40 years on, still straining to open doors

The Donald. He loves the women. Though you wouldn't think it. Because he's not actually all about them as people. More as arm candy. Or property. But where's the harm, right?, Liz Breslin asks.

I mean, there's a Facebook group, Women for Donald Trump. And Kirstie Alley totally endorses him. And she's a woman. So.

It makes me think of Anne Kennedy's poem I was a feminist in the eighties where, exhausted, the feminist gets gobbled up by a lion.

I like to think that the women who gathered at Te Whare Pora last weekend would have eaten The Donald up for lunch and woven something apt out of his leftover bones.

Te Whare Pora (the weaving house) was the first full gender equality conference held in New Zealand since the United Women's Conferences of the 1970s. In Wanaka, by the way. Boom.

What self-serving, smooth-talking, penis-toting politician would not quake at facing a panel made up of Louise Nicholas, Michele A'Court and Dame Margaret Sparrow DNZM MBE?

And they were the final course. A stellar weekend. Feel the fear, The Donald. And weep.

And weep many of us did at the stories coming out of the weaving house. The systematic cuts to services specific to women and families. The necessary networks of self-defences of all sorts. The divisions and the intersections. And yet. But still. Look how far we have come.

Post-conference, I went home to wash sheets and bake. Because I am a lucky one.

"From neoliberal paradigms to nasturtium pesto,'' my Facebook status update read. And it started me thinking about the spaces that I occupy, consciously, as a woman, in my life.

Mostly I am terrified of gatherings of girls. It's because I don't really understand how to engage with the rules.

I always wore the wrong sort of active wear to school pick-ups when the children were small and I don't know how to wear make-up at all.

I don't have a good relationship with a good hairdresser. I go years without a proper consultation and then do something drastic.

Which is sort of how I feel about Te Whare Pora, too.

But some female places I can navigate. Clothes swaps for one.

I am aware that these appeal to a certain segment of the population, being the people (me) who are too poor to seasonally update our wardrobes and too arty/flighty to keep wearing the same trou for two years. But they're epic fun and very thrifty. It works like this.

You and your friends of various shapes and sizes clear out the corners of your wardrobe, bundle round to someone's house and pile all your unwanted but clearly clean and decent (standards, people) clothes in a heap.

You sift through said clothes, drink wine, marvel at how the clothes look differently brilliant on each other, talk about things that matter, in passing, while passing clothes around, drink more wine, talk, and talk more.

It's about the clothes, but it's not. It's about being in it together. The drinking's not mandatory, but the talking seems to be.

We are always talking, us girls, not just because we feel like we haven't been listened to in, let's see, centuries, but also because we have more FOXP2 protein in our systems which is responsible for development of speech, which needs an outlet somewhere. Just saying. Lots.

Anyway, clothes swaps. Still talking. The last one I went to ended with the pre-teen girls doing a great rendition of "whip/nae nae'', which, dodgy as it may sound, is nothing more alarming than repetitive combined dance movements.

I mean, Hillary Clinton whips, or she did, that once, though Bill says she needs a bit of work on her nae nae. True.

So watch me whip ... The boys at the swap, by contrast, sat in the kitchen, arms folded.

When we finally staggered out under the weight of our newly rejuvenated wardrobes, they were trading riddles.

Like this one: you have to choose which door to open out of three.

Behind one is a fire, behind another is a lion which hasn't eaten for three months and behind the third a bunch of assassins.

Which do you choose? Der, girls, pay attention.

The lion, right, because he's weak, or dead, having not been fed.

So. OK. There are three doors. Behind one you've got The Donald, behind the next, the starving feminists, eaten up and, umm, a lion behind the third door? - or no - why not fill the space with your best co-operative wishes for the world, open the door and see what you can do to work towards them.


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