Wednesday, 10 March 2010
1. What, if anything, does International Womens Day mean to you?
International Womens Day is a chance for all of us to stop and reflect on where women have got to at any given time, and what we’re still up against. While we’ve made huge gains in the last few decades, there is of course still a long way to go, and I think it’s great that International Women’s Day gives women a chance both to celebrate achievements and solidarity, and also to get reenergised for the struggles ahead.
2. Is there a feminist or women’s movement in Aotearoa NZ? If not, why not? If so, what is it doing?
There is not one unified feminist or women’s movement in our country, but then again, there never has been, even in the heyday of what we used to call ‘women's liberation’.
However, what we have are many different women who identify as feminist doing all sorts of critical things in our communities, from running women’s refuge and rape crisis organisations through to women on the front line of low wage worker, beneficiary and community organising work – and a whole lot else as well.
I think one of the biggest myths is that feminism has died, or that young women are no longer feminist. There are wonderful young women around our country who act politically and creatively from a feminist perspective, including, for example, the collective who put out the feminist zine ‘Muse’ in Wellington.
3. What are the biggest issues and challenges facing women and feminism in Aotearoa NZ today?
I think some of the biggest challenges facing women and feminists today are:
• Closing the income gap between women and men – glaring inequalities continue, and are likely to be accentuated by the ongoing impacts of global recession, resource depletion and climate change.
• Continuing work on changing male attitudes which still far too often see us as the objects of physical and psychological violence and abuse.
• Addressing the rights and needs of women who have least in our society – women in low paid work and on benefits; Maori women; Pasifika, migrant and refugee women; and women who live with physical, mental and/or intellectual impairment.
We also have to face up to the problems of complacency, of thinking that we’ve ‘got there’ and that the clock will never be turned back. My biggest fear is not about what we haven’t achieved, but about how easily it would be for our society to revert to one where all the gains we’ve made could so easily be lost. The first thing we have to do in this respect is to fight to retain a proportionally representative voting system, otherwise we could go backwards very quickly.