COMMENT: That our Prime Minister guest-edited my column today on the occasion of 125 years of women's suffrage, signifies a number of important things. All of them good, and women know what they are. No explanation needed.
We can all be proud that New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote on September 19, 1893. It's a fact I liberally dole out when visiting other nations and, more often than not, one they've absolutely no idea about.
Americans invariably think they were first; Brits often think they were. But, no. It was their little bitty colony at the arse-end of the world taking the honours decades before either the Mother Country or Old Glory.
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But has being first in the vote stakes translated into New Zealand women winning at the life stakes?
And, look, believe me when I say that I want to say it's all looking peaches and cream for the womenfolk in 2018, and how the future's ours to take but, alas, the facts don't quite support such a grand delusion.
I mean, sure, we've had female PMs before — non-elected and elected — and Chief Justices and Governor-Generals. But that's not really the real world, is it? Sure, they make great role models, but if the 80s slogan "Girls Can Do Anything" were actually true then why, for example, have we yet to achieve pay equity?
Also, in the real world, Kiwi women are so eye-wateringly over-represented in the domestic violence statistics, we're near the top in the highest reported rate of family and intimate partner violence in the developed world.
Let's just have a dry-eyed look at those stats. Let them truly sink in.
• On average, police attend a family violence incident every five-and-a-half minutes.
• At least 80 per cent of family violence incidents are not reported to the police.
• Last year, police attended about 105,000 domestic violence incidents.
• If all incidents were reported, they would have attended at least 525,000 calls for help.
• Children are present at about 80 per cent of all violent incidents in the home.
• One in three women experience physical and/or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime.
I suspect if we could teleport the women of 1893 here today, they'd be horrified. Not because violence didn't happen in their day, but because they'd have dreamed that getting the vote could change the world.
And while the violence statistics are the extreme end of the misogynistic rubber meeting the road, it manifests in all kinds of other ways. I asked around my gal pals — from diverse backgrounds and ages — whether they thought women are destined to experience a better near-future in Aotearoa. Here's a selection of their responses.
"Well, the fact that women are still tiptoeing around men's egos tells me that things haven't changed all that much. If we want to make real progress in politics, business or even at home, we have to keep pandering to male's feelings."
"All these female leaders are awesome and all, but out on the mean streets women are still dealing with poverty, fear and violence. The majority of men still hold the power, the wealth and the land."
"I'm a feminist from way back, and watching the new wave of young feminists is disheartening. They'll have you believe that up is down, black is white, and transgender men are women just because they say they are. And if you don't agree with that view then you deserve to die a gruesome death — ironically enough, usually involving fire. Nope. I'll fight them in the trenches because that's not feminism. That's misogyny."
"I'm dismayed by the amount of young women not wanting to claim to be feminists. They appear to view 'feminist' as a dirty word. They see it as a pejorative. They have no real sense of history, or of what feminism has achieved for them. Like a white wedding is the peak of their aspirations."
"As you know, being female in the media means you're 16,000 times more likely to have feedback — if you can call it that — that's sexualised and/or violent. Such fun."
None of those views sound terribly uplifting, and fair enough. We've entered an age where the rise of the far right in the US and Europe means we're also likely to see a rise in openly endorsing such views, as is the circular nature of political wheels.
Maybe we'll have a couple of years' reprieve up our sleeve but it's coming. The signs are already noticeable, and an upsurge in the extreme left's embrace of identity politics is only speeding things up.
More than ever, women need to be united against hard-line patriarchy. I suspect we'll soon find out we've never been further apart.