Say what?! A collective effort….

Everyone views the world through their own particular lenses, which are constructed by their many personal experiences and understandings of the world. My world is viewed through gender and inequality radar-goggles.There is a fair amount to see through these goggles at the moment.

The capitalist-patriarchal world we live in only serves a few – that is: all men and especially middle and upper class white men.

Power is concentrated at levels never seen before, entirely avoidable poverty is rampant, environments world over are sacrificed for momentary whims of ‘modern living’ and monetary greed. Women and their children are found at the bottom of the heap – time and time again. This is a major concern of mine. Because, I am a women. I have children. And 51% of the world are women (or however they identify themselves to be, by this I mean not cis-male). Believe it or not, we were all children once. Also, many of us are likely to have children ourselves.

Then, and this is where it gets wild, children become adults, and that is how humans make more humans. Thus we should all be concerned. We should all be feminist.

Still I’m really confused as to why some people don’t identify as feminist, or reject the need for or notion of feminism completely. Far too many people just opt out. Either because they can or because they do not know (we don’t know until we know, right?). Dangerously, for those who ‘can’ it is because they are not directly effected by the ills of the world, by oppression or injustice, or at least they think they aren’t. Patriarchy is designed in their favour, or mabye they choose to ignore it?

I don’t know all the reasons that people find feminism a hard pill to swallow. But one thing I know for sure is the media and our own systems, such as the education system, mislead us. We are raised to believe that, at least in the western world, or the ‘developed’ world, we are now all equal. There is a woman CEO, and Helen Clark might be the UN something a rather. Naaw, that is just so nice. I’ve only just heard the news. I’ll stop all my whingeing now. JUST KIDDDDDDDING. Check our history…..we have come a long way, yes, but there is a long road still to march.

Now, some people don’t identify as feminist and fight capitalism and patriarchy because they are far to busy SURVIVING. Kind of hard to figure out why you are living in a rubbish dump with your children, if you actually live on the scraps of humanity. Or why, despite your absolute best efforts, and the hardest of work, you are still living in a car in New Zealand. There are simply more important and urgent things to do. The oppressed are just that. Oppressed. It is really hard to fight back, or to even know that there is a struggle going on, if your immediate, base human needs are not being met. This is how capitalism and patriarchy are designed. This is how it works. Power and resources to the few, scraps for everyone else, and if anyone complains, chuck em’ a bone. Or shut them up completely (round up the activitists, throw away the key!)

Here are a few other ideas I have as to why people avoid feminism.

  • They think it makes them seem aggressive or unattractive
  • They think they have a good lot in life, and that everyone just needs to try their best to achieve freedom/equality/equity and so on
  • OR they don’t understand the language used in feminist or political discussion
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I know, I know, I’m also known as a great graphic artist

Now, this is where I want to Flip the Script. Language is a massive barrier for so many people. Illiteracy is a massive problem in shutting millions out of the conversation (and must be the subject of another post entirely). Even if you are literate – language can remain an obstacle. I know this from discussions with friends about feminism. The blank stares and replies of ‘ahhh’ say it all. I am sorry if I ever contribute to this, I’m sure I do. I said cis-male in the third paragraph for goodness sake.

I want to remedy this, and collaborate with you all.

Here is an absolutely non-exhaustive list of some amazing vocabulary that I believe we all need to wrap our brains and tongues around. It is collated from the ideas of many feminists, and not necessarily always my own – it is a moving beast. Please, hit me back in the comments if you would like to add to this list. It was first published by Freerange Press in 2015…. you can download the journal it first appeared in, at the same time as making a $5 donation to the Women’s Refugee. Win win!

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Say what?  Feminist, queer and revolutionary vocabulary

Feminism

Some say it is about the equality or equity of the sexes, but when ‘sex’ isn’t that simple – and there is more than ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in this world – you see that feminism is rather complex! It is a movement and analysis that recognises the inseparable combinations that exist between patriarchy, cis-male (“status quo-male”) privilege, capitalism, homophobia and white privilege to name a few. It is the knowledge that these combinations form political, social and economic power structures, which create injustices for and oppress non cis-male people. Feminism is a lens in which to view and understand the world – a vehicle for change.

Patriarchy

Patriarchy describes male-dominated power structures, which permeate throughout organised society, in political systems as well as in individual relationships. It is systemic bias against women and non cis-male people. Patriarchy can be recognised as the intuitions and companies that are run in the majority by men that mostly benefit men; where taking maternity leave or breastfeeding a baby at work is a problem; where being a transsexual makes using the toilets an issue. Patriarchy is also a family group or community controlled by powerful men – fathers and grandfathers who give more privilege to boys and men in that group.

Patriarchy is a world that benefits cis-men over everyone else. Patriarchy describes male-dominated power structures, which permeate throughout organised society, in political systems as well as in individual relationships. It is systemic bias against women and non cis-male people. Patriarchy can be recognised as the intuitions and companies that are run in the majority by men that mostly benefit men; where taking maternity leave or breastfeeding a baby at work is a problem; where being a transsexual makes using the toilets an issue. Patriarchy is also a family group or community controlled by powerful men – fathers and grandfathers who give more privilege to boys and men in that group. Patriarchy is a world that benefits cis-men over everyone else.

 Gender essentialism

Gender essentialism is such a commonly held belief that most people wouldn’t know they hold it. It drives many unconscious behaviours and forms the basis of most patriarchal, misogynistic and sexist actions, arguments and discussions. It is the basic idea that men and women act in inherently different ways and as such have different options in life because of intrinsic biological differences between the genders.

Gender essentialism often excuses gender-based oppressions and discriminations in societies, such as what roles parents play, what jobs people hold, expectations held of each other and skill bases. Gender essentialism simultaneously reinforces gender stereotypes, while being informed by them. Gender essentialism relies on the perpetuation of a binary, polarised world, free of ambiguity, where two neat tidy genders exist and know their place in the world.

Cisgender, cissexual…

‘Cis’ (pronounced ‘sis’) is Latin for ‘on the side of’ and is the antonym to ‘trans’ meaning ‘on the other side/across from’. Cis-male and cis-female people are those who feel there is a match between their assigned birth sex and the gender they feel themselves to be, in contrast to transsexual people. The term was created so cis-men and cis-women aren’t seen as the normal standard from which everyone else deviates, whereby people such as transsexuals and LBGTIQ would be viewed as abnormal.

