldn’t be told that. Gender double standards have increased demands on women, who are still expected to keep to conventional norms. It has also led to the development of workplace, relationship and even outlook stereotypes. Women face judgment, and their harshest critics are, ironically, other women. Society imposes standards on them that do not apply to men.”

Oabile Tlale who provides school transport services, he says double standards have and will always be there.”There are lots of things that separate the sexes. Double standards have been interwoven into our expectations since humans were created. Somehow different body parts formed sexism, misogyny, and gender roles. These double standards are seemingly simple, but the prohibitions that lie behind them are complex and far-reaching, they affect how we men are encouraged to raise our children, what we are expected to provide to our partners, how we are expected to spend our time, and what we are allowed to show of our emotional selves they not only affect us but women too.”

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.