Maisy Bentley is a woman to watch. Her list of achievements is impressive for anyone, let alone someone at the young age of 19.
You might recognise Maisy from her 2016 feminist TEDx talk, “Don’t Ask for Permission”. Or for being named Most Inspirational Young Person of the year at the New Zealand Parliamentary Pride awards 2016. Or as the NZ Youth Awards 2018 recipient of the Outstanding Youth Champion award. Or as a Miss FQ Influencer awards 'Up and Comer’ 2018 finalist. Seriously, the list goes on.
Somehow she manages to pack all this in with work, study, freelance writing, speaking at events, and being a dedicated advocate for youth, gender equality and fighting mental health stigma. Maisy is the definition of a life lived with purpose.
Maisy is currently in her second year at Vic, studying international development and a bachelor of laws. She is working at Inspiring Stories, a nation-wide not for profit empowering young people to unleash their potential, from entrepreneurial incubator programs to working with hundreds of young people in rural New Zealand to address issues in their community.
I had a chat with Maisy about what drives her, and what makes her excited for the future.
What have been some highlights of working in the advocacy space?
My work in the not for profit and advocacy space has allowed me some pretty cool opportunities including working with one of NZ largest retailers Glassons to get Prepair NZ’s charity t-shirts into nearly every store in the country and travelling on the UN Youth Global Development Tour which included meeting with Helen Clarke at the United Nations Development Programme and bringing the voice of kiwi rangitahi to the UN and the youth action planner on sustainable development goals.
What does feminism mean to you?
To me, feminism means making the world a better place by allowing all people to participate. That means everyone can do whatever they set their mind to. To do this, it is not enough to create equal opportunities but we need equity. We need to fix the gender pay gap, need to recognize the way gender shapes the opportunities that women might set their mind to or even consider open to them when it comes time to make those decisions.
I believe feminism a catalyst when done right to address a range of inequalities such as race and class, as it’s a universal issue that draws attention to these intersections.
To me feminism also means playing a role in addressing men’s rights issue to achieve equality. Issues such as mens suicide rates and social norms expected of men are often toxic masculinity. For example, that they can’t cry, talk about their feelings or exhibit feminine characteristics such as crying, or work in ‘traditional womens roles’ such as being a nurse, or home maker.
These are intrinsically linked to women's issues because feminity is seen as bad and when men are told /force not to be in these spaces it means women are forced to be in these spaces and only these spaces or because men are forced to be dominant and hard women must be submissive and soft.
In day to day life it means being aware of how the ideas of gender influence your actions and the way you think about yourself and others and their actions. It also means reflecting on how your comments and actions perpetuate these gender narratives.
What makes you excited for the future?
I’m excited for my generation to be in power. And I’m excited for the future generations who will continue to have positive partnerships with those in power. I’m excited to see a generation who have grown up in a world that is rapidly, dramatically and confusingly changing around them and not only embrace but harness that change for good, rather than try to stop or control it because the way things are currently might be benefiting them individually.
I’m excited to see the impact of the current critical numbers of women in senior positions. The number of women we have in parliament now and for example Jacinda being a working mother will have huge impacts on the perspectives bought to our policy and law making and shape what that looks like.
When women are in power the decision made tend to be ones that work for women and create many more doors. I can feel the glass ceiling being weakened now from both above it by the few very special talented women who have already got there and by those who are up and coming. It is a privilege to be in a generation that has people fighting form both sides.
I am excited to see a future where I hope the next wave of feminism is the ‘ally wave’ where men who recognize and understand these issues actively stand up and demand equality in the way women have no choice to do. We have already seen this in the ad in the New York Times for both Anita hill and Christine Blasey Ford, but I hope to see this trend continue. We can’t change the whole world when only 50% of people are working towards that.