The Only Difference Between Feminism and Equality is Press Coverage

feminism south africa

The Only Difference Between Feminism and Equality is Press Coverage

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In recent times, the concept of marriage has grown to sanction an emotional bond or pairing between two people. Formerly, however, it was primarily a tactical procedure enacted for economic gain. Fathers or lords of the 13th century and thereafter were allowed to barter their daughters or the women they oversaw as they would livestock, in a particular sense. Since then (and this may come as news to some), women have been working tirelessly to help men realise that they are people too. But the traditional aspects of marriage which have endeared many lovebirds still represents our patriarchal society to a large degree.

This, of course, does not equate to every man being naturally oppressive, but it does mean that every man benefits from the oppression of women and subsequently what marriage represents, even if their financial growth is not as directly impacted as it was centuries ago.

The liberation of women in modern society has progressed fractionally, i.e. some laws have been passed which grant women the right to education and a vote, for example. Modern oppression of women, however, does not aim to ignore basic human rights on a legislative front. Oppression in the 21st century is much subtler – in fact some believe that it no longer exists, even though misogyny remains institutionalised. The method employed by society is psychologically enforced through various religious and philosophical doctrines which has also been supplemented by humour, sadly enough normalising these views. These unjust beliefs have induced the systematic undermining of women.

Despite no legislation overtly devaluing women, men have managed to subjugate institutions in such a manner that would naturally weaken the way women are viewed when any talks about equality arise. The systematic eroding of the value of women is easily noticed when observing phenomena such as the pay gap, women’s participation in political office, and their general health and safety.

women's rights

These are some statistics showing the inequality and oppression women face globally:

  •  Women’s annual earnings in 2016 was $11k compared to men’s $20k
  • 18% of men are inactive in the labour force while the number stretches to 44% for women
  • In a working day for men, one hour and 30 minutes goes unpaid. The number of unpaid working hours for a woman is four hours and 47 minutes
  • Women’s share of the inactive population is 81%
  • 36% of women with the same qualifications as men assume leadership roles
  • 20% of women are parliamentarians, while even fewer (18%) are ministers
  • One in three women experience physical and/or sexual violence
  • Women and girls account for approximately 70% of human trafficking globally

Besides the aforementioned facts, women have to endure a nonsensical beauty standard that looks to only validate them based on appearance, as well as face a higher risk of being raped or sexually harassed (albeit not exclusively). Much of the women experience is centered around avoiding or tearing down these patriarchal philosophies and institutions instead of living freely with little concern for any oppression directed at their womanhood. The first step in changing this systematic oppression of women is to be aware of the other subtleties society has normalised with regards to the philosophies that run them, especially in marriage.

These are some of the calcareous views or traditions that translate to upholding the patriarchy in marriage:

  • Women are given to men in marriage
  • Child marriages are still taking place (each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18)
  • Women are pressured into changing their name upon being married
  • Stereotypical gender roles still exist in heterosexual marriages
  • Men are considered the dominant figure in a heterosexual marriage household
childhood marriages

Child marriage also has negative health consequences for girls. It increases girls risk of violence, abuse, and HIV infection. Source: Plan Canada.

Some of these are not enforced by law, but may as well be etched in stone on Mount Sinai and preached globally as if they were.

In some parts of the world, particularly in developing countries, women are still valued as property or even worse – liabilities. This fact is among the chief motivations for child marriages. Girls are not valued as much as boys and allowing them to marry young eases the economic strain on a poor family by sending the burden elsewhere (in this case, the family of the husband). Children, particularly little girls, should be free to experience childhood as we (i.e. men and boys) are privileged to do. Sadly, 76%, 48%, and 45% of children are denied a human childhood experience in Niger, Mozambique, and Somalia respectively. These are but three countries where women’s oppression runs rampant with regard to child marriages.

Coming home from school; playing outside until the street lights turn on; riding a bicycle for the first time and falling; experiencing hormonal changes and having your parents attempt to awkwardly explain what’s happening to you are all experiences denied to children globally due to young marriages.

The very fact that little girls are allowed to part with their families in that manner fertilises the oppressive philosophies that women have a diminished value. At the root of the idea is the psychological factor that has persisted for years, despite laws – that women can be owned. Only if one owns something can it be gifted.

Young women being gifted are one of the more aggressive forms of patriarchal systems. A far less noticeable form of oppression has interminably been instituted, and expectations as well as the general valuation of women thrive on this unwritten set of social rules.

Women are expected to complete certain roles in marriages and make amendments to their names in favour of the groom. Certain tasks and roles are assumed to be completed by women  especially because of their gender.


  • Women do not belong in the kitchen
  • Women are not required to look after the kids at home
  • Women are not supposed to be the submissive party in a heterosexual relationship
  • Women are not more or less valuable as people if they enter a marriage a “virgin”
  • Women are not responsible for pleasing the male in a heterosexual relationship
  • Women do not owe their male partners sex and their consent is still needed by their partner, each and every time, otherwise it is rape
  • Women are not obligated to bear children
  • Women are allowed to abort unwanted pregnancies

Entering into marriage should not be an unwritten agreement to practical slave labour. Supplementing this is the fact that women are expected to be grateful for this ‘opportunity’. Men do not complete women and are in no way necessary for women to exist as people. Women do not exist for male consumption.

women don't exist for your consumption

Artist: Joannathangiah

Counteracting these oppressive philosophical outlooks involves altering the premise that men are better than women. From that basis every patriarchal idea branches out rather arrogantly – the tree needs to be cut down instead of trimmed. The wood should be used to create a stake, and every man that persists to oppress women should be burnt on it.

Women have endured centuries of oppression. The fact that men are not groveling at their heels shows a temperament that few to none could reciprocate. Yes, we are all equal, but not until we stop equating a woman’s value with how desirable she is to a man or how well she fulfills the gender stereotype.

Cover art by Hanna Barczyk.

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