University of Auckland Winter Lecture Series 2020

This year's theme was 'Sex, gender and identity in Aotearoa New Zealand: Contemporary problems and what to do about them'.

Hosted by Gender Studies and Campus Life, this was a free series of six lectures. If you missed them, it's not too late. One had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, however the rest were recorded when they were presented, and the recordings are available on this page.  

About this year's theme

Aotearoa New Zealand is often regarded as world-leading in regards to gender equity, but many troubling trends remain. Internationally high levels of sexual harm require new strategies to overcome gender norms and other inequalities that perpetuate intimate partner and family violence.

To overturn these norms we need to be honest about how a cultural fascination with narratives and images of sexual violence frame certain victims (white, middle-class, young, female) as less blameworthy and more deserving of sympathy than others. Huge increases in the female prison population, particularly amongst wahine Māori, require new ways of thinking about the role of incarceration in addressing problems intimately connected to colonisation and institutional discrimination.

Similarly, we cannot expect to overcome discrimination against Muslim New Zealanders without considering how contemporary gender debates can often exclude those from minority ethnic group backgrounds. Significant rates of mental health issues and suicide generally, but especially amongst trans and non-gender binary individuals, further focus attention on the need to rethink gender categories and what they mean.

Given significant change is unlikely to occur without strong political action, our Parliament and other representative institutions must reflect the diversity of ‘we’ are as New Zealanders.

In starting to address these issues, the speakers in the 2020 Winter Lecture Series will explore the multiple dimensions that shape sex, gender and identity issues in 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand. They will remind us of the importance of representation and the gains made while encouraging us to think beyond counting bodies or reducing gender equity to ‘women’s issues’.

The lectures in this series will also demonstrate the intersectionality of gender and other issues such as class, ethnicity and sexuality, providing direction for what justice demands if Aotearoa New Zealand is to be a truly gender-inclusive country.

More about the lectures on this page

Lecture 1 | Rethinking the Representation of Women: Politics and Aotearoa New Zealand’s “Diversity Dilemma”

Speaker: Professor Jennifer Curtin

This lecture was held on Tuesday 28 July

In 1986, the Royal Commission into electoral reform argued that the Mixed Member Proportional system would help to ensure the “effective representation of Māori, constituent and minority and special interest groups” (Royal Commission, 1986). At that time, women comprised 11.6 percent of parliamentarians. Fast forward to 2019, and the percentage of women in the New Zealand parliament surpassed 40 percent for the first time, while the representation of Māori, Pasifika, Asian and LGBTI and MPs under 35 had also increased.

Although formal parliamentary rules have begun to reflect this diversity, a dilemma remains. The Francis Report and sexual assault allegations reveal that the informal norms and cultures of political parties and the parliamentary workplace, remain resistant to change, reflecting a substantive (toxic) homogeneity that is both racist and sexist. This lecture will examine why this is the case and what is required for inclusive parliamentary representation.

About the speaker

Professor Jennifer Curtin is a political scientist and Director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland. Her research includes a focus on the representation of women in formal political institutions and policy making environments (as political leaders, ministers, members of parliament, the bureaucracy and trade unions), both in New Zealand and internationally.

She was a New Zealand-Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in 2012, is a principal investigator on the New Zealand Election Study and recently won an MBIE Smart Ideas grant to design a sustainable gender budgeting strategy for New Zealand.

Lecture 2 | Wāhine Māori and Prison

Speaker: Professor Tracey McIntosh

This lecture was held on Monday 3 August

A distinguishing feature of incarcerated women in New Zealand, the vast majority of whom are wāhine Māori, is that they are drawn from the most deprived and marginalised sections of society. Over the past 15 years New Zealand has sent greater numbers of woman to prison with a significant increase in young Māori women. This has occurred despite the fact that women's offending rates have remained relatively stable.

The failure of effective strategies and the burden of complying with onerous release conditions produces cycles of reincarceration that are sustained and damaging. Women with lived experience are some of the most powerful agents of transformative change and critical in addressing the failures of our present system.

About the speaker

Professor Tracey McIntosh (Ngāi Tūhoe) is a sociologist who is Co-Head of School, Te Wānanga o Waipapa, School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland. In 2019, she received the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to education and social science, while in 2017 the Royal Society of New Zealand awarded her Te Rangi Hiroa Medal for her contribution to social science. In 2018, Tracey was appointed to both the New Zealand Government's Welfare Expert Advisory Group and the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group. Her research focuses on religion, systematic suffering and state crime and marginalisation and identity issues with Māori, including the experiences of prisoners, particularly of wahine Māori, within New Zealand.

Lecture 3 | "An unlikely and lovable murderer”: Depictions of intimate partner homicide in the media and popular culture

Speaker: Dr Caroline Blyth

This lecture was held on Monday 31 August

Twelve women were killed by their partner or ex-partner in Aotearoa New Zealand during 2019. Meanwhile, in Australia, one woman is murdered on average every week by a current or former partner. Yet despite these grim statistics, intimate partner homicide is frequently depicted in the media and popular culture in deeply harmful ways. Victims are blamed, perpetrators are valorized or excused, and thus myths about gender violence continue to be recycled and reinforced.

In this lecture, I discuss a number of recent examples from media reporting of intimate partner homicide, as well as the TV dramatization of a historical New Zealand murder (“How to Murder Your Wife”), sold to us on TVNZ as a quirky “black comedy.” I argue that these representations of femicide in the media and popular culture are a powerful means of sustaining misogynistic discourses, which undermine the current crisis of domestic violence and frame women’s murders as inevitable, understandable, or even a source of entertainment.

