Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Tricky balancing act ahead

I've got a slightly different take on the Te Papa exhibition issue from Deborah.

I want to start by noting how unclear the media articles from The Herald and Stuff are, for example one says it is about protecting the women concerned and the other about protecting the taonga. It could of course be both. I'd really value an article that explored that aspect more, because it hasn't been explained very well to date. Sadly this is often my observation of reporting on matters of tikanga.

It's also worth considering that the Angry Feminists Are Angry Grrrr! angle has been sought by the media. I don't recall seeing any feminist bloggers writing about this issue at all, prior to media contact seeking quotes from said feminist bloggers. Make of that what you will.

But back to the issue at hand.

Te Papa seems to be caught in a bit of a catch 22. On one hand they have been leant some taonga to exhibit which have come caveats around exhibition which they have agreed to respect. On the other hand, as both Deborah and Boganette point out, Te Papa is a state institution, and no state institution should be restricting access based on reproductive status.

It would seem to me there might be a way to perhaps try to meet both needs. When I went to the Pompeii exhibition they had on display those scary ash casts - people, and a dog, who had died in the eruption of Mt Vesuvius and their remains effectively preserved by the ash that fell on the town. This portion of the exhibition was slightly separated from the rest. Signs were up, warning of the presence of human remains in that part of the exhibition, and iirc there were warnings on the ticket or maybe when you came in. There was also a bowl for washing your hands of the tapu afterwards. It did sound from the email like there were four parts to the exhibition and only one of them had taonga in it?

Couldn't Te Papa consider something similar for this? I don't know if that is realistic, because I don't have enough understanding of the tikanga. I'd appreciate comments that would help me with that.

My partner challenged me to think about how I would feel about this situation if it was conservative white men who were insisting on this rather than Maori. And he's right - as Deborah says, it should be a case of either not restricting access for certain people, or removing the problematic taonga from exhibition, or not doing the exhibition at all.

But if some kind of compromise can be reached then that seems to me ideal - respect for everyone, rather than having to choose.

---

Apologies for any typos and for the lack of links, I am writing this from somewhere I can't do those (iPod), but hope to be able to come back and edit. I also can't write comments from the iPod, at all.



83 comments:

Scuba Nurse said...

not comment? this must be driving you mad! feel free to text an argument with me, and I can send it up there!
Thanks for another good post showing the big gaps and sillyness of reporting styles.
thats why I love blogs, you get real answers from real people.

muerk said...

I actually agree with Te Papa. Not because I believe in the tapu/noa concept as Maori culture does, but because I know how I would want items of cultural importance to me to be treated.

These objects aren't everyone's, but they are shared with us. I think we should respect Maori culture. Frankly they may have a point about certain taonga having danger about them. I think about the Saxons taking the pounamu down in South Westland and how that worked out for the Saxon family.

One thing I do agree with Maori culture about is that there is a spiritual world. If I was pregnant I would personally be glad of the warning of danger to me and my baby. As I say, I'm not Maori, but I think I would err on the side of caution when it comes to powerful taonga.

Psycho Milt said...

Bottom line, it's a public institution. We don't hand over our cash for its upkeep so that it can pick and choose which particular categories of the public are welcome to view the displays and which aren't. If conditions like that are being put on objects for display, it should refuse to accept them because it has no right to implement those conditions. The merits or otherwise of respecting tikanga aren't really relevant.

Anonymous said...

typical racist Maori. having no consideration for anyone else.
The musseum is publicly funded so should not have only one races views considered. But then again Maori are allowed to be racist and this is normal behaviour. Yet Pakeha are not even allowed to claim they have been treated negatively due to their race.

Tracey said...

"typical racist Maori. having no consideration for anyone else"

how ignorant of you, do you not understand that by upholding this tikanga Maori that is exactly what Te papa IS doing....having consideration for the hapu and menstruating woman, because woman ARE tapu whilst being pregnant and having their period.

"But then again Maori are allowed to be racist"....really? i didnt get the memo?....could you forward it to me please?

Scuba Nurse said...

If you dont have a specific point, just spouting terms like 'racist maori' Please dont bother writing. Pakeha have the exact same rights to complain, it is whether they have the grounds, and the ability to write it legibly, sensibly and in a form of an actual debate that matters. Not race.
refer to the terms of commenting, and give yourself a name before bothering to reply or the moderators may delete you.

Cnr Joe said...

from rnz this a.m I gathered from Hippolyte (sic?) that women in estrus (is that the term?),menstruating or hapu are 'at risk' of having a moment - a visitation, a vision, a headache, a cramp - something not necessarily witnessed or visible to others. So its a caution.
Women down the back please...
Men wearing nazi regalia are prohibited from taking the tour also....
This is tricky

marino said...

Yet again we see the sad reality of what happens when the media decides to incite misunderstanding and intolerance along racial lines.

Reading through some of the comments from both sides of the debate makes me feel that we have a long way to go in this country if we are ever to understand what is important to one another and how we can live together in a tolerant and respectful way.

As a person who has been brought up within tikanga Maori, the request to ask pregnant and menstruating women not to visit the exhibit is easy to understand. As a person who has been educated and lived within Western society it is equally easy for me to understand why so many people have misinterpreted this request as some kind of outdated mysoginistic slur. Its a shame the media would rather play the "lets get outraged" card instead of reporting on what is an extremely important issue. NZ could have learnt something. Perish the thought.

For what its worth, this is the understanding I was brought up with relating to the tapu nature of a pregnant or menstruating woman. Women are revered as carriers of the womb called the whare tangata or literally the "house of people".

There are many activities that are considered to be spiritually unsafe for a woman when she is in the tapu state of menstruation or pregnancy because these are times that her whare tangata is in a very special state. In menstruation the whare tangata is in the process of purging and during pregnancy it is in the state of growing a life. Disruption from a source such as the artefacts on display during such times could potentially cause harm to either the woman or the child. It would have been the height of irresponsibility for the iwi concerned to not have advised Te Papa of these risks and to insist on the caveats published as they have done.

Many people will write these beliefs off as superstition but in my opinion the iwi and Te Papa would have been negligent if they had not issued the warning. At least this way everyone gets to make an informed decision and the consequences of those decisions will be for each woman to deal with. You cant say you werent told.

Scuba Nurse said...

Thank you so much for an informative, understanding and sensitive post Marino.
I really appreciate how you have outlined things so clearly.
I have been repeatedly asking for clarification over on the other posts and feel as though I am banging my head against a brick wall.
It is good to have had explained why Women are Tapu in pregnancy, and I think it is a lovely thing to cherish a pregnancy.
My confusion was, that there are other states of Tapu, relating to those who are working with the dead, and dying (among others).
It seemed offensive, not because the culture was being forced upon us, but because it was only women being targeted.
Also, it appeared in the notice, that it was open to all of the public once on display (including pregnant and menstruating women), but not to those who had been invited to the preview of the exhibition.
So either they are putting the general public at risk, or they are placing strong emphasis on these values on a small group of people who may not share them.

Deborah said...

My partner challenged me to think about how I would feel about this situation if it was conservative white men who were insisting on this rather than Maori.

