Celebrating femininity in the south

Nikita Pretorius with her son Cyrus.

Adrienne Colette Powell of Marina da Gama, said: “I don’t think it’s easy being a woman today. Especially in South Africa. We have very unique issues that affect us – economically, socially, politically. The traditional roles of men and women have become very blurred. I still believe to a certain extent in traditional roles because it’s how we are wired internally – if that makes sense. I do feel safe as a woman, but I have great fear for our young girls out there and I don’t believe they are safe at all.

“I am a mother, and the thing I wish for is that my children are grounded and happy, and even if life is difficult, that they have strength of character enough to cope.”

She added: “Gender issues are always a part of life and I think women are more exposed to that in the corporate world, possibly? But I think here again in South Africa the gender issue is huge and more relevant to the younger generation.

“A great woman is a woman who can keep head above water when things get tough, who never loses her own self and brings up children who have strong values and beliefs. And because I am all about the love for me being a woman is just that – we really are the heart of the world.”

Savannah Skye of Muizenberg, said: “Being a woman means upholding the respect and teachings of the women in your family, and to be the very necessary balance of men. Both need each other to co-exist, both have important influences and strengths.

“I am totally comfortable being a woman. The country we live in is unsafe, but that goes for every living being; men, women, children and animals. I am not afraid, but I am cautious.

“I personally treat each person I meet as an equal, and gender does not come into the equation. Whether we get along or not, will be determined by the person you are, not your race or gender.”

Savannah says she is by no means a feminist but that inequality in the business world needs to be eradicated.

She said motherhood was one of the very most important journeys a person could take. “When I am a mother, my greatest wish for my child is that she/he grows up to be safe, and a kind, happy, human being. I’d hope that she/he grows up to contribute in a useful and healthy way to society.”

She defines a great woman by her strength, kindness, originality, open-mindedness and the ability to help, empower and inspire others.

“Women who are also good mothers are important, too. I read a quote once that said, ‘There is no way to be a perfect mother, but there are a thousand ways to be a good one’.”

Shan Radcliffe of Fish Hoek, said: “We have so many more liberties today than previous generations. We are no longer seen as having to be tied to a kitchen sink, our jobs are no longer the ones confined to the home and we are no longer expected to be the only ones to maintain the home.”

She said gender was an important issue for different reasons. “Each person should play to their talents, not the box their gender puts them in.”

Shan said women today had more freedom to engage with what used to be regarded as “a man’s world”, but with it had come different and sometimes more responsibility.

She said her wish for her child is that he grows up with a sense of respect and acceptance of all people, and especially a respect and acceptance of self.

Shan said: “A great woman is one who acts with class and grace in whatever it is she chooses to do. That is what will make you great. It’s not about what you do, but who you are.”

She said women so often tear each other down and now was the time to see equal honour and value in all the roles; working moms versus stay at home moms in particular.

Tam Petersen of Ocean View, said: “To me being a young woman today, means I have to be strong, be independent, and be a little more grown up than I want or should have to be to. While I am certainly proud to be a woman, I do not feel safe at all,” she said.

While she didn’t think gender was important, she did feel it was often caused by hatred and discrimination. “With this, I refer to people who are anti-LGBT,” she noted.

She said that in many ways we live better lives than our grandparents did. “We are much more advantaged now than our mothers and great-grandmamas were, but I do feel that standards have dropped and terrible behaviour towards females has now become somewhat normal or shockingly basic.”

She said: “If I could change anything about being a woman it would most likely be to have women put on an even higher pedestal, whether it be in the home or in general, anywhere and everywhere.

“My wish, for my son, is to have the best education and endless opportunities. I want him to excel in all that he does and not settle for mediocrity and at the same time grow up to be a God-fearing man and a perfect example to those who looks up to him.”

Tam does not believe in traditional gender roles. “Definitely not, we are equals,” she said.

And on what makes a woman great, she said: “Our compassion and the purest form of love that we selflessly share, even in very broken and trying times, is what makes a great woman.”

Nikita Pretorius, of Lakeside, said: “We have more opportunity today than our grandparents had, and we are encouraged to come into our full potential – but women have become so sexualised and face incredible pressures and expectations that morph our thinking of how we are supposed to be.”

She said what makes a great woman is recognising the soft feminine side but also the strong warrior side.

Her one wish is that women would stand together and support each other more.

