My life long reason for harping on? The position of women and their rights in the world. More recently, I have noticed how most younger women take what they can do for granted and don’t realise how recently some of their ‘rights’ have been ‘given’ to them. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote in 1893. This event is celebrated on 19 September each year and it is a good time to take stock of where women are in our society.
Many young women I’ve talked with think every woman has always been able to go to university, work full time, be a doctor, run a company, or own property.
Do they worry, I ask them, that female Rock and Pop artists still have to shake their bootie and let it all hang out to be a star? Their answer is that it is their choice, their way of showing strength and self empowerment. So why do the male artists not have to strip to be famous?
Recent news tells me we certainly haven’t ‘come a long way baby’. An English woman was bombarded with rape threats and other offensive abuse for campaigning to have a woman celebrated on a British banknote.
Whether you like a woman’s politics or not, female politicians are still vilified for so many reasons other than their political beliefs. Questions are asked such as why do they not have children, or if they have children, why aren’t they at home raising them? Female politicians can vilified for being too fat or thin, or a bad dresser.
I have yet to hear a male politician criticised about his ties, or whether his haircut befits a leader of the nation.
As Suffrage day is upon us again, I feel proud of the women who came before me and made my life better and proud of the things I have done in my life to increase awareness and make change, but I also feel frustrated by how much there is still to do and the stubbornness of our society to give half our population a fair and equitable deal in all things.
There are so many examples of New Zealand women fighting the good fight and living amazing lives. Here are some Christchurch connected stars who led the way:
- Elizabeth McCombs was the first woman to be elected as an MP, in 1933, when she won the Lyttelton seat.
- Elsie Locke was a prominent author and political activist, feminist and peace advocate
- Ettie Rout is most famous as a safe sex campaigner in World War 1, setting up a safe sex brothel and designing a safe sex kit which was officially adopted by the NZEF and handed out compulsorily to all soldiers going on leave.
- Kate Sheppard became the leader of the fight to win the right for women to vote in elections. She organised petitions to Parliament asking for the right to vote for women and persuaded Sir John Hall, a leading member of Parliament, to support them.
To call yourself a feminist still seems to mean you are seen as uptight, man hating and with no sense of humour, when in fact being a feminist just means you believe in every person in every society being given equal rights, and the ability to live the life they wish to, unfettered by prejudice or laws that hinder this.
Do you care about women’s rights, or do you think women have equal rights, and there is no more work to be done?