I've been thinking about this. The difference is that conservative white men have, and still continue to be, in a position of power and privilege, whereas Maaori don't have that same power and privilege. I would be out with all guns blazing if a group of white men had decided that women shouldn't be admitted to an exhibition if they are pregnant or menstruating, but I've tried to be much more careful about how I approach this issue, as you have been, Julie.

My big issue here is the co-option of the state to reinforce particular religious and cultural values. And Te Papa's pussy-footing around with weasel words.

I'm annoyed about the Angry Feminists trope too.

A Nonny Moose said...

Like Scuba, I echo her sentiments of thanks for explaining that tapu.

To me, it still sounds like a type of body policing, along the lines of pregnant women being told not to drink alcohol, eat certain foods, or do certain physical activities. I understand the respect for a pregnant woman this belief has, but perhaps you can see from our PoV that it looks like infantalizing a woman, and in the case of menstruation calling her "dirty".

Lena said...

Marino, thank you for that explanation. As someone who doesn't have much of a background in Maori culture, I found this whole issue difficult to understand, but now some light has been shone for me.

Julie said...

I think part of the issue here is around the nature of belief.

In the other thread there have been some comments along the lines of Maori views about tapu are "old-fashioned" or explaining that they aren't scientifically based on fact. But those things are actually irrelevant to someone who holds that belief. Because it's about a concept of spiritual belief that isn't based in fact, and I don't say that to denigrate it, but to point out that it transcends fact, for that person. I'm not sure if that makes sense, I hope it does.

I get that many women are offended by the idea that they are considered "dirty" during menstruation by some. It's worth pointing out that that is NOT the case with this situation, from what I've read so far - I think it's about saying that the tapu of a pregnant or menstruating woman is incompatible with the tapu of certain objects in the exhibition. I may not have this right at all, but the sense I'm getting is that the former tapu is a life-giving tapu, while the latter is a life-taking tapu? And so if you believe in tapu then bringing those two things together is a bad idea.


I have no problem with Te Papa's actions _if_ the situation is as now is being reported, that they are telling people about the caveat and letting them choose. That's not what was in the original email, which clearly sent a message that women menstruating or pregnant would have to wait until they were neither. Thank you so much marino for your eloquent comment which explains why people need to know, and why Te Papa has a duty to tell.

I would have deleted the comment calling Maori racist, and breaching our Anon comment rules, but it's already been well dealt with by other commenters, thanks for that.

muerk said...

When I was at university a met a woman who had a mere that was supposed to be with the oldest male in her family, but she said it wanted to live with her. She spoke of it as a person with desires and she said it communicated with her. Sometimes it would be angry.

I agree with Julie - this isn't a scientific thing, it's a spiritual thing, and quite different to much modern Pakeha thinking.

David said...

Tracy, women who are pregnant or having their period are not "tapu". There is no scientific basis for the concept of "tapu". TePapa is a place of science and therefore such stone age beliefs have no place there.

Tracey said...

awesome david, thanks for pointing out how ignorant you are, there is no scientefic proof because its not a scientific beleif....its a spiritual beleif something you cleary have no understanding off

katy said...

Lucy made the following comment in the other thread:

"The choice to avoid things due to one's own beliefs is one thing. The attempt to enforce those beliefs on others, based solely on their gender, is another entirely."

In relation to this exhibition I am thinking that visibly pregnant women are the only ones who might be challenged were they to attend this exhibition?? As such, in reality the decision whether or not menstruating women and a proportion of pregnant women make as to whether to attend will be a personal choice those women make. When making the choice it is useful to understand the context of tapu that relates to the items but for me I don't think that this would be a deciding factor. When I have traveled I have been in situations where I have knowingly transgressed religious rules (often related to gender) and I am ok about doing this, as long as I can do so without others knowing because I don't want to cause offense. However, it seems that what causes offense is not that the transgression occurs but that it is known. Some will disagree with this approach but I have found this is how I have been able to retain some dignity in different contexts and I suspect that local women might subvert rules in a similar way.

Anyway, I think that Mikaere's suggestion is a good one; make sure the exhibition is open for long enough so that everyone can attend if they wish under the terms of the loan. For those who do not agree with the terms, there is the choice not to engage. For most women it will be a personal choice as to whether they engage with the restrictions based on their current fertility status.

Tracey said...

"just read the blog and honestly whether it be in a public forum or not TIKANGA must always be adhered REGARDLESS of the situation.It is how our culture has survived and it is how it shall remain, some people will no doubt dis-agree with m...e but im not gonna compromise my beliefs for any feminist or blogger who thinks Te Papa are being hypocritical....they have advisors for this kind of kaupapa and are only acting on the advice of the kaumatua they trust in. I say respect the wishes of the museum and to the feminists that think otherwise......."

have shared this on behalf of a friend of mine on facebook

Julie said...

Way to not read my comment David. Or muerk's.

One of the points for consideration is the nature of the invitation to the exhibition. It seemed to me, from the email Deborah quoted, that is was open to quite a select group (regional museum staff etc) and that it was likely that some of the attendees might be coming in a work capacity. That creates some difficulties for women who then might be obliged to disclose to their colleagues whether or not they were menstruating or pregnant, depending on the nature of their workplace, and whether or not the advisory from Te Papa really was a recommendation as has subsequently been stated. Also it might have some bearing on whether individual women would realistically be able to return at another time, if they were required to attend for their work at a certain time.

Anyway, just some more points for consideration.

muerk said...

"TePapa is a place of science..."

I strongly disagree with this. I think Te Papa is a place of people. Tikanga Maori is precious, even if we as individuals don't agree with it. New Zealand has a history of relegating Maori culture to the bin, except when we want a bit of touristy info-tainment.

The taonga are not owned by Te Papa, they are generously lent by iwi. I for one am prepared to abide by their tikanga if it means that it gets to be shared and enjoyed. Think how empty our NZ culture would be without Maori input.

Psycho Milt said...

...whether it be in a public forum or not TIKANGA must always be adhered REGARDLESS of the situation.

In that case, a public institution is not the place for objects like these.

but im not gonna compromise my beliefs for any feminist or blogger who thinks Te Papa are being hypocritical...

No-one's asking you to compromise your own beliefs, they're just expecting Te Papa to fulfil its obligations to the public. If the conditions for accepting receipt of objects for its collection would breach the BoRA, it has no business accepting those objects. There's nothing particularly difficult to understand about that.

Carol said...

There was an interview on Nat Rad The Panel this afternoon, with a woman involved with the taonga in question:
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/20101012

As I recall, she said the warning about menstruating and pregnant women was meant more as a guide/notification for Maori women, and one the women would want to be aware of. It didn't really seem to apply to non-Maori women.

As I understand it, she was saying that many Maori have a very emotional experience in the presence of such taonga. It is noticeable in their physical reactions. Basically it can be a very physically felt, emotional/spiritual reaction. For many Maori women, it could conflict with their feelings or experience of pregnancy or menstruation, and so good become a very negative experience. So the warning was issued so that they were aware of this possibility in advance.

But it is up to each woman as to whether she wants to tour the exhibits.

Seems like a bit of a media bet up to me.

katy said...

