Women that inspire me – for specific reasons

I aspire to be a better boxer (do a few more fights and hopefully, and basically ride out all the corporate cards I can get), a better dancer (I still want to perform in my island’s te Maeva Nui squad and create my own dance atlas exploring body language and gender roles in different indigenous cultures – or at least learn a little about it), a better advocate (fortunately I have a great network of role models regarding that goal), and a better person in general. I have specific reasons why I’ve tried to make these my “things” fueling me towards this vision of myself and the world I want to create, but that’s not the point of this post! It’s to celebrate women that inspire me to be better at these things.

Below is a mish-mash of women I think are impressive, well regarded, and are at the top of their craft or heading in that direction. They are in no particular order. However, most of them are based in the Australasia/Pacific region, otherwise, I’ve had some engagement with them. This is no discredit to other writers/authors/artists which I adore and are based further abroad (i.e. Roxanne Gay, Michelle Obama and more) but this list is a bit more specific to my world.

Not every woman here is a woman of colour. And I have no further comment on that point. All photos are taken from google and the internet in general, I take no credit for them.

Also, because the internet is the internet and we all love to be offended – I may have simply missed some women which I haven’t come to know or read enough about. The internet is a great tool of information but it doesn’t mean I’m endlessly trawling it, so if I haven’t included someone it doesn’t mean I’m intentionally excluding them.

Edit: I aim to continually update this post when time allows. There are some women not mentioned here, especially some of the friends I’ve made over the years. I want to keep celebrating female peers and leaders because

  1. It offers a counter-narrative to female intra-sexual competition and competition in general (because unless you’re competiting in an actual competition i.e. sports, education, or science, what is the constructive benefit and point for competing for the male and patriarchical gaze when it’s destructive to the equality and human dignitiy of women?)
  2. Female peers are often my sound-boards (like “peer-mentors” almost), will sometimes call me on my bs if they care about me enough and will help influence/shape me since they’re part of my vā/ close social-environment
  3. Sharing life and breaking bread with women that have shared values is a blessing and privilege that shouldn’t go unappreciated!

So, heres my list:

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Moena Maiotui – Ori Tahiti expert

I managed to take a Ori class when she was here with my old Ura Tabu girls and my Ori cup was definitely full after that. She did some more warrior-inspired choreography in that set she taught and I am here for it e va’ine toa.

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Genah Fabian – Muay Thai/MMA Fighter

She is just an all-round bad-ass and I admire women in combat-sports. It’s a lonely but character-defining and tough journey in my opinion.

All the female fighters at Mayhem Boxing – some of them have punched me in the head and given me tips/direction, which I’m grateful for. No photos because I’d die of embarrassment if they found this post lol.

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Rachel Reed QC – Lawyer

In my first legal role I had the privilege of meeting Ms Reed. I’ve said something really embarrasing in front of her which makes me cringe regularly to this day; and sometimes I can’t sleep because of it. It serves as a lifelong reminder to read the room and try to know influential people before you meet them. It’ll have that timeless effect for as long as I’m an advocate -_-

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Julie-Anne Kincaid QC – Lawyer. Again, privileged to know her. She is a fantastic advocate in my opinion.

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Lisa Taouma – Writer & Producer

She’s produced Marks of Mana, was the founder of Coconet and many other amazing projects. Plus she’s also from Faleasi’u (village represent). ‘Nuff said lol

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Parris Goebel – Dancer, Choreographer, Business owner

Several reasons. And also, how could I (and others) not admire her?!? She has given the world enough reasons.

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Tyla Va’aefou – Tattooist & artist

I’ve happily been inked by her and am looking at more ink for my annual birthday ink session. I may have also drunk snapped her through a friend which is slightly embarrasing now that I think of it.

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Tapu Misa – Journalist & writer

I have never met her personally but I have a memory of someone in high-school telling me that she called the highschool asking why her daughter hadn’t been crowned head-girl, and then I saw her for the first time in our school hall in the front row for an awards presentation at an assembly where I was doing my head-girl weekly announcements. I don’t know if the phone call was true, but maybe one day I’ll get to ask her. I was slightly horrified when I found out because, my parents come from a humble background when I found out she was elan educated woman. In any case, I admire her and what she has done for Pacific journalism. To put her kaupapa into perspective, here is what she said in a recent article:

“You don’t have to be a particularly sensitive person to be profoundly affected by this [how Pacific people are framed in mainstream media]. How we, as a society, tell stories about ourselves and each other, makes a difference. Our stories create the lens through which we see ourselves and our neighbours and the world around us. Storytelling has the power to shape who and what we are.

