A tribute to Julie Fairey

Once upon a time I was a stroppy child. I told my Dad with confidence that one day I would be prime minister. The daughter of parents with a strong work ethic and a strong marriage, I spent some of my teenage years planning to get out of small town life and to live radically differently to my parents. I assumed I would earn lots of money and sleep on Sheridan sheets. I certainly wouldn't be doing such embarassing things as sewing two old sheets together to make one serviceable one and I assumed that if I had children, they would fit into my career. Which would of course be very successful.

Much later Mum said (maybe not to me, maybe even filtered through my sister) that she thought I looked down on her when I was a teenager because she didn't have a career. Interesting comment. I didn't look down on Mum. Despite her only being five foot nothing, you just don't look down on my mother. She is the strongest of strong people and I have not seen grown men quake in their boots because they have hidden rather than let me (or Mum) see them quake. I believe on last count she is sorting out the bishop, who needed some guidance as to the state and needs of the local church roof. My most vivid memories as a child are of her sorting out the postmaster in the days that postage and telephones were one state owned service. The local telephone service was hopeless, with people waiting 18 months just to get a telephone number. Given we were out in the countryside with no public phones, this was problematic. As a role model for a feminist, she was in many ways absolutely fantastic, even though she would prefer to pour scorn on the term and had no intention of challenging institutions of marriage and norms of wifeliness and motherhood. The telephone system got fixed. For everyone in our area.

Zooming forward to now, it turns out I went to university, got a couple of degrees, lived and worked on the other side of the world, and then chose to come to a small town on the unfashionable side of the less populated island and work in an area which everyone needs and everyone wants to criticise. Every time I read the analysis of women in politics, I feel conflicting senses of pride in the choices I have made (I had alternatives and I would make the same choices again) and a sense that I have let the ship down by my choices. There is a lot of pressure on women in politics to carry a flag and speak for women and from a point of view of female experience and yet I leave it to others.

Which is why I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, Julie Fairey, for all that she does and all that she helps to make happen. Apart from reading her blog posts on The Hand Mirror, I don't know Julie at all. But this morning, after I had skipped exercise class to get Brighid to her kindy trip to Shantytown and to get Fionn sorted with creams and foods for his eczema instead of risking infection from the chlorine of the school swimming trip (not that chlorine creates infections, but it strips precious moisture from the skin and makes it vulnerable to infection and Fionn has hardly any left in places), and before I went to paid work, I made a few phone calls, got some washing on and sat down to eat breakfast and read The Hand Mirror. I loved reading about the buzz Julie gets from working with her constituents on her local board (I don't think we have local boards in Wetville; I think it is to do with the structure of the Auckland Supercity) and I totally utterly truly empathised with her dishwasher story. I love it that in one corner of New Zealand (and I know there are others besides Julie) there is a woman out there in local politics with a perspective which is shaped by having young children and making decisions about the collective good and contribution of her entire household to our society.

Thank you Julie.


Deborah said…
Beautifully said, Sandra. I agree!
Annanonymous said…
I loved this post, Sandra, and agreed with its sentiments. It's funny how NZ actually has a very strong tradition of feminism that doesn't call itself feminism (like your mum). And feminism that DOES call itself feminism (Julie). I'm grateful for both!
Julie said…
Wow thank you so so much Sandra, I am truly touched by your kind words. Didn't know what to say at first, still don't really, hence the delay in commenting. I wanted to make some of the invisible work of campaigning visible, thank you for continuing that here.

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