"That creates some difficulties for women who then might be obliged to disclose to their colleagues whether or not they were menstruating or pregnant"

This seems to be an important point. As we have discussed before on a personal basis employers can discriminate against pregnant women on some grounds (ie, if it is a job that requires heavy lifting etc) so under the current law it is not always invisible in the workplace. And some services are not available to pregnant women (ie, late term flying) due to perceived risk. I am sure there are some jobs that would require disclosure of pregnancy at an earlier stage for physical reasons. However, is it fair that cultural reasons could impact on a pregnant woman's ability to work?? Even if the pregnancy is not visible it places that woman in a tricky situation when her colleagues later do the math.

In terms of menstruating women, surely this would be a case of personal disclosure?? But presumably there are some Maori women (and women of other cultures) who find themselves in a situation where they would prefer not to participate in certain activities, such as preparing food when they are menstruating, and have to navigate the question of how to deal with this. Perhaps they can be a source of advice on this??

katy said...

Carol - that seems eminently reasonable. Case closed!

Craig Ranapia said...

I actually agree with Te Papa. Not because I believe in the tapu/noa concept as Maori culture does, but because I know how I would want items of cultural importance to me to be treated.

Well, I've got to point out here a certain irony because we're both Catholics. And I don't think my position here is that different from my one on the so-called 'Virgin in a condom' flap. Did I find it offensive? Yes. Is Te Papa a Catholic church any more than it is a marae? No.

Te Papa is a publicly funded cultural institution -- it's not only a glorified display case, but supposed to be a center for scholarship, intellectual debate and (dare I say it) telling stories and raising questions that make people uncomfortable.

I don't expect others to follow Catholic canon law or the tikanga of my iwi. And abandoning their values to pay lip service to mine is not respect. It is demeaning and patronising to both of us.

Craig Ranapia said...

It is noticeable in their physical reactions. Basically it can be a very physically felt, emotional/spiritual reaction. For many Maori women, it could conflict with their feelings or experience of pregnancy or menstruation, and so good become a very negative experience. So the warning was issued so that they were aware of this possibility in advance.

Um, would anyone want to do a quick and dirty feminist analysis on the idea that menstruation and pregnancy makes women especially psychically and emotionally fragile they require special cautions? Don't know if it's really digging Te Papa out of a hole, as opposed to digging a whole other one of cultural matron-age. BTW, aren't women as capable of assessing their own emotional state and men are?

Giarne said...

Thanks Julie, I think your comments are the most salient. Tapu is a belief rather than a scientific fact. This makes it rather difficult to debate without falling back on that belief or not.

I like the way you have summarised the tension and in your comments, elaborated further.

When I first read your blog I mis-read and skimmed some things, in re-reading it properly later with some more knowledge and perspectives from others I find it still really salient and engaging.

Mikaere Curtis said...

As far as I can tell from media reports, this is a behind-the-scenes tour for regional curators only, and Te Papa have offered alternative opportunities for anyone who can't attend because they are tapu at the present time.

So, it appears that any woman who wishes to view the taonga can do so, although they may need to plan in advance. Is that such a high price to pay for access to taonga ?

Did I find it offensive? Yes. Is Te Papa a Catholic church any more than it is a marae? No.

Red herring. That piece was not displayed as a Catholic artifact, but as a personal exploration of Catholic faith by a practicing Catholic. Anyway, doesn't Catholic orthodoxy regard women as being inherently spiritually inferior to men ? Puts transient tapu-ness into perspective, doesn't it ?

Deborah said...

So, it appears that any woman who wishes to view the taonga can do so, although they may need to plan in advance. Is that such a high price to pay for access to taonga ?

Well, yes! Especially when it's gender differentiated, and especially when it may not be a value within the woman's own culture. It's worth remembering that Te Papa is explaining this in terms of safety for the woman i.e. whether or not viewing the artefacts is permissible is to be understood from the perspective of the woman viewing the artefacts, not from the point of view of the donors of the artefacts.

I come from a culture where menstruation is women's business. When I am bleeding, I don't advertise the fact to my colleagues, or my students, or my friends. About the only other person who knows I am bleeding is my husband. So asking me to reveal my menstrual status is a huge affront to my cultural values. And as it turns out, I can't plan ahead, because like many women, I have an erratic cycle. So there's a fair chance that I would be compelled to reveal my bleeding status because I could be caught by surprise, or my period could be late, or whatever. So the whole thought of planning around my menstrual cycle is fraught with difficulty.

As for delaying beyond pregnancy: by that time I may no longer be in full time employment, I may not be able to arrange childcare, I may need to bring an infant with me. That's far more difficult than coming to see the artefacts when my baby is conveniently lodged inside me.

In other words, planning ahead is not a non-trivial task, at all. It imposes a considerable burden on me. When the request is supposed to be motivated by concern for my safety, it seems odd that I am required to bear a considerable extra burden, for a risk that doesn't even exist for me.

But again, I go back to Te Papa's poor approach to this. I'm very happy to respect someone's cultural beliefs. Of course I behave quietly in churches, I take my shoes off in marae, I don't sit on tables, and so on, because it is offensive within the context of the culture. If Te Papa had the guts to couch this in terms of respect for the culture, then I might have been a bit more comfortable with it. But given that they are couching it in terms of my safety, I think it's fair enough to assess the cost of planning ahead in terms of the impact on me.

And that's without all the other inconsistencies around Te Papa's approach. Or the problem that they are enforcing particular spiritual values even though they are a state funded institution in a secular state.

Grace said...

"Remove the PROBLEMATIC taonga"???
Oh my goodness, for any taonga to be referred to as problematic only indicates to me that the author is ignorant to Maori cultural beliefs. Here's a better solution, remove ignorant people from sites such as this!

Deborah said...

Well, as a general rule I hold that people are more important than things, no matter how precious those things.

But isn't it even worse to say that women are a problem?

Julie said...

Hmmm, "problematic" probably wasn't the best word to use, I apologise for that. Perhaps "sensitive" would be better? Open to suggestions.

And this is a very interesting discussion about the issue, amongst Maori primarily, from what I can see although I haven't had time to have a good look yet.

I also deleted an unacceptable comment for racism off this thread. If trolls could take this as a sign that that kind of crap will not be tolerated and piss off back to Kiwiblog or some other sewer that would be good.

I know these threads have got quite heated. At the moment I think we're at the limits of robust but still ok discussion that I personally am comfortable with here. But different people have different expectations and boundaries, so for some people this might be too far already. Just wanted to say that out loud, as it were. Please remember that none of us here blog, or moderate, full time, so sometimes it pays to stop and pause before you post that comment, as moderation after the fact sometimes offends (you as the person moderated and others who had to read it before we could zap it). Ta.

muerk said...

Craig - I was more thinking of people going to Mass and taking a Host and then desecrating it, rather than the Virgin in Condom. That was art, I didn't think it was good art, and I didn't like it, but afaik it wasn't a blessed statue of Our Lady.

muerk said...

"Anyway, doesn't Catholic orthodoxy regard women as being inherently spiritually inferior to men?"

Certainly not.

Anonymous said...

