Shock, horror and pass the smelling salts – Prime Minister Bill English wouldn’t describe himself as a feminist and Deputy PM and Minister for Women isn’t a feminist every day.
. . . The previous Minister for Women, Louise Upston, said she was not a feminist, however the new minister, Mrs Bennett, said she was one, most days.
“You know there’s some days when I don’t even think about it and I’m getting on being busy, but I still get a bit worked up about some of the unfairness that I’ve seen, mainly for other women and not for myself these days.”
Mr English said he did not really mind whether people called themselves feminists or not.
“I’ve worked with women who have very assertive views about women’s roles, appointed a lot of them to government agencies.
“The four largest organisations in New Zealand are all chaired or run by women, so I don’t mind what label they use. What really counts is what they do.”
Asked whether he was a feminist, Mr English said he would not describe himself as a feminist.
“I don’t know quite what that means.” . .
The dictionary definition is simple enough – someone who supports feminism which is defined as a movement for granting women political, social, and economic equality with men.
That’s okay in theory but in practice, it has got mixed up with other partisan political issues, it divides rather than unites and it doesn’t go far enough.
Feminism and other identity politics too often become a vehicle for other political issues, alienating people who have no argument with the aim of equality but are turned off by the other, usually left-wing, agenda that accompanies them.
All identity politics divides by focussing not on what we have in common but on what makes us different.
People have the right to equality not because of gender, race, or any other differences but because they are people.
Not being a feminist is taken by some of those who are, to be anti-women and anti-equality. That’s not necessarily so.
Lots of people live good lives and follow Christian principles but don’t call themselves Christian. Likewise you can support equality for women without labelling yourself a feminist.
I’m in that camp because I don’t just support equal rights for women, I support them for everyone.
The basis for equality is simply our common humanity and when addressing inequality for one group, you have to look not just at the group but at everyone else.
Enduring solutions for problems for any group won’t be found without taking account of the impact on, and inequality of, others.
Feminism doesn’t go far enough because in focussing on women, it ignores the interrelationship of their issues with those of men and children.
Besides, as the PM said, it’s not what you call yourself but what you do that matters:
English said he thought Bennett’s example was the most important thing.
“She has such an inspiring story herself that everyday of the week she is achieving things and doing things which will be inspiring to a lot of, particularly younger, women who can see that we are in a country where there are no boundaries if they are able to do it, want to do it, they can get to do it.
“I wouldn’t be too concerned about whether she is labelled one way or the other.
“I don’t really mind if people call themselves a feminist or not a feminist…what really counts is what they do.” . .
Respecting everyone, treating all people as equals and working to help those who are disadvantaged is far more important than what you choose to label, or not label, yourself.