Today we’re adding to our Another Day in Socially Progressive New Zealand series with an examination of how a woman’s ability to reproduce impacts on her career.
Or looking at it in a different way, a reminder that a woman’s role in New Zealand is to procreate first and foremost, careers are merely a nice-to-have adjunct to Traditional Kiwi Motherhood (™) in the country that recently plunged in the Best Place to be a Mother index.
Readers may remember Prime Minister Helen Clark was often criticised by her countrymen for not being a mother, and ‘putting her career first’. Its worth noting that when she left politics, she also left New Zealand. No doubt sick of the endless carping and snarking about her child-free status and gender identity.
In the last few days Jacinta Ardern has been elected leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party. She’s widely considered to be New Zealand’s version of Justin Trudeau, Canada’s charismatic Prime Minister. She is now a top contender for Clark’s old job of Prime Minister, and is supreme brood mare in waiting and the subject of sexism on all fronts.
“Pretty Little Thing” “Zip it Sweetie”
Ardern has been tipped for the top job for a few years and has endured sexist put-downs for some time. This from National Business Review August 2015
Ms Ardern’s strong showing was discussed on Paul Henry’s breakfast show, with guest Graham Lowe saying the Labour list MP was “a pretty little thing” who would “look good” as prime minister.
“She speaks pretty smart,” Mr Lowe added…
Mr Lowe (69) later told media, ” I was trying to compliment her. I come from an era where calling someone pretty was one of the highest compliments you could give and so I did.”
The Labour front-bencher has been the target of patronising comments before. In 2012, Paula Bennett quipped “Zip it, sweetie,” after Ms Ardern heckled her in Parliament. source
Since her appointment, Ardern has been knocked down in New Zealand for being young, female, childless, and worst of all … needing to take maternity leave in future to raise a family. Along with breast feeding in parliament, these are stumbling blocks that her male NZ parliamentary colleagues have to seldom negotiate. For them career is another word for featherbedding, tax havens, casinos and ponytail pulling.
For the ruling National Party, having the charismatic Ardern in labour is something to be both feared and played on. Let the negative press floodgates open as every method is made to undermine her popularity.
Is it 2017 or 1957, when headlines such as this dominate the NZ press?
Jacinda Ardern: It is ‘totally unacceptable’ to ask women about baby plans
New Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has fiercely defended women in the workplace against what she says are “unacceptable” questions about whether they plan to have children.
Talk of Ms Ardern’s political plans took a detour overnight, becoming dominated by discussion over whether it’s acceptable to ask her about plans to have children after the question was put to her on The Project….
On Wednesday morning, Ms Ardern traded shots with AM Show sports presenter Mark Richardson, who argued employers – and in Ms Ardern’s case the New Zealand public – need to know whether women are planning on having babies because employers are required to provide paid parental leave.
“I think it’s a legitimate question for New Zealand, because she could be the Prime Minister leading this country. She has our best interest at heart. We need to know these things.
“If you’re the employer at a company, you need to know that type of thing from the women you’re employing,”…
Here’s how NZ social media reacted to Ardern’s treatment.
The considered, rational response from Twitter
The response from the bottom dwellers of Reddit New Zealand
Are you a woman intending to migrate to New Zealand for career purposes? Be sure to get your child rearing out of the way first.
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6 thoughts on “Another Day in Socially Progressive New Zealand – A Woman’s Fecundity is Still An Issue for New Zealand Society”
This is just a distraction tactic. It’s actually quite pathetic. With all the major issues present in NZ, it is absolutely ridiculous that so much attention has been given to a woman being asked if she is going to have children. Women are asked this for one very simple reason. It is an indication of a significant alteration in their work habits and of a long term break from their career. If a man showed signs he was going to take six months or more of unpaid leave for ANY reason, he would be asked about his intentions as well. Like many of these kinds of issues, it has NOTHING to do with sexism.
Of course it is only women who get asked this. They are the ones that make the decision to have kids, and unlike men, they have a CHOICE to remain in the workforce, or leave to be a parent. For men, this is NEVER a choice. Even those who become solo fathers, never make the decision to have children in the first place, because the system does not empower them to do so. Men have no say at all on whether they have kids. From conception to abortion to birth, EVERYTHING is decided on by the woman. A woman can even LIE about contraception and have a child, and the man is STILL forced to contribute (this is known as contraceptive fraud). Can you imagine the uproar there would be if a man forced a woman to become a parent against her will, yet this happens to men ALL the time. There isn’t even a single form of reliable contraception for men, despite methods being around for the last THIRTY years. NONE of these have been released to the public, including recent developments such as Vasalgel, RISUG, The Clean Sheets Pill etc. And, these products are only heading towards large scale release due to crowd funding – none of the pharmaceutical companies or governments will fund them. In the meantime, condoms are about as reliable as withdrawal and are only good for protection from STDS, meaning that ALL unprotected sex for a man is potentially going to produce a child, and he is totally at the mercy of the woman he is with. Of course, if she DOES have a child, he will be expected to contribute financially for 18 years, which effectively criminalises fatherhood.
There are far more serious problems in NZ, such as the complete inequality in reproductive rights between men and women. Apparently, it’s perfectly okay to have the rights of nearly HALF the population trampled all over, but it makes front page news if a woman is asked about her plans to have children — PATHETIC.
Not good but by no means unique to NZ. I think it’s great that she is in NZ politics and the political system should really benefit from her contributions. The vast majority support her appointment. Well done Jacinda.
This story has been reported widely on the Guardian website. I have noted a few Kiwis leaving comments on there saying sexism is much worse in the US, UK and Australia. I get a bit grumpy reading the knee-jerk “It’s worse everywhere else” defence.
It is the NZ equivalent of “but her emails”
Awesome. I’m not one to get easily offended by alot of things but seriously whoever guy was that asked her that should be put on permanent maternity leave. The hell is wrong with people in this country ? Can’t wait till I’m out … :-S
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