I know first-hand the impact that an unrelenting onslaught of bad news and negative stereotypes can have. For me, an immigrant who arrived here at the age of eight, it’s meant a sometimes crippling lack of confidence, and a sense of never quite belonging.

I want better for the next generation of Māori and Pasifika women.”

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Faumui Penelope Ginnen & Judge Ida Malosi – District Court Judges and part of the pioneer Pacific Maori female lawfirm King Alofivae Malosi.

I didn’t make it to the swearing in ceremony for Judge Ginnen because I was working that day but it was a pensive moment when she sang Ua fa’afetai in the Northern Club given the history of that place.

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Ladi6 – Musician. I respect her for all the free concerts she did during the Ihumatao campaigns.

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Aarahdna – Musician. She sings and speaks with conviction, which I love.

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Maisey Rika – Musician, as above with Aaradhna, her soul pours through her voice. It’s beautiful to hear and witness.

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The women of Ura Tabu – Polynesian dance. The collective learning and culture in this crew has always been a joy to watch and experience.

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Seiuli Fiao’o Fa’amausili, Fa’amoana Leilua, Niall Williams & women in Rugby generally – Sportswomen. Fiao’o is a beast, I admire her tenacity.

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Leonie Pihama – Scholar & activitst

My friend admires her way more than I and has a lot more to do with her. I’ve only had the privilege of hearing her speak at the Mana Wahine event run by the Women’s Centre in Tamaki Makaurau. She speaks with conviction. I have yet to go through her works.

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Natalie Coates, Maia Wikaira and Annette Sykes – Lawyers

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Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong – Media personality, Pacific Media Network broadcaster

I will forever stan her comment on the Pacific vote. She has been around forever and has done a lot of work in Pacific Media. I just admire her MC ability.

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Chlöe Swarbrick – Member of Parliament

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Jacinta Ruru – Academic

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Soana Moala – Judge

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Helena Kaho – All-round amazing woman

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Loana Tanielu – Doctor, mother and my ex-Sunday School teacher. I fangirl her mum, Dr. Lonise Tanielu. That family is just full of brown excellence.

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Moana Maniapoto – Singer & activist

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Emaline Afeaki Mafile’o – Social entrepeneur

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Pania Newton – Advocate and activist. Her conviction and fearlessness is unmatched, and she is a definition of va’ine toa if I ever met one.

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Angela Tiatia – Artist

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Goretti Chadwick & Anapela Polataivao – Actresses

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Luti Richards – Poet

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Tessa Temata – HC to the Cook Islands

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Jahra Wasasala – Dancer

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Olive Asi & the other women of the South Auckland Poets Collective – Spoken word artists

Honor Ford – Lawyer. She is eloquent, caring and fierce. And I’m grateful to be able to call her a friend.

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Vea Mafile’o – film maker

Belinda Sellars QC – Lawyer. She helped pioneer the Public Defence Service.

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Indira Stewart – Journalist

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Teresia Teaiwa – Scholar, Poet & Activist

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Selina Tusitala Marsh – Writer

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Sia Figiel – Writer

Motherhood: sacrifice & love

Today is mother’s day. It is a day of recognition and appreciation for all that mother’s do. I don’t like to catch myself reflecting too much on the point because the realisation of what my mother has done for me can sometimes be crippling, with reference to everything that follows. Because when I think of her, the first word that comes to mind is sacrifice. Because in my mind, to be the recipient of someone’s sacrifice is the greatest form of love. 

My mother chose the name Siobhan because it was unique, unlike anything she’d heard before. And because it meant, in Irish Gaelic, “God is Gracious”. An odd name for a Polynesian woman but a poetic and strong name for the woman she wanted to raise.

Shortly after I was born, my mother took me to Mitiaro for some months. I’m not quite sure how many months, but she has retold stories of me running around our yard (beside the church) in nothing but a cloth nappy for weeks at a time.

