Breakfast host on The Hits, columnist for nzherald.co.nz Life & Style.

Polly Gillespie: What does the future hold for women?

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In a Dark Age there is no place for me, or women like me, says Polly.
In a Dark Age there is no place for me, or women like me, says Polly.

I'm not afraid. I am afraid. I'm not afraid. I am afraid.

We've always had a fairly sturdy freedom of speech here in New Zealand. It's not America where you can advocate the death penalty for looking sideways at a minor, or tout the glory of toting a gun around in your garter holster, or "open carrying" as they like to refer to it in Texas.

But we do have freedom to think out loud with little fear of reprisal, other than online bemoaning and venting? The world has turned and, whilst turning, tipped a little to the right.

Satirical writers and cartoonists are slaughtered in Paris for opinion and threats are made daily on writers and commentators who question religious lifestyles. How on earth does Salman Rushdie still walk the earth publicly? Good on him, but he must have friends in very dodgy but connected places.

Let's imagine that, as someone like writer Niall Fergusson suggests, the fall of Rome happened over one generation, not gradually as has been the populist theory over the last few decades.

Well then, we too in the free world could slip into a "Dark Ages" in a similar time frame.

In perhaps a decade we could be living in a world where women are forbidden to drive or be educated and men forced to declare allegiance to whatever. I have no religious leanings. I like to think I'm spiritual, and get enraged by evangelical atheists and angelical "evangelicals" alike, but I'm scared of falling into a Dark Ages.

I'm scared that while a lot of the world is ignoring international news channels like BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera via complacency and attrition, our world as we know it may change in a thousand days from now. In a Dark Age there is no place for me, or women like me. I express opinion as a broadcaster and writer. In a Dark Age I am a heretic who would absolutely need to be silenced.

I sat at my hairdressers talking to Kate about the state of the world. She's recently returned to New Zealand from London. We discussed all of this and started to get loudly impassioned about the rights of women globally. Somehow we wandered on to the topic of Joan of Arc and the strength of a teenage girl to lead a revolution (it's amazing her story hasn't been told and retold by Hollywood unlike dubious modern day legends such as Pablo Escobar).

If we fell into darkness (with thanks to Tolken for the reference) then perhaps it would be the women of the world who would have to rise up as a mass army to revolt. How else could it work? If women are compliant then how would we survive? This is a heads up girls. You might want to read up on Joan of Arc and the legendary and majorly underrated Maori warrior Whine.

Like the Navaho Indian women, Maori women often went into battle beside their men. Young women, mothers, and even older, silver-haired kuia fought and won battles. You might have to brace yourself for a revolution that would involve 52 per cent of the world's population. As women we might have to boldly and firmly rise up. Joan of Arc, although very famous, wasn't the first woman to rise up against oppression either. Although described as the "Vietnamese Joan of Arc," Triu Thi Trinh predated the French heroine by over 1200 years.

At the tender age of 20 Triu (a.k.a. Lady Triu) raised an army 1000 strong, and urged her fellow Vietnamese to rebel against the Chinese forces that desperately wanted to conquer their homeland in the third century.

Her brother tried to dissuade her from revolt, but Triu's response was as fearsome as she was on the battlefield. She replied, "I only want to ride the wind and walk the waves, slay the big whales of the Eastern sea, clean up frontiers, and save the people from drowning. Why should I imitate others, bow my head, stoop over and be a slave? Why resign myself to menial housework?"

Her brother joined her army.

Triu was my kind of gal. Whilst carrying two swords and wearing robes of brilliant gold, (not entirely brilliant camouflage) she rode a war-elephant. Another of her famous quotes that even inspires me today: "I'd like to ride storms, kill sharks in the open sea, drive out the aggressors, reconquer the country, undo the ties of serfdom, and never bend my back to be the concubine of whatever man." Other than the shark killing, I'm with you girlfriend!

Ah, perhaps I'm being preposterous or ever-so-slightly alarmist, but I do watch 24-hour news channels and I have fear. I also hope that, if needs be, I could at least "follow" a Joan or a Trieu. I'd also quite like a war elephant thanks.

I'm not afraid... but I am, and think perhaps I'm smart to be a tiny bit afraid.

- nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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Breakfast host on The Hits, columnist for nzherald.co.nz Life & Style.

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