Rebecca Kamm

Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: Kiwi men talk feminism

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In the last of her four-part web series, Rebecca Kamm asks five New Zealand men to describe their relationship to feminism.

Jesse Mulligan of TV show Seven Sharp.
Jesse Mulligan of TV show Seven Sharp.

David Shearer: Labour Leader

For me, feminism has always been about fairness and equality. I believe absolutely in equality. Our society, our country and our economy are at their best and strongest when there is equality of opportunity and a fair go for all.

I know that from my work in conflict zones around the world that the best way to tackle poverty and inequality is to improve the position of women. That's why women's health and education programmes and micro-finance for women looking to start a business were always a priority.

New Zealand is of course rightfully proud it was the first country in the world to give women the vote. But our record on equal rights and opportunities is far from perfect. Just this week we learned that the gender pay gap has grown to as much as $20,000 in some industries. That should act as a wake-up call for anyone who thinks the battle for equality has been won.

From struggles in the workplace to domestic violence and the everyday sexism that still exists in parts of New Zealand society, there is still work to be done to deliver on feminism's promise of a more just, fair and equal society for both women and men.

Wallace Chapman: Host of Back Benches and Sunday Mornings Radio Live

I had somewhat of a shock introduction [to feminism] in the '80s when I went flatting with five women and said one day: "It'll be great flatting with you girls!" Next morning I had a pillowcase attached to my bedroom door that said: "WIMMIN, not girls!"

For many, "feminism" is a word and an idea that had its zenith in the '70s. But a cursory look at the news - with issues ranging from the gender pay gap to paid parental leave - and it's clear a 21st century-style feminism is needed.

Am I feminist? No. I support feminism, but I'm part of the patriarchy. I think it's patronising when guys refer to themselves as feminists.

For me the biggest issue is this - and it's one raised by Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg - if you don't have support from your partner with domestic duties, and the home side of life, your career will suffer. I always make sure I do my share of cooking and cleaning when my wife Tab is super busy. Helping out is still an issue lost on Kiwi guys.

Jesse Mulligan: Writer, comedian, Seven Sharp presenter

Am I a feminist? Not sure. I'm feminist-friendly, how's that? I get that women do it tougher, I'm keen to help if I can, and I understand that helping may occasionally require changing my own behaviour.

I believe women are uniquely qualified on the subject of being a woman, but I reserve the right to occasionally argue against the feminist consensus.

Take the university 'Babe of the Day' Facebook pages that feature male and female hotties on campus. Some feminists are outraged, but I don't think they need to be. It's okay to find the opposite sex physically attractive; and to find some more attractive than others. That's the way the world works: feminism only gets tiresome when it tells us off for being human.

Dominic Hoey (aka Tourettes): Poet, rapper, writer

I do call myself a feminist. I think anyone who believes in equality for both sexes is a feminist whether or not they use the title. In the early '90s when I first was introduced to gender politics it was really acceptable for men to call themselves feminists, but now even a lot of woman are reluctant to use the term.

I did a couple of Women's Studies papers at university. I got some strange looks on the first day, being one of only two men in the lecture theatre. But I would have liked to do a whole degree in it.

I've always felt the gender roles we're assigned aren't always in our best interests, and are almost totally constructed. There's a really limited scope of acceptable behavior and expression for men, and while its not as extreme as that which women face it still has a hugely negative effect on both individuals and society as a whole.

I believe these are feminists issues. Male privilege might benefit men on a superficial level but ultimately it represses both sexes.

Joel Tobeck: Actor

While some people, male and female, are still very threatened by strong, independent and successful women, I think the majority accepts that feminism is important. Though I'm convinced some people still think feminism and lesbianism are the same thing.

Am I a feminist? Interesting. I certainly believe that everyone is of equal value, and deserves a fair shot. I open doors for both males and females. That's a result of growing up with respectful and responsible male role models, too.

Unfortunately, out-dated thinking around equality is still part of our society. Still, in this day and age, I see men behaving like idiots around women. Especially in contexts like bars. I think its more about stupid macho-ism than anything else - it's embarrassing.

• Read part one in the series here.

• Read part two in the series here.

• Read part three in the series here.

Follow Rebecca Kamm on Twitter.

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