Speaking Up!


This month Auckland Live presents Women 20-18 a season of visual art, music, theatre and talks that shines a spotlight on the un-ordinary women of New Zealand’s arts industries, and celebrates the voices of all women here and around the world.

On 8 September – the 125th anniversary of the day our parliament voted 20 – 18 for women to be allowed a voice, Speak Up! gathers women in the arts to talk, debate and dig deep into some of the issues facing us in contemporary Aotearoa. Express caught up with two of the panellists to find out more.


18-year-old Rowan McCracken identifies as non-binary and asexual. Rowan tells express, I’ve never seen myself as male or female, I’ve always seen myself as just ‘me’.”

 “There is a lot of ignorance towards everyone on the gender-queer spectrum and there is also a lot of animosities… most people don’t see any legitimacy in being non-binary… It is difficult to understand the concept of being non-binary because it is difficult to explain. It is ultimately a truth that comes from within that doesn’t fit into words. So we have to work extra hard to convince the general public that we are being genuine.”

Rowan hopes the Speak Up panels will, “help start many conversations and open people up to many new ideas.”

Emma Ellis is a mixed race gay woman who came to NZ in 2003 and works as a counsellor and psychotherapist.

“I often feel a huge depth of appreciation for the freedoms that I have today as a gay person of colour due to the courageous efforts of those who pushed society to change in the 60’s and 70’s (and beyond) through the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements,” she tells express.

Emma believes sexual objectification is one of the greatest struggles facing women today.

“Resisting and addressing this objectification is painful, challenging and tiring. Sexual violence in Aotearoa is at epidemic proportions. I am yet to meet a woman who hasn’t at some point in her life felt that her physical safety was threatened by men… We need men to realize that their words and actions impact on women feeling threatened and unsafe on a regular basis. But how can we have these conversations without attacking, shaming and blaming men?”

Emma believes the #MeToo movement has helped empower these important conversations.

“Individual women have been able to share their experiences of sexual violence and feel heard, perhaps for the first time.”

She looks forward to the Speak Up panels offering a space for, “more nuanced, challenging and courageous conversations about feminism, equality and sexual politics.”

Auckland Live’s Women 2018 events run until Sunday 23 September. Speak Up takes place on Saturday 8 September at the Aotea Centre. For more info visit www.aucklandlive.co.nz