In Aotearoa, she taught me my ABCs, 123s, how to spell simple words and write them. She would do this via a cardboard poster which she made, cello-taped to my red plastic children’s table and chair playset. I would hold the pen in my right hand, she would place hers over mine and guide the movement of the pen until I could spell my name on my own.

My mother also taught me how to dance; nothing extravagant but just the simple moves. It was not a significant focus for her, what she aimed to do was feed my mind with knowledge and discipline.

Although she was strict, she has a soft spot for me. When I cried at kindergarten because my mum wasn’t going to stay there with me the whole day, she decided that it wasn’t for me and I stayed at home until my 5th birthday. She did not work for a large part of this part of my life, and spent most of it with me. 

When I started primary, this obviously meant I wasn’t the best at making friends quickly. She would come to school during lunch time and see if I was ok. And naturally, I would spend lunch with her. This eventually waned until I was less socially awkward and made friends.

She structured her working hours so that it would fit in with me and so that there was always one parent at home in case anything happened. She would do shift work in the evenings and be available during the day for any school events and sick days needed.

As I got older, my mother would take me to my sports games and piano lessons. And when I got to high school, she would still help me make my lunch from time to time (this was when my sister came along so she was busy raising another child too).

At University, she would check in and make sure I wasn’t too overwhelmed with my work load. When I woke up early to study, and she was awake, she would make me breakfast. And when I returned home from work after University, she had left me some dinner, sometimes with my name actually spelt on the gladwrap covering the plate of food.

She told me to keep away from worldy distractions and focus on finishing my studies. To pursue something greater for myself and for us as a family. As an adult, and thankfully, a more liberal Polynesian woman, she no longer gives strict direction, but rather guidance and advice. The world’s we both grew up in are so different, and to a large degree, the world’s we currently experience in our working lives mostly are classes apart based on several socio-economic factors. 

This woman, did not have the same upbringing as me. She received beatings, for some tragedies that a woman should never be beaten for, was blamed for things out of her control and was made to leave school before she was 10. My mother was the carer for her other siblings and was kept home to do house chores while her brothers had their education prioritised. She didn’t relive these beatings on me (not in any great way past my primary years). She didn’t tell me to aim low because I was a woman but to be the best that I could be. 

My mother accepted what she couldn’t control but capitalised on things that she could and the best way she knew how. And she did that as best as she could for me. And throughout my entire life, more or less, she has sacrificed her own pleasures in life for mine and for the greater good of our family. She could have moved back to Mitiaro to look after her father at an earlier time before he passed, but she stayed here to help pay the bills and raise my younger sister. She could have spent her money on purchases that she wanted for herself, but instead she spent it on uniforms and laptops for my sister’s schooling. 

She has sacrificed, loved and raised me to be the woman I am today. But I don’t only owe my make-up to her. There are a handful of other women who have raised me, sharing their energy, time and guidance with me. The power to shape and influence another being, their identity, character and qualities, is a remarkable thing. I don’t take my mother’s, or these people’s influence lightly. You are the sum of the company you keep. 

I don’t know if I will get to experience motherhood one day. If I do, I know I will be eternally grateful to these women, including my mother, for showing me the strength, responsibility & power of motherhood.

And I know it’s not Christmas but, I love Kaitlin’s poem below, as a signal of the strength of a woman and (obviously in this case, biological) mother.

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Say No to the New Lands and Titles Bill

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I’m not a lawyer and only took a business law class back in university, but even I can spot the holes in the newly proposed Lands and Titles Act Bill that is meant to repeal the 1981 Bill. There are a lot of opinions out there right now – many who are opposed to this Bill, and rightly so. This Bill will give the government power to slowly remove matais from the process, take declared or customary land, use smoke and mirrors as a way for the Head of State to make whatever rules he/she wants to, and so much more. So, with all this I’m going to break down some of my findings and why you should care and start calling your family on the island to protest this Bill. Also, before I dive in, there’s a petition you can sign opposing this Bill. Sign it here.


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Digital footprint & virtual reputations

I’m part of the generation that the internet became a thing; the transition phase i.e. Gen Y. So I remember growing up without laptops, smart phones/watches or tablets for most of my primary school years in the early 90s, and then venturing on to MSN messenger in the early 00s to pointlessly talk to the same kids I saw during the day. Desktops were becoming a thing in the 90s growing up. My computer experience consisted of SkiFree or 3D Pinball, some Carmen Sandiago or Magic School Bus adventure and whatever lucky dip CDs my Dad let me buy from the Duffy Book catalogue for our desktop at home.