Imagine the curator of your local museum, while out walking in the remote parts of location X, stumbles across a newly discovered tribe. He flys them all back to NZ hoping to show them off to the masses, but learns that it is forbidden for them to look upon blue eyed men or women over
5ft 8inches tall. Damn. What to do?
The gasps and excitement from the scientific community demands that tall women and dark eyed men be allowed to attend the viewing.
No one minds, this is after all, important for the human race.
The tribe loves NZ and want to stay but, insisting on the "dont look at us rule" and the novelty having worn off, are taken back to location X smartly.
Being familiar with and knowing of cultures and people; rating the importance of beliefs etc can greatly influence your opinion.

Craig Ranapia said...

Oh my goodness, for any taonga to be referred to as problematic only indicates to me that the author is ignorant to Maori cultural beliefs. Here's a better solution, remove ignorant people from sites such as this!

Grace: "Problematic" is about the only printable word I can use for any display of human body parts like ta moko. And I'm sure Deborah knows better than I do the complex and deeply "problematic" issues in museology and academia around caveats on donations, research data etc. If I was the director of a museum, I'd certainly have issues accepting a donation with sexist conditions attached.

As far as I can tell from media reports, this is a behind-the-scenes tour for regional curators only, and Te Papa have offered alternative opportunities for anyone who can't attend because they are tapu at the present time.

Oh, that makes it all OK -- so curators of regional museums should plan their schedules around their menstrual cycles, when it's not actually anyone's fucking business. I don't know how things work in the Green Party, but where I earn a living but telling a woman not to come to work during her period would be an express train to a harassment complaint.

Juliet W said...

I must first say that I have enjoyed the read though am a little embarrassed by some of the statements. Might I suggest the Herald's comments pages for your spleen?

My feeling on this is quite straight forward, I think. A group of people are allowing Te Papa to display some things that are special to them. They stated some conditions. Straight forward?

I understand the implications of 'exclusion' though I do not believe that there has been any exclusion, only a request that the aforementioned conditions be abided by.

I do not agree with your statement Deborah that the exhibits should be removed completely rather than have such a condition. There is an opportunity for visits at another time and if this was communicated at the start then there is no real difference in attending on the day on the invite or at another time.

The recall to 'no scientific basis' for cultural beliefs is either disingenuous, in which case I'd like to say that it shows your immaturity given the topic, or ignorant. Again, the Herald has a wonderful means for these sorts of abrasions.

If experiencing the toanga is so important then it would be fair to respect the wishes of tīpuna and Te Kaitiaki, otherwise you are merely wanting to either consume or validate, neither of which suggest a position of understanding, desired or actual.

I must say again that it is pleasant to read thoughtful, on the whole, responses to this.

James said...

Deborah says "... planning ahead is not a non-trivial task, at all. It imposes a considerable burden on me."
'Considerable burden' is such a powerful statement and it makes me think of the things in the world that would cause considerable burden to humans.
The text is preceeded by discussion about 'high price' and again I think about things that are 'high price' in this world.
The discussion here about potential implications this has I think are being overstated.
Noone expects one to reveal their menstrual status or to delay pregnancy. If there is such a strong desire to access taonga then I would have thought there would have been a strong desire to respect its cultural context.

Deborah said...

Juliet, I never made comments about scientific validity, and my position all along has been that Te Papa has been disingenuous in its wording. First up it made it clear that some women were not welcome, then it said this was for their safety. It was not a matter of cultural respect: it was a matter of keeping women safe. Surely it's up to individual women to decide whether they want to take particular risks. I said very clearly right from the start that whether or not Maori women and men want to keep, discard, or change this aspect of cultural practices is a matter for Maori women and men. I never said that the artefacts should be removed, but I did say that if the matter was important to Maori women and men (and that's not for me to decide) then perhaps the tour should not take place at all.

My other concern is that state funding is being used to enforce particular cultural practices. I find that problematic, just as I find using state funding for say, christian practices problematic.

This is a difficult topic to discuss, because it operates at the intersection of race and gender. It would be helpful to make sure that comments and ideas are attributed correctly, particularly when someone is being criticised for making those comments. I take it that you are making a criticism of whoever it was that talked about scientific validity: that person was not me.

Lucy said...

The recall to 'no scientific basis' for cultural beliefs is either disingenuous, in which case I'd like to say that it shows your immaturity given the topic, or ignorant.

As one of the people who did argue this, sort of: it's relevant because the argument put forward by Te Papa was that it was for the women's own safety. If it's a matter of belief and tikanga, then it's not about an objective safety which can be applied equally to all women. I think it's respectful and useful for Te Papa to advise that some women may not *want* to come on the behind-the-scenes tour because of the taonga being displayed. But that's not how the message came across.

I don't think, in the vast majority of cases, it's useful to apply the test of scientific objectivity to people's cultural practices. But I think that if the argument is going to be made around the spiritual safety of people who may or may not be part of a culture, then it needs to be offered as that, rather than, as in the original email, a statement about what everyone should do.

(I also object somewhat to the idea that it is immature, or ignorant, to discuss the intersection of belief and science in a particular context. It can be done in an immature or ignorant manner. It is not, in and of itself, either.)

muerk said...

"I also object somewhat to the idea that it is immature, or ignorant, to discuss the intersection of belief and science in a particular context. It can be done in an immature or ignorant manner. It is not, in and of itself, either."

I agree with this, however (and it's a big however) in our modern Western society science is seen as being 'reasonable, right and true'. This colours discussions where cultural beliefs aren't in line with the scientific narrative. Science is assumed to have the power of truth and faith is often viewed as irrational, old fashioned or even harmful to individuals.

If we are going to discuss belief and science I think we need to be open about our own perspectives and the social weight given to scientific truth in our Pakeha society.

Anonymous said...

There is no justification for this drivel. And shame on us Maori who will defend mumbo jumbo merely because Pakeha take exception to it. This tikanga also offends Maori - I'm offended. Our wahine were staunch toa back in the day - they fought with taiaha/patu etc where circumstances required. And when your family was threatend, the last thing you were concerned about was whether you had your period or not (sorry kids, can't pick up that taiaha to save your lives cause I've got my period).

Let's get real Maori - we toss around the words tapu and noa as though it is a legitimate answer to any questioning of our ways of doing things. We are big enough and intelligent enough to articulate our position in a way that is clearly understandable to all - and we can do it in both languages. It's when we are challenged, and realise we can't make a rational argument to support our stance that we resort to the old 'it's tapu' answer. Or the trusty 'you don't understand our culture' reply. Hello - 1970's calling, they want their tired old arguments and responses back.

As for you Pakeha cultural relativists, wake up. If it looks like the proverbial, smells like the proverbial, then what's it likely to be? Burqa's anyone?

Oh, and sorry for anonymous reply - but I run a Maori organisation and being a Maori and challenging my own will see me tagged for years as 'Pakeha' or 'Uncle Tom' or other equally smart 'put downs' (helluva insult to be labelled Pakeha eh). I can really do without the personal abuse.

Adele said...

Teenaa koe, Anon

We certainly could be waahine toa when the need arose, especially to defend whaanau - but to also defend our way of being.

