SHE | WHO DO WE KNOW AND WHO DO WE IGNORE?

THIS BRINGS ME TO THE QUESTION WHAT IS THE PLACE OF WOMEN IN THIS NARRATIVE? 

WHAT IS THE PLACE OF WOMEN IN THESE HIGHLY 

MASCULINE PORTRAYALS OF BRAVERY?”

 


I have been thinking lately about history and how the historical archive is shaped and produced among societies. Let us take for instance the story of anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. A story that is known to many peoples. However, when you quiz people about how much they really know most of their responses will be about how Mandela after 27 long years in prison forgave his oppressors and preached reconciliation. I am not saying that this isn’t true or that the story of Mandela is not remarkable but my point is more about how this name is probably one of the only names people around the world know about this struggle. Where are the female equivalents of Mandela in the narrative of the apartheid struggle that the world remembers: the Ruth Firsts, the Winnie Mandelas, the Albertina Sisulus and the large amount of women who protested against apartheid, suffered through torture and gave their lives to fight for the liberation of South Africans.

 

When you look up bravery the results are usually males dressed in combat uniforms on the battlefield. This brings me to the question what is the place of women in this narrative? What is the place of women in these highly masculine portrayals of bravery? Does fortune belong to the brave only if the brave are male?

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These highly masculine narratives of history transcend just political struggles but also permeate the narrative about achievements in the business sphere. Many people will know Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the late Steve Jobs. There is a general focus on the success of such men how they used their intelligence, innovation to make something of themselves. How they are self-made and articles often go to great lengths to focus on how they made it where they are. However, what about female entrepreneurs and their place in these fields. The female CEOS that are leading fortune 500 companies in male dominated fields. Women like Marry Barra, Margaret Whitman.

 

I am not suggesting that people in society do not know about such women or do not celebrate them. What I am saying is that the general body may be more conscious on the achievements of men. Perhaps this may be because men do dominate the business field and for a long time it has been like their own little ‘oyster’. BUT I’m going to go out on a limb here that the narrative around political struggles and the business world may also present the gender inequity in our own society and the skewered perceptions of the women’s sphere and the male sphere. Perhaps those who are ignored and those who are known shows us that there is still a long way to go in terms of getting a level playing field between men and women. Fortune.com published an article in 2014 that reported that the number of women CEOs of fortune 500 companies has increased but I wonder how many of these women do people actually know.

I know that not everybody is going to more than one or two CEOs of such companies but the fact that the ones they might know are male is very significant. I am equally as guilty of this. Before, I began thinking about this issue I could barely even name one female CEO and had to google intensively before I had any idea about these women. This brought me back to this question who do we know and who do we ignore? Or maybe it is more about who do we know and who do we have no clue about? Who we know and who we ignore emphasize our own perceptions of those who belong to certain fields and roles and those who do not well perhaps…   


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