Rachel Stewart won the Opinion Writer of the Year award at the 2016 Canon Media Awards and has recently joined the Herald.

The upshot of being a falconer is that I have an emotional connection to predators.
Birds of prey kill for their dinner. Rabbit, duck, rat, or even rattlesnake. Whatever it takes to survive another day. It's a very honest business.

I'm not fond of the "Predator-Free New Zealand" label because I know full well that it was a lazy attempt at naming, resulting in what sounds like a bias towards ALL predators.

The New Zealand falcon (karearea), harrier hawk, morepork, shark, orca, trout, stoats, weasels, ferrets, possums, cats, and longfin eels are a mishmash of both native and introduced (by dumb humans) species. None are any 'better' than the other. Humans have successfully leveled that particular moral playing field.


My idea of connection to the world is hanging out with predators: running a hand along an underwater shelf to find a longfin eel in Aotearoa, or tapping on an American red desert rock to get a rattler rattling so I know where it is, rather than surprising it as I pass.

Not because I want to hurt them, or do anything other than marvel or joyously expand my heart at their existence. I am not scared, not squeamish, not made squirmy by any of it. It makes me feel tingly and alive.

I've faced bad-tempered hawks on my arm, one random bear, all manner of reptiles, snorting bulls and seriously pissed off roaring stags in my time. Yet there is no other predator more concerning to me, or more dangerous, than the human male.

I've learned over the years, like almost every woman, to act like men are not concerning, not worrying, not even remotely scary.

In my case, I've unwittingly added fuel to the fire by (sexually) desiring a woman over any man. Anyone who tells you that this is not a majorly rebellious act, even in this so-called enlightened age of marriage equality, is dreaming.

Every woman I know, and probably every woman you know too, is grappling with the turbo-charged misogyny all around us of late.

Colin Craig's unctuous interest and actions toward his press secretary, New Zealand rugby's clumsy handling of the Chief's stripper debacle and, the crème de la crème, Trump's fetish for grabbing - shall we say - felines. It's not just the acts themselves, and the endless news cycles about them, but more the frenetic, furious and analytical commentary afterwards.

In my case, I've unwittingly added fuel to the fire by (sexually) desiring a woman over any man. Anyone who tells you that this is not a majorly rebellious act, even in this so-called enlightened age of marriage equality, is dreaming.

Don't get me wrong, these discussions are ultimately a good thing. They air out cupboards, blow out cobwebs, and show every woman on the planet that it's not just her own closet that harbours a skeleton or two.


They can, however, trigger an array of emotions for many women that they find deeply challenging. The interminable roll call of men's deeds; the bungling, the disrespect, the ownership many males feel towards female bodies. All of it, ALL OF IT, does something to us deep inside.

It's unspeakable precisely because if we do speak of it we quickly get hammered back in line once again. Society doesn't tend to readily accept us having strong views on how men can make us feel so bad. It doesn't fit the homogeneous narrative.

For me, all of this day in and day out misogyny, leads me to a place of righteous anger. I mean, you're reading a columnist right now who has had numerous rape and death threats merely for expressing an opinion. I totally comprehend the degree of hatred some men have for women. I get it.

Watching Trump, for example, stalking Hillary Clinton around the stage and standing close behind her in the second debate made me want an American bald eagle to grab his pudgy orange face. We know they don't like him either.

I'm pretty sure my wrath about bullies comes from being bullied by an older male sibling. Let's just say that he seemed to deeply enjoy inflicting physical pain on his little sister.

Consequently, as a grown woman I have a natural talent for spotting bullies at 10,000 paces. I have no tolerance for it. I stand up to them, call them out on it, and, from time to time, make my own life a living hell for doing so. Oh, well.

Most women aren't quite as adept as me at channeling anger. Right now, what I'm seeing is a rising tide of women in emotional pain, often manifesting as depression.

Trump and his "locker room" ilk have been brilliant at reminding us how some men still actually view us. As pieces of meat, only good for quick sex in a public toilet, constantly desirous of the male gaze and grope.

Before I hear you shriek "not ALL men", how about you good guys start calling out the bad guys, as well as sexual predators. Because you know who they are.