Where do you sit on the feminist perspective?


I believe that that people should have equal rights because we’re all people and therefore regard myself as a peopleist rather than a feminist, but that wasn’t an option in this test in which I scored highest as a liberal feminist:

Perspective Score
Liberal feminist 38
Cultural feminist 24
Women of Color 21
Radical feminist 19
Conservative 14
Socialist feminist 13

Hat Tip: Spanish Bride at Whale Oil.

Making politics personal


The internet showed its nasty side yesterday.

The news of Margaret Thatcher’s death spawned vitriolic outpourings and exhortations to celebrate.

She was a divisive figure and there is no doubt the policies she implemented to drag Britain out of the mire in which it was stuck came at a high cost for some people.

But criticism of policies and politics can be accomplished without getting poisonously personal.

Like her or loathe her, and it’s obvious that many on the left were in the latter camp, she was Britain’s first and only female premier.

I have not come across anything from anyone who calls herself a feminist recognising this achievement. That doesn’t mean there is nothing, but it does confirm my view that for some, feminism is at least as much a vehicle to advance left-wing causes as it is to promote women’s issues.

That Thatcher was a pioneering woman in what was very much a man’s world gets no recognition from these people who are so opposed to her politics and policies.

Nor do they recognise her achievements.

She came to power in 1979 when Britain was in economic chaos, hostage to militant unions, over taxed and weighed down by the burden of the state.

Radical change was required and she delivered it.

There might have been other ways of implementing the changes but it would be difficult to argue that strong measures weren’t required.

You don’t have to agree with what she did and how she did it to at least acknowledge what she accomplished, and it ought to be possible to debate the politics and policies without the personal attacks.

However, it is possible that she would regard the loathing with which the left still regard her as an achievement in itself.

One’s choice not necessarily another’s


My understanding of feminism is that it promotes enabling  women to make choices about their lives.

One  of those choices is to take on the role of primary caregiver for children.

It does the cause, and women, no good when those who manage to combine a career with raising children criticise others who prefer not to:

Mrs Blair, a QC and mother of four, criticised women who “put all their effort into their children” instead of working. Mothers who go out to work are setting a better example for their children, she said

Addressing a gathering of “powerful” women at one of London’s most expensive hotels, Mrs Blair said she was worried that today’s young women are turning their backs on the feminism of their mothers’ generation.

Some women now regard motherhood as an acceptable alternative to a career, Mrs Blair said. Instead, women should strive for both.

One woman’s choice about her and family life  isn’t necessarily another’s.

The criticism is especially galling when it comes from one whose family income gives her and her husband choices about child care and house keeping which many others might not be able to afford.

Her point about the importance of women being self-sufficient is valid, especially in context of her explanation:

Mrs Blair said her view was informed by her own experience of her father abandoning her mother when she was a child. But she insisted that all women should make sure they can provide for themselves: “Even good men could have an accident or die and you’re left holding the baby.

But the promotion of self-sufficiency should be possible without criticising women who choose not to pursue a career while their children are young.

One criticism of feminism is that in making it possible, and acceptable, for women to take on roles  and work which were traditionally the preserve of men  it has devalued traditional female work and roles.

Mrs Blair’s comments add fuel to that fire.

Ladies a plate


The smell of baking always takes me back to my childhood and the delight of coming home from school to the warmth of the kitchen and Mum’s freshly baked biscuits and cakes. 

My brothers and I liked to help her although, just how helpful we were is a moot point when much of our assitance involved testing the raw mixture in spite of her warnings it would give us worms.

Bought biscuits made very rare appearances in our home and ironically were regarded as treats because familiarity blunted our appreciation of Mum’s baking which was far better.

When I left home Mum’s recipes went with me and baking was a regular work avoidance activity when I was a student.

My mother-in-law was a champion baker, renowned for both the quality and quantity of what she produced. One or her nephews recounts the story of sitting in her kitchen, enjoying her baking as she tipped the contents of a cake tin into the hen bucket to make room for the fresh biscuits.

When I moved to the farm it went without saying that I was expected to bake too so there would always be something in the tins for workers, stock agents and anyone else who dropped in.

And I did for several years then both my farmer and I decided we’d be better off without baking so I stopped.

