Attitude easier to change than law


No Minister  asks a question of feminists in response to the survey which found more than a third of women think they don’t have equal rights: 

Is it that the survey company defined rights in a foolish way, that the respondents have a confused definition of rights, or just that a third of NZ women are into special pleading?

I’m a peopleist (not sure how to spell it) rather than a feminist because I think equal rights should be based on the acceptance that people are people and they are entitled to equality because of that not because they are part of a sub-set of humanity.

However, as I commented last night (four posts earlier) equality isn’t just about enshrining rights in law it’s about changing attitudes and some people still think some other people are lesser beings.

This doesn’t just apply to women and ethnic minorities, some middle aged pakeha men could sometimes argue that they’d been discriminated against because of their gender and ethnicity.

Take a look at the party lists. You can rightly argue that this positive discrimination is to improve the gender and ethnic balance because selection processes in the past deliberately or not resulted in a fairly homogenous parliament, but all else being equal a woman or someone who isn’t of full European descent is almost certain to find themselves in a better position than a man who is.

Back to the survey, I think everyone is equal under the law in New Zealand but psychosclerosis (hardening of the attitudes) prevents some people from accepting that and acting on it. So while all people have equal rights not all find equal acceptance.

Apropos of this is Adam Smith’s quote of the day at Inquiring Mind:

Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.  – W.C. Fields.

Equality still eludes some


More than a third of women questioned in a Research New Zealand poll  believe they don’t have equal rights.

It found that 34 per cent of women still did not believe they had equal rights with men while only 16 per cent of men believed that women did not have equal rights.

However, the poll found that overall, 72 per cent of those interviewed believed that men and women shared equal rights.

Equality isn’t achieved just by enshrining rights in law it’s also requires a change of attitude and it may be easier to enact the former than to achieve the latter with some people.

Peopleism next step for post-feminist progress


When a friend is asked why her surname differs from her husband’s, she says it’s because he wouldn’t change his when they married.


That the question is even asked is a sign that feminism hasn’t achieved all it set out to. But I am not sure it’s the best vehicle for continuing the journey towards equality – if indeed that is where we ought to be aiming, because some say that women who want to equal men lack ambition.


Moving on from that, there are many ways in which life is better for women of my generation than it was for those before us because of the battles fought and won by feminists.


But while the barriers which used to stop women following traditionally male careers have largely disappeared, has much improved for those in what were traditionally female occupations whether it’s men or women who are doing them?


Feminism has helped women who want to break through the glass ceiling but it has done less for those who clean up behind them. And while it’s generally accepted that women can go where only men went before, the reverse is not necessarily the case.


So while women may be accepted as mechanics or engineers, a man who chooses to be a kindergarten teacher, a midwife or to stay at home with the children is likely to be asked, “Whad are ya?”


Whether it is a man or a woman who is left holding the babies, the role of primary caregiver is still an undervalued one and that can be said about a lot of other ocupations, paid or unpaid, regardless of who does them. Because when it comes down to basics, it’s the job not the gender which counts and feminism has done nothing to change that.


If you shear a sheep it is a job, if you knit its wool into a jumper in a factory or at home for money that’s work too but if you do the knitting for love, it’s only a hobby. Getting a lamb from conception through to chops in the butchery is real work, but getting the chops from the butcher’s to the dining table and cleaning up afterwards is not.


Whoever is doing it, these domestic duties are still largely regarded as the unpaid and often unappreciated preserve of women in spite of the best efforts of generations of feminists.


There are a lot more important issues than who does the dirty work at home to worry about, but I’m not convinced that feminism is the best way to address them either.


One reason for my reservation is that by definition feminism means for women, which leaves a niggling suspicion that it also means against men.


Even if it is possible to be pro-women without being anti-men, feminism emphasises the differences rather than the similarities; yet it’s easier to win friends, and campaigns, by establishing common ground than by highlighting divergence. So we should be seeking solutions to our problems, not because we are women but because we are people and these are people’s problems.


Self-advocates in IHC call themselves People First  because that’s how they want to be seen. And surely that’s the best way to see everyone, as people, without labels and regardless of any differences between us and others.


I am not repudiating feminism, but suggesting there is a step forward from feminism to peopleism; where issues and concerns are addressed by people because they are people’s issues and concerns.


Sometimes a group of people or its members might be better able to help those in the group because of what they have in common. But almost always people from other groups have something to offer too. And sometimes by labelling an issue a particular groups issue enables those in other groups to ignore it because it’s not their concern.


In other words sometimes women are better able to help other women, but that doesn’t mean men might not be able to help too; and it might prevent the side-lining of important matters as women’s issues if they were regarded as people’s issues.



And we’ll know we’ve succeeded when my friend no longer has to explain why she and her husband have different surnames.



This post was prompted by Noelle McCarthy’s  column in the Herald  and Deb’s response to it at In A Strange Land. and The Hand Mirror









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