Opine: Why female candidates are perennially absent in elections.

Thulisile Mthethwa | Nust -ZW

How far have we gone with emancipation of women and girls today?

Too often we hear people saying that we are now civilised, we recognise and acknowledge the rights of women and children as a way to counter patriarchy and its bounding chains of inequality.

A university is at the centre of all this as it imparts basic principles of survival to young adults to cope in this socio-political and economically defined community.

Granted it is so and women are being given the voice to articulate their challenges and aspirations, why then have we not seen a female candidate successfully running for presidency at the National University of Science and Technology and bagging the top post of the students union body?

Does the answer lie between the socialisation of females or it is in the mind of a people?

Masculinity is constructed as binary opposed to femininity as early as childhood.

Women are often deemed to be in need of male guidance such as looking up to the man in their life,  be it a partner, parent or sibling, who is ‘a positive role model to all’.

That could be one way of understanding this problem although  the possibilities are just endless.

The day a woman could take up the NUST presidency would be the beginning of a journey of emotional and psychological liberation for those cramped in the dystopia of ‘Macho-manism’.

The day a woman would lead the NUST Students Representative Council would certainly be the day the notion that, ‘men make better political leaders than women,’ would be challenged.

‘…if you are too tough you are not feminine, if you are too feminine then you are not tough enough…

The political landscape at NUST shows that personal gender role threats are much more pronounced than they have been in the past. The double bind for female candidates is that women who contend for power are less likely than men to be seen as likeable.

Disharmony among women has not helped the situation either.

The most critical barriers that have hindered females from contending for the presidency at our prestigious university is that men are often judged by their potential, yet young women are judged by their accomplishments.

2017-2018 Academic year Students' Union presidential hopefuls.
 From Left to Right: Vusa Ngwenya, Natasha Aliki, Pablo Chimusoro.

Women have to spend more time proving themselves and can be easily written off as too feminine to withstand the political pressures that come with the demanding nature of leadership.

The idea that, ‘if you are too tough you are not feminine, if you are too feminine then you are not tough enough’ comes into play.

To win an election in this system, women must contend with sexism and stereotypes. The more a leadership position is perceived by the public as powerful, the harder it is for women to secure it.

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