My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
This is, of course, such a horrid, stereotypically sexist, thing to say that it is difficult to imagine that any reasonably intelligent person in 2007 in South Africa would say such a thing with a straight face. Let alone a person employed in such an important position in Parliament. Such talk belongs at Kappie Kommando Rallies and at Jong Dames Dinamiek Bible study groups.
Maybe she was joking? Maybe she is deeply religious and was just channeling the Pope and all the other dead or half-dead reactionary men? Maybe she is a secret supporter of Mr Jacob Zuma or Mbulelo Goniwe and was just showing some solidarity with the trusted old patriarchs?
In any case, the mind boggles. Can Parliament really afford to employ a women who spouts such hateful sexism? It is unimaginable that Parlaiment would not fire a Chief Financial Officer who suggests, say, that all black people are dishonest. This statement is the gender equivalent of such an utterance and if Parliament is serious about gender equality the new Chief Financial Officer should soon be the ex Chief Financial Officer.
Then again, don’t hold your breath. Patriarchy is far from dead in South Africa – even (or maybe especially) in the halls of Parliament.