I am enhanced by Te Ao Maaori not diminished by it in any way. The recognition of other forces at play be they wairuatanga, tapu, and the values we aspire to such as manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, uukaipoo guide our interractions with others inclusive of the natural world, and with Atua.

Te Ao Maaori also provides me with the humility to think that other possibilities exist in terms of knowing how the world and the universe functions.

Your words suggest that those that uphold things Msaori are somehow stuck in the past, on the contrary, I think we are so far ahead of the western tradition that I can only say, using the words of another..."they are like babies.."

Finally, working for Maaori without a commitment to things Maaori is detrimental to advancing a Maaori kaupapa. Why not simply work for Telecom or some other Paakeha institution and be comfortable in your skin.

Psycho Milt said...

I think we are so far ahead of the western tradition that I can only say, using the words of another..."they are like babies.."

Yeah, we're all doing such a great job of not making pretensions to cultural superiority on this thread, huh? Let's all give ourselves a big pat on the back.

Adele said...

Teenaa koe, Milt

Yes, our cultural superiority has been rammed down your throat every which way possible. You speak our language and eat our food. You are governed by tikanga and are held to account in Marae.


Absolutely, in 170 years, we have been highly effective in making you think Treaty obligations and be Maaori.

Psycho Milt said...

I think you're confusing "superiority" with "dominance."

Anonymous said...

Tena koe Adele

Clearly in your world there is only one 'Maori Worldview' and any deviation from that is (by implication) Pakeha. I take that from your 'Why not simply work for Telecom or some other Paakeha institution and be comfortable in your skin'. If you could point me to the 'bible' of Maori thought that dictates how I should think, I'd be most grateful (and please no nonsense about 'nga taonga o nga Tupuna kua homaitia kia tatou' - hoha!). I did predict in original post that I'd be put down for my view (called 'Pakeha' right?).

I am somewhat perplexed by your statement that 'ukaipo' is a value. It's a noun - breast. It can also mean a place of nurture - but that's not a value. Feel free to illuminate.

The fact is, the stance taken by Te Papa does not represent 'the Maori worldview'. It merely represents the confused utterings of people completely removed from the context in which these types of rules were once applicable. Te Ao Kohatu is precisely that and we are now in Te Ao Hou. Those archaic whakaaro diminish us as Maori - particularly when we try to defend them.

If tikanga 'o nga ra kei mua' ('from the past' for our Pakeha friends) must be held on to then the demise of slavery is no doubt a tragic imposition from the coloniser Pakeha right? And the demise of 'kai tangata' must also have had tragic consequences for us as Maori correct? Are they worth defending because they were once our way of being - our tikanga?

As with any cultural grouping of people, there are traditions and cultural practices that enhance us as people, and there traditions and practices that diminish us. We Maori must have the courage to face up to our own practices and where they are no longer applicable (like the silly nonsense that Te Papa is trying to push) then we let them go.

I have a number of daughters and I will not have nonsense that dimishes them as wahine foisted on them. We say women menstruating is 'tapu' (no explantion of how this is the case of course) - in reality we really mean 'unclean'.

At the end of the day, it's okay for Pakeha to look at what we do and raise questions and to voice their displeasure. Heck, I'm disgusted and outraged by clitoral circumcision. Yet it's a cultural practice that has been practiced for hundreds (if not thousands) of years - does that therefore give the practice a 'get out of jail free' card? Of course not - it's a disgraceful unjustifiable practice. And Te Papa's tikanga is disgraceful and unjustifiable - and has no real basis in tikanga at all.

Lastly, insulting Pakeha by denigrating their proud and extra-ordinarily long cultural heritage that stems from their various Western European roots, is as bad as when it's done to us as Maori. Our own Tupuna saw great strength in them as a people - many married and made babies with them. Sigh - we so need to get over ourselves as a people - our toilets are 'fragrant' too after we've been in them.

Anonymous said...

On another Blog, I note mention of a museum staff member afraid to comment due to job security. My situation is the same.

Museum workers are often subject to Maori tikanga and are expected by management to follow it as 'part of the job' despite their personal views.

Interestingoly, though museums hold material from many cultures, only Maori protocol is followed in relation to objects of Maori origin or objects that *may* be of Maori origin or trigger a Maori superstitious response (the human remains at the Pompeii show for example).

It should be noted that 95% of museum workers are educated women of European ancestry. These women are *as part of their job* supposed to declare their menstral/pregnancy status because of a culture that is not their own. That is part of what is wrong here.

I wonder how a Maori tour group would feel if told that while in a museum viewing British Colonial Artifacts, stepping on pavement cracks or walking under ladders might cause something bad to happen, that menstruating women must not touch any cows (or milk vessels) in the vicinity lest the milk sour and that those who have had a black cat cross their path should stay outside?!

Superstition is superstition and has no place in the workplace.

Adele said...
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Adele said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Adele said...

My worldview is shaped by the whakapapa that relates me to Tuuhourangi, Ngaati Rangitihi, Ngaa Maihi, Tuuwharetoa, Te Whanau-aa-Apanui, Tuuhoe, and also, my celtic ancestry. My Irish tuupuna support my stand on behalf of Maaori.

The only muttering I did find confusing were in the statements from Te Papa that sought to mollify the attitudes of the racists posing as the righteous and egalitarian. Uukaipoo is where we draw strength and sustenance from thus Uukaipootanga, more correctly, is the notion of strength located in identity as taangata whenua.

I have a 14 year old daughter; she is a happy and confident teenager. Her shorts are far too short and her tops are far too low. Despite my passion towards things Maaori, she will come to it by choice only.

However, when in Te Ao Maaori, I do expect her to abide by the etiquette of the people.

So what that we practised slavery (I am surprised you didn’t mention cannibalism); no matter where you look within human history all cultures come from the same places. However, that we have survived in relative health and prosperity, and with a sophisticated spirituality in place, suggests to me, at least, an indigenous worldview worthy of preservation and survival - not as artefact only.

I denigrate the hypocrisy of a worldview that poses as egalitarian (and is not), and struts as principled (and is not) and sanctimoniously devalues the practises and beliefs of other worldviews.

I recently attended a lecture by a visiting Harvard Professor (a white guy) speaking on a longitudinal study (20 years) of indigenous peoples in his home country (USA). The study found overwhelmingly that those native peoples that are thriving are those peoples that have achieved self-determination.

So yes, I will rigorously defend my worldview(s) from further assimilation and intrusions from the outside, and from within, if required.

Adele said...

My apologies, I have inadvertently posted an entire book,not sure how to correct and I would appreciate some assistance in this respect,

Deborah said...

I deleted a couple of copies of your comment, Adele. I hope that's okay.

Also, books are good! We're never going to be able to have a conversation about this if people can't have enough space to set out the subtleties and nuances of their views.

Hugh said...

So Adele, on the one hand "all cultures come from the same places", but on the other hand Pakeha can't criticise or understand Maaori culture?

I don't think you can have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

"And so if you believe in tapu then bringing those two things together is a bad idea."

And if you don't, then there's no problem. Sort of like mum telling me not to go to bed with wet hair. because I'll get a cold. Thanks mum, *ignore*.

