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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Women, Race and Class by Angela Y. Davis

Fay Van Kerckvoorde

#onthisday in 1944 Angela Y. Davis was born. She is an American political activist, philosopher, academic and author. She wrote over ten books on class, feminism, and the U.S. prison system. She was a member of the Communist Party USA until 1991. Also, she was jailed for charges related to a prison outbreak, though ultimately cleared.

Women, Race and Class is an historical analysis of the women’s movement in the U.S. from abolitionist days to the present. Davis demonstrates how emancipation movements always have been obstructed by the sexist, racist and classist biases of its leaders. Unfortunately, to this day these exclusions still exist in a lot of social movements.

The book was first published in 1981, but it is not dated. If you want to read a coherent book that places the feminist struggle in a broader context from an intersectional view, I’d highly recommend it! In my opinion…

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We Should All Be Feminists & Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Fay Van Kerckvoorde

Why should we be feminists? Why not egalitarians?

“Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general- but to choose to use the vague expression human rights (or egalitarians) is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender.

It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human.

For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution acknowledge that.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (°1977 in Nigeria) is the bestselling author of novels Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun,The Thing Around Your Neck (short story collection) and Americanah.

She also…

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Kia Mataara : Resources from Kia Mōhio Kia Mārama Trust

Leonie Pihama

Tēnā koutou katoa,

This blog is to share the Kia Mataara series of resources on the history of Aotearoa and a range of political issues up to the end of the 1990’s. The Kia Mataara series was created by Kia Mōhio Kia Mārama Trust.

Last year I was given permission to digitally reproduce this series so that it could be made more widely available. This is the first public sharing of the resources in digital form with the agreement of those that produced the publications. Finding a full set of the publications took some time and it was Bronwyn Yates and Barbara Menzies that provided the set that is held by Literacy Aotearoa to enable the digitising of the series. The series was produced through the efforts of Kia Mōhio Kia Mārama Trust and the graphics for the series were created by Moana Maniapoto. What is clear is that this…

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Mana Wahine Readers

Leonie Pihama

Tēnā koutou,

This blog is not so much a blog as it is a means by which to support the dissemination of two online resources related to Mana Wahine that have been developed with Te Kotahi Research Institute and supported by Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga.

The ideas to develop a Mana Wahine reader was generated from the many requests that Linda and myself have had to provide references or support in the area of Mana Wahine, both as theory and as lived ways of being. The concept of Mana Wahine is not new to us as Māori, as whānau, as hapū, as iwi, rather it is embedded within the whakapapa and whanaungatanga relationships that are themselves grounded within tikanga. Over the past 32 years there has been a steady increase in the writings and creative works by Māori women, each of which contribute to an affirmation of ourselves in…

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