The team from On the Rag weren’t able to get in the same room following Jacinda’s win, so here they are with their feelings.
I write this from a room filled with Ngāpuhi Māori at the end of the final week of hearings in a Waitangi Tribunal inquiry that has taken seven years – the longest inquiry yet. The stories that have been told this week have been filled with pain, and the cost of 175 years of broken promises by the Crown have imbued this room with an unbelievable strength.
On our lunch break yesterday, a local kaumatua, Rudi, announced that we would know our new government by 2pm that afternoon (he was wrong of course) and referred to his red windbreaker as confirmation of what the result would be. This was met with loud cheers from the hundreds of people in the room.
Why that should be, considering Helen Clark’s attempt to disenfranchise Māori further via the Foreshore and Seabed Act was argued ad nauseum over the course of the election, I still don’t know. What I do know is that Labour’s Māori caucus is strong and dedicated and what is apparent is that regardless of that painful relationship, Māori needed a change of government. Were literally dying for change, in fact.
So I celebrate the appointment of a young, smart, compassionate woman as our new prime minister. She will see the world much the same as I do – inequal, dangerous but full of potential. She will consider women’s perspectives and struggles with every decision she makes. We’re taught to think of feminine attributes like empathy, by men, as weakness. Me aro ki te hā o Hine-ahu-one – pay heed to the mana of women. These assets cannot be understated. Women and minorities know the strength of empathy. It’s hard to convince yourself the economy is more important than people’s lives when you have empathy. You can’t become a millionaire or a despot with empathy. You can only care more.
I’m proud we have a wahine as our leader today, and more hopeful than I’ve been in years.
Here’s the thing: right up until the moment Winston took the podium, I thought I didn’t want this. Not yet. My political fantasy was an uncomfortable NZ First/National coalition that’d be short lived, a snap election, and then a progressive coalition (Labour, Greens, a rejuvenated Māori Party) romping in within 12 months on their own terms. But as Winston meandered towards the big reveal (he likes his moment, right?) I guessed Labour, and then Winston said Labour, and I danced and I cried. An hour later I was on stage at the Classic. “Jacinda! Bitches in the House!” I shouted, and the young women in the room applauded and cheered.
We don’t come first much, us ladies. We don’t get parades. We come second heaps, or get overlooked. Well done, highly commended, nice try, next time. So a win feels amazing, huge, unexpected and also “Oh my god yes, about time!” And the thing occurs to me (the same thing that occurred to Jacinda on election night) is that some people didn’t have the luxury of waiting for that snap election, and “the right time”, and ducks in a row, and perfect circumstances and all that shit. How long do you live in a car, or wait for mental health support, or twiddle your thumbs between diagnosis and treatment? Fuck the election cycle. Grab your chance now.
Legend has it men apply for jobs they feel 60 percent qualified for; women hold themselves back til they feel they are 100 percent qualified. Time for all of us to carry ourselves with the confidence, then, of a mediocre white man. And fuck, just to believe her when she says she is ready.
When I was growing up, my mother baked cakes for the National Party. She was active, passionate and loyal. It is useful sometimes to articulate the moment something shifts. For her, there were many straws on the camel’s back but I will tell you about the last two. One was Steven Joyce’s $11.7 billion budget hole. She can’t be doing with lying, my mother.
The final straw was Bill English dismissing Jacinda Ardern’s intellect, passion, skills and vision as “stardust”. I come from a long line of stroppy women who were breadwinners and, simultaneously, primary caregivers. From my great-grandmother to my grandmother to my mother and aunt to me and my daughter, we were the ones who decided and worked and fed and paid and organised and planned and shouldered it all. After that debate, my 83-year-old mother said, “Who does Bill English think women are? Has he not met us?”
I understand there is a political machine that crushes the best of intentions and the boldest of dreams. I get it that one person – one Obama, one Macron, one Trudeau, one Ardern – won’t achieve everything we want them to achieve. But fuck, I am so excited to watch her try. And to stand with her while she does it.
You know that moment in Wonder Woman when she goes over the top into No Man’s Land (when they told her it wasn’t the right time, and it wasn’t her fight, and she didn’t have the right army behind her) and you feel like she’s carrying a piece of your spirit with her, and you weep happy tears, and it’s just, “Fuck, finally, let’s go!”? Because you didn’t quite realise until that moment that you’ve been holding yourself back, and never dared to take the risk, even to allow yourself a hero? It’s like that.
To put this into TV comedy terms, how amazing does it feel to wake up knowing that Leslie Knope is running the country instead of David fucking Brent? How cool is it that our prime minister is a proud feminist who commits to actually knowing what the phrase means, every single day of her life instead of just some of the days? Not a femo-fascist or a Tinkerbell or a cursed swamp witch, but a strong, compassionate woman that won’t stand for sexist breakfast broadcasters or pick up the slimy soap jokes of commercial radio in the name of preserving precious banter?
Women have had a horrible, draining week (read: existence), with #metoo ripping open our biggest shared secret around sexual harassment, assault and structural sexism. And we know by now that parliament is no exception. Women have had ponytails pulled by a prime minister as the rest of the country laughed, publicly aired their darkest trauma only to be booted from the house, and generally been belittled and talked over for the rebellious act of daring to exist. Our first ever refugee MP was even reduced to a “comedian’s girlfriend”, which leaves me ecstatic to welcome a fishing show host’s little lassie to the top job.
Having Jacinda in charge gives the rest of us permission to speak up a little louder, make our pointy fingers just a little bit more pointy and even pursue a side hobby as a DJ, because women are shockingly allowed to be more than one thing at a time. There will be thousands of tiny lessons everyday, as the Mr Krabs of the world slowly start spinning and come to terms with a young, unmarried woman being in power. Idiots will spew out vile sexist garbage online, only to then delete it and apologise profusely. Prominent broadcasters will refer to her a “chicky-babe”, and people will notice. The tides will change.
Because, friends, it’s really not nice to talk about our prime minister’s appearance, weight or uterus. And if it’s not nice to talk about our prime minister like that… maybe (gasp) you can’t actually talk about any woman like that. Makes you think.
I was at the movies when Winston Peters made his big announcement. Usually, I am the first person to scowl when I see someone’s phone in a movie theatre but this was different. Every few minutes I hunched about as low as my bad back could handle and checked Twitter for updates. I did this five times and got five updates on how Winston was being a tease, so I gave up and figured he’d postponed the announcement. Two hours later when the movie ended, I checked my phone on 1% battery and saw Jacinda’s face all over the place.
It was a surreal moment. My friend and I just sat in the empty theatre reading through our phones until the usher came to kick us out. We didn’t know what to say because our whole adult lives have been under the same government which meant all we’ve basically done is complain. Now we’ve got what we said we needed all along and it’s a little bit scary. I’m well aware that a lot can happen in three years – and no doubt there’ll be times when I hate what the government is doing – but that night, as I strolled through Kmart at 10pm without a shopping list, I felt really good and excited about what could happen in the next thousand days.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.