Nikita’s wish for her children is for them to be true to themselves. “Do not conform for anyone else. I read a quote which said – I am mine before I am anyone else’s – and that’s what I want for my children; to love themselves completely.”

Nikita teaches yoga – which means union – so her world is geared towards balance.

She believes that recognising and respecting the balance of each gender’s gifts is key to living in harmony.

Nikita said boundaries are important to feel safe in a female skin. “Let people know what is ok and what’s not ok,” she said. She recommends every woman reads Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book Women who run with the wolves.

Tanya Slabbert of Marina da Gama, believes there is a lot of potential for young women today. “But you gotta go find it.

“It’s not coming to you, you have to make the effort.She says she does not feel safe as a woman in South Africa.

And on the issue of gender, she said: “Gender is important – you need male and female to create life.”Tanya added that she would have preferred her grandparents’ life. “To me it seems as though they had fewer problems back then. I think in comparison, they had it easier. Look at what we are going through in this day and age.”

“When I do have my children I want them to have a life of peace, better government, and I want them to enjoy life and not be too serious like myself.”

She does not a believe in gender roles, but rather equal rights and equal responsibility.

Janis Munnich of Costa da Gama, AGE?

“Being a young woman is hard. We want it all. It’s difficult to find a balance. Being a women today means I have the opportunity to have it all – career and family – but it also means I have to work hard at both.

“Personally I love being a woman. I feel safe, but constantly worry about the safety of my family and friends.

“I think we have our own challenges in terms of freedom. We are definitely living a better life than our ancestors, but on the other hand, not so much because how free are you really when you are afraid for your life, your dignity and your physical self, every time you leave the house?

“We can vote, so that’s something. I would change the way that we are objectified and are constantly in this juxtaposition of wanting to look beautiful to feel confident, but at the same time wanting to be taken seriously and seen as a person with a mind, heart, goals, dreams, etc not just a pretty face.

“We are described (by men ) as cute, fat, skinny, chubby, ugly, nice bum, good boobs – not as clever, hard working, determined,etc.

“My greatest wish for my child is to be happy and loved. Traditional gender roles have their place and time but it is no longer that place nor time.

“A great woman is a great person: selfless, kind, unashamedly true to who they are, loving to herself and everyone she comes into contact with.”

Sandi du Toit of Sun Valley, AGE?

Sandi says many women feel they have lost themselves in today’s world. “How? We are defined by our titles, for example, mom, boss, wife.

“I love being a woman but find that at times I dress down, to not attract attention if I’m going to be walking. Women are more likely to be attacked so I dress ‘butch’ at times.

“It is important in that we deserve to be treated as equals; it is not important to get preferential treatment.”

Sandi said: “I think our grandparents and parents had it easier. All this technology, this buzz, always being available, is extremely tiring; then we are still supposed to do all the day to day things our mothers did.”

“A great woman in my eyes is one who encourages other women to live their best lives. Too often instead of uplifting another woman who is climbing the corporate ladder we bring them down. There’s a saying that goes: if a woman must act like a man, why doesn’t she act like a nice man.

“We do not have to step on another woman to do well.”

Thembi Nkohla of Masiphumelele, 29

Thembi believes that in terms of decision-making and partaking in duties, this generation is way better off, but when it comes to social behaviour, she said: “Our generation has lost it all, except a few.”

Thembi said she does not really feel safe because “there is still a bit of some bias when it comes to gender issues”.

She said she agreed with some traditional gender roles, and some, not.

“I believe a great woman, should be someone who has big eyes to see what is beyond, big ears to hear, someone who can pay attention to detail but with a small mouth and can only speak when there is need – and talking sense – and all this encompasses a problem solver.”

Prudence Mkwala of WHERE?, 45

To Prudence,being a woman means that she has to be strong to achieve her goals.

“I am comfortable being a woman but sometimes with all the violence going on, I don’t feel safe,” she said.

She believes gender is an important issue for her generation.

“I believe women today have a better life than their grandparents and even parents because we can do things for ourselves. We can work, we can look after our own children. Before we were not allowed to do certain things – we had to stay at home – now, women are working and doing their own things.”

She said she can’t change much about being a woman today but encourages all women to stay strong and to work and pursue their own interests. “You must do what you want without someone stopping you,” she said.

Prudence wants a better life for her children and says she is not comfortable with traditional gender roles. She believes that being a great women involves creating a better life for yourself and your children – working and sending your children to school and allowing them the chance for a better life.

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