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ANCWL has never had a strong history of dismantling patriarchy

- Wits University

"Thinking of the ANC Women's League as a space for gender activism is a waste of time," says Professor Shireen Hassim.

Speaking on The Eusebius McKaiser Show on CapeTalk/702, Hassim was reacting to the latest controversial comments reportedly made by ANCWL leader Bathabile Dlamini on why she appointed six men to the Women’s League delegation attending the ANC policy conference. She allegedly said it was because women get “too emotional” during debates.

Hassim, a Professor in Politics in the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research (WiSER), says she was not surprised by Dlamini’s comments, as it is “exactly what we have come to expect from the ANCWL:  They have no analysis of gender power; no analysis of patriarchy; basically, they are cheerleaders for male leaders within the ANC, and usually they choose the side that is least favourable for a transformed gender politics.”

Hassim specialises in feminist theory and politics, social movements and collective action, and is the author of The ANC Women’s League: Sex, Gender and Politics (2014). Looking at the ANCWL’s history, Hassim says it is not an organisation to look to if you are looking for gender analysis.

“The ANCWL has never had a strong history of dismantling patriarchy … The real problem is the ANCWL failure to really develop its own analytical, critical capacity. They haven’t invested in it, they have no ideas, no alternatives, so I’m not surprised when push comes to shove they go out there looking for some ‘rent-a-crowd-analyst’ because they do not have a deep-rooted analytical perspective within the Women’s League,” Hassim said.

There is, however, a young constituency of really smart women who are taking on patriarchy – outside of the ANCWL and in spaces such as in the #Fallist movement – and they are doing it publicly and are refusing to be silenced, Hassim added.