 LGBT – LGBTI – LGBTIQ – These initials mean ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/sexual, Intersex, Queer’, and represent the diversity in sexualities, genders and cultures that are subject to discrimination, persecution and violence globally. They can also be used to refer to someone who is non-heterosexual/cis-gendered.

Intersex

To quote Mani Mitchell: ‘Intersex is a medical umbrella term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.’

Misogyny

A dislike, ingrained prejudice and/or contempt of women which can manifest in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, violence against women and the sexual objectification of women.

Oppressed, repressed or suppressed?

To oppress is to keep a person or group powerless by unjust force or authority. To repress is to hold back by coercion, or hold down by force. Suppression means to put an end toto inhibit, and to keep from being revealed (knowledge or recognition for example). These are some of patriarchy’s best-prized tools in the power tool kit.

Discrimination

The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different groups of people, usually based on the grounds of race, age, or sex or sexuality.

First wave feminism

Feminism initially emerged from the Western world to the backdrop of the age of the Enlightenment (1650s – 1780s) when analysis, reason and the individualistic thinking of philosophers and scientists challenged traditional authorities of the Church and Throne. Debates around women, colonialism and slavery abound, however women were almost entirely kept from the table, creating a pro-male movement. Then came the intense industrialisation of the West in the 1800s, starting in Europe. For women this meant further burden in addition to childbearing and mammoth Victorian work loads running small holdings and households; women and children now also worked in factories and businesses, but had none of the rights afforded to men to safeguard their working conditions, politics of the day or land and sexual rights.

Fed up with their lot, women of the Commonwealth and America demanded change. The defining struggle for the first wave was women winning the battle for the vote. The suffragette movement officially started in America at the Seneca Falls Convention, 1848, but New Zealand was the first country where all women could vote in 1893, followed by America in 1920 and Britain in 1928. This was feminism by and for the white middle and upper-class women and their families. For this reason the second wave was born.

Second wave feminism

Loosely framed by the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s through to the neoliberal politics of the 1980s and 1990s, the second wave sought emancipation and equality for women on the basis of economics, sexuality and politics. There was a growing recognition of the multiple oppressions and battles that women faced in this wave. Where black women, lesbian women and indigenous women from all around the world had been left out of the equation, there was now some representation for them in feminism. Connections were made between broad political structures such as capitalism, war, patriarchy and heteronormativity, as well as the roles of women as wives and mothers. Sex and gender were differentiated as a biological base and social constructs. Sexuality and reproductive rights became central issues. The women’s struggle was associated with the class struggle, the personal was now political, and everyone was invited to bang a drum on the march.

Third wave feminism  

Although many legal and institutional rights had now been granted to women as a result of the second wave, the 1990s children of the second wave feminists had something else to say. Informed by post-colonial and post-modern thinking, they wanted changes in media representation of women and of gender stereotyping. The focus shifted from what was good for all women, based on the personal being political, to ‘micro-politics’, where women were encouraged to use their own personal identities to define what being a feminist meant to them. A woman could wear lipstick and high heels, run a boardroom and still be a feminist. Language such as ‘slut’ and ‘bitch’, deemed misogynistic in the second wave, was reclaimed in order to suffocate sexist language.

The fourth wave

Has it arrived and when? It is differentiated from its predecessors by its use of the internet. The fourth wave’s creation-in-action is evidenced online in forums, blogs, social media and clicktavism causes. The third wave’s increasing intersectionality has brought all sorts of individuals and groups into the frame and to the screen. There is no one experience, no one feminism. However, the fourth wave also looks back to the second to inform its arguments about the state of the world, a world controlled by patriarchal capitalists and run by the West, taking into account issues such as climate change, severe poverty and systemic racism.

Intersectionality

Intersectionality describes the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, classism, ageism etc.) are all interconnected and cannot be seen, challenged or unravelled separately. This concept first came from Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, and helps us to understand the complexities of individual experience and systemic oppressions.

Feminisms?

For as many women as there are in the world, there are arguably as many feminisms. Check them out sometime! Eco-feminism, Marxist, socialist, mana wahine, radical, liberal, post-modern, post-structural, anarcha-fem, new age, black, womanist, separatist, cultural, lesbian, Chicana, standpoint, libertarian……feminism to name a few.

Heteronormativity

Heteronormativity are the actions of a gender essentialist’s ideal world, one in which men and women fall into distinct categories with clear roles and expectations, where heterosexuality is the norm reinforced in power structures such as legislation and the media.

Heterosexism

Attitudes, bias and discriminations that favour opposite sex relationships and heteronormativity. It is based on the presumption that people are heterosexual – the expected ‘superior’ norm.

Heteropatriarchy

The powerful combination of a heterosexual bias society run by a patriarchy. Most nation-states and ruling classes could be described as such. From America to Saudi Arabia, from New Zealand to Indonesia. Where straight men rule the roost.

Homosocialisation

Where people socialise with their own gender most of the time, or in certain situations such as work or sports teams. Homosocialisation reinforces gender stereotypes, gender roles, gendered division of time, education and work. It is self-perpetuating.

TERF

An acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Feminists who state that trans-women aren’t really women, thinking the only women are those born with a vagina and XX chromosomes. Gender essentialists through and through.

SWERF

Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminism, which opposes women’s participation in prostitution and pornography. Swerfs sometimes and often unintentionally, do not include sex-workers in conversations and debate.

An internet troll/trolling

Someone who finds pleasure in seeking opportunities to disrupt and derail discussions and debates in online forums, blogs and social media. For the fun of pointless argument, and sometimes more sinisterly, to meaninglessly detract attention from important conversations.

Male gaze

When the audience is constructed from the perspective of heterosexual men. The male gaze is so powerful in media that it now dictates the content of most mainstream films, TV, music videos and advertisements. Men are situated as the watchers, women as watched; men active, women passive. Buy the product, get the girl or be the girl. Think car ads, female roles in action films, central-main characters on TV and superheros.

Rape culture

Rape culture as a term is designed to show the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalises male sexual violence. It is a culture that encourages boys and men to be macho and aggressive, and girls and women to be submissive and compliant. A society that allows a quarter of women and girls to be raped or sexually assaulted, and 1/6 of men and boys. Where 3 per cent of rapists are jailed after just 6 per cent of rapes and assaults are ever reported. A social culture in which rape jokes and cat calls are heard and normalised, where the male gaze pervades pop music and the visual arts. Where children are sexualised by clothing and toy companies. Rape culture has implications for all and is everyone’s issue regardless of gender.

