Saturday, June 22

Mana Wāhine Kōrero Response to (now deleted) Stuff article Vs. Sean Plunket

In a now-deleted article, Ahi Wi-Hongi of ‘Gender Minorities Aotearoa’ claimed that by asking Prime Minister Hipkins to define the word ‘woman’, Sean Plunket was exhibiting western cultural ignorance of pre-colonisation Te Ao Māori. Wi-Hongi’s argument disingenuously implies that merely asking the question “What is a woman?” is somehow a racist thing to ask. 

We firmly disagree. Where is the correlation? Wi-Hongi’s approach has the effect of further silencing people who wish to ask legitimate questions for fear of being labeled racist. We suggest that this is a deliberate tactic, to discourage any questioning of gender ideology by the general public. 

Māori are not ‘one size fits all’. We do not, for example, all agree on the use of the word ‘Aotearoa’ to describe New Zealand. To assume that we do is ignorant and typically colonial thinking. We do not share a complete history with each Iwi. There are 103 recognised Iwi in NZ; to think we are the same instead of similar is simplistic. 

Māori are representative in the following hierarchy: Whanau, Hapu, and Iwi. We share a common racial bond, a common tongue with regional and local variations, some shared knowledge, and revered whanau history that is held by the elders – but this is where the similarities end. Each Iwi has its own whakapapa, its own history. We have our own creation stories and tribal legends; our own kawa and tikanga. Each Iwi has its own sense of self amongst the Whanau, Hapu and Iwi. 

Dianne Landy, co-founder of Mana Wāhine Kōrero outside the Department of Internal Affairs protesting Self-Sex Identification in 2021.

The arrogance required to take another’s history and claim intimate knowledge is quite staggering. Ahi Wi-Hongi presumes to speak for all Māori, but this cannot be done. No one Māori person speaks for all Māori. Certainly ‘Gender Minorities Aotearoa’ does not – they are not even an Iwi; they are merely a well-funded and questionable outfit sending damaging breast binders to Kiwi teenage girls and inventing new words in Te Reo to describe ‘gender’ – a wholly colonial concept if ever there was one. They are doing this at the same time that they are pretending concepts such as ‘gender affirmation’ have always existed in Te Ao Māori. This is obviously contradictory; if these ideas had existed, there would already be words for them. 

There are no carvings, waiata, moteatea, ta moko, whare, tukutuku panels, no stories of the great trans warrior or chief. Nothing exists to say that we believed in double mastectomies for teenage girls or orchiectomies for our young men. Most of the words in Te Reo listed on the Gender Minorities glossary were by their own admission ‘developed’ in 2019. Older words such as ‘takatāpui’ have been redefined by ‘gender’ ideologues, subverting the acceptance of homosexuality in Te Ao Māori into something that requires sterilisation of our tamariki. Could there be anything more colonialist than that? 

The taonga referenced by Wi-Hongi depict same-sex couples. ‘Takatāpui’ refers to homosexuality. These taonga do not represent proof of social transition, surgical intervention, nor sterilising medications for children as advocated for by Wi-Hongi and the Gender Minorities ‘affirmative’ approach. They represent acceptance of homosexuality as a human characteristic. 

This linguistic appropriation is damaging our language. Modern Māori language is colloquially referred to as ‘fruit salad Māori’. My elders do not understand this new form it has taken; modern Te Reo is unintelligible to them. It is unnatural in Te Reo to disregard wāhine as gender ideologues do. Wāhine were respected and had distinct roles and functions within the whanau. There are many whakatauki to wāhine. It is well known that several chiefs were wāhine.

Te Awa Atua – the river of the ancestors; the flow of the menstrual blood, the unborn ancestors is one such story that relates to NZ’s most famous haka – ‘Ka Mate Ka Mate’. This is not my story to tell, as it is not my Iwi. However, I was born in Pōneke and I was told this version on the land it happened on by the Mana Whenua, so I will take the liberty. 

“There was a powerful tohunga hunting Te Rauparaha, and he kept finding him before his raids, up and down the motu this was happening. Te Rauparaha went to a village and there he found the chief’s wife in the ‘menstruation’ hut – this is where he hid. This is why the tohunga couldn’t find him – Te Awa Atua – the river of the ancestors. The menstrual blood shielded him from sight”. 

This is one example of western colonisation of our stories about wāhine. It should be about the power of women’s menstrual blood, but in recent decades and in retellings, it has been turned into the shame of the man hiding under the skirts of a woman. 

Gender ideology globally has attached itself especially to indigenous cultures in every country, to give the illusion of antiquity and authenticity. Wi-Hongi is picking and choosing parts of our culture, cobbling them together into a sort of raggedy patchwork cultural cloak to wear as justification for his beliefs; a cloak that bears no resemblance to the beautiful original stories of Māori. 

Stuff NZ, one of the most virulent pro-gender ideology media outlets in New Zealand, took Ahi Wi-Hongi’s article down within one day. Perhaps even they know that his claims cannot be substantiated, and that more and more Māori are becoming aware of the falsehoods being perpetuated in our names. 

Mana Wāhine Kōrero vehemently opposes this rewriting of our culture, our language, and our history. If allowed to progress, this wave of colonisation (for that is what Western ideas about sterilising children are) is the wave we will not survive. Our culture will be irrevocably altered. We defy the gender ideologues who claim they are the experts on our history and our matauranga. We will resist them for as long as it takes. 

We of Mana Wahine Korero lay this wero at your feet.

Who is brave enough to pick it up?