Cartoon of suffragette bound and unable to speak

I may not agree with you but I defend your right to say it

At the Let Women Speak event in Auckland on Saturday 25th March 2023 women were denied the opportunity to speak by a violent and intimidating group of protestors. You have to wonder what ordinary NZ women want to say that would trigger this rage. We don’t know because they weren’t given the opportunity to speak.

Protestors breached the safety barriers before it even began.

An elderly woman was punched in the face.

I expected to see stories of shame and self-reflection in the New Zealand media today about why they had allowed men to behave so violently towards women and girls whose only crime was wanting to speak in public. Instead the NZ Herald printed this cartoon. I’ve decided to paste a screenshot of the Tweet here rather than linking to it just in case the Herald comes to their senses and deletes it.

Cartoon of large male hand pointing down in an intimidating way on small woman trying to speak. The caption reads: "Standing with the spirit of Georgina Beyer". The hand is saying, "Your TERF propaganda is not welcome here".

At first you might think this cartoon is highlighting the issue of male bullies intimidating women and preventing them from speaking. It might as well say, “Shut up and know your place woman!” But if you google Georgina Beyer you’ll know she was a beloved transwoman politician in New Zealand.

Suffragettes were similarly vilified in cartoons.

Cartoon of suffragette tied to a chair unable to speak and with a 561pound weight chained to her ankle. Caption reads, "What I would do with the suffragists".
Cartoon of suffragette in chains with the text "Beware! Warning to suffragists"
Cartoon of woman with her tongue nailed to a post. Caption reads, "Peace at last"

New Zealand is the worst country in the OECD for male on female violence with one in three women experiencing physical, sexual, or coercive violence over their lifetime. It is therefore not surprising that this violence and intimidation has not been reported by the mainstream media. You can’t fix a problem you cannot see.

Part of the blame lies with Australian politicians who made accusations of Nazism against women wanting to speak about their rights in Australia during the preceding week. No one likes Nazis, not even the women themselves who have publicly condemned them, but it doesn’t matter what they say now as falsehoods spread faster than truth and this Nazi smear emboldened the protestors in Auckland to do whatever they wanted. Since when did Nazis support feminism and women’s rights? Are politicians really so stupid?

You don’t have to agree with what others think or say but in a democracy everyone has the right to speak in public. While the small group of women and girls who attempted to speak on Saturday are accused of being Nazis and fascists the only fascism I see is from those who silenced them; fascism is the suppression of opposing views.

We should all agree with Reem Alsalem, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women and girls. She wrote this today.

The French philosopher Voltaire once said, “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

7 thoughts on “I may not agree with you but I defend your right to say it”

  1. I’ve met people who given an audience they think are on their side, will say what violence they are prepared to go to to shut up those that are not what they are or what the audience finds acceptable. When taken to one side and alone, some will backtrack or say they realise their mistake (because they are just playing to the crowd). However, there’s just people who really have a go-to violence that has been nurtured (for want of a better word) into their psyche.

    1. Yes I think what you describe is the power of the mob. Otherwise peaceful people will go along with it because they’re caught up in the frenzy.

  2. Some UK women organised a get-together outside NZ House in London to read out the speeches we weren’t able to give at the Let Women Speak rallies in NZ. It’s not all the speeches that would have been given, of course, but a good cross-section. The traffic noise can make parts of them a little hard to hear, but the woman who read out my speech about the Christchurch City Council was lovely and clear. In the event you’re interested in hearing it, she’s on from 4.30 – 10.35 🙂

    1. I saw it! I’m glad you had your voice heard even if it was in another country. I’ve shared the video on my blog now too. We need to amplify women’s voices.

  3. I think you’re talking about Posie Parker’s rally? I love her! Anyone who accuses her of being a Nazi should check out her website:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s