HIT ME WITH MORE IDEAS PEOPLE…….

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A challenge to Alan Duff’s damaging words

Alan Duff, I find it hard to know where to start. As a mother of two beautiful Māori girls – you have offended my whānau deeply. Our immediate kura and kōhanga community and my girls hapū and iwi. In fact many Māori will be upset now, because your latest opinion piece infers that child abuse is a part of Māori life . This is simply not true, and so I will challenge you on the broad, ad-hock and completely disconnected statements you have made. Also, I will not stomach your sexist attitude, that reinforces the gender power imbalances which are the undercurrents for almost all domestic violence cases.

There is enough Māori bashing, enough racism and enough misogyny around without you adding to it. It defies belief that a Māori man could misrepresent his own people so hurtfully, be so blatantly sexist and willingly lead people astray on an issue that intersects several deeply embedded problems in our society: colonisation, systemic poverty and patriarchy. When what we need most is robust discussion and analysis.

I feel frustrated at the amount of airtime you get to spread your views, and don’t wish to give you or the Herald anymore, however – I cannot ignore you this time. The public need an alternative.

I hear and feel your outrage at the shocking levels of child abuse we withstand in our country. Most people do. Māori children are twice as likely to suffer any form of abuse. It’s not ok. You are right.

As a Pākehā woman, I won’t talk too much to the disparaging comments you have made about Māori, as that is a mantle for Māori to take up – I will not tread on toes. But I will go into depth regarding your sexism.

So here we go, I’m going to flip your script. Here are your comments, followed by what I hear.

Some Maori have no moral values because they’re not taught them. Violence is perfectly acceptable behaviour, indeed admired; whether it’s king-hitting a stranger in a pub, beating up the wife or partner, thrashing their children.

FTS – Yes, some Māori do not have a good moral compass, but you could say this for any ethnicity.

It must be instilled in everyone’s brains from a young age that certain behaviours are totally unacceptable. Love must be taught as the founding base for a successful family. Education as the way forward. Every act of violence except in self-defence must be socially outlawed, considered a shameful let-down of the entire community.

FTS – Yes, agreed. Again, this applies to all people. Moving right along.

Cultural leaders should review the entire kapa haka syllabus, I believe. I’m sick of the screaming, eye-popping haka. The standard of predictable, simplistic singing should be lifted.

FTS – What the hell?! Where does this bit come from? Do you understand kapahaka? Do you get that haka and waiata come in innumerable forms which have many uses! What you may be talking about is the cherry picked haka that mainstream media trot out to represent ‘good Māori’ and the ‘kiwi way of life’. These haka are great, don’t get me wrong. But they are a drop in the vast ocean. This comment is so offensive, to all Māori who waiata daily, whose tikanga practices incorporate haka, mōteatea and patere – and the list goes on. And to all composers of kapahaka – these are incredible people. Taonga. Have you ever been to Matatini? You are buying into the colonisers simplistic interpretation of haka. It is all much more than a supposed incitement of violence. The worst thing about this, is that your comment represents so many others.

When you say “The standard of predictable, simplistic singing should be lifted” What I hear is  is “be more nice and lovely on the side, just a little flourish here and there, so as not to unsettle those who do not understand.”

For those of us who are involved in Te Ao Māori, this sentiment is so tiring, it so boring.

Now here is the doosy……

In everyday life, my opinion is girls should be brought up like the French are: to be feminine, take a pride in how they dress, walk with dignity and grace wherever they go out in public and always keep the standards.

FTS – WHAT HAS THIS GOT TO DO WITH THE PRICE OF IKAAAAAAA?!?!? OMG, wrong number Alan. I’m going to keep this one simple for you, like bullet point simple. Seems you need a feminism 101 lecture.

  • Do not insult French girls and women by minimising their existences to their dress, the way the move one foot in front of the other and their choice in how they express themselves. On behalf of all French people, I am truly sorry.
  • Girls are taught to be nice, accommodating, uncomplaining, quiet and meek – all the time. Men are taught the opposite. This is one of the biggest factors in our gender imbalances. This plays out in its most dangerous form in volatile relationships and domestic violence. This is a cause of domestic violence for goodness sake and YOU have just advocated for it. GIRLS MUST NOT BE NICE and SMILE in the face of bullshit. WOMEN’S dignity is in the respect they receive from others, for being whoever they want to be. You have no place defining what is graceful or not for women. Who’s standards? Yours? Men’s? Go get.

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    Kia ora, I’m Alan Duff and I like long walks on the beach and women who ‘keep the standard’
  • What does feminine even mean? You need to understand Gender Essensialism:Gender essentialism often excuses gender-based oppressions and discriminations in societies, such as what roles parents play, what jobs people hold, expectations held of each other and skill bases. Gender essentialism simultaneously reinforces gender stereotypes, while being informed by them. Gender essentialism relies on the perpetuation of a binary, polarised world, free of ambiguity, where two neat tidy genders exist and know their place in the world.  – So yeah, no thanks. DO NOT tell women that they need to be feminine. They can be if they want, how they want. We certainly do not need another man telling us how to be.
  • Rape culture, you also need to know about this. Because what I heard you say is that somehow, women need to take responsibility for the ‘reasons’ they are attacked by men. That what they wear, how they move, what ‘standards’ they uphold – lead to the actions that men take. – Rape culture as a term is designed to show the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalises male sexual violence. It is a culture that encourages boys and men to be macho and aggressive, and girls and women to be submissive and compliant. A society that allows a quarter of women and girls to be raped or sexually assaulted, and 1/6 of men and boys. Where 3 per cent of rapists are jailed after just 6 per cent of rapes and assaults are ever reported. A social culture in which rape jokes and cat calls are heard and normalised, where the male gaze pervades pop music and the visual arts. Where children are sexualised by clothing and toy companies. Rape culture has implications for all and is everyone’s issue regardless of gender.
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Dear Duffy, I hope your dreams are filled with Māori women being dignified with amazing standards. I know mine are: of my daughters growing up like this.

Also:

Boys should be taught to respect females.

