Is a DA vote a feminist vote?

By Jen Thorpe

I’m sure by now that all of you have seen the Democratic Alliance (DA) election poster featuring DA leader Helen Zille, mayoral candidate Patricia de Lille and spokeswoman Lindiwe Mazibuko. Three women were chosen as the face of the campaign for the election in two weeks, to compete with the many male faces seen on the election posters of other parties.

But what does this actually mean for women? In the National elections Zille was elected leader of the DA, the major opposition party, but chose to elect an all male cabinet. Does a poster of three women mean anything for women in SA? Are their policies and plans going to benefit women at all?

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11 thoughts on “Is a DA vote a feminist vote?

  1. The DA, unlike other political parties, manages a very strategic media and marketing campaign. While the face of the shop might look appealing, the owners have a different agenda. That’s politics.

  2. I’m afriad I think agree with Indira.

    You only have to look at Helen’s cabinet — almost all men, if i’m not mistaken — to see what is behind the shop window.

    But that aside, there is another question. Would having more women in the party necessarily make it a more feminist one? Time and time again we have seen that putting women in charge doesn’t mean that they will necessarily act for women (and what exactly that means is another question in itself).

    I look forward to more comments as this discussion continues…

  3. i think not.just because the forerunners for positions are women does not mean the party itself has policies that recognise any feminist ideals whatever that might mean).and zille’s cabinet suggests that this might not be the case

  4. Thanks for raising this question, Jen. I’ve wondered about this for a long time and what my feelings are regarding the DA (as a result).

    I found it very interesting that Helen decided to put only women on her poster and really wonder what her motivation is. Is she playing on “housewives” emotions in hope that the average women on street does not know enough about politics to know that her entire cabinet is male? Is she trying to say that she is going to elect more females? I don’t get it…but I am put off by how she seems to “use” women as the face of her party but where are they really?

    Also intersting thought Mike. I agree with what you say with regards to whether it would really make a difference for women or not? My only answer to that is that it would be nice if she did more than put women on a poster in order for us to really see the difference it can make.

  5. I personally don’t think that having three women on your marketing material means your a feminist party or aim to stick to feminist ideals. Apart from the fact that Helen Zille seems to have more men in her cabinet than women, the fact is that politics is politics, as Indira says, and listening to any political party is simply listening to their latest publicity. Having women head the marketing campaign is to the DA what Zuma saying voting for the ANC is voting for the ANC. It’s all about the propaganda and voting results.

  6. I decided to take a look at their policies as listed on their website (http://www.da.org.za/our_policies.htm) and, as far as I can see, they contain no mention of gender or gender issues. My guess is that it’s about appealing to the average woman who wants to be represented, and giving the idea that because Zille is a woman, women’s voices may be better represented by the DA (assuming, of course, that the average woman isn’t going to do much reading about party politics aside from what’s provided by propaganda posters).

  7. Well, it would seem the DA is assuming that women fit the stereotype of being misinformed of politics and falling for any old marketing ploy. Then they’re not really focusing on any feminist issues at all. They’re just trying to garner votes.

  8. Another question that comes to mind, is:

    What would the consequences be if a DA was a feminist vote? What affect would such a revelation have on the DA’s male voters, as well as the ‘housewives’ in SA?

    With gender roles still strongly being defined by tradition, the possibility does exist that men would be uncomfortable with a party with a cabinet that is, in fact, more feminist, or at least more female. ‘Housewives’ are governed by the same tradition and might feel that same discomfort.

    I think the DA knows this and thus doesn’t mind showing off posters that make the party seem like something it isn’t, which is common knowledge. They win both ways – seemingly bargaining on their voters’ ignorance.

  9. Rather look at who is featured on the poster instead of their gender. I see a group representing experienced leadership, and a youthful future. This is an effective marketing strategy in a time when the youth are questioning what their role is, and voters are looking for strong leadership qualities.

  10. Hi all,

    I know I am a few months behind, but I only came across this now. I am a feminist, and a DA councillor in Durban. I found this discussion to be interesting, and I agree with many of the sentiments expressed.

    I do believe that we are the only major party in SA where women have real input and influence. I don’t think, however, that we are doing enough internally to deal with gender inequalities and issues. Examples of this, and times when I have disagreed with the party, were Helen’s male cabinet and Masizole Mnqasela’s ‘too sexy to rape’ nonsense.

    I do think that in government we do the best job at creating a better life for women, and people in general. In the run up to out next DA congress, I will be looking at policies to examine where we could do better in terms of gender. Please e-mail me if you have any ideas or advice.

    nicoleleegraham@gmail.com

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