Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 24. 26th September 1973

Sisterhood takes shape

page break

Sisterhood takes shape

As you walked into the YMCA on Saturday morning for the beginning of the United Women's Convention you were immediately divided into official or unofficial capacities. Front seats were left for officials, delegates and convenors. A similar principle of selectivity was applied to parents who wanted to make use of the creche facilities — they were asked to pay an extra fee above that paid by others present at the convention. However a resolution presented to the convention by the Wellington Newtown Community Centre group was sucessful in suggesting that creche costs be paid for by all members at the convention.

When Cherry Raymond (a columnist for Woman's Weekly) opened the convention her slogan was "Sisterhood is the theme — so let's not disagree about anything. Other euphemisms for "let's keep politics out of this", were indeed also heard. Women's Liberation Groups were only a small section of those present, and their political affiliations were not discussed, nor were they seen to be relevant. Marcia Russel, who was introduced as editor of Thursday', but who would not admit to her editorship of New Zealand Woman' in front of the convention, told us that revolution was any type of social change, fast or slow.

However, with over 1500 women present, a sense of sisterhood did emerge, which I think may have resulted in heightening the personal strength of some individuals present.

Saturday's programme was formal and there was little participation from the audience because of the line-up of eight speakers. It's worth briefly mentioning some points raised by speakers. Phillida Bunkle from VUW, saw women's movements in the USA and NZ today, as a response to the intensification of relationships within the family (e.g. mother — child, husband — wife), which has led women to question the assertions that men are superior and that aggressiveness and dominence are worthy social aims. She described how she saw the changes which have occurred in the western family structure, for example in this century changes in life expectancy and fertility patterns have lead to child rearing being a small part of a woman's adult occupational life, yet it is still often the focus of her existence.

Similarly in the 19th century the separation of work from the home led to middle-class women centering their life around the home, whereas working class women went outside the home to work, and Phillida said that true womanhood came to be seen in terms of a woman's economic disfunctioning and her place in the home. (An extension of this analysis would ask how the working class woman's role was seen.)

She ended by asking (but not answering) how we can use the women's movement effectively in New Zealand today. Phillida was attacked for criticising women (especially their role in the family in the last 100 years) rather than criticising society. Her analysis stressed the subordinate role women have played and how this has lead to a call for sexual equality, without first talking about the causes of such familial subordination.

Margaret Wilson from Auckland University spoke of the legal and economic discriminations against women. She said it is not recognised that women need to work, but that vehicles to remove such discrimination do exist, such as the provision of maternity leave from work and the provision of child-care facilities. Restrictions are placed on women because of their lower educational status, through awards and agreements, and through restriction on hours and conditions of work. She also pointed out that the Superannuation Scheme being introduced by the Labour Government's Minister of Finance discriminates against any full-time home-maker, whether male or female.

Mira Szaszy is President of the Maori Women's Welfare League and she berated Broadsheet (an Auckland feminist magazine) for its simplistic picture of women in classical Maori society. She pointed out that many aspects of Maori life, such as the extended family, dilute the effects of a sexist society. She commented that if Pakeha women and Maoris generally are second class citizens in New Zealand, then Maori women are third or fourth class citizens. She said that, caught in a vicious circle of poverty, poor education and low occupational status, the response of some Maori women had been to go out to work. But here they landed the most menial jobs with the lowest pay usually $35—$40 per week according to a survey done recently.

Are people pollution? Margaret Sheilds answered no. She stressed that poverty is a cause of over-population, over-population is not a causal factor in itself, and that maldistribution of wealth is one of the main problems in the world today. Until that is recognised any exhortation for population control from rich countries to poor countries must be suspiciously received.

Lastly, perhaps it is worth mentioning Marion Logeman's speech on alternative styles of living. She spent some time describing the place where she lives with about 23 other adults and eight children. The main disadvantage she listed was that this means living closely together so that energy often goes into inside interests rather than external activity. However the advantages she listed were, the opportunity to share roles continually, and to work together on political activity.

Sunday morning, everyone divided into work-shops — it seemed that most present enjoyed this opportunity to offer their own ideas and would have preferred more time spent in this way. On Sunday afternoon leaders of workshops reported on work done. This became rather tedious. Many there were bitter that the SPUC walk-out over the abortion resolution, once more brought this issue to the fore, when previously it had occupied only a small part of the convention's time.

The convention allowed women to express themselves as individuals, in a way not often available to some. Also, because of the tremendously wide cross-section of people (reflected in some of the resolutions passed), it stressed the question of why and how do you fight for women's rights?

Photo of women protesting

Above: Women's Suffrage Day march in Wellington, September 19, 1973.