FTS – Why, yes they should. How about reversing everything you said about what women need to do above, and apply it to boys and men too, that would be a good start. A few other things would help too:

  • Educating, and then ignoring the ‘Boys will be boys’ brigade. We don’t need to hear it anymore. The buck stops. Accountability is made. No more excuses.
  • Again, you have positioned women as passive actors. As if it is only boys and men who have the control and power to make change. Untrue. Girls can be taught differently too. They must be empowered. Boys must be empowered. Girls can lead the technology group and boys can cry if they fall over, simple as.
  • Finally, go and research heteronormativity: Heteronormativity are the actions of a gender essentialist’s ideal world, one in which men and women fall into distinct categories with clear roles and expectations, where heterosexuality is the norm reinforced in power structures such as legislation and the media. I say this because many LGBTQ people are attacked every day for not being man or woman enough. I guess, for some women, your logic says it is their fault for not being feminine and holding up the right standards. Still, I don’t know what these standards are. One can only guess. Actually, I don’t want to know about your yucky standards.

There would be no shame in taking a leaf out of the Chinese book where parents, family members, all work hard to push a few more up into the educated or business-owning bracket. Reading has to be an essential part of that home environment.

FTS –  Again, where does this come from? Do you mean that Māori don’t try hard enough? That they don’t have hopes and dreams for their whānau?! Privilege check Alan, Poverty: it excludes a lot of Māori from tertiary education. Regardless of how supportive any family is, not everyone wins in monopoly. Not every whānau wants to operate in this pushy Chinese style you speak of. Not all Chinese do. Don’t be racist.

Yes, I love reading too. So do my Māori children. So does their kura.

Pre-European Maori culture was simple and no blame is attached. But I think it is when this too basic societal model is applied in the 21st century.

FTS – Ok, now you are just sounding outright crazy. It’s not like my partner and daughters have just stepped out of a cave wielding kotiate or anything….because this is what I hear. Guess what, all cultures evolve – and the picture you paint of pre-colonial Aotearoa is untrue. Anne Salmond illustrates this beautifully. Guess what, the European colonisers of Aotearoa have really out done everyone else throughout history (an continue to do so) in the violent, black and white, good vs bad, uncivilised vs civilised approach to solving issues. War war, everywhere.

Everyone had a Jake as a father, older brother, any number of uncles. Some were women.

FTS- Yes, it is ok for a woman to be called Jake, or to be a non-feminine woman, sure (I don’t think this is what you meant though, but I like to think it is). Everyone had Jake as a Dad? Again, you’ve overstepped the mark. This is just not true. Maybe you did, and we are sorry for that. That was not ok. It sucks.

And finally:

And someone has to point out that cultural activities do not get them a job or a mortgage.

FTS – Again, lies. Heaps of people make a living in the arts. Heaps of Māori do. They are awesome at it. Isn’t this what you meant in your remarks about haka earlier? Now I am confused. Also, YOU WRITE BOOKS AND MAKE FILMS FOR A LIVING…….these are cultural activities and THESE ARE YOUR JOBS. Or am I missing something?

And who wants a mortgage anyway (ha ha ha, rolling around in maniacal laughter, because – who buys a house these days?!?…..cue housing crisis conversation). Please refer back to how not everyone can win monopoly – capitalism and neo-liberalism is actually killing the planet. I’ll have more singing, dancing and visual arts in my life any day. Not everyone is in it for a 9-5 office job and not all Māori are deeply involved in whatever it is you are reducing to and relegating as ‘cultural activities’. Or if they do work 9-5, sweet as. Good for them, not your place to judge.

And actually, these cultural activities that I think you are referring to are intrinsic to being Māori . The problem is, that people like you come along – and say that violence against women and children is somehow intrinsic to being Māori – and that crucial elements like the ‘arts’ (ie things that are part and parcel of operating in Te Ao Māori) are a waste of time for Māori. How wrong you are.

To me, herein lies the solution.

Bubba Moko: A victim of patriarchal violence

Yesterday, hundreds of people took to the streets of Aotearoa New Zealand – crying for change, calling for action. They respectfully demanded attention for the 200 plus children that have been killed in this country in the past two decades alone. All at the hands of caregivers who should have been nurturing them.

In August 2015, Moko Rangitoheriri was killed by two adults who were entrusted with his care. He was just 3 at the time of his torturous death. His killers: Tania Shailer and David Haerewa, were 26 and 43 respectively. Shame, shame, shame. Debate surrounds their convictions of manslaughter. It is hard to imagine they did not murder him. They are parents of young children too, they egged each other on as if it were sport. It was calculated.

Regardless of what we call it, their actions and the outcomes. Their own back stories need to be understood. In most cases, those who kill children, have suffered immensely in their own lives. I do not mean to diminish Shailer and Haerewa’s actions in the slightest. But we must not disregard their lives if we are to prevent further abuses of children under our watch.

We are not yet managing to stop the cycles of violence against women and children. The Haerewa whānau are a case in point. David’s uncle, Ben Haerewa, killed his step-son: 4-year-old James Whakaruru, in 1998. At that time, the Whakaruru whānau had come to the attention of care and protection services 6 times, the Haerewa whānau – 13 times! In 2010, David’s brother John was sentenced to 17 years for the murder of a Wellington woman. Although it does happens occasionally, it is rare for this sort of violence to come out of the blue. The webs of violence go a long way back, and are intricately connected to some of the most powerful forces in our society: Patriarchy, poverty and institutionalised racism. Right now, I want to draw your attention to the connection between our violent society and patriarchy now.

I define patriarchy in the following way:

Patriarchy describes male-dominated power structures, which permeate throughout organised society, in political systems as well as in individual relationships. It is systemic bias against women and non cis-male people. Patriarchy can be recognised as the intuitions and companies that are run in the majority by men that mostly benefit men; where taking maternity leave or breastfeeding a baby at work is a problem; where being a transsexual makes using the toilets an issue. Patriarchy is also a family group or community controlled by powerful men – fathers and grandfathers who give more privilege to boys and men in that group. Patriarchy is a world that benefits cis-men over everyone else.

Among those marching yesterday was Vic Tamati. He is a courageous and committed man. He is insistent that violence needs to stop with the perpetrator, and knows that they cannot do it alone – that community support must surround them. He also recognises that all to often, it is men committing the violence, largely against women and children. He continues to dedicated a large chunk of his adult life to turning the tide around for his own whānau, and also supports others to do the same.

