Last year as part of the Suffrage 125 commemorative programme, a team of young feminists, collaborating with Te Papa, organised a Young Feminist Hui: a day-long discussion of contemporary feminism in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The conversation explored topical issues including pornography, the representation of women in the media, male tears, emotional labour, and the ways that feminism affects everyone.
We catch up with one of the organisers of the event, Olivia Trass, to find out what issues she is discussing now, one year on, and what she took away from the hui.
Kia ora Olivia! What is something you took away from the Young Feminist Hui?
Kia ora Te Papa! The thing I remember most clearly is sitting around talking, ending up in a circle on the floor, chatting about things that affected us in our daily lives, and noticing the issues we kept circling back to, like porn and modern media. Those conversations generated the topics for the hui.
In realising that other people think about and talk about these same things, it’s made me more comfortable with bringing them up with people outside of the hui group – rather than having people I just talk to about my “feminist things”. What made it feel significant was not just the fact that there were 10 of us in a room chatting about these issues, but that we had held an event that had a waiting list, because so many people were interested and wanted to engage with these issues as much as we did.
It was a fantastic feeling, to see people coming together to engage with the issues and workshops that we were presenting, and even I learned a lot from the day despite having had in-depth conversations on those topics for months. I loved hearing such varied perspectives on these issues given that we’d been talking about them in the same group for several months.
In terms of leading the WGC Feminist Club and hosting the radio show (WGC Feminist Radio on Wellington Access Radio), this helped me figure out how to facilitate useful discussions and how to make those discussions more productive.
What have you been talking about since the hui? What issues are current now?
Issues like abortion and climate change have been particularly relevant recently, but the big thing that is always, always relevant is media, especially social media, and how that affects us.
Media coverage about abortion has made people much more aware of what the situation actually is in New Zealand. I knew hardly anything about it before seeing it in the media and doing my own research.
Is there something you would want to tell people one or two generations older than you about being a young person in New Zealand at this time?
Learn to listen. Learn to listen to people who have different opinions from you and different experiences from you. Because that is the only way you can really learn what is going on and understand all these different issues even when they don’t affect you personally.