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TOP 30 OF 2015 - 13. Jacinda Ardern: I am a feminist

Image: Jacinda Ardern

First published on Wednesday the 20th of May, 2015, this piece comes in at number 13 in the top 30 Villainesse stories of 2015.

I am a feminist.

I remember saying that to a room full of career women once and watching them recoil in horror. A feminist? It was almost as if I had stood up and declared that I considered showering an optional exercise and deodorant to be devil juice. A feminist? Was I trying to be ‘retro’? Had I perhaps seen a film recently on SOHO that given me some weird ideas? Surely I didn’t mean it.

But I did mean it, and not only that, I wanted them to join me. Looking at the faces in front of me, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I am no scholar. My favourite subjects at school were metal work and history. University for me was not full of feminist theory or Marxism. For whatever reason I have always felt like my political views and drive came from my gut rather than a textbook. And that’s exactly the origin of my views on feminism.

In my simple worldview, if you believe in equality, you should be a feminist.

If you believe that women and men performing the same job should get the same pay, you should be a feminist.

If you believe that places like parliament or local government should reflect the people they represent, and that means having equal showing from woman, you should be a feminist.

If you believe that women deserve to be free from violence, have economic security, and have choices around the roles they take on – be it caregiver, worker or both, then you should be a feminist.

If you believe that in New Zealand we have all of that already, then you don’t need feminism, you need educating.

I could rattle off all the statistics in the world to prove my point, or I could just encourage you to challenge your perspectives instead.

You can wear a bra, make up, have never read Germaine Greer and still be a feminist.

So why aren’t we? I fear a little that perhaps we don’t see it as ‘our’ collective battle anymore. I remember having a discussion about the position of woman in the workplace with the same group of women I declared myself as a feminist to. They each had a story of having been paid considerably less than male counterparts. One woman declared that the answer was for each of them to simply challenge their respective bosses one-on-one about the gaps they had uncovered. That may have been all well and good for them to confront this issue in that way – they were in senior roles and steady employment. But what about everyone else?

“What,” I asked, “about the woman who work in home care, or who stack shelves? Should they just go and ask their bosses too?” You see, I had seen how this worked when family members in service jobs had made a play for pay rises as small as $1 an hour after almost a decade of nothing. They got up the courage to ask, and had their $1 declined. “What about them”

A feminist on their own makes a point, but it doesn’t make for a movement, and it doesn’t necessarily bring about the change that we need for our next generation of girls and women.

That’s why I am a feminist. Are you?

TAGGED IN

  • Feminism /
  • Feminist /
  • Women /
  • Girls /
  • Equality /
  • Politics /
  • Jacinda Ardern /
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