Fifty Years a Feminist by Sue Kedgley
Massey University Press, 2021
Book review by Prudence Stone
Sisterhood is powerful: Sue Kedgley makes that clear in her new book Fifty Years a Feminist. I found this not just an exciting read, full of fun stories of meeting, planning, arguing, gathering, marching, but an inclusive read. I may not have been at Auckland University in 1971, or working for the UN in my thirties, but in that global movement that Sue was leading, I was taking part, I too was frustrated, confounded, undertaking my feminist crusades and breaking my own personal glass ceilings. That’s what I found compelling from start to finish; the book really helped me re-member myself a feminist, and in remembering, really made me proud.
In the book, Sue mentions a psycho-social phenomenon for second-wave feminists I had almost completely forgotten about. The ‘click’, that moment that came to so many girls growing up Pākehā in Aotearoa New Zealand in the middle of last century, who consciously named themselves feminist thereafter. The click comes with that first, incredulous ‘why?’ For Sue, it came through reading her first book of feminist literature. In perfect form, she would read it with a sister-friend and “spend hours…discussing its ideas and relating it to our everyday lives”. After her click, Sue recounts, she began to see sexism everywhere she looked. The truth is, sexism was everywhere in Pākehā New Zealand - all that changed was your own capability to see it.
Sue looks back on a career deeper than simply feminist; a “last minute mother”, a writer, journalist and documentary maker, an environmentalist and animal welfare activist, a successful politician and influential board member, still involved in feminism while celebrating the new guard of tech-native millennials now at its helm. There is still so much to do and there should be no inference from the book’s title that Sue rests at 50 years. Now comes the wisdom from all that experience to advise us where to from here, in her usual upfront fashion. It’s in light of this that I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a gift, particularly to all brothers, fathers, uncles or any other men friends in your environment.
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