The radical notion that women are people



Picture from Parenting For Social Justice.  Content warning for discussion of rape, including some specifics.

Over at The Hand Mirror we changed our masthead a few years ago to include the quotation “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”.  Rebecca West is credited with first saying this, and I have to say it’s a frequent refrain in my head, and sometimes outside it too.

And so I’m getting a little over the “how would you feel if it was your daughter?” challenge to rape apologists.

Women don’t matter because of their relationship to men.  They matter, we matter, because we are people;  full modern human beings, or Homo sapiens sapiens if you want to get all scientific about it.

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New Zealanders aren’t very good at difficult conversations.  Many of us practice avoidance rather than active discussion of the hard bits.  I suppose it’s easier to say “what if it your daughter was raped?” than “what if you were raped?”

Those who are the victims of rape are not somehow lesser beings.  They bear no blame for the accident that has happened to them.  Their clothes, alcohol intake, previous sexual behaviour, are all irrelevant.  I say “they” because, as I shared elsewhere this week, my own experiences to date have been the stories of others, some near misses.

And watching, and trying to intervene sometimes, in behaviour very similar to what it sounds like the Roast Busters Rape Club has been undertaking – the deliberate targeting of an individual girl or young woman with alcohol, to get her into a state with limited capacity to consent, and then disappear to a bedroom.

I’ve seen that happen, 20 years ago in Glenfield.  The modus operandi of the main person in my circle who used to do it was to start a drinking game and then skew the rules to get a particular female acquaintance (not always the same person) totally blitzed.  Sometimes I would monitor the game, as the annoying sober one, and call this chap on his re-interpretations of the rules to the detriment of his target; somehow she would always end up transgressing and having to scull more than anyone else.  This didn’t make me very popular.  Neither did sometimes explicitly saying “you are just trying to get Suchandsuch drunk” in front of her, to warn her.  I wish now I had done more.  I don’t know for sure that rape happened in those bedrooms, but I do know this person later raped his then girlfriend, when we were adults.

I didn’t understand what all this was at the time.  I knew it didn’t feel right, but I also knew that I wasn’t popular for voicing that.

All of this is about an attitude towards women and girls that sees them as bodies, as conquests, as holes. This attitude is far from new, or unique to the Roast Busters Rape Club. How awful is it that many women and girls have it so ingrained in them that this is what we are that we often don’t see rape culture ourselves?

Women are people.  It’s really not that radical.


  1. It amazes me that some respected female group hasn’t made some sort of announcement like:

    We call upon the National Government to do ‘something’ QUICKLY about his abuse of females in NZ.
    If heads don’t roll within say a month, due to good evidence by an independent review, then we advice ALL women to NOT vote for the National party at the next election.

    I reckon the fear of half the voting population not voting for National, If they try and hide from ‘fixing this’, will cause this matter to be sorted quick smart.

    How can women feel safe in NZ with this Government if they back the polices actions in this matter. By NOT standing up and doing something drastic, e.g. as above, they’re letting the people behind this mess, get away with it.
    Ladies you have the power and RIGHT on your side. Strike hard before the sheeple of NZ move onto another issue, e.g. NZ top model or similar.

    • for over 50 years women have been calling on the ‘government’ daddy state but the rot is to deep – yes many things have changed but a ‘government’ cannot change the culture – it cannot force someone to adopt a new set of beliefs, or attitudes and rape culture is so deeply embedded within the culture globally at large no ‘government’ can stop it – that has to come with something else – we can take steps to educate – but the beliefs the wrongness of women – the inherent need to blame her and punish her is deeper than some government law or culture – these are simply symptoms

  2. yes – this strange notion of equality was meant to bring this point home but – alas it got co-opted along the way – by of course men – who thought that just because woman wanted to be equal she must want to be like them – the distortion of course changed every thing – what was missed and what you are trying to point out to deeply engrained androcentric culture at large, is that women wanted the same equal right to be a human being – the same equal right to exist – the same right men took for granted

  3. I”m sorry – I have to disagree. New Zealand is among the top 10 best places to be a woman, according to a worldwide report on gender equality. It ranked seventh out of 136 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2013, with narrow gaps between the sexes in the health, education, economic and political sectors.

    New Zealand was at number one – equal with several European countries – for educational attainment, which included literacy rates and enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education. For political empowerment, New Zealand ranked 12th. That included a sub-heading on women in Parliament – where we ranked 25th – with 68 per cent of politicians male and 32 per cent women.

    New Zealand ranked 98th on the list for healthy life expectancy because women were outliving men by an average of only two years – 74 versus 72.

    We do still have some real issues with equality (especially in the pay gap), however NZ is overall a great place to be a woman. It offends me that this “Poor little me, I’m an oppressed, undervalued, abused woman” drivel is still being delivered up. It portrays NZ’s men and women in a very bad light, and it’s dishonest.

    Women and alcohol is an entirely stand-alone subject, and it’s more about the alcohol than the gender of the drinker. Alcohol abuse is rampant in New Zealand, among both genders. And it needs to stop. Alcohol is responsible for both men and women getting hurt, although men are by far more likely to be the victims of violence than women. The statistics are clear on that.

    If women choose to abstain from abusing their alcohol intake, that would be great. If we choose to continue to tell them it’s OK to get blind drunk, that would be irresponsible.

    As women, we have the power to behave ourselves. And in so doing, it is less likely we will be harmed. There are many genuine examples of women who have gotten so blind drunk they’ve slept with one or more men, and then regretted it and called it ‘rape’. With 34% of sexual violence allegations being either ‘no offence’ or ‘false complaint’, and with alcohol being involved in a significant number of those, I think we maybe need to rethink the way we’re drinking, ladies.


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