- OPINION: Our editorial on the roles women play in New Zealand and our attitudes.
One of the many observations from the recent protest outside Parliament was the recurring thread of misogyny.
It has been a common and jarringly dreadful theme, not just during the terms of Jacinda Ardern's prime ministership but during those of our previous two women leaders as well.
Helen Clark was forced to explain why she hadn't had children. Dame Jenny Shipley endured sexism throughout her public career, being asked at one early stage by Robert Muldoon why she wasn't back on the farm, baking scones.
Not content with critiquing policies, outcomes, or lack thereof, many commentaries on social media and at demonstrations focused on these politicians being women.
It does appear women who put their heads above the parapet will be attacked for their gender, but also disproportionately so. Radio New Zealand once analysed more than 100 comments on its Facebook posts about a political series. It found there were two abusive comments about former Prime Minister Jim Bolger, one for Mike Moore and one for Sir Geoffrey Palmer. Dame Jenny copped more than 60.
As we know all too well, this sort of behaviour doesn't just latch on to prime ministers. Former NZ First MP Ron Mark was once censured for telling National MP Amy Adams to "settle petal", also in the House.
The attitude permeates all walks of New Zealand life. A study from the University of Auckland's School of Business last year examined the challenges women face when seeking new investors to expand their firms.
It found many women who had a male co-founder or business partner found that potential investors would direct their comments to the men, because they assumed the women weren't the decision-makers.
Many of us will roll our eyes and wonder at the sheer archaism on display. But that is not enough.
It has been almost 30 years since the Human Rights Act declared New Zealanders cannot be discriminated against because of gender. Despite this, sexism remains a part of most New Zealand women's daily lives.
It is not a case of shaking it off, an existence like this is harmful. A report in The Lancet in March 2020 found women who reported experiencing gender discrimination in the past 12 months scored more highly than others on a depression screening tool.
Discrimination can also result in anxiety and psychological trauma. A 2018 study found that women who experience discrimination at work are more likely to report ill physical health.
The World Health Organisation notes gender discrimination is a risk factor in gender-based violence. It's only words until someone wrapped their fingers around them to form a fist.
Depriving women of their potential, whether in business or in their personal lives, demeans all of us and makes us a lesser nation.
New Zealand has been proud to produce a number of firsts for women. Would that it had also been the first to truly respect their mana.
Once, these casual put-downs might have been dismissed as simply putting a person in their place. All women deserve to be respected in every place, every day.