Noelle McCarthy leads a discussion about what the #MeToo Movement really means for Aotearoa/New Zealand. With Kirsty Johnston, Zoë Lawton, Rhonda Tibble and Henry Law.
Bystanders can play an important role when they witness their colleagues or friends being subjected to sexual harassment, says law researcher Zoë Lawton.
She thinks we should reject the idea that it’s the victim’s duty alone to speak up.
“We should move away from putting the onus on victims to speak out,” she says, “and move it on to what do bystanders do. And put the onus on them, because it’s horrible enough that you’re being sexually harassed and sexually assaulted. You shouldn’t then have to have all this responsibility dumped on you to fix the problem.”
Lawton set up a blog to collect stories about active sexism in law firms in New Zealand.
Research has made it clear that unacceptable treatment of women is happening across large parts of society and organisations which rely on complaints as a measure of how much sexual harassment is going on are missing the point, she says.
“People often say to me 'What can I do to help as a bystander?' ... It doesn’t have to be this big huge thing, to set up this initiative, or talk to the media, or out someone or whatever.”
As a first step, she thinks we should focus on “really basic things like if there’s a really sexist, creepy joke, don’t laugh. Don’t laugh out of politeness or awkwardness. Just give them a look. Or stay silent. Give them nothing. And then if you’re confident enough, call them out. Say to your workplace, do we have a sexual harassment policy in place?”
Journalist Kirsty Johnston is supportive of the #MeToo Movement, but thinks it’s revealing – and disturbing – that sexual harassment did not gather force as an issue until “beautiful, rich, white women” were speaking out about it from a position of relative privilege.
“I mean, we know in New Zealand our domestic violence figures, our death rates, are predominantly Māori women who are killed by their partners, and we’re happy to turn a blind eye to that. But as soon as a rich actress says this happened to me, then suddenly we have an international movement.”
For Māori educator Rhonda Tibble, whether she considers herself a feminist is not a straightforward matter.
Her deep connection to her Ngati Porou iwi centred on the Eastern seaboard of the North Island around the Gisborne district - and this sets the base and the foundation that provides her with a way to understand who she is in the world.
Tibble recalls that in 1972 an uncle of hers wrote a master’s thesis for the University of New South Wales exploring why her tribe has historically featured such strong female leaders. He wrote that there were too many case studies to cite for this to be a rare occurrence.
“My great-grandmother was a speaker not only in the tribe but nationally. Feminism from my perspective comes from being disenfranchised socially, politically and economically. I’ve never felt - as a Ngati Porou woman - socially, economically or politically disenfranchised.”
Yet Tibble is positive about the firm action women can, and should, take to fight back against discriminatory and sexist behaviour by men.
Asked by a member of the Auckland Museum audience if it was wrong to use her skills in karate to respond physically to harassment, she replies “Hell, no! If you have to attack a man because he’s trying to attack you, by all means, you have full permission. But I think the point you bring us to is that each of us has the responsibility to ensure that the daughters we raise in our households know how to physically protect themselves.”
About the participants
Moderator: Noelle McCarthy
Noelle McCarthy is a writer and a broadcaster with over 15 years of experience in radio - mainly at RNZ National where she has worked as a presenter and producer.
Her production company, Bird of Paradise makes serials and podcasts, including the immigration series Slice of Heaven, and Ours – Treasures from Te Papa. She's a film critic at Metro magazine and contributes to a range of media outlets, including The Spinoff and Sunday magazine. Her podcast series on feminism, Venus Envy, from The Spinoff is made in association with Auckland Museum.
Henry Law is a fifth-year law student studying at Victoria University. He has been a co-director of the satirical student-run play, the Wellington Law Revue since the start of 2017 with his long-time collaborator Sarah Bradley.
Zoë Lawton started her career working for the Principal Family Court Judge of New Zealand. She then undertook research at Victoria University of Wellington which explored whether a new type of court system should be implemented in New Zealand for victims and perpetrators of family violence. Zoë currently works for the Chief Victims to Government at the Ministry of Justice and has completed a range of research on victims of reported and unreported crime. Zoë also writes articles for the media on legal issues and is an advocate of the #Metoo Movement in New Zealand.
Kirsty has been a journalist for ten years, starting her career at the Taranaki Daily News and then working for stuff.co.nz and the Sunday Star Times. Currently she’s at the New Zealand Herald, where she’s on the investigations team. Her specialty is linking deep data with real people’s stories, to make the big picture compelling and human. At this year’s Voyager Media Awards, Kirsty claimed the prize for long-form general feature writer, for her work about children living in poverty. Her documentary about a year inside one of the most deprived schools in the country, made with Mike Scott, Nick Reed and Michael Craig, won Best Team Video.
Rhonda Tibble is an intuitive wairua practitioner, which stems from her Ngati Porou, Whanau Apanui and Irish lineages. A fluent native speaker of Ngati Porou Reo, Rhonda is an expert in Karanga, Māori female oratorical forms, reo Māori, tikanga Māori, ritenga Māori and is a whakapapa facilitator.
She currently holds a leadership role at the Auckland Girls Grammar School as Ahorangi Māori and Head of Faculty Matauranga Māori. Rhonda is the current chair of Ngati Porou ki Tamaki Trust and lectures at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, teaching Ngati Porou Reo and Tikanga.
Smart Talk at the Auckland Museum is a part of the LATE at Auckland Museum season.