Johannesburg - First it was DA leader Helen Zille on the campaign trail, then the EFF in Parliament.
Now, the head scarf, or doek, is taking pride of place in a Department of Arts and Culture campaign for Women’s Month.
“#WearADoek in support of #womensmonth2014 today, share yo #mydoekselfie every Friday 4 the month of August,” the department announced on Twitter on Friday, taking the dubious fashion statement to a new level by wedding it to another cultural craze – the selfie.
But its clumsy stab at symbolising women’s struggles – epitomised by the Women’s March of August 9, 1956 – fell flat with many women.
Analyst and commentator on gender issues Nomboniso Gasa tweeted: “If @ArtsCulture knows anything about women’s march they should know #wearadoek gimmick is an antithesis of that struggle.”
Senior researcher and political analyst for the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre Lisa Vetten said it was “extraordinary”, but declined to comment further before she had heard the thinking behind the campaign.
Attempts to reach Arts and Culture spokesman Sandile Memela for comment were unsuccessful, as the Arts and Culture Twitter account retweeted selfies of citizens who had taken up its challenge, while maintaining silence on the criticism.
“yes! fab! We hd women lik u in mind re campaign idea,” it said in response to a selfie from @francinah8.
The EFF, some of whose women MPs wear red doeks and domestic uniforms in Parliament to symbolise solidarity with the working class, turned criticism of its sartorial statements back on the Arts and Culture Department.
“The question must be asked if they will be called Nazis,” said spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, referring to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s comments this week, suggesting the party’s militaristic style had ominous resonance with the fascism of Hitler’s Germany.
“The logic of Gwede Mantashe is that when people organise through a uniform they are Nazis. So the Department of Arts and Culture is organising people through doeks, therefore it is Nazi, according to Gwede Mantashe,” Ndlozi said.
@NgwenyaPage suggested the doek exercise was gender stereotyping, tweeting: “They figured best way to celebrate Women’s Month is to have them be the women THEY want them to be.”
@shagggz said: “I can think of numerous ways to celebrate women in the way THEY’VE CHOSEN to be identified #WearADoek lumps them all together as a monolith.”
But the campaign seems to have found favour in some unlikely quarters, with @janine_j tweeting what appeared to be a selfie of rapper Snoop Dog in a hoodie and a doek. “Snoop Doek’s getting in on the action. We international!” she tweeted.