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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 6 (October 1, 1930)

As Others See Us

As Others See Us.

Have New Zealand women a special National characteristic? I have heard this question asked frequently lately—have sat silent while two males dissected the fair sex quite unmercifully. I pondered over it for some time, thinking of the women I knew and wondering whether we had already developed a pronounced racial characteristic by which we could be recognised the world over as “New Zealanders”—or whether we are still too disunited, too separated one from the other.

It is commonly acknowledged that in a far off country national traits and peculiarities develop extraordinarily rapidly—and we are all familiar with the popular lament that New Zealanders are already mutilating their Mother-tongue in a really shocking and shameful way. People actually declare that it is almost impossible to understand what on earth our young hopefuls are yelling to one another across the school play-grounds. Perhaps the talkies will eliminate this distressing accent—if in the meantime the youth of New Zealand does not assimilate a really good imitation of a Yankee drawl and a fair stock of American slang.

It is with the women of New Zealand, however, that we are concerned for the moment. I think with anger and resentment of Rupert Brooke's description of my sisters as being badly dressed, thoroughly ugly, and confirmed smokers. True that was some time ago—also the standards of a youthful poet are appallingly high—but there can be an astounding difference in the people of a young country in a short space of time—and I think most English visitors and foreigners agree now that although we may be somewhat deficient in physical charm, as compared with the Parisienne, there is a characteristic freshness and joyousness about the New Zealand women. A modern writer has said that the men of our country are characterized by a certain complacency and also a perfect lack of originality in thought, while the women are the most capable in the world and while not beautiful, are universally page 53 pleasant (or was it pleasing?) to look upon.

Since Rupert Brooke passed his youthful criticism after the fashion of Paris, we have advanced somewhat in matters of dress and are gradually emerging from semi-barbarism. In fact we even display a fleeting interest in clothes! Perhaps some day we may even be smart—although that seems rather too much to demand from the women in an isolated, half-civilised Pacific Island! I think the women of other countries imagine that we cultivate the soil while our husbands hunt the fugitive Moa. Could they be present at a fashion parade at one of our big emporiums they would be somewhat astonished.

Travellers from our own land all agree that English women are terribly in ignorance about the lives of their sisters out in “little New Zealand”—and are often quite frankly astounded at the cultivation and appearance of visitors to the Homeland.

Have we developed a racial characteristic? It is a difficult question to answer—but surely we cannot complain if we are becoming noted for a certain freshness and joyousness. One day we may even be beautiful! Then, oh women of England, Paris and America—you will have a dangerous rival!