This year International Women’s day has received unprecedented attention, with large retailers, celebrities, and public figures showing unity in the pursuit of equality. The United Nations began International Women’s day celebrations in 1975. The day promotes and recognizes the achievements and contributions women are making within their communities and society. The day encourages and reminds women to actively participate in economic and political arenas, ensuring their voices are heard.
In true fashion, Namibia’s first lady used her platform to reclaim her rights as a woman. On the 8th of March first lady, Monica Geingos released a timely video aimed at trolls who “slut-shame’ her”. Posting a video to social media Geingos says, “I’ve decided that enough is enough… I will not be silenced anymore,”. Since taking her place as the first lady Geingos reports being labelled “fat, ugly, stupid and too ambitious”. In her speech, Geingos says “when I am not busy being a manipulative, deceitful gold-digger, I am busy running the country”. She adds, I am told “I have bewitched my old Sugar Daddy husband, who is too blind to see through my feminine charms.” Through sharing her story Geingos hopes she can encourage others to do the same. Gender bias and gendered insults reduce women’s power. They reiterate the normative rules and expectations of a broken society. Interestingly in her speech, she mentions the role gender-based insults play in enabling gender-based violence, this behaviour allows women to be commodified and reduced to objects.
She wants women to feel empowered, speaking up for themselves. Geingos says “silence will not protect you.” The first lady also notes it is not easy to stand up for yourself as a woman, you will be declared “too aggressive, too unladylike” she adds, “that is why many of us prefer not to challenge gender bias. “ In response to Geingo’s speech, women’s right activists comment feeling “re-energized”. Linda Baumann mentions she has “regained some hope as a woman. Maybe this is the beginning of a women’s movement.”
One troller responded to Geingos video, saying “there’s clear misogyny from young people towards her perhaps because of being young herself, so they see her as a peer of some sort.”Geingos was rated one of the most influential people in Namibia before her marriage. However, public perception swiftly changed after her marriage to the president. Her newfound status did not serve as a protecting factor, rather, it exposed the first lady to extreme misogyny and gendered expectations. For this reason, her message resonates on a nuanced level with women around the world. Regardless of the title women have or the wealth they hold they remain subject to misogynistic views. Therefore, women must proactively work to change this narrative. Not only by calling out misogyny in our male counterparts but females too. In her concluding speech, she adds, “Next time you see a woman going through crude forms of abuse, remember this: it’s not what they think about that individual woman, it’s what they think about women and their place in society. Challenge it. By standing up for one woman, you stand up for all women”. We must remain vigilant in our pursuit to raise women. For centuries woman all around the world have fought for their rights, it is now our time to continue their legacies.
Policy analyst, Graham Hopwood reports gendered insults are a growing modern-day concern, the issue requires education and institutional-level change. By remaining silent women prevent the re-education of the population, we must head Geingos message and make our stand for woman’s rights and equality.