Our daughter was still at primary school at the time so I said I’d buy biscuits for her lunch. She enjoyed the novelty of that for a while, but then started baking herself because real biscuits were much nicer than bought ones.

While I’ve never gone back to baking at least once a week as I used to, I haven’t given it up completely.

Every now and then when the mood, or work avoidance, takes me; a special occasion calls for something sweet or a treat from the kitchen is required I get back in to baking, and doing it irregularly makes it much more enjoyable.

And I’m not alone in finding this domestic art can be fun because I read that home baking is back in vogue and Alexa Johnston has written a book about it, called Ladies A Plate.

Charmian Smith interviewed her and found:

In the 1970s, as a feminist, she believed political and social change were necessary for women to have control of their own lives, but she still chose to bake as a hobby.

“Feminism is about choice and baking was a choice. For some women it was a huge relief not to have to bake.

“Now where feminism is, it is still possible to make a choice, and I think baking is a better way of spending your time and money than going out and buying stuff – and you end up with a better result, too,” she said.

“When you bake for other people it gives them pleasure as well. It’s a bit of a win-win situation.”

The rest of Charmian’s interview of Alexa is here.

Rich: feminism not an F word


I started the previous post by saying the headline was guaranteed to get media attention, so too was this one.

The slogan “Girls can do anything” needed to be reprised for a younger generation because the battle for equal rights was not over, National List MP Katherine Rich said yesterday.

Invited to speak by the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women Otago branch, Mrs Rich chose the topic “Feminism is not an F Word” before addressing the more than 70 people at the Hutton Theatre, at Otago Museum.

… The provocative title was chosen because young women often told her the battle for equal rights had been won, and the word feminism, to them, conjured up images of “hairy armpits” and “burning bras”.

Feminism should be seen neither as a dirty word, nor as a relic of some forgotten past, Mrs Rich said. She was proud to be called a feminist and “people say they are really surprised by that”.

Bringing back the “Girls can do anything” campaign was one way to encourage girls to realise their ambitions, as the world was a different place once they left school. There was “still huge progress to be made”, particularly around pay disparity, she said.

A survey carried out by Mrs Rich on policy analysts in various ministries revealed men were paid between $2000 and $28,000 more than women even when working in more senior roles.

Policy analysis is policy analysis, if people have similar qualifications and experience, are working the same hours in the same sort of job gender shouldn’t come in to it. Are women not as good at negotiating as men? What role does the Public Services Association play here? Was she comparing apples with apples, or did women have broken work histories because of taking away from the work force to have children? If not we have a problem.

 While great progress had been made in recent years, representation of women in the workforce and pay equality were still issues worth fighting for, she said.

“There is no silver-bullet solution.”

In February, Mrs Rich announced she was stepping down from Parliament to concentrate on her family and a new career direction.

“I have had a good nine years,” she said. “I leave pretty positive about the whole democratic process.

“Politics isn’t a job. It is a life, all day and every day . . . and the public don’t deserve anything less.”

Mrs Rich said she was inspired to enter politics after hearing former National Party MP Marilyn Waring speak at St Hilda’s Collegiate School.

“I was just 13 years old and I have never forgotten her speech”.

Ms Waring was one of the first people she contacted after being demoted by former National Party leader, Don Brash.

“I rang her up and said we may have some things in common.”

One highlight during her three terms in Parliament was watching the first female speaker of the House, Margaret Wilson, be received by former Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright and Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Not since she attended the Outram Brownies in 1975 had she witnessed three females in charge, she said.

“When my daughter grows up I hope she gets to see something like this again.”

In February Poneke asked, as New Zealand’s golden decade of female leadership  comes to an end, what will be the role models for our daughters? HIs 15 year-old daughter posted a response which resulted in a new post, daughter finds the “girls can do anything” refrain demeaning.

Role models are personal, and when I looked at the women in the three positions Katherine mentioned, and added Chief Justice Dame Sian Ellias and Teresa Gattung, who was then CEO of Telecom our biggest company, I noticed none had children.

I respect what they have achieved, their right to not have children and that their accomplishments may motivate others to follow them but they weren’t role models for me. I like, respect and admire Katherine far more not just for what she has been doing as an MP and how she did it, but also for making the very, very tough call to resign for the sake of her family.

[Correction – Poneke and Colin Lucas have pointed out I was wrong – Sian Ellias does have children].

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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