Oct 5, 2011

Sexism and Maori

On Monday night Native Affairs ran a panel discussion with Dr Hone Kaa and Matt McCarten. The panel discussed the upcoming election as well as the Maori seats. Julian Wilcox, the host, suggested to Hone Kaa that Waiariki could go either way (to Te Ururoa or Annette), however Dr Kaa disagreed. He held that Waiariki is Te Ururoa’s because it is a “Wahine voice versus a Tane voice”. Dr Kaa then went onto say “given that tribal area (meaning Te Arawa)… how many women do you see speaking on a Marae there?” What he was implying is that Te Arawa is, and I wish there was a less offensive term for this, sexist. Although he did not come out and say so in certain terms, the implications of his statements are clear. 

It's sometimes said that Te Arawa is, to quote a very prominent Maori leader who shall remain nameless, “chauvinist”. Women are accorded a subordinate place on the Marae and the social hierarchy. I think Dr Kaa poses a valid question.

We know that on the arrival of Europeans, or more specifically missionaries, our Tikanga was warped to better reflect Christian notions of the place of women (i.e. as secondary to men) and we have yet to reclaim our original ideas about the role of women and their place in our world. Or, alternatively, we have yet to respond to and incorporate modern notions of the place of women. But is this a justification? Or is this really the case? I don’t really know.

Having said that, I doubt any perceived or real chauvinism on the part of Te Arawa will have much bearing on the result. The tribes of the Mataatua (Ngati Awa, Tuhoe, Whakatohea, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Pukenga – as well as Nga Puhi of course) accord women a special place as a result of two tipuna – Wairaka and Muriwai. Depending on whom you ask, Wairaka or Muriwai saved the Mataatua Waka on arrival in Whakatane. As a result of this women have always and continue to occupy a central role in the life of the aforementioned tribes. With this in mind, the perceived or real chauvinism of Te Arawa will not have much, if any, affect on the election as the tribes of the Mataatua Waka outnumber those of the Te Arawa Waka.

(In no way is what I write a slur against Te Arawa. I'm probably woefully wrong).


  1. The article is interesting to be argued. I also think that Maori women are accorded their place in Te Arawa.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. The article is interesting to be argued. I also think that Maori women are accorded their place in Te Arawa.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. If it's not your intention to offend Morgan then don't. Preceding statements as such, are usually an indication that what one intends to say is going to be offensive.

    Reclaiming "our original ideas about the role of women and their place in our world" whatever those ideas may be, is hardly a purposeful pursuit for Maori women, especially in today's context. In addition, and with respect, Dr Hone Kaa's question is hardly a valid question in today's context.

    Te Arawa women are accorded their place in their own traditions. If Te Arawa women are uncomfortable with those traditions in today's context, only they can instigate change.

    Personally, I have issue with the term chauvinist, which doesn't 'fit' with tradition in te ao Maori and an unfair term to use in evaluating the place or role of women in Te Arawa, or any Iwi for that matter.

    It would be more purposeful to recognise not so much the role of women in te ao Maori, but the rights of women, Maori and non-Maori, in te ao whanui. A role is exactly that, a role which has certain responsibilities. Who says that Te Arawa women are uncomfortable with their role in their own traditions. Take a look at the inspirational women leaders from Te Arawa and their contribution to te ao Maori and te ao whanui - late Atareta Maxwell, late Taini Morrison, Annette Sykes, and many others. I attended and enjoyed an evening that celebrated Te Arawa women. Phenomenal. Those women have achieved not because of any role they have in their own traditions, but because they exercise their 'rights' to be recognized as strong Maori women and leaders.

    The ability to do this in te ao whanui, but remain steadfast in their own traditional beliefs is their choice. The right of choice is their's.

    Incidentally, I'm not Te Arawa, I'm a Tainui woman. Te Arawa have a history of very strong women leaders. We do too, e.g. Te Puea, Te Atairangikaahu, and others...and guess what, you won't see many of us getting up to speak on the marae. Course you would know this, being from Ngati Hikairo, and Waipapa Marae.

    Not a challenge Morgan...just sharing my thoughts. Your blog was described to me by a colleague as that, which offers critical perspectives from a young talent. He wasn't wrong...

    Nei ka mihi...

  4. Tena koe,

    Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts. I find your perspective very interesting. Perhaps I've approached this topic with the wrong perspective.

    Nga mihinui

  5. Morgan, perhaps a reason behind the leaders that Anonymous has mentioned have contributed so much to Maori as a whole is because they felt their own people were not listening to them before they gained reputation within Maoridom.

  6. Kaa thinks everyone should be like Ngati Porou. But we can't all be kupapa and have the privilege of a constant flock of arrogant male Ngati Porou politicians. Irony? I wonder whether he's read Anne Salmond's book on Eruera Stirling where Kepa Ehau aknowledges the importance of his own matrilineal descent and succession.

  7. It will not be Ms Sykes gender that sees her fail miserably in polling within Waiariki, it will be her history of antagonism and factionalisation in iwi settlements, her outrageous outspokenness, and yes, even Maori get hoha with the radicals who don't ever seem to fade away. I guess an example would be Tame Iti standing say if Tuhoe had its own electorate. How do you reckon he would fare?

  8. If Tame stood in Tuhoe he'd win 99.9% of the vote.

  9. Hmmm really.



    Actually, I don't see Tame's name on any of the Tuhoe representative bodies I can find, that includes in recent years.
    And it is not for his want of trying to achieve influence in iwi affairs, including treaty negotiations.

    Perhaps not an ideal link, but more informed than you unsupportable youthful idealism that says he would enjoy almost 100 per cent support.

    Annette has similarly struggled to achieve appointment on similar Te Arawa boards.

  10. I say 99% with my tongue in my cheek. Having grown up in in neighbouring Ngati Awa (and being Tuhoe myself) I have a fair understanding of the Tuhoe psyche and what feeling is like on the ground. I say Tame would win based on my knowledge of his standing in Tuhoe and knowing how Tuhoe percieve their politicians and politics.

  11. Nice call on Wairiki Godfrey. It is no co-incidence that idealism tends to fade with experience.



1. Anonymous comments will be rejected. Please use your real name or a pseudonym/moniker/etc...
2. No personal abuse. Defamatory comments will be rejected.
3. I'll reject any comment that isn't in good taste.