We need more Vics’ out there. More men seeing the sexism at play in their actions. More men understanding that mens’ violence against women and children is structural in its roots and that the buck stops somewhere, somehow.  More men seeing that this sexist-violence is everywhere. Enough of women picking up the pieces.

Although Moko’s face is another beautiful brown one, this is everyone’s problem, our collective responsibility. Our Pākehā whānau are just as prone, just as guilty.We have our mainstream media to blame for skewing the view and hiding the realities we face.

We see the faces of Māori and other non-Pākehā in the news more, because that makes it so much easier for a huge swathe of society to wash its hands – unsurprising, the large group that is comprised of white men who weld the most power in this country. The section that does not want to admit that violence is perpetrated by all ilks, and that we are all part of the solution. All lives are affected by men’s violence somewhere along the line.

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We all know that Moko was killed by a woman and a man. We also know that David was released from prison weeks before Moko’s death, and that his relationship with Tania was a violent one. We know too, that many children, who experience abuse like Moko did, do so at the hands of their mothers’ partners.

These partners and step-‘fathers’ are not only violent to the children, but to their mothers. These are men who silence mothers, preventing them from seeking help, these are men who seek control and power in the abuse of those they should care for.

We have men’s violence in these epic proportions because we are a patriarchal society. We tell our men that they have the power, that they have the control – and this is what we get. We let our little boys push girls around because “this is how they show they like you” and after all, “boys will be boys”. We encourage our teenage boys to play hours of violent video games while we cook dinner, where they can hire and run over prostitutes for points. We let groups of young men off the hook for drugging and gang-raping underage children. We don’t let little boys cry when they get their immunisations, and we admonish any other signs of less-than masculine behaviour on a daily basis. Because, an unmanly man will have no control, and therefore no power. This is what we are saying.

I plead with readers to look beyond the latest headline. To ask ‘WHY did they do that?’, ‘What got them to that place in their lives’ ‘Why are these men so angry?!’ ‘Why can’t they communicate in non-violent ways?’

And most importantly, ‘What should have been done differently’. The reports of Moko’s death are harrowing and should keep anyone up at night. However, while lying there awake at night, think about how our society is structured as well.

Why are our men killing us they way they are? Why are our women and children not safe in the streets and in their own homes? Our media needs to be asking the same questions. They are our mouth pieces whether we like it or not. They must weave the threads of patriarchy, poverty and racism into their reporting as well as the horrific details. We get nowhere otherwise, all we do is deflect and protect the privilege that men hold in society.

And why we are all pondering, flick $5 to the Women’s Refuge, while finding out more about our patriarchal society:

FREERANGE VOL. 10: FEMINISM AND TECHNOLOGY WOR(L)DS – Digital Fundraiser

 

 

Come on, be more like us!

Language subtly, and often unconsciously, perpetuates the status quo. It reinforces power structures. The words we choose can expose our underlying value systems, beliefs and assumptions. Listening to Radio New Zealand this time last week, I heard a cracker: a very exposing choice of words indeed. To me, it exemplifies how White-New Zealand positions itself as the norm, daily.

Now, before we get into examining the cracker, rewind a bit, to understand the backdrop. Who could have failed to notice the Mayor of New Plymouth last week – Andrew Judd. I hope everyone in Aotearoa has.  Andrew, you are truly a lightbeamer.

In my last post, I’m not in your shitty Club, I’m a lightbeamer, I discuss the awkward moment when you decide whether or not to call someone out for their shitty behaviour. Kia ora Andrew for using your platform of power and privilege for others, by calling out not only the racism around you, but in your own life.

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Andrew Judd

For anyone who hasn’t noticed him: Judd announced he will not stand again for re-election in New Plymouth’s mayoralty as a direct result of the abuses he has suffered at the hands of fizzing (spitting, Nazi-attired, name calling, ranty-letter writing) racists. All because of supporting Māori in his district. This last sentence sums it up. Māori constituents in his district. ie, the people for whom he is a mayor, people who may have voted for him, people who’s taxes pay his way. People who are people. You know, the ones who get representation in local body government. He understands that being a mayor means – being everyone’s mayor. Listening to, and attending to the needs of all. Lightbulb moment.

Thanks for reading on, back to the cracker you’ve been waiting for. On Tuesday May 10th, minutes before Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint asked if we are a racist country,  Mike Williams (former Labour Party President) sat on Jim Mora’s RNZ afternoon panel, to discuss among other things,  Māori seats in government. Renown for its dearth of colour and lack of gender diversity, the panel perspective was never going to be broad. This discussion was in relation to Judd’s New Plymouth experience.

Later, during Checkpoint, John Campbell could have answered his own question with Mike’s comment.

Because, Mike said:

“I am in actually in favour of the Māori electorates for rather an odd reason, I think they have proven a great safety valve, and, when we’ve had near revolutionary situations over the foreshore and seabed act, all of that explosive force has gone into politics, but I’d also say that Māori are only slowly integrating into our political system. You have a look at the Māori seats and the average turn out in the general seats which are predominately European, is pushing 80% in the Māori electorates it’s just 50%, so I think the fate is very largely in their own hands.”

Ok – great you are in favour, but um, a few things…. Lets break it down.

  1. ‘our political system’? The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi and the subsequent 1952 New Zealand Constitution Act which paved the way for Representative Government – was supposed to be all about two peoples coming together. So, who do you mean Mike, when you say ‘our’ political system. You’ve excluded Māori already in your comment…. But, I guess White-New Zealand often say ‘our’ in the sense that the political system has always been set up to serve their/our purposes. Yay for us! A good start.
  2. ‘slowly integrating’. Hmm. I didn’t realise this was still the aim. That Māori are some how ‘over there’ and we are ‘here’ – wherever here and there are.  And that they need to come over and blend in more. Policies of  assimilation are more of a 1930s kind of a thing, Mike.
  3. ‘near revolutionary situations’  So, the only way to rein em’ in is with a few representative seats? Keep em’ quite, keep em’ happy kind of thing? I prefer revolution myself.
  4. ‘fate is very largely in their own hands’ -pull up your socks now Tāngata Māori! Dust your hands off Pāhekā. As if the deal Māori get has got nothing to do with the political system and social structures?!….made by and large for White-New Zealand. Face palm.

