1. What (if anything) does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day always makes me think of how many women are still in economic slavery or have internalised the capitalist oppressor and think they’re fat and ugly. It’s a great continuum to think about, which shows what a fun person I really am.
But seriously, every day is unequal pay day for women in a rich nation like this one. And if you are tangata whenua, Pacifica, refugee or migrant, or with a disability – don’t even think about pay equity! We have a Government who axed the pay equity investigation unit “because of the recession”, as they say about everything they want to cut to pieces.
Then there’s domestic violence statistics here and everywhere. A recent open hearing on maternal health in the Pacific stated that five women per day die from maternity related deaths in the Pacific region, so that is a statistic we need to address!
2. Is there a feminist or women’s movement in Aotearoa New Zealand? If not why not? If so, what is it doing?
So why do we still need feminism? Well how long have you got? The feminist movement does still exist but it’s not so much a movement as a series of small baskets full of energetic passionate women. Some are academics, some are Te Tiriti workers and some are anarcha feminists but all are isolated compared to the heady days of 70s feminism. Young women feminists in particular have to struggle with their peers being too scared to use the “f” word.
There were always deep divisions related to class, culture and privilege in the women’s movement but there was once a consensus around the patriarchy and the need for a level of unity for economic, social, sexual and cultural rights. There is some great work going on in the Pay Equity Challenge Coalition and there are some amazing women political craft workers in all senses of the word, and the women who lead Rape Crisis and Refuge are stoically heroic. But it’s not an easy in the community sector to stand up for a feminist analysis let alone in a university, in the bedroom or at work.
3. What are the biggest issues and challenges facing women and feminism in Aotearoa New Zealand today?
The biggest challenge from my perspective is the way capitalism co-opts feminism and turns it into shopping and careers for the individual.
But at a deep level – both locally and internationally – I have faith that women will continue to form groups to challenge patriarchy and that if we listen to history and indigenous women everywhere we will find the strength to save the earth and everyone from a model that fails all the vulnerable. But it’s not going to happen fast enough for some of us!