September 2023

04 Sep EqualizeNZ

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 4.9.23


If you’d ask me this time last year for my thoughts on football, our conversation would have been limited to my enthusiasm for the TV show, Ted Lasso. Favourite team: AFC Richmond. Favourite player: Jamie Tartt.

Not a football aficionado, is what I’m saying. And yet by the time the semi-final was played at Eden Park in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, you could find me in the stands, screaming my heart out for Spain (I have a cousin who lives there, so picked them over Sweden) while proudly wearing a tournament scarf gifted to me by the Secretary General of FIFA, Fatma Samoura.

That’s quite the name-drop but I can explain. I spent this July and August tootling around the motu, helping to MC a series of speaker events called EqualizeNZ. Aimed at showcasing Aotearoa’s role in driving gender equity, these were free events starring all kinds of women in sport, in business, academia and the arts.

Some of them are already well-known – Theresa Gattung, Dame Farah Palmer, Dame Valerie Adams – and there were also young emerging stars like Arizona Leger and the YWCA’s Latayvia Tualasea Tautai whose names you will likely get to know more as the years go by.

Also, if you missed these events and wish you hadn’t, you can find video recordings of them all on the website.

The grand finale of these shows was held in Auckland the day before the Spain vs Sweden semi-final match. Two thousand people packed into the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre to hear Ruby Tui, Dame Jacinda Ardern, Natalie Portman and Fatma Samoura speak. I had the honour of being MC for the night.

It is one of the gigs that will live in my heart. On stage, it was a joy – an audience delighted to be there to hear stories of struggle, success and hope. Lots of laughter, buckets of wisdom, and an incredible opportunity to see all four women together in conversation with singer and documentary-maker Moana Maniapoto.

Back stage it was an endless stream of pinch-myself moments. Like sitting in the greenroom with Jacinda catching up on news since we’ve last seen each other, and then Natalie Portman arrived and – I kid you not – fangirled all over our ex-PM.

Natalie gifted Jacinda a personalised team shirt from her football club, Angel City, and then asked if it was ok to have a photo with her. It was an extraordinary thing to see – two remarkable women being thrilled to meet each other. And there’s me hanging out, still essentially a girl from Levin who got lucky, grinning from ear to ear and thinking, What a time to be alive.

And feeling that again the next night with a couple of gifted tickets to the fancy part of Eden Park stand, sitting right beside Michele Cox who played for the Football Ferns in the 1980s, and her mother Barbara who also represented NZ in the game. We introduced ourselves, took selfies and high-fived each other after every goal, no matter who scored it.

So I’ve learned a couple of things about football. Mostly about how the sport gives women and girls an opportunity to do extraordinary things, and how events like this can throw a spotlight on women doing extraordinary things in so many other areas.

Oh, and Phil Dunster, the actor who plays Jamie Tartt in Ted Lasso, was sitting just along from us. Wild right? Got a photo with him. He’s still my favourite player.


Read More

04 Sep Who Is Wearing the Trousers?

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover date 28.8.23


My rule with clothing is that, if you buy something expensive, you’ve got to wear it every chance you get. Cost-per-wear is the equation that matters. And by “matters” I mean, “justifies spending silly money on something if you don’t save it for best”.

So there’s a good chance you’ll see me out for dinner in my yoga pants at some point because, honestly, those things cost the earth. On the upside, they last forever. I suspect two things that will survive a nuclear holocaust are cockroaches and Lycra. Plus the good ones (pants, not cockroaches) suck in your wobbly bits so well it’s almost like you don’t need to exercise once you’ve pulled them on.

I have been entranced with the latest brouhaha over whether yoga pants should be worn in public at all. I say “latest” because it is a perennial issue – yoga pants will be banned from schools, on planes, in workplaces. But this was novel – a call to ban yoga pants from actual yoga classes by ultra-conservative men who deemed them too revealing and immodest.

Social media, naturally, lit up in defence of being allowed to, gosh, I don’t know… Wear what we like and be comfortable? Illustrations were posted of men doing exactly that – wearing whatever they like as they go about their exercise – making the point women are held to a different standard. Picture scantily clad gentlemen in low slung short-shorts and no shirts at all. Hot flushes all round.

One could argue that policing what women wear is what makes civilisation great. You would lose that argument, of course, but along the way you’d find lots of examples of people giving it a jolly good go. Depending on the time and culture, women are admonished to cover up some body part or other, lest we fail in our responsibility to avoid tempting men, poor darlings.

Where does the propriety of athleisure wear fit in modern history? They like to tell you it is new, this wearing of exercise gear as a fashion statement. But hands up who wore hand-knitted legwarmers over shiny leggings to a nightclub in the 1980s? Putting both hands down again now so I can continue typing.

In the grand scheme of things, the yoga pant is less radical than women beginning to wear trousers in the first place. If the boys hadn’t been off fighting WWII, it would never have been countenanced. Even by the 1960s, it took some courage for my grandmother to buy her first pair of trousers, and she made sure she never wore them out somewhere nice, and never on a Sunday.

You don’t need to go that far back to find pants that shocked. In 2002 Prime Minister Helen Clark wore trousers – lovely designer slacks, they were – to a state banquet here for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. Royalists and newspaper columnist were horrified at the informality.

Though at a fancy dinner days after this scandal I was embarrassed to find I was the only woman who hadn’t thought to wear trousers as a sign of solidarity with our PM.

Now I wear my yoga pants wherever I like. Mostly to and from yoga, to be honest, with a detour to the supermarket. Sometimes for warmth I throw a kneelength woollen Shearer’s Singlet on over the top and it amuses me that this very blokey garment might make the ensemble seem, to an ultra-conservative, more modest and appropriate for a lady.


Read More