On International Women’s Day let’s spare a thought for the women in powerful positions today. Those in government such as Hekia Parata, Paula Bennett and Judith Collins, and those women who are CEOs of corporations, nearly all would be at home wiping down their kitchen benches if it wasn’t for trade unionists, the communists and socialist women’s liberation movements. The radical origins of the March 8th celebration for women’s equality can be seen in its earlier title International Working Women’s Day.
Where were the right-wing women in the struggle for voting rights? It was communists like Sylvia Pankhurst who were at the forefront. What about childcare so that women could do paid work? Once again communists, socialists and trade unionists led the way.
What about contraception rights which enabled women to have a life beyond childrearing? While the right-wing were in favour of eugenics, those who wanted contraception to free women were the radical socialists and communists, such as Elsie Locke in New Zealand and Margaret Sanger in the US. Paid parental leave and equal pay (we’re not there yet), all originated in socialist thought and have been fought for by left-wing movements.
When it comes to addressing inadequate paid parental leave, or the gender pay gap or the continued criminalisation of abortion in New Zealand right-wing women have no programme to advance women’s equality. Nor do Labour’s MPs have grounds to be proud. Throughout the decades they have failed to really address these key concerns despite having a woman leader who was Prime Minster. While Helen Clark parades around as a feminist, in her nine years of being PM she failed to reverse the benefit cuts of 1991, failed to repeal the abortion laws and said that employer-funded paid parental leave would be introduced “over my dead body”.
One third of New Zealand’s parliamentarians are women. Do they speak up for the most disadvantaged women – those migrants and their families treated as illegals and thrown out of the country? Or those who end up in detention camps in Nauru, Australia, Papua New Guinea? They are mostly silent on these appalling human rights abuses.
National’s most prominent women have shown they have what it takes to front the attacks on housing, education and benefit rights. These ungrateful whingers not only have no sense of history they have nothing to contribute for progress for women.
For a selection of articles on Redline about women’s liberation and Marxism, see here. The selection includes several pieces on International Working Women’s Day.