Amelia Wade at the Herald reports:
A clash of cultures over a rule forbidding pregnant or menstruating women to attend a Te Papa exhibit has been criticised by feminists.
An invitation for regional museums to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of Te Papa's collections included the condition that “wahine who are either hapu [pregnant] or mate wahine [menstruating]” were unable to attend.
Jane Keig, Te Papa spokeswoman, said the policy was in place because of Maori beliefs surrounding the Taonga Maori collection included in the tour.
She said the rule was one of the terms Te Papa agreed to when they took the collection.
“If a woman is pregnant or menstruating, they are tapu. Some of these taonga have been used in battle and to kill people.
“Pregnant women are sacred and the policy is in place to protect women from these objects.”
What? Are Te Papa concerned that one of these ancient weapons is going to levitate itself over to any pregnant women, and bludgeon her to death unassisted?
Deborah russel, prominent feminist blogger on The Hand Mirror blog, does not think the policy should be enforced in modern society.
“I don't understand why a secular institution, funded by public money in a secular state, is imposing religious and cultural values on people.
“It's fair enough for people to engage in their own cultural practices where those practices don't harm others, but the state shouldn't be imposing those practices on other people.”
Absolutely. If they are the terms under which a collection will only be granted, then they should be refused.
Would one accept a collection with a condition that no blacks are d
lowed to view the collection?
Would Te Papa kowtow to the Roman Catholic Church if it insisted that a collection of church art work only be viewable by men?
However, Margaret Mutu, head of Maori Studies at auckland university, said the policy was common in Maori culture.
Women cannot go into the garden, on to the beach or in the kitchen when they are menstruating.
“It's a very serious violation of tapu for women to do those things while menstruating. Women cannot have anything to do with the preparation of food while they are menstruating.”
I would be very interested in any research that measures how prevalent this “policy” is amongst Maori women. It may have been common in the past, but how many modern Maori families ban women from going into the garden or the beach while they are menstruating?