Below is a ‘tamer’ and extended version of the speech I offered to the Auckland march and rally against rape culture held on Saturday 16 November 2013.
“Kia ora koutou katoa
Firstly I acknowledge the mana whenua iwi and hapū of Tāmaki Makaurau whose lands we have just trampled on to march against rape culture. We acknowledge the very oppressions you have faced as Tāngata Whenua.
I am from Te Wharepora Hou Māori women’s group and today I speak as a mother, sister, daughter, aunty, friend and wife. I am Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi and Te Rarawa.
I extend my heartfelt appreciation to the organisers and your monumental efforts to see our country marching collectively to stamp on rape culture today. Thank you for inviting me to speak.
I want to offer a specific Māori women’s voice on the experience and response to any sexual violence. Māori are twice as likely to be affected by sexual violence but far less likely to access services. By no means do I wish to disregard the experience of any other group but there are learning’s for us all in presenting our specific experiences.
This sad statistic of Māori women and sexual violence sits in stark contrast to Māori women’s traditional status in pre-colonial society. Our pre-patriarchal Māori women held leadership positions in our spiritual, military, economic, political and cultural spheres. Part of the key to combating rape culture is to understand how the position of all women, including Māori women has been undermined by the dominating oppressive patriarchy. This does not deny that men are also victims of abuse. A better world for us all is one that acknowledges that each individual member of our family and community units is integral to the survival of the whole.
The rape culture that we experience today draws its oxygen from an unequal and unjust way of living. The rape culture we experience today disregards the tapu and sacred importance of consent over our bodies. The rape culture that we experience today overlooks the genesis of Māori women and our whakapapa to strong and powerful figures that honour us as whare tangata. Women are the bearers of humans and humanity.
For too long our Māori women narratives of power and equilibrium have been silenced. These narratives placed us in equal, respectful and complimentary relationships alongside our men and all genders. But the imposed trajectory has been devastating for Māori women and Māori whānau and we have much work to do to recover from it. Part of that devastation manifests itself in the shocking instance of Māori women and sexual violence that I mentioned at the start of this kōrero.
The spiritual links Māori women have to all parts of our human and non-human world uphold the inherent mana and tapu of our bodies. As this fundamental value of our bodies is destroyed, respect and dignity for each other is no longer automatically assumed. Furthermore this lack of respect is ingrained in our institutions so that the incident of sexual violence is only the first assault. The violation continues with the attitudes that line our power centres such as the police and the media. Rape culture is reflected in the language we use, the media we are dominated with, the marketing we are subjected to and the lack of education we receive. Rape culture is what happens when you deny women’s voices and participation at all levels of decision making and community advocacy.
So the subjugation of any woman today fails us all, and certainly sits in sharp contrast to our status as Māori women pre-colonisation. Certainly I do not believe that the current warped expectations of masculinity on our Māori men have worked for them at all, or for any men in our society. These warped concepts of masculinity do not even work for the stupid men who think they are enjoying their abuse of power. What sort of legacy do they leave for this world with their misogynist contributions? I pity them.
Rape apologists do nothing to inform and educate us so I applaud the stand made by many to get those mouths metaphorically taped. Besides, they have all had their damaging turns for far too long. And we need to do more taping of mouths. The dogma of people defending freedom of speech can go take a leap because they are confusing that freedom with a specific male privilege afforded to a few. It is this PRIVILEGE that has amplified their harmful irrelevant voices on dominating platforms. That is not freedom of speech and it is certainly NOT MERIT!
We recently saw Bob Jones stick up for rapists – we need to send strong messages to say Bob your time is over.
We also saw Willie and JT – and for a while their time is over in some part of broadcasting.
We now face further racist, sexist, anti-everybody slurs from the arrogant and ignorant musings of Paul Henry who will be paid hugely by Mediaworks for his repugnant vitriol and we need to send a strong message that his time is over.
Rape culture draws each breath from male privilege and in turn allows complete nongs to have symbolic megaphones when really we should be ripping it out of their hands. There are better voices to put up. Patriarchy draws its breath from all forms of oppression therefore we must fight it on all fronts.
Now is the time to talk about our collective responsibility towards one another and towards our place. Now is the time to talk about taking all forms of sexual violence seriously and standing beside all survivors to ensure healing, redress and justice. Now is the time to talk about men, women and all genders sharing rights and power. Now is the time to insist that our marginalised voices are amplified – the voices of people with disabilities, the voices of women and children, the voices of good men, the voices that speak to a progressive, secure and bright future for us all instead of for just a few. Now is the time to foster a community that would have seen those young roastbusting men rather starting a facebook page deploring all acts of sexual violence against their community sisters.
There is certainly a framework of equilibrium grounded in a Māori worldview that can contribute to this better vision for us all – a vision which leads us away from the stench of oppression and towards the sweeter smelling inclusive society that I believe we all want.
Thanks again to the organizers around the country who have brought us all together today. It has been my pleasure to support this national day of action against rape culture. It has been my honour to share some dreaming with you all.
Kia ora tātou katoa”