When Allison Roe won the New York City Marathon in 1981, she landed a double blow for New Zealand feminism.
First, she crossed the line in the world's best women's marathon time of 2 hours 25 minutes and 29 seconds. Second, a huge photo of her magnificent stride displaced the traditional page 3 girl in the high- circulating Sunday News.
Page 3 girls were the ultimate in media soft porn, often full-page photos naked from the waist up, characterised by ridiculous captions suggesting the models were sunbathing at Mission Bay. In fact, the photos were imported from the UK in batches of 20 courtesy of a clipping arrangement with one of Rupert Murdoch's other tabloids, the Sun.
As the first female to edit a major newspaper in Australasia, I couldn't live with the sexism of page 3.
I was told by management that if I removed a tradition apparently much beloved by Kiwi men and circulation dropped, my editorship would be brief. For the record, circulation went up, helped by the rallying of women's groups in Auckland, some of whom bought the paper for the first time in support.
Sport and feminism, though, continue to be troubling aspects of New Zealand's media landscape. Recently the Black Ferns triumphed over the Wallaroos courtesy of three tries by exuberant captain Fiao'o Faamausili in a transtasman trailblazer. An opportunity for informed female rugby television commentators, perhaps? No, while we had Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Goss as guest commentator, two male sports personalities dominated the microphones. This was another missed opportunity to showcase women's voice in women's sport. Wouldn't it have been fantastic if former Black Ferns Farah Palmer and Louisa Wall had joined Sarah in the press box and on the sideline?
While much has changed in the media in the 125 years since women's suffrage which we should and can applaud, too much is depressingly the same. Too few women judge major media awards. Too few women win major media awards especially in sports reporting, with the exception of former Herald journalist Dana Johannsen, whose coverage of women's sports issues remains unrivalled. Too few women are editors, managers or directors of media companies, both in the private and public sector. This is despite the feminisation of journalism as a profession and the prevalence of female bloggers and their unceasing social media activism.
And what about equal pay, a topic critical to women's economic wellbeing and social status? Earlier this year, New Zealand Rugby was shamed into offering 30 of the country's best female 15-a-side players better pay. It was hailed by the media as a "historic agreement" between the union and the players' association. Historic? Yes. Pathetic? Yes, as even the odd male commentator was moved to note. The offer is barely the Living Wage (annualised at $42,744) and is more than 10 times less than what All Blacks captain Kieran Read earns.
Suffrage Day is a time to celebrate gains for women everywhere including in sport and the media. But let's not forget how far we have yet to run.