The war must go on
This essay will focus on the gender wage gap between men and women in Aotearoa through a Marxist-feminist lens. Firstly, giving a brief history of what life looked like for both Mori and Pkeh prior to industrialisation in Britain considering pre-colonisation and post-colonisation in Aotearoa. It will explore the beginnings of the Womens liberation movement and acts introduced to minimise equality for women concluding with how women a placed today in society.
Oxford (2018) defines feminism as the advocacy of womens rights based on the equality of the sexes. Traditionally, deriving from the west the word was considered based on the struggle for equal rights between the genders (Okome, 1999).
Furthermore, Adewolo (2012) States, that the origins of feminism derived from the logic of a patriarchal nuclear family and its roots are interwoven in western ideals, values and histories (Gwendoyln, 1995).
Marxist feminism (MF) is a branch of feminism that is particularly focused on the ways that women are oppressed through systems of capitalism and private property (Srivatsan, 1999); drawing its theoretical bearings from the work of Karl Marx and Fredrich Engles, it considers the systems of capitalism that promote the exploitation of labour, alienation of women human as beings, and the debasement of their freedom (Stefano, 2014).
It argues, that gender and class reflect the oppressive relationship between men and women in society; focusing on the earlier systems of human organisation and mentioning the relationship between men and women were equal and domestic roles the responsibility was shared by both. Man was the hunter, woman was the child bearer (Ross & Sawhill, 1977).
However, with the onset of industrialisation the family ceased to be unit of production but changed to become unit of consumption; men left the home and became the bread winners elevating their societal status. In contrast, a womans place was now in the home and her role became one of subordination (Sellers, 1991).
The overthrow of mother- right was the world historical defeat of the female sex(Hartmann, 1981).
Engles compares males to the bourgeoisie and women to the proletariat within the system of capitalism. He mentions mens labour, was productive and in return for their services they were rewarded. In contrast, womens labour was reproductive and work at home such as child bearing and managing the home were not acknowledged and no reward was given (Engles, 1902).
A critique of MF from other feminists, is that the liberation of women happens through socialist revolution and that a change for women will occur after the revolution. Feminist argue that MF efforts will be undermined by liberal feminism as it strives to improve condition for the working class (Miles et al, 1981).
Historical Britain and New Zealand
Prior to Industrialisation, In English societys most of the work took place in the home. The family was a functioning unit where everybody contributed and depended on each other. The women within the family unit were described as the household manager as women usually oversaw the economic survival more over the daily running of the household (Simonton, 1998). Workers gained independence through common land. land was rented by farmers from the gentry; labours that worked the lands, had access to common land. Common land was a plot of land where labourers could graze cattle or grow vegetables. However, with the closing of common land due to cultivation; workers lost the little economic dependence they had and had to rely on the landowners for money and housing. Some women made their money in the home, selling their handcrafts for an extra income this would lead to the beginning of the cottage industry (Tepapa, 1998).
Specific areas in Britain became renowned for their cottage industries such as, Oxfordshire made famous by its gloves and Bedfordshire which specialised in lace-making. However, with the onset of the industrialisation era the cottage industry dwindled out. This gave women a few options, they could ether find employment in a factory or seek out a domestic service; Or they could move out to one of the English colonies. Single women were encouraged to move to the colonies as there were numbers of single men(Tepapa, 1998).
Prior to colonisation in Aotearoa life was much different for Mori women. The roles that men and women played were equal. Sustainability, of the Iwi, hapu and whnau came first. Relationships within tribal culture existed around the balance between the spiritual realm, the environment, and people (Gemmell, 2013).
Everyone was interconnected with each other, with the ones that had passed, with the ones that were present and with the ones that were yet to come. In order for the tribe to survive men and women had to support, love and work together (Durie, 2001).
However, Dominy (1990) mentions that this was not the case through the eyes of some researchers; claiming that Mori society was one of patriarchy and that women were subject to subordination; the process of Tikanga for example, on some Marae excluded women therefore making women inferior to men in Mori society.
In contrast Pihama (2001), believes that these arguments derive from a western individualistic lens and are based on an outsiders perspective that looks within.
