Feminism and Paul Henry

caitlinmoran

We are beginning our column writing task next week and I am going to start off by looking at the writing of Caitlin Moran who wrote ‘How to be a woman’. Follow this link to her views on being a feminist. One of the things we will discuss next week is using topical examples and issues for inspiration. Paul Henry has provided us with one today.

Henry caused controversy on his tv/radio show by expressing his view that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be campaigning on ‘the first woman president’ card. The NZ Herald reported that Henry said: “Why, if feminism has come so far, does she feel the need to highlight the fact that she’s a woman? Shouldn’t she be selling herself on the fact that she’s the best person, the right person, for the job, no matter what her sex?” Henry went on to say that other high profile females had “fallen into the same trap” – including Helen Clark’s bid to become the Secretary General of the United Nations. Henry continued with, “Don’t these women realise feminism has come further than they have?”

The Human Rights Commission countered Paul Henry’s view by declaring his attitude towards feminism as “wrong”. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue took aim at Henry’s comments and wrote this letter:

Dear Paul,

You are wrong. Feminism hasn’t come further than Hillary Clinton and Helen Clark, feminism will only ever go as far as they and other women go.

On your show today you argued that feminism has come further than Clinton and Clark, two women who are campaigning respectively for roles as the United States President and Secretary General of the United Nations. Clinton has voiced her ambition to become the first woman US President and you saw this as an outdated thing to say. It isn’t.

Feminism is a belief that gender should not limit anyone’s chances at life and quite frankly people are deluded if they believe women currently get the same opportunities as men to make it in business, politics and the like.

If we have come as far as you say we have why has female representation in our Parliament been stuck at around 30% since the first MMP election in 1996? Why did it even go backwards at the 2014 election? Why is the percentage of female directors on the NZX listed companies a paltry 14%? Why is it that there is a persistent mean pay gender gap in the labour market of around 14 %?

Only yesterday lawyer and international public servant Vicky Robertson was announced as the Ministry for the Environment’s new chief executive, however the headline just described her as a “Former Hockey Player”. I can’t help but wonder if this headline would have been the same if she were a man.

There is a lot of work to be done.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Jackie Blue

EEO Commissioner

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