"However, it seems that what causes offense is not that the transgression occurs but that it is known."
Meaning that a transgression occurs entirely in the mind of the beholder, and bears no relation to the objects nor the physical state of the woman. Different people have different minds, and the threat to the safety of one doesn't translate to a threat to all.

I realise it isn't science, it's spiritual, but when you have talking mere, it is my view that it's no longer spiritual, it's mental illness. It would be if it was a talking anything else.

- Madeleine (PS: Hi muerk!)

Anonymous said...

Tena koe Adele

One of the wonderful Maori practices is to acknowledge 'rangatiratanga' when we see it. Te mihi nui i to whakaaro rangatira. That was a dignified response and one I can respect as a Maori.

I fully concur with the findings of the longitudanal study. The ability to self-determine is an almost universal human desire. I share a desire for Maori to have far greater control over our own destiny and to not have to apologise or defend our tikanga all the time.

I share your view on sanctimonious, elitist and quasi egalitarian statements posing as 'enlightened'. It drives me nuts. You see I love the gender roles played in the wonderful ritual of Powhiri. I love the concept of tapu and noa when it applies to the essential wairua and mauri of nga Tane me nga Wahine. These are the treasures passed to us by our tupuna.

So of course I get so frustrated with our people when I see us engaging in similar behaivour - being sanctimonious, precious and overly sensitive, when we are reacting to challenges. Some of our practices are no longer relavent. Think about the tikanga of not doing powhiri after dark. That's an entirely sensible tikanga back in the day when you couldn't see the group coming on and thus couldn't assess their intentions. But we have floodlights today, and what are the chances the group coming on at night have turned up to kill you. It's 2010 not 1810.

I too will vigorously defend our Maori tikanga where it comes under unjustified attack. And I know these sorts of debates bring out the worst in red-neckery, cultural relativism, and Maori intransigence. The challenge is to cut through rhetoric and debate intelligentlly and without fear.

I did mention cannibalism (kai tangata).

Anyhow, you are welcome to the final word and I won't respond.

Anonymous said...

"The recall to 'no scientific basis' for cultural beliefs is either disingenuous,"

Really? Because I think many cultural beliefs have or had a scientific basis at some point. Things like why you plant when you plant, and why people who have been around the recently dead are tapu. Not following these customs may have brought genuine physical harm not through belief, but through the effects of seasonal weather conditions and pathogens. The custom became the short-hand directive for the activities engaged in, as it brought them success in life.

Bu then, as time progressed, and so did science and technology. It changed our understanding of some links and allowed us to find new ways to deal with the issues that the customs addressed, to manipulate the factors to our benefit.
Now we have practices of embalming, and washing using disinfectants. Assuming it ever had such a basis as I have described, this renders the physically protective effects of that tapu moot, leaving only the mentally protective ones.

I've just realise that's a fairly evolutionary argument.

I get miffed when things like "Science can never know" is used to defend things that otherwise lack sense, or in any other context would be seen as a sign of mental illness. It's a dismissive catchphrase, and I note its use especially when the scientific approach to a particular practice would seem to show it to be flawed.

"Finally, working for Maaori without a commitment to things Maaori"
I support Non-Telecom-person's response to this. While I fully endorse and support a scientific worldview, that doesn't mean I whole-heartedly embrace every single thing that science says or does. I'm not a fan of the LHC or those massive arrays of telescopes when I reckon there are things that money would be better spent researching. This doesn't mean I should go and hang up my lab coat and get a job in a supermarket.

- Madeleine

Adele said...

Teenaa koe, Hugh

Certainly criticise Te Ao Maaori, however, do so from a position of strength found in knowledge, and not from ignorance.

Adele said...

Teenaa koe, Madeleine

Te Ao Maaori certainly does have its own scientific premise. As an example, it seeks firstly not to dissect the natural world in order to explain it, and uses whakapapa as a research methodology.

We also have a Maaori view of psychology. Hearing voices is not automatically labelled psychosis - as perhaps those voices do exist.

The western scientific method is also not without flaw as it assumes an objective stance from an inherently subjective perception - defined by culture, education, politics, commercialism, funding, worldview, etc.

Also, the quantum world of physics is transforming the view of the rationality of existence - it’s not so reasonable. I sometimes look to science in order to confirm or otherwise my perceptions under Te Ao Maaori - they are not inconsistent.

What disturbs me about western science, however, is its treatment of the natural world - the animals used, the experiments and dissections made.

Mkura said...

Teenaa koe e te whaine toa, e Adele,

Tuuhoe moumou kai, moumou taon'a, moumou tan'ata ki te Po

He tamariki o te koohu au hoki, nō Ruaatoki. Ko Mkura tooku ingoa ipuran'i anahe - he ingoa uhia, arohamai!

Ko teenei taku mihi e rere nei, ko teenei taku tautoko e rere nei ki a koe, e te whānaun'a - ka mau te wehi, te ihi, te wana!

I used to attempt this - lone tuuturu maaori voice in a digital space dominated by tauiwi - over at Public Address and that shit got tired quick. Noo reira, he mihi hoki ki tō hihiritan'a e haapai ana i te kaupapa nei, ko te kaupapa mana wahine, mana atua, mana whenua, mana tan'ata.

Deborah said...

We also have a Maaori view of psychology. Hearing voices is not automatically labelled psychosis - as perhaps those voices do exist.

There's some interesting research that I came across recently which said that many people hear voices, but not everyone regards it as a problem. It seems to take voices plus something else before voices are a problem with respect to psychosis.

I say this as someone who from time to time hears an entire symphony orchestra playing in my head. It has never occurred to me that it's a problem, but I know of some people who find these sorts of events deeply worrying. I wonder how many people would do better if they didn't feel that hearing voices (or symphony orchestras) was necessarily a problem.

Lucy said...

Certainly criticise Te Ao Maaori, however, do so from a position of strength found in knowledge, and not from ignorance.

I think one of the issues at stake here, Adele, is that for the term of this discussion you seem to have defined "not agreeing with me (especially while being Pakeha)" as "ignorance".

Hugh said...

Adele

While I wouldn't go so far as Lucy I do get the impression that there are certain criticisms of Te Ao Maori which you feel could only be made by somebody who is ignorant, and furthermore that criticisms of what's happening at Te Papa are among such criticisms. Fair?

Adele said...

Teenaa koe, Lucy

Not at all, the disagreement I am hearing is based in ignorance because there appears to be no understanding in respect to even the rudiments of Te Ao Maaori.

I am able to discuss the Western tradition because I have taken the time and committed the energy to its study.

There is a mana wahine on this site whose views are polar opposing to mine. I absolutely respect her point of view however because it comes from a position of strength - she knows what she is talking about.

Dare I say it, in all likelihood she probably could kick my metaphorical arse into the next realm in discussing the nuances of our closely related worldviews.

katy said...

"I wonder how a Maori tour group would feel if told that while in a museum viewing British Colonial Artifacts, stepping on pavement cracks or walking under ladders might cause something bad to happen, that menstruating women must not touch any cows (or milk vessels) in the vicinity lest the milk sour and that those who have had a black cat cross their path should stay outside?!"