With the introduction of capitalism and western ideological belief system; life dramatically changed for Mori women in New Zealand. The patriarchal dominant European culture defined Mori as savages and uneducated. Forced assimilation, would see Mori women subject to the churches belief system that opposed Tikanga and ultimately viewed women as property of the husband; a womens place was no longer one of equality but one of servanthood to their male counterparts (Mikaere, 2003).
Gender discrimination was clear for both Mori and Pkeh women in the 1880s. Mori women often took cleaning jobs or worked in European households as house maids; working long hours for a minimal amount of pay. These jobs reflected the positioning of Mori in neo-colonial society.
In contrast, Pkeh women pursued teaching and nursing careers earning a considerable amount more than their Mori counter parts (Gemmell, 2013). Women were silenced through European systems of patriarchy and racism.
After many decades of silence women began the process for their voices to be heard.
Consciousness raising (CR) a think tank that formed on the back of the civil rights movement; was essentially the backbone of the womens created by radical feminists in America in the late 1960s. CR became an essential part of the group therapy movement its purpose was to inspire change in its practitioners (Rosenthal, 1984). CR widely used by feminist groups in Aotearoa. Women shared their experiences and developed an understanding of oppression that was present in their own lives (Cook, 2011).
From CR was the inspiration to the womens liberation movement (WLM); which is referred to as the political alignment of women and feminist intellectualism (Bullock et al, 1999).
Womens Liberation Movement
Upon the WLM a few womens liberation groups emerged out of . These Marxist-feminist based groups included the Womens Unions in Auckland and Wellington and the Working Womens Alliance which set up in the mid 1970s. Marxist-feminist groups argued that the womens movement disregarded the working class. So, the focus of these groups was centred on law changes and the working-class women, publicising their situation moreover working alongside them to improve it (Cook, 2011).
There is no difference in the work to be done. The same standards have to be taught and the same examinations passed How manifestly unfair then to have two rates of pay for the same work, merely because one of the workers is a woman(Sheppard, 1892: 6)
Equal Employment Act (EEA),The EEA in 1972, would be a step in the right direction for Marxist/Socialist/Liberal Feminism. Campaigning by Feminists and international trends would see employment rights and human rights working together to ensure pay equity. However, despite efforts; New Zealand would come under criticism for its lack of compliance on equal pay for work of equal value (MSD, 2004).
Liberals and Marxists worked politically and socially that would see acts introduced to address the concerns of women.Domestic Purposes Benefitintroduced so that families of one parent (mainly women) would get government support.Matrimonial Property Actintroduced so that upon divorce the equitable division of matrimonial property would be ensured.Human Rights Commission Actintroduced to address the discrimination of women.Maternity Leave and Employment Protection Act, allowing women to take 26weeks paid leave during or after the birth of a child.State Sector ActWhich actioned equal employment making sure that steps we put in place (ministry of womens affairs, 2019).
The Acts are attributed by the efforts of feminists who have battled long and hard for social justice. They have been reviewed and amended to ensure the process of liberation and equality for women by not only MF but all branches of feminism so that the voices of women will be heard.
A Household Labour Force Survey conducted by Stats NZ concluded that as of 2018 the gender pay gap was 9.2 percent based on the economic indicator used to measure pay equality. (Stats NZ, 2016)
Research pertaining to the New Zealand gender pay gap concludes that 80 percent cannot be explained. It reveals that unexplained difference includes discrimination moreover unconscious bias. Motherhood also plays as an important factor in gender pay gap in New Zealand (Ministry of Women, 2018).
Sin et al (2018) discovered that on average women returning to work as mothers had 4.4 percent decrease in hourly wages and that for mothers that return to work after a year, the average decrease is 8.3 percent.
in both higher-level and managerial positions also attributing to the gender pay gap. Additionally, women make up 59% of the workforce moreover 24% of the chief executives (Human Rights Commission, 2014).
As of 2019 we are seeing women more in positions power and receiving wages that reflect their labour. Our current female prime minister Jacinda Addern currently earns NZ$471,049 per year and is currently the seventh highest paid prime minister in the world (News Hub, 2019). Her predecessor, the honourable John Key (questionable) slightly made less $459,739 (NZ Herald, 2016).