Sorry to pick on you, Mike – but you provided such good fodder. I don’t mean to make so many presumptions about you either. I don’t know your whakapapa. I’m Pāhekā by the way. But whoever you are, your words certainly came across a certain way:

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We are all one. Come on, be more like us!

Now back to Andrew: Every group of people have different needs. Judd recognised this and worked with it. He understands that equality only comes of equity. He has learned a lot, he has changed. Bravo. Perhaps his fizzing mates (and Mike Williams) could do with a language lesson in order to get them on board. Pictures always help me learn, so here is an image I REALLY like. It explains equity far better than I ever could with words.

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I think the most important thing to note from the Judd saga is that we have a long way to go. That there are some extremely icky pockets of hatred and fear in our society, which are perpetuated by off the cuff, casual comments like Mike Williams’ – I understand it was a brief conversation on the panel, but it was telling. For non-Māori, this requires a deep inner-reflection. Andrew has done this already. Many of us Pākehā and Tau iwi (go look it up) can relate to the following. I relate in a slightly different way, which I’ll elaborate on after Andrew:

There was a silly routine as kids when, if you touched somebody that you thought had maggots, you’d run around and touch someone else and say: “I’m fans.” Meaning, I’m free of the maggots. Then they’d have to touch someone else to get rid of the maggots. And I distinctly remember doing that to a little Māori girl at school. And I think back now: “How horribly, horribly cruel. How hard that must have been for that little girl.”

Yet we thought that game was fun. I reflect on those times now and I can see that’s definitely where it all started. And, from that point on, it gets reinforced by never having to engage — and never having to see the consequence of those actions. Never knowing how that would have affected her in her life.

Kia ora anō E-Tangata, see here for Andrew’s full interview.

And, here is my contribution: I have a memory of myself as a 9-year-old in 1994, which shows the power of language yet again. Imagine a suburban Christchurch school. To assist your mental picture, I recall only 1 or 2 visibly Māori whānau and 1 Chinese child during my time at school. Oh, the diversity.

It was a rainy day, we were all making a fantastic mess of the class before the teacher had even finished her morning coffee. We were running around shouting ‘if your feet touch the floor you are a lesbian’. Oh dang, no one wanted to be a lesbian (never-mind none of us knew what the word meant), so there we were, a bunch of 9-year-olds desperately looking for a chair or desk to jump up on. Heaven forbid we were pulled down into the murky depths of the lesbian floor of Room 8.  free-fiction-book-new-fiction-d88f9a

As Andrew said this stuff has consequences. We were only 9, but one of us heard ‘lesbian’ said in a negative light somewhere by someone.  Adults: watch your language.

Not long after this, the mother of a kid in my class came out as lesbian – they are still our close family friends. I now understood the word, and felt a massive shame at my activity a week or so earlier. I hoped like hell that the outburst of jumping on chairs had nothing to do with my family friend’s reality. I’m sure he knows.

The ripples of ‘maggots’ and ‘lesbian engulfing carpets’ have far-reaching effects. This is where it all begins. The sidelining, the slandering, the oppression of people who are not you. The embedding of attitudes that kids carry into adulthood. Into spheres where they have real power to affect change for good or bad.

It is us adults who are responsible for change in societal attitudes. Responsible in seeing that our children do not grow up with the same prejudices we did. So, Mike Williams, be careful with your language.

Now, one last thing before I go. I have a fairly big bone to pick (surprise, surprise) with the way this news story has played out. Because it has all been said before. Many, many times before. That New Zealand has problems with racism, to the tune of thousands marching in our streets during the 1975 Māori Land Rights hīkoi for example, and all the other times anyone but a Pāhekā has stood up and has said something ain’t right! I won’t bore you with a list. We all know Aotearoa has a long history of grass-roots protest movements. Especially when it comes to colonisation and it’s disproportionately negative effects on Māori.

So why are we only asking now,  “Does NZ have a problem with anti-Māori racism?” It would seem that we need things whitesplained to us. Or at least the fabled ‘middle Zealand’ do.

Why is it that other people in Judd’s immediate rohe (go look it up) can stand up time again time again and not be heard enough? Parihaka are just next door and Eva Rickard was in Raglan a few hundred kilometers north. Yes, these Māori were heard to an extent over the course of a century – there have been some policy and attitudinal changes. Still, there is great need for a much more seismic shift. More listening to the voices that must be heard. Allowing them to dictate the work to be done in order to make changes. Step down from the pedestal White-New Zealand. Let us move on from ‘consultation at the table’. It is time to realise WE are sitting at their tēpu, and no one really invited us. Ouch. I’ve said enough. The Non-Plastic Māori lays it down real good and proper here.

 

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I’m not in your shitty club. I’m a lightbeamer.

It has happened yet again. That moment, not long after an ‘incident’ of some kind – a disagreement due to some form of bigotry or prejudice, and you are running an alternative script in your head. In this script, you don’t hold back, you tell it how it is. Regardless of who you are addressing – your boss,  your father in law, the lady next to you in a bank queue, an ex you bumped into. You are forthright, you lay it down, you are uncompromising. There is a shining light that beams right out of your body (perhaps from your mouth, or forehead, or chest – I’m not sure which is best). Everyone around you has to shelter their eyes while taking a step back. You are truly awesome.  This, of course, is what you will do next time. And there is always a next time.

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My last next time was this: My band was playing a small private gig. An extended family birthday kind of a thing. For all intents and purposes it was a lovely afternoon. We played, we ate cake, we got paid. But before all the singing, eating and paying, we were setting up and pottering around. This is when it happened. A few of us were talking to the host, who had been back in New Zealand for a year after 20 years in Australia. Understandably she was shocked by several things. Our dismal pay rates, lack of range in supermarkets, expensive organics and inefficient transport systems. Yes yes, I understand, I agree, I concur. Nod nod nod.

Then, she got started on her daughters new school. She was shocked about the “mumble mumble something completely unintelligible” the kids are being taught these days in our schools. By gee, things have changed since my day. Changed for the worst.”

I had to really strain to understand what she had just complained about.  Then the penny dropped. She had horribly pronounced a few words in Te Reo, so much so, it was utterly impossible for me to understand on first hearing.

