Lily, 16, from Lynfield College talks about feminism, family violence and the upcoming Youth March. You can follow her on Instagram @feminism.nz here.
What does feminism mean to you as an individual in New Zealand society?
Lily: New Zealand is very socially progressive and our status as the first independent country to grant women's suffrage fills me with a strong sense of patriotism. However, we are not short of flaws despite being very first to combat de jure misogyny and actually achieve said goal. A brief list includes: sanitary products are still being taxed 15% due to it being considered luxury items; abortion accessibility is limited underneath unjust government-enforced restrictions; systematic devaluation of pink collar labour, resulting in the 12.0% gap in median hourly earnings between men and women as of 2016. To me, feminism is about addressing such issues to reach desirable long-term solutions so women are entitled to the same treatment as their male counterparts.
Is it more than just equality between men and women? What about race or ethnicity?
Lily: Definitely. Oppressive systems of power (sexism, racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia etc.) overlap and are interconnected with one another to maintain a hierarchy which places certain demographics above others. It's absolutely crucial to be inclusive of marginalised communities in one's feminist activism because we have to move from the age when feminism only benefited white women and striven off the deliberate exclusion of women of colour. That only encouraged white women's complicity in the patriarchy and further disadvantaged those without white privilege. Feminism without intersectionality is just white supremacy and we can't be tolerant of that.
Why is it important to celebrate youth voices in our community?
Lily: The voices of today's youth are often disregarded as they are not taken seriously by adults, who primarily go by the notion that young people are less knowledgeable, which is completely baseless, as I've met so many influential teenagers who pushed me to think for myself instead of following the mainstream flow, which is a popular trend in previous generations. By comparison, my generation is so much more open-minded than those before us and with our willingness to challenge matters we don't agree with rather than stew in hateful ignorance, we possess the power to lay the foundation to building an accepting society for all.
Do you think this can generate more development opportunities for youths and future generations?
Lily: Yes! I have a lot of faith in today's youth and our capabilities. I'm sure we all share a desire to improve aspects of society previous generations completely fucked up, therefore giving us no choice but to learn from their mistakes to establish a better future for us all.
What current issues are you hoping for Shakti’s Youth march to raise awareness for?
Lily: The devastating fact that New Zealand has one of the worst rates of family and intimate partner violence in the developed world, which we need to take action towards instead of ignoring its existence in our supposedly perfect society.
How are some ways we get this across to the general public? What roles can the wider community play in this?
Lily: I think we need to start an open dialogue within ourselves because domestic violence is a subject that is often stigmatised. If we continue treating it as a taboo, many others will be discouraged to seek help. Awareness is the very first step.
How do you envision the future if your [youth] voices were more present?
Join Lily and other students from high schools around Auckland on a march to end violence and discrimination. For more information, check out the Facebook event here.