Paula Bennett in Parliament in 2018; she says there were pockets of sexual harassment and bullying, but that doesn’t discriminate today based on gender. Photo/Mark Mitchell
It is often said that women can be the hardest on other women; with a few exceptions, I have found the opposite. During my time in politics and
now in the corporate world, i have found the support of other women encouraging and encouraging. Fortunately, I also had incredible support from important men throughout my career. One of my goals this year was to do more to give back to women at different stages of their careers and I find that really fun and rewarding.
I’ve never quite fit into a box when it comes to being a feminist and I’m pretty proud of that. I grew up in a male-dominated household with a father who believed there was one set of rules for boys and another for girls. He was a product of his time and has changed significantly over the years. I call it my resilience builder. I never agreed to the different rules and challenged him and his authority in my younger years – much to his delight as he loved a good tune. It prepared me for a career in politics as I learned how to debate, argue and persuade, and by the time I got there, there wasn’t much that would bother me.
I once gave a speech as Minister for the Status of Women in which I argued that Parliament is not necessarily sexist. Yes, it’s dysfunctional, and in the past (and sadly still now) there were pockets of sexual harassment and bullying, but it doesn’t discriminate today based on gender. The hours are really tough for moms trying to raise a family and be an effective MP, but it’s also tough for dads. I’ve had a lot of cruel comments about my weight and the way I dress, but I could name male MPs who were also the subject of cruel taunts at different times. There may still be a bit of a boys’ club, but there are times when I exclusively enjoy female company, so my girls’ club has served me well over the years.
There are still sexist and unacceptable behaviors and we must denounce it. I will be the first to condemn those who gender their argument and belittle and belittle them. As disgusted as I was with THOSE Simon Henry comments recently about a businesswoman, I was deeply heartened by the massive condemnation. It’s far from perfect, but as I recognize those women and men who have defended women’s rights over the years and who have passionately and intelligently opposed patriarchy and discrimination, I hope that they would be proud to see the many shades of feminism that exist in the complex world we live in.