Oh dear. My heart dropped. I suddenly wanted to leave. To disappear. There was silence as she waited for more nodding, more agreement from our camp. It did not come. Someone else changed the subject and off they all went again, this time without me. In these situations I have an intense physical response. I feel suddenly unsafe, my ears ring a little, I get flushed and my tummy goes weird. I also often go completely silent. Especially if I am in a professional setting, or feel like I’m going to ‘ruin “it” for everyone else’.

I feel like this.

She was aghast at all the Māui stuff they are teaching kids these days. “They aren’t even teaching kids about James Cook.

I replayed this scene in my head on the long drive home, and again as I told several other people, including my Māori partner, who is the Māori father to our Māori children. In my alternative script it goes something like this:

“mumble mumble something completely unintelligible…all the Māui stuff they are teaching kids these days. They aren’t even teaching kids about James Cook, I mean it is just a joke – as if everyone wants to learn about the Māui/Māori* stuff. We shouldn’t have it shoved down our throats”…….*I couldn’t tell the difference between these two words when she was saying them

Lightbeaming self says  – “Do you mean that you are offended by the minuscule, largely inaccurate, and badly taught Māori content in most of our mainstream schools?  I’m a teacher, and a mother to Māori tamariki, heck, I know what you mean! Wouldn’t it be good to see more in depth critical learning about the whole James Cook thing. You know, all the surveying and occupying, the shootin’ and lootin’. The Treaty, the two versions – which are different, and how we only use the English one in law now, and only when the Government wants to. And how all that land was stolen from Tāngata whenua by force, all the dispossession, the dislocation. But more importantly, how badass, intelligent, diverse, robust, and hardworking Māori are. How they have got through all this colonisation with dignity and strength. How they are still here. How Moriori are a real people, who DIDN’T DIE OUT. How THEY are my own partner, how THEY are my children.

 

Remember: There is a shining light that beams right out of your body. Everyone around you has to shelter their eyes while taking a step back. You are truly awesome. YOU ARE TRULY AWESOME.

 

Oh, that isn’t what you meant?!

Well, what about how despite them being targets of bigoted racists like you everyday, they continue to shine and thrive. My kids are really amazing. Just like yours.

Huh, huh??!!

And then there is smoke, and dust and more bright lights.

And also an internal dialogue of how I could have been much more calm, could have used some good statistics and quoted some amazing writers and their research. Or how I could have just started speaking Te Reo back at her to really throw the situation.

I mean really. These situations are a dime a dozen right? Someone suddenly lets out a really offensive ripper, whether it be homophobic, racist, ageist – then they wait for the cue which tells them you are in their club. Their shitty, shitty club. Then they feel safe, because you are one of ‘us’ and not ‘them’. “We are us and they are them”.

Boring. Not true. Othering sucks, and we can stop it.

I beat myself up reasonably often for not being ‘lightbeaming self ‘. I imagine many of you feel the same. Imagine us, beaming around the place – laying it down. But I think we can also all take comfort in not ‘being in the (shitty) club’ too. Not nodding along. Stopping our umms and our ahhs. And just letting that awkward silence simmer. That can be effective too. Just don’t join to the club. And sometimes, when you can –  let those light beams blind em!

 

 

Broads-casting Beats

There has been a lot of discussion lately in the New Zealand press, entertainment and social media worlds, about the rampant and insidious sexism and misogyny in our music industry. I would like to pay particular thanks to Alex Casey and Duncan Greive of the Spinoff right now. Not only have they been doing a stellar job of supporting many women in exposing the revolting predatory and illegal behaviour of Andrew Tidball (Cheese on Toast) –  at the extreme end of the spectrum – but also in providing a platform for women in the scene to tell it how it is for them in the industry in a much more mundane day-to-day kind of a way. This was all so familiar, Emily Edrosa.

Just as in any other sector of society, any corner of our many cultures or our own complicated personal relationships, in any work place or sphere of life at all. Sexism is at play.

I’ve got a lot to say on this topic and am so grateful that music and sexism has become a common topic of conversation around the traps lately. It hasn’t always been my best conversation starter. But some people are cooler than others, and these two are particularly outstanding – and were willing to talk to me.

So, here is a piece I put together in 2015. Hard times and adversity aside, there is so much goodness in the music industry, a lot of it from many industrious women. I want everyone to know how much harder women often have to work in order to achieve what they want. Let us all take a trip in these women’s shoes, and take a moment to ask ourselves ‘where are all the women in the scene?’ and ‘why’? ‘Should there not be more of them’?

Women and non-cis men are people, and they make music. Simple right? Hmm, not always. Please, enjoy this conversation as I did. There are some gems in it.

Melody Thomas and Estère Dalton talk with Flip That Script

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Melody Thomas

(this interview originally appeared in ‘Freerange Vol.10: Feminism and Technology Wor(l)ds, July 2015  – get that article and the whole journal for free at Freerange Press)

Melody Thomas, Radio New Zealand broadcaster and journalist, met with producer and singer Estère Dalton and myself, a songwriter, writer and feminist, on a sunny, still autumn morning. As we converged in a Newtown kitchen from different corners of Wellington city, conversation quickly turned to the music industry. Melody recounts an article about Björk we’ve both recently read, detailing Björk’s constant battle to be recognised as the producer of her own music in the male-dominated industry. One question that she is commonly confronted with – ‘Who produces your music?’ – instantly reinforces gender stereotypes and downplays her abilities. Estère understands – she deals with the same assumptions about her music.

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Estère Dalton

 

Flip That Script – What does feminism mean to you and what place does it have in your life?

Estère – To me it means equality of opportunity and respect.

Melody – It’s exactly the same for me. In my life, that practice is mostly to do with my daughter, raising her so that she is aware of those things.

FTS to M – What place do you see feminism holding in your professional life as a broadcaster and journalist.

M – Having a feminist base gives me a lot of courage when asking for what I want, not holding back and believing that I can do those things. Within the organisation at Radio New Zealand there are a few really inspiring women, and I get a real buzz knowing these women are there if I need them, to reach out and ask advice.

FTS – Research shows all the areas that wrap around music, broadcasting, media and publicity are horizontally and vertically segregated. Vertically you will see the powerful structures at the top dominated by men, down to the cleaners of organisations who are most likely to be women. Horizontally men and women congregate together in gendered areas, such as women more often being publicists, the pretty voice and face of organisations.

