It is unlikely that South Africa’s most commonly downloaded and used application, “EskomSePush” aimed at being discriminatory toward women’s private parts, rather, it seems to be centred on technology which involves push notifications for when rolling blackouts will be implemented.
Regular folk such as you and I would not necessarily know that EskomSePush refers to “push notification technology”. Instead, the majority of us would equate the name with the widely used derogatory term in Afrikaans, “Jou ma se poes”.
Of course, this serves us well, given our frustrations, our economic downturn and the failure of the power utility in the country. For the past two to three years I have seen “Se Poes” trending on twitter/X almost simultaneously to higher stages of rolling blackouts.
Up until now, I have never downloaded the app and I won’t until there is a better name for it. The name is a discriminatory insinuation against women and the type of language which drives gender inequality.
You see, that’s the basis of gender discrimination and unconscious bias, it becomes part of our social fabric, “normalised”, it is accepted and hardly ever questioned, yet the implications are dire — women will continue not to be respected, all things negative will continue to be associated with women. These norms or practices merely continue until there is awareness or social disruption.
Read more in Daily Maverick: EskomSePush wants customers to find their communities
For example, the Cecil John Rhodes statue stood at the University of Cape Town until students protested in 2015. Similarly, we attend school bound by rules that “African girls’ hair is unruly and should be kept neat”, until Zulaikha Patel had to lead a protest at her school against this. It’s probably the reason Trevor Noah has been rocking his natural hair lately — standing up against societal norms, kudos Trevor, way to go!
A study by cognitive psychologists on Harvard University’s Gender and Action Portal argues that language affects thinking and may lead to exhibited attitudes on gender equality. The study found that people speaking genderless languages, (i.e. languages without references to objects as male or female), may exhibit more gender-equal language about women’s roles in politics and society.
The European Union (EU) Agency, the European Institute for Gender Equality defines gender discriminatory language as “words, phrases and/or other linguistic features that foster stereotypes, or demean or ignore women or men. At its most extreme it fails to treat the genders as equal in value, dignity, integrity and respect”.
Now you may think I am being pedantic and nit-picking, but with the increase to seven million users reported in 2023, I would say that the insinuation of an Eskom and poes has become ingrained in our everyday life, thoughts and language (emails, WhatsApp groups, conversations, social spaces).
I simply ask the question: why must the failure of Eskom and rolling blackouts be linked to women’s private parts? In 1956, women had to stand up against the use of the pass, today we are grappling to address the scourge of gender-based violence, but also the undercurrents, the undetected and normalised harmful gender norms and gender discriminatory language that also shape disrespect and gender inequalities.
Think about this the next time you easily say or read “EskomSePush” — are we referring to push notifications or “Jou ma se poes?”.
If it’s the latter, something needs to change and immediately, seven million users cannot be accepting of this language. DM