Following on from July’s series of negative news stories demonstrating how far we have to go to achieve gender equality, NCWNZ asked several different member organisations and commentators for their take on events.
The YWCA’s contribution to the discussion is below, published in The Circular by NCWNZ, September 2016.
What did you think of the events last week/month?
The events last month remind us again of what a judgmental society we live in. There is so much victim blaming and the trials – horrible for the victim that you can see why some people just don’t do anything about it. We are so lenient on sports people.
It reflects the double standard and inherent order of a legacy patriarchal society. Where the same issue can have very different judgment; depending on the person’s gender. Other people’s values are being placed on others, and sometimes deemed the lesser without an appreciation or understanding of the circumstances they can lead to certain choices. We just wish that women in New Zealand would be safe to make the decisions that they want to, and that if anything bad did happen, they wouldn’t face the blame and discrimination that they do – as some did last month.
What is driving this?
It is ingrained in our culture. As young women, we feel we have to be so careful when we go out – so you don't end up in some sort of situation where you are going to be taken advantage of. It is upsetting to have to even think this way – we should be safe in Aotearoa.
How do we change it – today and tomorrow?
We need to start early, and educate young people around what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable behaviour.
If we want truly systemic culture change, education needs to start at primary school level and up. It can be as early as preschool – stop telling girls that when a boy hits her it’s because he likes her; instead tell both of them that it isn’t an acceptable way to behave. This is a slow process, but a lot of the work that is being done today like education in schools and various family violence campaigns are a good start. The better campaigns give people skills and tools to stand up to others when they hear sexist comments.
We need to question the narrative we get told. Women are degraded on a daily basis, and very few stand up publically for anybody when people make inappropriate comments. Let’s not be afraid of what everyone will think if we make a stand for what is actually right.
Just because you read about someone in the news, you don’t get to objectify them. It’s about humanizing the concepts and reminding people we are all humans too. The same way that you hurt, they hurt too.
We need to stand up and speak out when people aren’t being respectful.
Sexism is something that can be best addressed by ‘mates holding other mates’ accountable – but they need to want to do this and know how to. We need to see people standing up for each other more – if the example is set by the majority, then our generations to come will follow it; they are our future.