The critics are wrong: Paula Bennett is a staunch feminist

OPINION: For Valentine's Day I bought my boyfriend a book.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

You see, he's one of those annoying idiots who thinks the gender pay gap is a myth. One of those "Not all Men" guys.

The topic causes a few heated exchanges across the dinner table, and on our walk to work, and you know, pretty much any time I feel like a good fight.

The thing is, I want him to be a feminist. 

I want him to care about equal pay and domestic violence and sexual violence. 

I want him to understand the impact those things have on me, on his sister, on his mum  on all of the other amazing women in his life.

It took me a while, but I now understand why he doesn't want to be a feminist.

Truth be told some feminists can be pretty damn nasty and as a man he feels attacked - like he can't really join the conversation.

And as I wrote that sentence I thought of the people he thinks of when he thinks of feminists. Those people will probably say I've just set the cause back 10,000 decades. 

They'll probably call me a misogynist apologist, or a patriarchy sympathiser, or something equally as ridiculous for even trying to understand his side of the story.

Let's make one thing clear: Of course I'm a feminist. 

New research shows that the pay gap is mainly down to bias - outrageous. 

Women look around boardroom tables and all they see is men - woeful. 

Our domestic violence stats are horrendous. Our sexual violence stats are appalling.

But when others were baying for blood because our Minister for Women said she's only a feminist "most days" I found it difficult to understand.

I asked Paula Bennett to explain her 'part-time feminism' comment, and kind of surprisingly, she let rip.

"The truth is I am every day."

The reason she initially said "most days" is because some days, being a feminist is bloody hard yakka.

"There's some days when there are ones that are just so anti, and man-hating and awful that you think if I'm compared to them that's not who I want to be."

What she does want to be is Minister for Women. She has two issues to tackle: The gender pay gap and sexual and domestic violence against women. She's passionate about both.

She says she specifically asked the Prime Minister to be the Minister for Women - and admits Bill English was surprised to hear it.

"The Prime Minister was like 'Wow, I hadn't thought of that'."

That's because the portfolio has previously been treated with disrespect or even contempt; hurled at a junior minister to up their number of responsibilities.

But Ms Bennett wanted it this time to show it is important.

"We've got a couple of big challenges and I'm fully equipped to kind of leap in and tackle them so I just wanted to be the Minister for Women, I thought it was a great message as well that the Deputy Prime Minister and most senior woman in Cabinet wants the job," she says. 

But instead of focusing on a Deputy Prime Minister WANTING to stand up for women many feminists were outraged because she didn't fit in their box.

They forgot that she punched through glass ceilings herself. They forgot she mentors other women so they can do the same. They forgot that she spoke out against violence against women - remember when she took on the Chiefs rugby franchise for their awful treatment of a stripper when the former Women's Minister wouldn't?

Well yesterday the minister clapped right back.

"We define feminism in this day and age for ourselves.

"I believe in equality for women."

She addressed her critics  explaining herself while still respecting them.

"If you are a little bit not-fitting-in-the-box-that-other-people-want-to-draw-for-you, you come up against this criticism.

"I just can't get over if you don't fit into someone else's definition of what they think an absolute feminist should be, you get this absolutely harsh critical sort of shout out to you that's kind of unnecessary.

"So I'll own it for me. I'll define it for me. And I'll totally respect everyone else's ability to do that for themselves."

The minister is right. Feminism is whatever we want it to be. 

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