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In the last week or so, our Prime Minister was embroiled in an argument in Australia, when a shock-jock Radio DJ commented that the Australian Prime Minister should “shove a sock down her throat.” Rightly, the violence and innate misogyny of the comment was widely deplored, including by Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, who said, “I find that very disappointing, and of course, that’s way out of line.”

He could have left it at that, but he added, “I have two daughters, so you can expect that’s how I would feel personally about it.”

Why did he feel the need to say that? Didn’t he understand that women deserved respect before he had daughters? Didn’t he speak out against obvious misogyny before he had daughters? Didn’t he object to obvious violent threats against women before he had daughters? How does his wife feel about this? She was around before his daughters. Was he so unaware of gender issues and sexism that it never occurred to him before having daughters? Or did he just not care?

Not to mention that by equating the leader of his neighbouring country with his daughters, he is infantilising her, suggesting she is in need of his protection, that he’s a father figure.

Why are men so proud of defending women’s rights because they have daughters?  I don’t get it. And clearly, they don’t either, because if they thought about what they’re saying, they might actually understand.

C’mon, blokes. You either support and defend women’s rights or you don’t. By stressing that you support women and object to offensive language and behaviour about them because you have daughters, you’re not endearing yourself to women. Or not this one, at least. You’re saying that if you didn’t have daughters, you would be less appalled. That you’ve never seen women as your peers, that you accepted misogyny and discrimination in the past, that you never saw us as people. You’re boasting that you felt free to ignore our issues until you had daughters.

In fact, it is almost as if you are justifying your position to your fellow men, using your daughters as an excuse for your defence of women. As if that is something that needs to be explained away.

No surprise that I am, quite frankly, sick to death of a man’s defence of women’s rights coming with the qualifier, “I have daughters.”

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A lot of people wrote about International Women’s Day (IWD) last week. I may be a bit late, but I was interested to see what discussion there was about it here. I’ve since seen a lot of articles, and I’m still making my way through them. One piece particularly made me think, and it is probably why I am writing this here and now. This article talked about celebrating Women’s Day rather than Mother’s Day. As a non-mother, I appreciate this sentiment and wish I had thought of doing this too. After all, the most wonderful, caring, generous and talented women I know are not mothers either, and they deserve to be celebrated. And the wonderful, caring, generous and talented women I know who are mothers are also so much more than mothers, and they deserve to be celebrated too.

My husband and I are among the few people who still get the local newspaper delivered. (I do that because I like to read news that has been curated independently of my own interests and biases.) On Friday, the front page heralded International Women’s Day with a big headline that said, “Our day, our voices” and quoted our former Prime Minister, Helen Clark, saying, “None of us should rest until the serious inequities and injustice many women face around the world are overcome.” There were photos of many prominent women on the front page, including two of our three female Prime Ministers, and inside a two page spread with statements from 18 women about the day and what it means to them. It included the two PMs, the Minister for Women, Georgina Beyer (the world’s first transgender mayor and former Member of Parliament), local body politicians, the National Council for women, representatives of charities, sex workers, sexual assault victims, authors, sportspeople, ethnic groups and businesswomen.

They all had some great comments, and a few where I guess I rolled my eyes a little. For example, a couple of women, one who ran New Zealand’s largest company at one time, talked about growing up being told they could do anything.  However, one did qualify her statement by noting she was lucky, though it wasn’t clear how. And the former CEO qualified her statement by adding ” … when we had equal opportunities.” And now she works on empowering women. I hope she’s successful in that too, because I don’t like rolling my eyes when women are helping women.

A day after IWD, there were photos of a ceremony where our current Chief Justice (a woman) was standing down, and her replacement, another woman, was sworn in. We have a female Governor-General, a female Prime Minister, and a female Chief Justice, as we did in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It seems unremarkable to me now (or perhaps, still just a little remarkable or I wouldn’t mention it here). Perhaps I’m just happy at what “normal” in New Zealand has become.

Back to the original article. I guess I related to a sentence in Helen Clark’s statement the most, though equally a number of the women shared the same sentiment. She said,

“… I celebrate progress to date on gender equality, but also reflect on how much more remains to be done.”

 

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This last week, New Zealand has been celebrating 125 years of women’s suffrage, as we gained the vote back in 1893. I wrote a poem on my daily blog about it back in August – it was Poetry month – and thought I’d reproduce it below, not because it merits it, but because the subject matter does.

It is significant when we realise that the US will have to wait until 2045 to celebrate 125 years of suffrage, the UK until  2053, Australia will have to wait until 2087* and Saudi Arabia, until 2140.  When I joke that we are ahead of the rest of the world (due to our position next to the International Date Line), I’m not entirely joking.

125 years later, our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is this week at the UN. She said at a public session the other day,

“We’ve had three female Prime Ministers. It’s really no big deal, guys.”

Unfortunately, for so many countries, it still is a big deal.

 

A Suffragette’s Abecedarian

“As children, with no
Brothers, living in the
Country, we
Did
Everything a boy would, and more, because – mere
Females still – we were taller, stronger, faster.
Glimmers of hope for the future, were
Helped by remembrance of the past.
In our nearby town, there stood only one statue, which
Justified my hope that with
Knowledge and determination, my
Lot wasn’t predestined.
Margaret Cruickshank, my statuesque inspiration, was
NZ’s first woman GP, and alive in 1893, when
Our country led the world. Time has
Passed, 125 years now.
Quality is what matters, not
Restricted views on
She or he, no
Thoughts that might
Unfairly restrict our
Vote.
We celebrate our suffrage this year, though Pope St.
Xystus 1st would no doubt not approve of our leader, a
Youthful, unmarried, new mum. But fear not, men, this is no
Zugzwang. There’s no battle, and no loss.”

 

* Australian indigenous people, men or women, did not receive the vote until 1962.

 

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