Through a MF lens we can see how women (proletariat) have been ignored, unacknowledged, discriminated against within the capitalist system under a patriarchal system. Feminists Radical, Marxist, Social, Liberal have worked to address and introduce reforms to inspire change and equality between the sexes. Even though, its impossible to get a full measure of the wage gap and the full reasons behind it the fact remains. That there is still a gender wage gap between men and women and as long as this continues women will always hold a position of subordination.
- Bullock, Allan; Trombley, Stephen, eds. (1999). The New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought (3rd ed.). Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 978-0-00-255871-6.
- Cook, M. (2011). Womens movement, Te Ara the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/womens-movement/print
- Durie, M. (2001). Mauri Ora: The dynamics of Maori health. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press
- Engels, Frederick (1902) . The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co. OCLC 213734607
- Gemmell, M. (2013). A History of Marginalisation: Mori Women (Masters thesis, Victoria University of Wellington). Retrieved from: https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/bitstream/
- Gwendolyn, M. (1995). African Feminism: Towards a New Politics of Representation. Feminist Studies, 21(2), 405-424. doi: 10.2307/3178274dle/10063/3065/thesis.pdf?sequence=2
- Hartmann, H. (1981). The unhappy marriage of Marxism and feminism: towards a more progressive union, in Sargent, Lydia (ed.), Women and revolution: a discussion of the unhappy marriage of Marxism and Feminism, South End Press Political Controversies Series, Boston, Massachusetts: South End Press, pp. 142, ISBN 9780896080621.
- Human Rights Commission. (2014). New Zealand Census of Womens Participation: Retrieved from https://www.hrc.co..pdf
- Mikaere, A. (2003). The balance destroyed: the consequences of Mori women of the colonisation of Tikanga Mori. Auckland: University of Auckland
- Miles, M., Jayawardena, K., Baas, E., & Institute of Social Studies (The Hague). (1981). Feminism in Europe: Liberal and socialist strategies 1789-1919. The Hague: Institute of social studies.
- Ministry of Social Development. (2004). Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value: Making Human Rights and Employment Rights Laws Work Together Social Policy Journal of New Zealand: Issue 21
- Ministry of Women. (2018). Gender pay gap: retrieved from https://women.govt.nz/
- Ministry of Womens Affairs. (2019). Time line. Retrieved from
- News Hub. (2019). Jacinda Ardern ranks among highest paid world leaders Retrieved from
- The New Zealand Herald. (2016). Prime Minister John Key, Andrew Little and MPs get a pay rise from Remuneration Authority: Retrieved from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11744542
- Oxford. (2019). English Oxford Living Dictionaries. Retrieved from
- Rosenthal, N. B. (1984). Consciousness Raising: From Revolution to Re-Evaluation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 8(4), 309326.
- Sheppard, K. (1892), Economies, Canterbury Times 15 December 1892, p.6, reprinted in Lovell-Smith, pp.1069.
- ___ (1896), Economic Independence of Married Women, White Ribbon, pp.78, reprinted in Lovell-Smith, pp.1523.
- ___ (1898), Interview with Stella Henderson, White Ribbon, June, pp.12, reprinted in Lovell-Smith, pp.1259.
- Sin, I. Dasgupta, K. and Gail, P. (2018). Parenthood and labour market outcomes Retrieved from Ministry for Women
- Ross, L., Sawhill, I. (1977). The Family as an Economic Unit. The Wilson Quarterly,1,2. Retrieved from:
- Sellers, C. (1991). The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 Oxford University Press, New York
- Simonton, D. (1998). A History of European womens work 1700 to the present. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/unitec/reader.action?docID=169515&query=
- Srivatsan, R. (1999). Book reviews and notices: VEENA POONACHA, Gender within the human rights discourse. Bombay: Research Centre for Womens Studies, SNDT Univ., 1995. Gender and Politics: Book 1, Series Editor Meera Kosambi. viii + 184 pp. Notes, refs., appendices. Rs 65. Contributions to Indian Sociology, 33(1-2), 456-457. doi:10.1177/006996679903300135
- Stefano, C. D. (2014). Marxist Feminism. sT. Gibbons (Ed.). doi:10.1002/9781118474396.wbept0653
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