M – That’s interesting because one of the first things we were taught from the beginning at broadcasting school, when we are learning how to speak on radio, is that people find women’s vocal frequencies agitating to the ear – we are taught to lower our voices!

E – In respected news media, there is a common tendency with presenters for an equal ratio of men and women. I don’t know about behind the scenes.

M – Television is different though isn’t it, because all those women are really good looking, a nice conventionally attractive face, nothing too abrasive so you just soak up what they are saying.

E – You could say that about the men too, except for the older guys.

M – I don’t know – we were watching the news the other day and a particularly ‘interesting’-looking male New Zealand reporter came on, and it occurred to me that if he were a woman he might not be given the platform he has been. I also remember reading about a male news presenter last year, who wore the same cheap suit everyday as a test, because his female partner got letters daily about what she was wearing, mostly being criticised. It was a year before anyone noticed.

FTS – Estère, do you see feminism playing out in you life?

E – Definitely when it comes to being represented as a musician or producer as opposed to just a singer. That is something that I am very aware of and put a lot of emphasis on, or else I feel it will get washed away (being a producer). There are just so many more men sitting in their bedrooms, making music.

M – We have a friend staying from England, and I showed him your video last night, he said it was so cool to see girls play instruments.

E – It is so cool

M – Yeah, but I wish it wasn’t like that, ‘Wow look at that woman playing the guitar’.

E – Like seeing Sheep Dog Wolf play yesterday, and the female bass player, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

M – And a girl on a horn as well . . . fuck, I wish it wasn’t like that.

E – And there are gendered instruments – you’re more likely to see a girl on horn instruments. I would say that saxophone is middle ground.

FTS – When people talk about women playing instruments, it’s mentioned: ‘the female drummer’ and so on. On the one hand it’s good to draw attention to women playing, but should it even have to be mentioned?

M – It would be nice if we lived in a world where it didn’t have to be mentioned. But for the 10-year-old girl, I think it should be said.

E – Yes it needs to be emphasised. It would lead to more active movement towards the end goal if it is talked about and highlighted.

FTS – If you are in a band of female players, a ‘girl band’, and labelled as such, how would you feel Estère?

E – It depends on the capacity. If it was just a girl band because of having only women in it, then that is stupid – guys wouldn’t get that label. Only if there are five singers out the front, like with boy bands. Only if it is equal.

M – It’s interesting though, because it’s a great marketing tool, like you were saying in your TED talk that while the female musician thing really grates you, it’s also given you opportunities, a selling point, people want you in their magazine.

FTS – What do you say to the rise of home recording, and demystification of the recording process, meaning that women now have greater access to creating music without having to rely on boys clubs in studios? Could this be interpreted as being ‘re-segregated’ into a lower status of music production rather than being assimilated into the recording industry?

E – The world is much more open and easier to explore, so I don’t think the home studio is any less…

M – I think the rise of home recording has demystified the recording process for men and women alike, and that anyone who sees home-recorded music as lower status is trying to hold onto an old model that is increasingly redundant. If it sounds good, what’s the difference?

E – My question is how do men get to that position where they are sitting in the engineer’s studio producing music for other people? Because I want to do that! I think that studio production is seen as a more polished way of doing it, but it’s becoming more and more redundant.

M – With his first Unknown Mortal Orchestra album I’m pretty sure Ruban Nielson recorded a lot of his vocals at home into a dictaphone, and his second was all in a home studio too. Flying Lotus does it all in his home, although with heaps of flash gear.

E – But there are no female producers with his (Flying Lotus) status at that level. There are definitely more male beatmakers and producers out there. I think this is due to a lack of role models – women don’t really associate themselves as much with the beats/producer culture in comparison to their male counterparts. That being said, there are still some girls out there representing.

FTS –What is your experience of collaborating with others, finding people to work with?

M – I’m lucky with Music 101, we are mostly women. But interestingly, I sometimes feel very much like I am the only one looking out for myself, like there is this unnecessary competition. And I’m guilty of it! Another producer came on-board recently and I caught myself diminishing her and her work, and actively had to stop myself. It’s almost as if you feel like there are only so many places for women in the industry and you don’t want to give yours up. What a sad state of affairs that is! I’d be curious to know if men feel like they have to protect their place.

E – Good point, I’d say the same for me.

FTS to E – If there are three bands in a gig, and only one woman in the mix, she will stick out more, and get more relative criticism. Do you feel you have to work harder to get to where you are, because you are so visible as a beatmaker?

E – People are surprised by my beats, impressed by the beats. I really like making beats and I’m confident. I have very clear musical vision and I don’t really care what anyone else thinks in terms of that capacity. You need to hold on to that, you can be affected by things about musicianship, being a female. When I hang around with heaps of boys that went to jazz school, cause I don’t know any theory, I just retain my faith in my own musical abilities. I know what I like. I’m not going to let insecurity compromise that.

M – I am going to start working with a new presenter soon, a man who has years of experience, and I feel like I’m in way over my head but I’m just going ahead with it anyway hoping that I’ll pass the test.

E – I don’t think that guys feel like this too, none of this ‘I don’t know what I am going to do, or doing’.

FTS – Do you think that women are more uncertain . . . second-guess themselves?

E – It’s constructed that they would. Not only is it a reality they are given far fewer role models and are less encouraged, girls and boys are brought up in gender constructs, like going out and playing trucks and climbing trees. Females are encouraged to be analytical. I don’t think that same culture exists around men. Stopping themselves and starting again.

M – I’ve read somewhere that women are less likely to do something they don’t think they’ll succeed at, to even try.

FTS – What were you both interested in and encouraged to do as children?

M – I was interested in writing and music, I wrote stories all the time and played around on whatever instrument I could get my hands on (though we never had any at home). A big part of my confidence comes from growing up on a farm with a really ungendered upbringing. I don’t even remember feeling like a girl as a child. Jumping in rivers and rescuing lambs!

E – I liked to read and to make things, like sculptures out of old flower stems. I liked singing.

And with visions of Estère and Melody as lamb-rescuing, countryside-wandering flower sculptors, our interesting conversation abruptly comes to an end. My baby has woken from her nap. Her cries and our coos intermingle on my Garageband interview as chatter turns from the music industry to a cute baby.