A very warm welcome to Jessica, who wrote this stunning speech about feminism for her school speech competition. I am looking forward to hearing more from this extraordinary person.
Ko Mataatua te Waka
Ko Maungapohatu Te Maunga
Ko Waikaremoana te Moana
Ko Whakatane toku Awa
Ko Tuhoe-Potiki te Iwi
Ko Ruatahuna te Rohe
Ko Ngati Kuri toku Hapu
Ko Kakanui te Wharenui
Ko Whetumarama toku kuia
Ko Bryce toku Matua
Ko Sarai Tuhua toku Whaea
Ko Jessica Tuhua taku Ingoa
I am Jessica Tuhua. Tuhua was my Grandma’s surname. It means obsidian.
I am turning ten next week.
I am Tuhoe, from Te Urewera. I was born in a little birthing unit in Takaka, and now I live in Nelson.
I wrote this speech for the school speech competition. I came second, and I’m going to inter-schools on Thursday.
I wrote about feminism because not many people at my school know anything about it, and I wanted to use the opportunity to speak about something important. It was very difficult to write about, so I re-wrote my speech six times!
What is feminism? It is not about making women superior to men or about hating men. Feminism is the belief that women are equal to men.
Today I am going to talk about what feminism is, why we still need it, and how it will help us all.
Patriarchy is the societal system where men hold most of the power, or even all of it. Pakistan is a patriarchal society where the education system severely disadvantages girls. 72% of women in Pakistan are illiterate.
Malala Yousafzai is a girl who stood up for her education in Pakistan. She was shot by the Taliban, but thankfully she lived.
Is New Zealand a patriarchal society?
Yes, it is. In New Zealand, when women and men are in the same job, the men often get paid more.
Even though 82 percent of teachers throughout New Zealand are women, 80 percent of principals are men.
Women make up only 37% of our doctors, 30% of our parliamentarians, and 30% of our judges.
Since 1856, we have had 38 prime ministers and only 2 of them were women.
How did all this happen?
The first thing we do in our society when a baby is born is colour code them depending on their genitals!
If a baby has male genitalia, everyone will know because he will be dressed with a blue outfit with the slogans like:
FUTURE ASTRONAUT, ADVENTURE SEEKER, or I AM A HERO.
Girl babies get pink and:
I’M TOO PRETTY TO DO MY HOMEWORK!, PRINCESS, or I NEED A HERO.
This teaches children that girls are here for looking at and being rescued, boys are here to do things and do the rescuing.
When my sister Isobel began school, she was excited to pick out a Batman bag and a Cars lunchbox. But on her first day, she got teased. Mum found her sitting on her lunch box lid to hide it.
Mum said, “Try to ignore them, Isobel, be yourself.”
“But Mummy,” Isobel said, “When they tease me I can feel my heart breaking!”
My friend’s child Alex really likes the colour pink, but whenever he wears his favourite pink socks, he gets teased and is told he is “wearing girls’ socks”.
But pink is just a colour, and colours don’t have genders.
Toys, movies, and other children’s stuff are marketed by gender.
In the boys’ section there are toy cars, pirate ships, science sets, and Lego.
In the girls’ section there are tea sets, cleaning kits, Barbies, and My Little Pony.
All this teaches children that there are rules for how the genders have to behave.
Boys are made to believe that they have to be tough, and physically strong, and are made to feel ashamed if they cry or talk about their feelings. They think they should solve their problems with violence and aggression.
I am a girl. I get frequently described as a tomboy. I have been bullied because of the way I dress and behave.
People say I shouldn’t do certain things because I am a girl, that the things I do are for boys, that I’m not girly. But I believe I am girly.
The way I dress is girly. The way I climb trees and get dirty is girly. My short hair is girly. Everything about me is girly because I am a girl.
What can you do to fight for women’s rights and to break down gender “rules”?
Firstly, you can learn to question things deeply.
Why can’t a boy wear a skirt? Why can’t girls at NIS wear long pants in the winter? Why is it insulting to be called a girl?
Secondly, you can educate yourself by reading inspiring books by inspiring women, like ‘I am Malala’.
Find some real life women superheroes like Marama Davidson, Jacinda Ardern, Mrs Webb. Have good conversations with them.
If we make it, we can build a fairer world.
You can leave encouraging remarks for Jessica in the comments below.
You might also want to check out these posts on feminist subjects:
The Beauty Myth (an intro or refresher)
Women hold up half the sky (opening our eyes to women in the Bible)
And if you would like to publish your own story of being a feminist, please get in touch.