But what? You ask. Women have jobs and opportunities and shiny cars and bodily autonomy and silly Victorian hangovers like marital rape still being legal 28 years ago have mostly been ironed out.
Correct. We have made headway in treating women like human beings, but we still have some pretty substantial work to do. Now, you might know all about the glaring discrepancies in this country’s gender equity, or you might be open-minded to learning. Or you might have just logged out of your Men’s Rights forum after a particularly painful rehashing of some institutionalised misandry and are now grooming your neckbeard. Either way, this country isn’t the feminist utopia we’d like to pretend it is.
1 in 4 women in New Zealand will experience unwanted and distressing sexual contact in her lifetime. Yet our Government has consistently failed to fund services which help survivors and their communities. Last year, this went so far as Wellington Rape Crisis needing to accept funding from famously feminist Hell’s Pizza to stay afloat. When the agency took issue with this, they were told they just should’ve a chat to Paula. As opposed to, say, their appointed funding managers at MSD. Their bad, obviously.
Our Government also forced, for the second time, an already desperate community in Auckland to take to the streets to save the city’s only 24 hour rape crisis phone line. And again the Government had to re-think just how vital that service was for its clients, and white-knight in with money. Despite all the evidence that survivors need the anonymity and easily-accessible support a phone line provides, they only really cared when the closure hit the news.
This country has implemented a punitive system for single mothers who fall pregnant while on the DPB, forcing them to get “work ready” (for jobs that don’t exist) once their youngest Poor Life Choice turns one. Because caregiving is not a job. And daycare is easy to find and never costs more than it would have to stay at home.
To supplement this, women on the DPB have the option of utilising government-funded long-acting reversible contraceptives. Which would be wonderful if it were extended to all women, and if the methods that were specifically aimed at solo mothers weren’t the kind that require invasive insertion, are progesterone-only, and give the very clear message they can’t be trusted to use daily contraceptive methods.
Another uncomfortable statistic is that 1 in 3 women will experience at least one form of family violence. A Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families was established way back in 2005 to help combat this. However, after performing abysmally, a Family Violence Unit within MSD was set up to try and have a firm home for the Taskforce projects. Yet the Taskforce has still completed virtually none of their (strategically waffly) goals, and the Unit was disbanded last year.
On average, 14 women will be killed by their partner per year in New Zealand and police are called to around 200 family violence incidents every day. However, in 2011, Women’s refuge received a funding cut of $800,000. Despite the agency still needing volunteers to do much of its crisis work, and the risk of waiting lists for our most vulnerable women, it was obviously some sort of gravy train for domestic abuse survivors.
Women with disabilities are vastly more likely to experience sexual violence, yet the Government was so intent on merging the country’s only residential education centre for girls with complex needs, with a boy’s school, that it had to be deemed unlawful for them to listen to the evidence that it would put these girls at risk.
Abortion in New Zealand is still listed under the Crimes Act. In 2013, it is illegal to get an abortion if your reasons are simply that you do not want to be pregnant. Economic means don’t even qualify as a reason. Instead, you have to claim that you are mentally unwell in order to terminate a pregnancy, after seeing 2 certifying consultants as well as whoever referred you in the first place. That’s because we all know that contraception is foolproof and people have abortions with complete flippancy. Also we should just keep our legs shut. Or something.
Every single one of these statistics and the violence figures above, get worse when the analysis includes breakdowns of ethnicity, abilities and gendered minorities. For instance: Māori women have a much lower life expectancy than women in other developed nations; trans women still get put in men’s jails; have a much higher rate of sexual violence, suicide and employment discrimination; and migrant women are more likely to be killed by their partners than any other group in the country.
When the most basic services for women are constantly at threat of cuts and closure, we can no longer use a woman 120 year ago who got us the vote first, as our progressive bedtime story. When the statistics of gender equity in this country show that we aren’t as advanced as we’d like to think we are, we can’t keep taking solace in having had 2 (out of 38, woo!) female Prime Ministers.
If I had a dollar for every person to suggest I move to Saudi Arabia if I think we have it tough in this country, I would be able to bridge our goddamn pay gap. Why on earth would we take solace in knowing we’re not that bad compared to countries with regimes which literally stone women to death? Why do we continue to feverishly insist there’s nothing to see here when people bring up sexism? Why do I feel like I have to be constantly thankful to have basic human rights, lest I’m perceived to be ungrateful?
This is no country for women. And the sooner we can admit that to ourselves, the sooner we can start doing something about it.