There was a lot of online discussion about feminism on International Women’s Day. Bryce Edwards has done a Political Roundup: The state of feminism in 2017
Feminism is more mainstream than ever before. And as a society we’re talking more about gender issues, inequality and sexual politics. But what does “feminism” mean in 2017 New Zealand? And is it being incorporated into the Establishment.
Prime Minister Bill English recently got in trouble with feminists for his reluctance to define himself as a feminist, together with his stated uncertainty about what feminism now means. Deputy PM Paula Bennett was also criticised when she said there are days when she’s too busy to be concerned with feminist issues.
Finally, for a satirical take on Paula Bennett’s part-time feminism, see Katie Parker’s opinion piece on RNZ’s The Wireless website: Diary of a Most Days Feminist.
Surprisingly he missed this from Jenna Lynch at Newshub: The critics are wrong: Paula Bennett is a staunch feminist
Lynch on trying to convert her boyfriend to feminism:
The thing is, I want him to be a feminist.
I want him to care about equal pay and domestic violence and sexual violence.
I want him to understand the impact those things have on me, on his sister, on his mum on all of the other amazing women in his life.
It took me a while, but I now understand why he doesn’t want to be a feminist.
Truth be told some feminists can be pretty damn nasty and as a man he feels attacked – like he can’t really join the conversation.
And as I wrote that sentence I thought of the people he thinks of when he thinks of feminists. Those people will probably say I’ve just set the cause back 10,000 decades.
They’ll probably call me a misogynist apologist, or a patriarchy sympathiser, or something equally as ridiculous for even trying to understand his side of the story.
Let’s make one thing clear: Of course I’m a feminist.
New research shows that the pay gap is mainly down to bias – outrageous.
Women look around boardroom tables and all they see is men – woeful.
Our domestic violence stats are horrendous. Our sexual violence stats are appalling.
But when others were baying for blood because our Minister for Women said she’s only a feminist “most days” I found it difficult to understand.
So she asked Bennett to explain her “part-time feminism”.
“The truth is I am every day.”
The reason she initially said “most days” is because some days, being a feminist is bloody hard yakka.
“There’s some days when there are ones that are just so anti, and man-hating and awful that you think if I’m compared to them that’s not who I want to be.”
Those (a small minority but often vocal) who try to enforce a strict and extreme form of feminism and attack anyone who dares to dally outside their box can be counter-productive to their cause, they drive away or shut up more moderate feminists.
What she does want to be is Minister for Women. She has two issues to tackle: The gender pay gap and sexual and domestic violence against women. She’s passionate about both.
She says she specifically asked the Prime Minister to be the Minister for Women – and admits Bill English was surprised to hear it.
“The Prime Minister was like ‘Wow, I hadn’t thought of that’.”
That’s because the portfolio has previously been treated with disrespect or even contempt; hurled at a junior minister to up their number of responsibilities.
Disrespect and contempt has been hurled at Bennett for trying to do more with the Ministry.
For example at The Standard (written by a man) The gender pay gap – grandstanding but no action
A new report has some really interesting findings on the gender pay gap. Paula Bennett engaged in a bit of grandstanding, but it rings completely hollow given National’s history on the issue.
Bennett is calling on employers to “conduct gender pay audits and to declare the results”. As if that is going to happen. If the Nats were serious about addressing the pay gap there is much more they could do. Instead of voluntary audits, how about some legislation? Eight long years – and counting.
Bennett is so pathetic. Where has she been this last 3 months?
It is transparently obvious National are panicking and quickly whipped up a script for her to say something, anything meaningless but yet to appear relevant. Jacinda has taken way too much limelight.
But if you really cared, which you do not, how about the appalling and growing inequality on all levels Paula of which you know about this well, families holed up in motels, living hand to mouth, living in cars, working people Paula, not your hated bennys! Inequality for woman’s pay has nothing on this festering sore.
Do you have the guts to deal with that rather than this floss? The fuck you do, that’s way too hard and anyway it’s a natural spin off of Nationals moronic economic management!
Back to Lynch on Bennett:
But Ms Bennett wanted it this time to show it is important.
“We’ve got a couple of big challenges and I’m fully equipped to kind of leap in and tackle them so I just wanted to be the Minister for Women, I thought it was a great message as well that the Deputy Prime Minister and most senior woman in Cabinet wants the job,” she says.
But instead of focusing on a Deputy Prime Minister WANTING to stand up for women many feminists were outraged because she didn’t fit in their box.
They forgot that she punched through glass ceilings herself. They forgot she mentors other women so they can do the same. They forgot that she spoke out against violence against women – remember when she took on the Chiefs rugby franchise for their awful treatment of a stripper when the former Women’s Minister wouldn’t?
Well yesterday the minister clapped right back.
“We define feminism in this day and age for ourselves.
“I believe in equality for women.”
She addressed her critics explaining herself while still respecting them.
“If you are a little bit not-fitting-in-the-box-that-other-people-want-to-draw-for-you, you come up against this criticism.
“I just can’t get over if you don’t fit into someone else’s definition of what they think an absolute feminist should be, you get this absolutely harsh critical sort of shout out to you that’s kind of unnecessary.
“So I’ll own it for me. I’ll define it for me. And I’ll totally respect everyone else’s ability to do that for themselves.”
The minister is right. Feminism is whatever we want it to be.
If Bennett wants to make real progress for women through what she has volunteered for she will not only have to fight hard against prejudices against women that are still entrenched.
She will also have to fight against political prejudices. And against people who call themselves feminists but have strong prejudices against anyone who doesn’t fit their ideal.
I would have thought that a core part of being a feminist would be allowing women with variations in views to express them and to promote and live with feminism in their own way.
And not to be bound by the dictates of an intolerant and narrow minded matriarchy.