• Tue, 5, Jun, 2018 - 5:00:AM

Are honours and titles outdated?

Image: Dames Jools and Lynda Topp

For the first time ever, this Queen’s Birthday weekend, the number of women receiving honours outnumbered the number of men. It’s been a long time coming. Year after year I’ve scanned honours lists and mentally tallied the gender discrepancies. It is no surprise to me that the moment when we finally reached and traversed the tipping point occurred on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s watch. 

Long may it continue. I once heard television creator Jill Soloway make the argument that only women should create television and film for the next hundred years, and that would go some way to closing the gap. While I don’t seriously agree, I can humour the idea, and it popped into my mind today. How many all-female honours lists would it take, I wondered, to equal the tally of honours bestowed upon women and men?

Perhaps the most exciting of all of the honours bestowed were the ‘damehoods’ for the Topp Twins and Catherine Healy. Not only were two beloved lesbian country music entertainers given their well-deserved gongs, but campaigner for the rights of sex workers Catherine Healy was also made a dame. What a brave new world. A world, you could say, that is finally becoming the way it should be.

For those who would argue that honours like ‘dame’ and ‘sir’ (‘kahurangi’ and ‘tā’) are outdated and elitist, I have no counter-argument, but I do celebrate the validation that comes with bestowing honours on LGBTQ+ icons and people advocating for sex workers. 

It’s a refreshing change to the custom of throwing knighthoods at so-called ‘captains of industry’. When the people on the receiving end of medals and titles are those who are thoroughly deserving, I can get behind the custom. I can celebrate the achievements of people who have given their all for the betterment of others, and who have given great enjoyment to generations of Kiwis. I can get behind the celebration of those who are generous with their talents, and who represent the best of Kiwi values.

So arise, Dame Jools. Arise, Dame Lynda. Arise, Dame Catherine. Long may your great work continue.


  • Queen's Birthday /
  • Honours /
  • Titles /
  • Dame /
  • Sir /
  • The Topp Twins /
  • Catherine Healy /
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