Learning about local beliefs when visiting a museum exhibition seems absolutely appropriate and something that would enhance the experience! And we have now established that no-one was actually saying that anyone should not visit Te Papa and see these exhibits, it was an FYI which some people would have appreciated.

There are certain ways of behaving in Pakeha museums which are not universal such as lowering our voices, not touching the exhibits, not standing too close, dressing tidily etc etc. If I was bringing a group of Chinese teenagers to the Auckland Museum, for example, I would explain these customs and I would be happy to hear from those in other places how they treat their treasures.

(And it is mortifying when you break the rules and offend people through ignorance, as I found when I went into a Russian Orthodox church once with my hair uncovered and wearing trousers which very much embarrassed my Russian companion).

Anonymous said...

"I say this as someone who from time to time hears an entire symphony orchestra playing in my head. "

Totally not a problem if you acknowledge that your brain was creating the "symphony orchestra"; only a problem if you ascribe its source to something external.

"I won't deny We also have a Maaori view of psychology. Hearing voices is not automatically labelled psychosis - as perhaps those voices do exist."

Exist? In someone's mind, perhaps. I can have lots of things exist there - conversations, fantasies, dreams where I can fly etc - but they are the creations of my mind, and I know it.

Though you're onto something with the quantum stuff - maybe some entangled particles have been messing with my brain processes.

"The western scientific method is also not without flaw as it assumes an objective stance from an inherently subjective perception - defined by culture, education, politics, commercialism, funding, worldview, etc."

Possibly - this is why science involves other people (with different cultures, education, politics, commercialism, funding and worldview, excepting their adherence to protocols surrounding making unbiased measurements and honestly recording/reporting data) replicating studies to verify results. The full process tries as much as possible to remove observer effects.

- Madeleine

Adele said...

Teenaa koe, Mkura

Ko Puutauaki, ko Tarawera ngaa maunga.
Ko te moana nui a Toi ki te huatahi.
Ko Tarawera te awa, te Awa a te Atua.
Ko Maataatua, ko Te Arawa ngaa waka.
Ko Tuuhourangi, ko Ngaati Rangitihi, ko Ngaa Maihi, ko Tuuwharetoa ki Kawerau ngaa hapuu.
Ko Rangitihi, ko Tuteao ngaa marae
Ko Adele tooku ingoa


Arohamai, please forgive my tardy behaviour in not responding to you sooner. I have been searching for the correct words to say and unfortunately the English language has left me bereft. I too am Tuuhoe through both parents, and my Mum is Ngaa Maihi from Te Teko.

I don’t often contribute to the blogosphere unless my blood boils – I was a veritable blood pudding on this issue. I am in awe of your tenacity in keeping the fires burning on behalf of Te Ao Maaori, in this virtual place. What a challenge!

But I think you are correct in confronting this task - as the space between worldviews is vast, and unnaturally empty. I will contribute to your flame as much as I can henceforth.

Mkura said...

Arohamai Adele, i should've emphasised used to as in i no longer waste much of my time in blogland trying to conscientize white folk about maaori experiences of colonisation - like i said that shit got tired real quick.

Mostly i only bother having korero like this with non-maaori who are inescapably part of my real life - like say my mum, or my neighbours.

i think white power and privilege is so invisible to white people that it takes long term commitment, some solid as whakawhaanun'atan'a and lots of kanohi kitea to achieve anything like positive change - none of which blogland can offer.

i imagine its much the same for me n my patriarchal blindspots - while digital forums have given me some good (and bad) ideas, its only ever been through the relationships i have in real life with wahine toa and conscious taane that change comes.

Anyways, i just wanted to mihi to your strength and courage in being that lone maaori amongst the barbarians. Your mana and dignity are shining through my whaanaun'a!

n'a mihi
Mkura

PS while this has been a hoha as kaupapa, for me all the korero between maaoris - on facebook, in the kaauta today at work - has been beautiful az to witness and participate in.

Adele said...

Teenaa koe, Madeleine

In 2003, Auckland University investigated the phenomenon of hearing voices experienced by the general population of Aotearoa. The idea flowed from international research which suggested that it is a relatively common experience within the general population (5 -10%). The participants offered various explanations to their experiences of hearing voices which were subsequently categorised into three themes – biological, psychological, spiritual.

Downstream, further analysis was made in terms of the evaluating the overall experience of hearing voices as either a valued blessing or unwanted curse. Generally those participants that believed their experiences of hearing voices to be a blessing were less likely to view their voices as their own thoughts, and were less likely to have contact with mental health services.

In defining treatment modalities emphasis was placed on acknowledging the reality of the experience to the voice-hearer as a core principle. In concluding, participants called for more information and the normalisation of the experience to reduce stigma particularly with regard to its perceived associations with severe mental illness.

Through the quantum world I was trying to convey the concept of a rational world overflowing with irrational concepts. A reason to view existence as having greater possibilities than what is currently perceived.

Psycho Milt said...

In defining treatment modalities emphasis was placed on acknowledging the reality of the experience to the voice-hearer as a core principle.

A useful analogy, that. As in: only a few right-wing nutbars would object to Te Papa acknowledging the reality of the experience to the voice-hearer. A lot of people however, would object to Te Papa telling those who aren't hearing any voices that they have a responsibility to act as though they are.

Adele said...

Teenaa koe, Milt

A useful analogy, that. As in: only a few right-wing nutbars would object to Te Papa acknowledging the reality of the experience to the voice-hearer. A lot of people however, would object to Te Papa telling those who aren't hearing any voices that they have a responsibility to act as though they are.

Firstly, labelling nutbars as right-wing is being unkind to nutbars.

Secondly, an even more useful analogy is to quote the entire paragraph and then relate it to what might constitute a fair and tolerant society. Perhaps a society that validates the worldview of others; seeks then to understand the worldview of others – such that they become normalised into the greater consciousness, and then actively works towards reducing the stigmatisation of others - as a process of being truly inclusive, and therefore healthier. The actions of Te Papa would then become a non-event in these circumstances.

Fiona said...

It's a shame that people seem to be forgetting that this email was leaked to the press. Someone invited to the tour was deeply upset by being told they were not welcome. So upset that they went to the media. We should consider that. Labelling any woman upset by Te Papa's stance as "uneducated" and culturally insensitive is quite offensive. And if you think it's easy to just not go on the tour: everyone you work with will know why you're not on it. It's because you're either menstruating (which women shouldn't have to tell their co-workers if they don't want to) or pregnant (which again they shouldn't have to share with their co-workers if they don't want to, particularly if it's a high-risk pregnancy). And if you do go while menstruating or pregnant you're some kind of culturally insensitive person who has no respect for Maori. Women can't win with this one. But instead of talking about it dialogue is just shut down: You don't know what tapu is you're just an uneducated white woman etc. You're a racist who hates Maori if you dare say you find the "advisory" offensive and hurtful.

Adele said...

Teenaa koe, Fiona

Who gets to win this debate – the majority opinion perhaps? This woman obviously knew that by going to the media she would generate a fierce amount of heat and anti-Maaori rhetoric. White women are so good at playing victim when it suits but it seems that it took only one email to create a societal storm – that is not victimhood, it reads as a perpetrator in sheepish clothing.

