Would you lie?

Seen on Nothing to Do With Abroath

Original article: NZHerald

New Zealand museum bans pregnant women from attending exhibit

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.”

If an object is tapu it is “forbidden” and in Maori culture it is believed that if that tapu is not observed, something bad will happen. Women who plan to attend the tour on November 5 are expected to be honest about whether they are pregnant or menstruating as a sign of respect to Maori beliefs.

So the argument for keeping certain women out of the special tour is because the women are sacred, forbidden, and need to be protected.  And if they do go on the tour, tapu will be violated and something bad will happen. 

I have nothing to lose in this debate, so I don’t know if I would lie or not to get in.  But if I was affected by this ban, I might.  Or I might try to organize a boycott or protest.  The group imposing the restrictions doesn’t have the right to insist that I respect their beliefs. They have a right to not let me see their private stuff, but do they have the right to open their collection to the public except for the people they don’t want to see it? This particular museum is a public institution that accepts public funding.

Does the owner of a private collection have a right to place restrictions on who gets to see it, even if they allow it to be displayed at a public institution?

If only I had a seestor with a concentration in museum studies…

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4 Responses to “Would you lie?”

  1. Madeline Says:

    I can *almost* see their reasoning about pregnant women. The instruments were used for death, and a pregnant woman is about as far from that as you can get. I can at least see the rational there, even if I don’t agree with it.

    However…if a woman is raggin’ it, what does it matter? In the world of stereotypes, she might be the best warrior that ever came near that thing if she’s cranky enough!

  2. Erin Says:

    Your seestor is considering the issue from both sides and will come back shortly…..

  3. Erin Says:

    Actually, fuck that shit. The thing is the Maori have the right to set these limits in their own museum that they have privately funded; the publicly funded museum should never have accepted the collection with those kind of conditions. Frankly, it’s the museum’s own goddamn fault and they’re the ones who should be boycotted. Its a matter of separation of church and state (which I don’t know if they have in NZ); just because the Maori are native doesn’t mean they can hold a publicly funded institution and its constituency hostage to their religious beliefs and the museum SHOULD have known better. In fact, they should hire me…..

  4. Paula Says:

    Well said my youngest. Yet another problem museums are facing, forcing the question of who/what should determine what is exhibited, how it is exhibited and who can be permitted to view the exhibits. Sometimes it seems to me that the British Museum’s policy of “fuck ya’ll” its our stuff now and we’ll do with it as we please seems ever so much easier than the minefields that other museums must face.

    Oh, NZ has some wonderful archives – just not my kind of archives – stay closer.

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