About the speaker

Dr Caroline Blyth is a Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Auckland. Her research interests encompass exploring the Bible in popular culture, focusing in particular on representations of gender and sexuality in biblical and contemporary narratives.

Her current obsession is exploring representations of gender violence in crime fiction and true crime, reading these intertextually alongside biblical rape narratives. Her recent publications include The Lost Seduction: Reimagining Delilah’s Afterlives as Femme Fatale (2017), and The Bible in Crime Fiction and Drama: Murderous Texts (co-edited with Alison Jack, 2019).

Along with Johanna Stiebert and Katie Edwards, she co-manages the Shiloh Project, an interdisciplinary research group exploring the intersections between rape culture and religion.

Lecture 4 | Inequity within Gender: Dealing with Bigotry and Racism

Speaker: Anjum Rahman

This lecture was held on Tuesday 8 September

Work towards gender equity often benefits one demographic, rather than gender diverse, racially diverse and religiously diverse people. As an example, pay equity campaigns often fail to include the ethnic pay gap.

Structural discrimination and power imbalances within society are mirrored within the activist agenda. Dominant group discourses oppress sub-groups and leave little space for them to articulate and advocate for equity within gender. Fighting for gender equity as Muslim women is fraught because of the wider context of hateful rhetoric, negative public perceptions and a lack of recognition for our own agency.

Diversity, inclusion and representation must be more than superficial concepts. The Inclusive Aotearoa Collective is working to change the way we think and work, to ensure a wider and more meaningful sense of belonging for everyone.

About the speaker

Anjum Rahman is a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and political and human rights activist who sits on the boards of Shama Hamilton Ethnic Women Centre, the Waikato Community Broadcasting Charitable Trust, the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand, and the Ethnic New Zealand Trust.

Following the March 15 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks, Anjum initiated the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective, a community-led initiative to combat discrimination. Anjum has also worked in the prevention of sexual violence, as a founding member of the Hamilton Campaign for Consent and through work with ACC.


Lecture 5 | Beyond consent: Sexual violence prevention with young men

Speaker: Professor Nicola Gavey

This lecture was held on Wednesday 30 September

Engaging men and boys in sexual violence prevention is essential. We need to think carefully and critically, however, about how best to do this. I will discuss the limitations of a consent-promotion model for sexual violence prevention, as well as problems with some of the messaging that shapes traditional models for targeting men. Both, I argue, risk obscuring rather than confronting the ongoing role of gendered norms, everyday sexism, and gender inequality in shaping the ‘cultural conditions of possibility’ for men’s sexual violence against women.

Introducing Shifting the Line, a collaborative project on gender, sexism and online ethics with Auckland boys and young men, I will then discuss a different way of thinking about prevention work with young men.

About the speaker

Professor Nicola Gavey is a psychologist in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland. Her research over the past 35 years has focussed on understanding the connection between sexual violence and everyday taken for granted norms around gender and sexuality. Last year, a second edition of her book, Just sex? The cultural scaffolding of rape, was published by Routledge.

Her current research includes an Australian Research Council-funded Australia–New Zealand–UK collaboration on image-based sexual abuse, and a just completed collaborative project on gender, sexism and online ethics with local boys and young men.

She previously led a Marsden-funded social action project that aimed to raise critical conversations about the sexism, racism and misogyny within mainstream pornography.

Lecture 6 | The Problem with Masculinity

Due to Auckland still being at Alert level 2, unfortunately it was decided to cancel Dr Ciara Cremin's lecture

Portrait of Ciara Cremin

Dr Ciara Cremin

A global leader in rates of domestic violence, incarceration and suicide, New Zealand has a problem. More specifically, as it is mostly men we are talking about, it has a problem with masculinity. But the problem goes beyond such statistics and headline examples of so-called toxic masculinity.

While environmental factors play a part, this presentation examines why it is boys and men in particular who end up in such predicaments.It means examining the formation and regulation of a masculine ego. Masculinity is an affliction born of patriarchy. One thing that appears to unite the majority of boys and men in their masculinity is the almost total disassociation from anything held in society as feminine. In their feminine embodiments, trans women, I argue, provide clues on how this affliction can be overcome.

About the speaker

Dr Ciara Cremin is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Auckland. Her research studies changes in culture and society approached through theories that operate on the borderzone of materialism, language and desire.

Her recent book, Man-Made Woman: The Dialectics of Cross-Dressing, charts her personal journey as a male-to-female cross-dresser in the ever-changing world of gender politics and explores gender, identity and pleasure through the lenses of feminism, Marxism and psychoanalytic theory.

About the Winter Lecture Series

The Winter Lecture Series is an annual set of six public lectures hosted by the University of Auckland. Each year, the lectures consider topical issues across New Zealand and internationally.

About Gender Studies

Gender Studies is a cross-university, inter-disciplinary field of study at the University of Auckland. It is a small, lively discipline with an inclusive culture. Courses consider topics relating to women and femininity, men and masculinity, sex, gender and commodification, trans and LBQTI+ issues and sexuality and gender relations. They draw upon the expertise of scholars in History, Politics and International Relations, Sociology, Religious and Theological Studies, English, Criminology, Education, Social Work, Psychology, Public Health and more.