When I was asked to contribute to BayBuzz’s women’s issue, I wanted to run for the hills. The only thing I had in me was a rambling muse on why Hapī employ mostly women, and certainly no answers. 

Every time I thought about the assignment my mind went into a panic. Hot flashes of a genie wriggling her nose, Pink Ladies and T-Birds, “girls can do anything” slogans and all the while Vandana Shiva repeating that the free market will never be able to afford the care we receive from our mothers and the earth … It was an internal lolly scramble.

Emerging from the chaos was Sinead O’Connor’s famous recording of Germaine Greer as released on her 1984 album Universal Mother:

“I do think that women could make politics irrelevant

By as a kind of spontaneous cooperative action

The like of which we have never seen

Which is so far from people’s ideas of state structure

And viable social structure that seems to them like total anarchy.

And what it really is is very subtle forms of inter-relation

Which do not follow the sort of hierarchical pattern which is

Fundamentally patriarchal.

The opposite to patriarchy is not matriarchy but fraternity

And I think it’s women who are going to have to

Break this spiral of power

And find the trick of cooperation.”

Greer is describing a paradigmatic shift that applies to not just to our cultural systems but also our agricultural systems. Biological, organic and regenerative agriculture strive to create ecologically cooperative systems where all components are equally respected for the role they play. The synergy of all elements acting cooperatively has the potential to create an abundance far greater than the sum of the individual components, and unseen in conventional reductionist systems. 

I realised that to write about “women” misses the point for me. The real issue is the identification of “woman” as different and separate to “man” and the power play made possible by the creation of “other”. 

Gender is a decoy that leads me away from the real issue which is cultural and economic frameworks that are dependent upon the disproportionate distribution of power. The inherent colonisation, discrimination and conflict within these systems begs my question – do we have the capacity to drop the drama and adopt a peaceful, cooperative way of life? 

Male and female are the historic ways we have divided and discriminated, as are race, religion, cultural belief and sexuality. We have worked hard to legislate discrimination out of New Zealand culture but it is certainly a deeply rooted weed that we seem determined to resow. In trying to protect ourselves in an immediate future we automatically default to an “us” versus “them” mentality that demolishes the foundations of inclusion and the fundamental need for dialogue. 

When you speak with the most successful organic farmers in this country, they will invariably say it was their wives that led them to organics. Generally, they say it was a gentle nudge after research into a family health problem that yielded sound and obvious solutions. We refer to a woman’s instincts but what is instinct really, but highly attuned senses sharpened by the generational responsibilities of motherhood? 

What we are being presented with today is an extraordinary opportunity for change. When we look beyond our fears there is a future for our country that is holistic, inclusive and diverse. As Nicky Hager recently commented, “In New Zealand the dominant values are much more about community and caring for each other.” 

In my New Zealand it is women who break the spiral of power and find the trick of cooperation. 

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