Then as a teenager, social media was born.  Myspace was more popular overseas but Bebo was the buzz here in Aotearoa. My friends and I created profiles on both virtual playgrounds. Teenagers of the early 2000s could now re-confirm our insecurities around the clock. Sending hearts, asking to be in another person’s top 16 and posting grainy photos from some point and shoot camera.

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Then phones became more common, Kelly Rowland was able to send texts through excel spreadsheet and you get the rest of the story. I’ve been fortunate to have game consoles and desktops like most middle-ish class kids growing up in the 90s, so my digital navigation isn’t too shabby. But I dread to think what my initial search engine histories were like, let alone my general digital footprint since data and internet has become more and more accessible accessible, particularly during my pubescent years *cringe*. Don’t know how to do something? Google it. Too scared to ask your parents about it? Google it. Someone asking you something you don’t know? Tell them to Google it.

Fast forward to my 20-somethings, I started piecing together a patchwork career in spaces that I thought I could contribute some positive value to – that fit the story I wanted my life to tell. This meant connecting with lots of people I had no networks in and putting my best foot forward so they’d want to work with me.

Naturally when people get your CV for a work opportunity, they will complete a background check via your references, certifications and virtual presence. Because no one wants to hire someone that isn’t fit-for-purpose or at least doesn’t have the base attitude to be developed into fit-for-purpose. I didn’t have any serious cringe-worthy photos online or subscriptions to questionable websites. A google search of my name was mostly littered with articles or posts about the voluntary work I had done throughout university degrees. That being said, I did have:

  • A public video I edited of me and my girlfriend partying in Thailand – my attempt at trying to be influencer-esque (my edit was crap).
  • A few photos from some TFP contracts I’d done – including one with me dressed up as cat woman and one of me wearing nothing but the New Zealand flag.
  • Posed party-shots on my Facebook page that weren’t private.

Granted, one of my employers saw the first of those and I was still hired. I don’t know if that would’ve been the same outcome if he’d seen the TFP shots given the #MeToo climate. I had actually asked the photographer months beforehand to remove my photos from his online portfolio (THANK YOU PAST ME – but not past past me who thought that kind of photoshoot was a good idea in the first place).

I only properly started to clean up my online act toward the end of university. During my earlier years, I wanted to be “relevant and cool” with the crowds I mixed in. Now, I simply dgaf. I’m much more comfortable in my identity than I was in my early 20s, I like who I am and who I’m striving to be. That person doesn’t engage in TFPs and likes a whole lot of privacy now. However, even that being said, the decision to have an online presence at all is so easily made, without thinking of the layers and consequences of each digital decision one makes. I know I easily toss these decisions aside to get the information I desire whenever, where ever and from whatever agency/organisation is giving it on the other side.

This is definitely something I want to explore a little more given we’re in the age of big data, control over that data is blurry and all the policy implications on personal sovereignty (i.e. choice) that arise. For now, I’ll continue to clean up my online presence, try not to watch too many movies like Unfriended and check the encryption on any photos posted of myself online.

 

Rocky road

I tend to want sweet food when I’m experiencing more anxiety than usual – which I’m not going to deny, I’m feeling somewhat during this lockdown because my usual routine is slightly non-existent right now. I refuse to dress up in work gear to go to my living-room to do my work for the day. I haven’t been sleeping the best because I’m not working out as regularly as I am (I bought a boxing bag to change that though). There’s a multitude of things going on here but that’s not the point of this post.

This is a slightly useless post though because I don’t have a recipe – I just make it up every time I buy it (Samoan of me) but am intentional with the ingredients. The chocolate to other ingredient ratio is a lucky-dip.

Basically any rocky road recipe has the following:

  1. Chocolate (I prefer dark – pick your percentage)
  2. Marshmallows
  3. Pistachios

Extra add-ons that I like to include:

  1. Goji berries
  2. Freeze dried raspberries (if I’m feeling fancy)
  3. Popcorn (I haven’t added this usually but want to try it)
  4. Other dried berries or nuts of your choice

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