The radio industry is distinctly masculine. From management right through to the on air talent, males far outweigh their female counterparts. While this is not something I have generally paid much attention to – it is what it is, right? – it has become glaringly obvious as the movement towards women’s rights has gained momentum.
In 2017, I was appointed the first female station manager of Tuks FM, a radio station that will turn 30 next year. I find it hard to believe that there were no suitable female candidates during the 26 years prior to my appointment, so how could this be? Admittedly, we lived in a different world in the 80s and 90s with patriarchy being the overarching modus operandi. And, while this is still apparent today, there have been some strides toward equality in terms of women’s rights. One of Tuks FM’s presenters, Kopano Bookholane, highlighted this in an Instagram post on Women’s Day:
“HAPPY WOMXNS DAY | This past week the production team at Tuks FM asked me what makes me proud to be a womxn? At first I honestly didn’t know what to say because being a womxn in South Africa is the most dangerous thing to be. The bravest womxn marched in 1956 but we’re still marching. Marching to school, to work, to all the places we break ceilings. Marching against GBV, femicide, sexism, the patriarchy. Marching. We continue marching. And, eventually I realized that’s exactly what makes me proud to be a womxn. My everyday existence is defying the odds. I’m a young black womxn studying a triple major at one of the best universities in Africa – who would’ve thought? I’m a young womxn who is able to speak their mind on radio and social media – who would’ve thought? I’m a young womxn who has their own podcast where it’s all about political enlightenment – who would’ve thought? I’m a young womxn who can wear whatever she wants and say whatever she wants – who would’ve THOUGHT? You know who? Helen Joseph did. Bertha Mashaba did. Lilian Ngoyi did. Twenty thousand womxn thought that their defiance of the odds would allow me and 29.7 million other womxn today to continue to defy the odds. And I hope that one day we won’t have to defy the odds, but that they no longer will exist. But until then aluta continua dolls ❤️”
In order to remove those odds, actual structural change regarding women and their place in the world is necessary. It’s all good and well to celebrate Women’s Month and speak out against gender-based violence, but what are these things really doing to further women’s rights? Without real change at the structural and societal level we’re merely putting a plaster on a bullet wound. Don’t get me wrong, I think the concept of initiatives like Women’s Month is great, and I would rather have them than not. However, these things alone will not bring about real change in my opinion. They will not give women more employment opportunities, equal pay or protect them from sexual harassment. Balancing the scales in those areas requires deep, structural changes to the very fabric of society. This is a long-term solution that will require intervention from government and cooperation from society at large. It will not happen overnight. In the interim, we at Tuks FM do what we can to ensure we change the narrative when it comes to women’s rights, even if it is just in our own back yard. As a female-led radio station with a staff compliment consisting primarily of young women, Tuks FM mentors, extensively trains and provides first-hand exposure to a professional working environment thereby empowering these young leaders of tomorrow. And by investing in tomorrow’s (female) leaders today, by upskilling them and allowing them to discover and nurture their talents, we’re doing what we can to bring about real change in these womens’ lives. Happy Women’s Month to all you phenomenal women.