I won't be commenting further until later in the evening and that is respond to Deborah only. This blogosphere is intruding on my real-time space.

Hugh said...

i just wanted to mihi to your strength and courage in being that lone maaori amongst the barbarians

Quoted for humour.

Fiona said...

I think it's so sad that you just write off anyone who doesn't agree with you as "white women" and refuse to engage with them. In terms of playing the victim: you've more than got that covered.

marino said...

Aue. I had intended to read all the posts after mine but there were far too many. Perhaps it would be better to share a few loose thoughts on the ones I was able to get through.

I feel the debate has come to centre on issues that its not actually about which is understandable given the lack of education in this area. So for the record lets go through this again.

Menstruating women are not considered "dirty", they are considered "tapu". How anyone could translate tapu as dirty is beyond me. Tapu basically connotes something that is sacred and because of this it must be kept apart from certain things in order to preserve that state of sacredness. As astutely observed by one commentator there are many different situations that give rise to tapu such as dealing with the dead or even entering onto a marae for the first time but the phillosphy requiring the separation of tapu things is common to all. And before you ask theyre not all women related.

When something or someone is in a state of being tapu, it is, as another person pointed out, spiritually unsafe for the tapu of that person to be violated or disturbed by something harmful. In this case the objects on display carry may well their own tapu but it is of a completely different nature to that the women carry. As Julie rightly guessed, bringing these two "opposing" factors together could be detrimental.

I agree with whoever said this is a spiritual matter, but its also a cultural one and one of respect. These are the beliefs of the caretakers of these taonga and if they are not respected then I believe the iwi have every right to ask for their taonga back. It would be the same irrespective of which culture the artefacts belonged to, even some undiscovered tribe who believed in excluding large sectors of the public as hypothesised by another commentator.

Finally to all the feminists out there that may be reading this, do not judge my culture by the snippets of tikanga you watched on Whalerider or the 3 second soundbites that some ignorant journalist deems worthy to air. We are not a mysoginistic culture, in fact we only learnt about placing men above women when white people came and taught us how to.

At the essence of our belief system is the concept of balance. Men AND women, tapu AND noa, theres a place and a time for everything. Just because you may not understand why we do things the way we do, dont assume its for the same reasons your people do it or because we're a bunch of loopy natives. Maori women are every bit as important and valued in our society as men and its a crying shame that more people, including our own dont take the time to learn about their roots and the real nature of how our society has always worked with the sexes in partnership and collaboration. The need to treat different people differently at times doesnt always mean youre discriminating.

marino said...

Aue. I had intended to read all the posts after mine but there were far too many. Perhaps it would be better to share a few loose thoughts on the ones I was able to get through.

I feel the debate has come to centre on issues that its not actually about which is understandable given the lack of education in this area. So for the record lets go through this again.

Menstruating women are not considered "dirty", they are considered "tapu". How anyone could translate tapu as dirty is beyond me. Tapu basically connotes something that is sacred and because of this it must be kept apart from certain things in order to preserve that state of sacredness. As astutely observed by one commentator there are many different situations that give rise to tapu such as dealing with the dead or even entering onto a marae for the first time but the phillosphy requiring the separation of tapu things is common to all. And before you ask theyre not all women related.

When something or someone is in a state of being tapu, it is, as another person pointed out, spiritually unsafe for the tapu of that person to be violated or disturbed by something harmful. In this case the objects on display carry may well their own tapu but it is of a completely different nature to that the women carry. As Julie rightly guessed, bringing these two "opposing" factors together could be detrimental.

I agree with whoever said this is a spiritual matter, but its also a cultural one and one of respect. These are the beliefs of the caretakers of these taonga and if they are not respected then I believe the iwi have every right to ask for their taonga back. It would be the same irrespective of which culture the artefacts belonged to, even some undiscovered tribe who believed in excluding large sectors of the public as hypothesised by another commentator.

Finally to all the feminists out there that may be reading this, do not judge my culture by the snippets of tikanga you watched on Whalerider or the 3 second soundbites that some ignorant journalist deems worthy to air. We are not a mysoginistic culture, in fact we only learnt about placing men above women when white people came and taught us how to.

At the essence of our belief system is the concept of balance. Men AND women, tapu AND noa, theres a place and a time for everything. Just because you may not understand why we do things the way we do, dont assume its for the same reasons your people do it or because we're a bunch of loopy natives. Maori women are every bit as important and valued in our society as men and its a crying shame that more people, including our own dont take the time to learn about their roots and the real nature of how our society has always worked with the sexes in partnership and collaboration. The need to treat different people differently at times doesnt always mean youre discriminating.

Deborah said...

Kia ora, marino, Adele

If you are interested, I've put up quite a long post about these issues at my own place.

The difference between being required to believe and respecting belief

I don't feel that I can post it here on The Hand Mirror, because I'm not confident that the other people who blog here would be comfortable with it. It's highly theoretical, which reflects my training.

Thank you for what you have been writing here. I've been following it all, and listening in on some other threads around the place, particularly where Maori women and men are writing. I appreciate the time you have taken to write about the issues here.

Adele said...

Teenaa koe, Fiona

Gosh, when you put it like that how can I not respond.

I’ve have been called many things – hot, sexy and smart, to name but a few. Victim is definitely not me. However, there are many within my worldview that are victimised by white women oppression as much as by men.

Your worldview is closed down and tightly bound – not even light can slither through. “My rights are paramount! This exhibition cannot proceed because it infringes on my rights to bleed incognito and not to believe!”

I am thinking about another thread seeking to save women’s studies at Victoria – why bother! It appears that women's studies has done little to bridge the divide between Mana Waahine and Feminism.

Teenaa koe, Marino

Ka mau te wehi!

katy said...

"And if you think it's easy to just not go on the tour: everyone you work with will know why you're not on it. It's because you're either menstruating (which women shouldn't have to tell their co-workers if they don't want to) or pregnant (which again they shouldn't have to share with their co-workers if they don't want to, particularly if it's a high-risk pregnancy). "

Something that this situation has made me reflect on is the situation for women I might work with who have been raised with certain beliefs around menstruation and pregnancy and how they must often find themselves in situations in the NZ workplace where they are required to undertake work that they are not comfortable with on this basis. Presumably most NZ employers wouldn't be happy to hear from a staff member working in a kitchen, for example, who asked to be able to undertake different duties while she had her period. I recently saw first-hand a Muslim woman get a hard time from her colleagues when she asked to be excused from something because she would be fasting (it was during Ramadan). I have no doubt that the response would have been even stronger if someone had asked to be excused from certain tasks on the grounds that they were menstruating.

Brett Dale said...

Just because some something is culture or religion doesnt make it right.

If its sexist, its sexist.

Anonymous said...

personally, I think it's totally fine to ask pregnant or menstruating women to stay away from the taonga at this exhibit.
it took a little bit of thought but then I realised it goes hand in hand with my own belief on the physical changes women experience. imho, women are tapu in every sense when we bleed or are pregnant.


cjmax02

Brett Dale said...

Why Does Feminism forgive Sexism when it's cultural?

IMHO it's still wrong.