Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bad Feminist

Hey, Henare, kia ora bro. Yeah, me too.

Look, i'd like a word about when we met at the meeting. No, not at all. It's fine. i want to say somehing a bit complicated and i just wanted to make sure it comes out OK. Sweet.

OK, i will start this korero with a story about myself. Back in the eighties at a party i got seriously called out by a man, and yeah it was a man, for introducing myself, to someone else, mind, as my then husband's wife. Like, i said Hi, i'm so-and-so's wife. i did not think i'd said anything sexist. i thought that the guy knew my husband and all i was doing was pointing out the relationship so he knew who i was. Like saying i am Lizzie's sister or Jacki's tutor or whatever. But this man thought that i was undermining my own development and the cause of feminism by linking myself with a man, and he gave me a talking to about it. And because i was a good girl and he was a high status dude i actually would you believe apologised and said he was right and i would never do it again.

It was only afterwards i thought wtf, only we didn't say that back then, but i thought shit a brick i let that man, that man, mind, tell me how to develop my feminist consciousness, and then i let myself feel unworthy, like i was a Bad Feminist. Screw him. A man can't tell me how to be a feminist, i need to tell myself how to be a feminist, feminism is something i can't be given but i can take it for myself.

So in a round about way it was a lesson in consciousness raising, a lesson that a woman could not have taught me, and it was the lesson all of us learn, that there are some things that cannot be given by those in power, there are some things we just need to take.

My point, yeah, Henare, my point is that i am an older middle class pakeha woman and if i ever do the same to you that that man did to me you can tell me to sod off for sure, but, but, maybe i need to say this thing anyway.

So, my korero to you is this. Last night at the meeting when we were cleaning up you accidentally brushed against me and you said 'Aww, sorry miss'. At the time i just thought, oh, OK that shows that Henare has been to prison. 'Cos, you know, how you learn to talk to the women prison officers and nurses and that inside, and i recognised the words, and also the tone of voice.But then i thought about it and i got worried about what was behind what you said and how you said it.

Henare, yeah i am an older pakeha woman, but you don't need to pretend to respect me like i am in charge of your future. We worked in the kitchen together and you told me some things about yourself and your whanau connections that made me respect you. i thought we were equal, whatever that means. In this case it doesn't mean everyone is equal so therefore it is OK to make the fish climb the tree, it just means we worked and talked together and we were polite to each other. When you let your guard down out comes the prison boy. That pretend respect is never far away. And it is pretend, it's what used to be called Uncle Tom-ism, it's one step away from calling me muff, which i know is a real insult to a woman inside. It's no good to me because it's fake and it's one of many layers of anger and although i can't blame you for that anger it won't work if we are to try and achieve anything together. And, yeah i know who i am talking to you, but i also believe that it's no good to you, because as i see it it keeps you in prison.

If you are as pissed with me as i was with that man who told me how to be, like, a Good Feminist, then well and good and i don't get to tell you how to be a Good Maori or a Good Activist or whatever.

It's just that this older Pakeha woman knows that you only get the freedom you take.

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