CULTURE: Makanaka Tuwe writes Are We There Yet?

Makanaka Tuwe is a recent masters graduate from Unitec Institute of Technology. Last year she self-published her first book titled Questionable Intimacy – a collection of poems, narrative essays and gentle reminders about womanhood, self-love and self-care. She is a Storyteller, Indigenous researcher & Good vibe generator. In this article she writes about being a womanist and how and why she came to that line of thought and action. She addresses the 125th anniversary of New Zealand granting women the right to vote for the first time ever in the world aka World Suffrage Day; asking if feminism is to be for all women, if we are talking about equality then are we really there yet? She talks about social activist Tarana Burke who originally started the Me Too movement and challenges white women to actively share their platforms rather than just talk about it.


By Makanaka Tuwe

I am not free while any woman is unfree even when her shackles are different from my own – Audre Lorde

Long before I had the language to articulate how I felt, I spoke about the double barrel of being black and woman. When I came across the term intersectionality coined by Professor Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 in the paper Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics my feels were summed up. Intersectionality recognises that women experience oppression in varying aspects and degrees of intensity. Things such as race, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation and ethnicity are contributing factors to their oppression.

2018 marks the 125th anniversary of the suffrage movement in New Zealand and it’s a time of reflection and the nationwide question in the media, at exhibitions, events and at feminist clubs and gatherings is are we there yet? Each year when the suffrage anniversary rolls around or Woman’s Day our tone is celebratory, marveling at how advanced and progressive we are for the vote, women in leadership and recently a Prime Minister whose baby father will be staying home to look after their newborn (Ardern is the first elected world leader to ever go on maternity leave). While applause of the past and its significance in history is important, it’s also a great foundation to unpack where we are in terms of other issues like reproductive rights, domestic violence, sex worker rights, legal rights, body image, equal pay, paid parental leave, support for single mothers, race and intersectionality.

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Photo by Shivan Gathum Patel from the book Questionable Intimacy.

As different cultures and perspectives converge the face and realities of what it means to be a woman in New Zealand is changing. Colonisation, globalisation, post-colonialism, displacement are what we have endured and continue to endure as we shape our worlds. And as they are shaped by systems that oppress us systematically, socially, energetically and psychologically. Our worldviews, our cultures, our perspectives and the experiences that inform how we navigate society vary. As such the agenda of the suffrages then and the idea of a suffrage now is changing, or at least I thought.

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Cover Photo by Shivan Gathum Patel

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