From the umu to the oven : emancipation for the women of the Cook Islands?
Type of content
This thesis is based on the life histories of forty women from the Cook Islands. The aim is to make the experiences of these women visible. It recognises the concerns of feminist geography and therefore challenges the notion that the masculine experience is the same as the feminine one. Feminist geography also highlights the need to consider place and space when studying the experiences of women. This too is addressed, by studying the women within the context of change in the Cook Islands. Development experiences vary amongst women and those of the Cook Islands' women interviewed have been diverse. For some of the women, development has meant travel and educational opportunities, for others development has meant frustration with tourists and anger over the loss of culture and the national language. It is also apparent that, for some, development reinforces patriarchy and therefore increasingly marginalises women. Once again the experiences of the women are diverse. While women are not represented in parliament and hold few senior positions, some are venturing into male dominated areas. Some women have begun to fight patriarchy within their lives but for others it remains a major factor. Seventeen of the forty women have been victims of domestic violence. While development in the Cook Islands has not consciously attempted to break down patriarchy or to encourage the participation of women, development has meant some advantages for some women in the Cook Islands. The study is cross-cultural, both because the researcher is not a Cook Islander and because Western feminists have written much of the contextual material. While these limitations are recognised, the research illustrates that feminism in the Cook Islands is very similar to feminism in the West. It is unique but it is based on the same theme as feminism everywhere: women's subordination. Feminism has come both from within the Cook Islands and as a result of Western contact. The lives of the women of the Cook Islands have changed as the places they live in have changed. This change has included women migrating from the outer islands and the Cook Islands. The women have also begun to change the place they live in. This has included challenging patriarchy and thus the structure of social relations in the Cook Islands.