Why using 'pantypreneurs' in a tweet was wrong

"It’s not something we should keep quiet about or only discuss in closed circles ... but the past few days have taught me it’s not something you do with a sneering tongue in the cheek in 140 characters." (Reuters)

"It’s not something we should keep quiet about or only discuss in closed circles ... but the past few days have taught me it’s not something you do with a sneering tongue in the cheek in 140 characters." (Reuters)

There are some things sisters should not do to themselves. Such as drag other sisters down.

If you call yourself a feminist – for the lack of a better word – you should work to raise other women up in whatever you do. This also reflects your own humanity.

I call myself a feminist.

At least once a year, on a weekend closest to January 8, our governing party throws a big birthday bash, with a rally and an announcement of the year’s plans for the party. It is also where comrades reconvene after the festive season, to wish each other a happy new year.

Then there are the parties, which bring bucks for local hang-outs and which attract many party supporters and businesspeople who come to network.

Smelling opportunity, some young women convene there too, looking for fun and fortune with politicians or businessmen in exchange for sexual favours and/or affairs.

So real is this that the derogatory term “pantypreneurs” emerged in 2012 and has since been whispered behind closed doors away from the romantic partner, and often with an added knowing wink or two.

Now there are two problems with using it lightly in a tweet – one is that many women close to the ANC, whether in business or politics, are there because of their competence and skill. Implying that all women associated with the party drop their panties to get somewhere in life, detracts from their achievements.

Equally, many women attend party parties not for material benefit, but for fun and to socialise.

The second problem is that women who do feel the need to trade sexual favours for material benefit often come from a wounded place.

Historically there are three things that count against South African black women: their race, their gender and their class. It’s called a triple oppression, putting black women at the bottom of the economic food chain. Some have risen up, but it’s a strong and lucky few. For many women, it’s still a struggle for survival.

It’s a struggle black women feel on their bodies more than white women. Class works against black women, meaning they swim upstream almost all the time. Privilege gives white women like me an easier ride in comparison in this patriarchal apartheid-scarred society.

The question is how do you talk about this valid issue of the painful commodification of (black) women’s bodies at the party of a party that has committed itself to women’s empowerment and upliftment from poverty, and a 50-50 sharing of power. We don’t want to end up in a society where women should give their bodies to get jobs.

It’s not something we should keep quiet about or only discuss in closed circles – we should blow this thing out of the water and work for a society where women have a range of opportunities to realise their potential – but the past few days have taught me it’s not something you do with a sneering tongue in the cheek in 140 characters. If you do call yourself a sister, you should know better than to talk about other women – mothers, sisters, daughters, friends – in this way. I regret slipping up so badly on that.

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