Academic journal article Women's Studies Journal

Playing the Trump Card: Glorifying Aotearoa New Zealand Feminism in 'Dangerous Times'

Academic journal article Women's Studies Journal

Playing the Trump Card: Glorifying Aotearoa New Zealand Feminism in 'Dangerous Times'

Article excerpt


For some, the Women's March was an epiphany, a political awakening, a wondrous expression of interwoven resistance and solidarity. Yet in the days before and immediately after the march, criticism arising from feminist activists, bloggers, and scholars about the way in which intersectionality and inclusion were taken up by organisers, protesters, and marchers eclipsed the glow of solidarity experienced by many participants (Moss & Maddrell, 2017, p. 614).

The Women's March took place globally on 21 to 22 January, 2017. It was organised by a collective of women around the world advocating for women's rights and allied social justice concerns, and was catalysed by Donald Trump's inauguration and administration. As noted by Moss and Maddrell (2017) above, the Women's March was a 'wonderous expression of interwoven resistance and solidarity'. Aotearoa New Zealand joined in this global event, holding marches across many different regions in support of the main Women's March in Washington, United States. Such solidarity should be fostered, as women's oppression can unite women in a common struggle across geographic boundaries.

However, despite these global 'expressions' of solidarity, some feminist activists and scholars highlighted that the march lacked an intersectional approach in its feminist goals (Moss & Maddrell, 2017). In 'dangerous times', it is important to study the articulation of feminism in our own communities to ensure that all members are included and empowered. This article summarises research from my Honour's dissertation, carried out at the University of Auckland, where I used the Women's March protests throughout Aotearoa New Zealand to explore how feminism is currently articulated in this country. I investigated this question over a period of 12 weeks through discourse analysis of mainstream Aotearoa New Zealand newspaper articles. My findings were that, first, New Zealanders have a tendency to heroise themselves in terms of achieving women's rights and freedoms. Second, issues of inclusion and intersectionality, as discussed by Moss and Maddrell (2017), were highlighted through my discourse analysis. While Aotearoa New Zealand feminism has attempted to be inclusionary and is presented by feminists as a 'diverse' movement, it still fails to take an intersectional approach. In contrast to the popularised notion of Aotearoa New Zealand feminism as worldleading, I argue that feminism still has a long way to go in this country.

Literature review

This literature review lays out the theoretical foundation of my research. First, I outline the contribution made by feminist political geography on issues pertaining to power, politics, and knowledge. I then discuss the way that ideologies of nationalism and feminism can be intertwined, and the advantages and drawbacks of this interlink. I also discuss the drawbacks of first- and second-wave feminism, particularly in the New Zealand context. Lastly, I consider the theory of intersectionality, which emerged out of third-wave feminism and, as I argue, better ensures the inclusion of diverse backgrounds in feminist discourse. I will later draw on key points from this literature review to argue that feminism in Aotearoa New Zealand and the United States, while both seemingly separate spaces and scales (defined below), are interconnected by a lack of intersectionality and the subsequent exclusion of certain groups.

Feminist political geography

In this article, I draw on theories put forward in feminist political geography to argue that seemingly distinct places and socially constructed scales (including 'local', 'national', and 'global') are connected by wider power structures and processes of inequality and privilege. The meaning of the term 'scale' is contested in political geography but I follow Howitt's definition, which frames it as 'a concept made real by building up an understanding of complex and dynamic relationships and processes in context' (Howitt, 2003, p. …

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