The Woman Tax

I’m sick of paying more for things just because I’m a woman. From menstrual products to makeup, from handbags to hair removal, women are expected to spend more money on more things in order to fit in. Add to this the ‘pink tax‘, where products marketed as being for women or girls actually cost more than nearly-identical male or unisex versions, and being a woman suddenly becomes very expensive.

And not only is the cost of living higher for women, we’re also paid less than men (for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into today).

Sometimes, though, the women’s tax is harder to spot. Sometimes, women have to pay more because we simply don’t have as many consumer choices as men do. Let me give you an example…

I’ve been thinking about buying a bike for a long time now, and I finally decided to bite the bullet and get one this summer. I wanted a bike for a few reasons:

  1. Climate change: Walking and cycling are emission-free modes of transport. I already enjoy walking to many places in my neighbourhood, but in Auckland’s low-density suburbs you can only get so far on foot. Cycling seems the perfect way to expand my range and access a wider range of shops, parks and community facilities without using a car.
  2. Peer pressure: Okay, so not actual peer pressure, but almost all my colleagues ride bikes and sometimes my preference for getting around on foot makes me feel like the odd one out.
  3. It’s fun! I have fond memories of cycling as a child and want to recapture that sense of freedom and joy.

I initially wanted to buy a bike secondhand. I know from talking to all those colleagues that the first bicycle I buy as an adult most likely won’t be the bike I end up falling in love with, so it seems silly to spend a lot of money on something that I may only use for a year or so. On the other hand, a cheap new bicycle wouldn’t be as durable and would ultimately go to landfill sooner than a quality bike. So secondhand seemed like the way to go. However, after weeks spent haunting Trade Me and bike shop websites, I realised that bicycles designed for women are few and far between, and finding a secondhand bike that met my criteria was going to take more time and energy than I have right now. In the end, I caved and bought a new bike.

(It makes sense that the market provides less bicycle options for women than men, when two-thirds of cycling trips in New Zealand are made by men. It makes less sense when you discover even the bicycles marketed as having a ‘women-specific design’ are often exactly the same as the men’s bikes except for a lower top bar.)

That’s not the real issue though – the range of women-specific bikes available may be much smaller than those for men, but at least the lower end of the size and price ranges for each type is pretty similar (and, quibbles about anatomical and wardrobe differences aside, there is nothing stopping us women from buying a ‘male’ bike). I’m writing this blog post because of what happened next.

New Zealand has a mandatory helmet law. When I bought my new bicycle, I also needed to buy a helmet to go with it. I tried the cheapest helmet first – after all, I’m not planning on doing any fast or dangerous riding, so I figured a fairly basic helmet should meet my needs. Turns out those cheap helmets are ‘one-size-fits-all’ and – surprise, surprise – they’re ultimately designed to accommodate a larger head and are a poor fit for smaller people like me. The cheapest helmet that offered a range of sizes was more than twice the price of that basic helmet. But I needed a helmet – and I needed one that fit me – so I had little choice but to pay the premium for the smaller size.

It’s not the first time I’ve experienced this problem either. A few years ago I was in the market for a new pair of tramping boots. My last pair had been a $40 purchase from the local big-box shoe store, and lasted me a good ten years. But the soles eventually fell off, and I was planning to do some hiking in the next few months, so I needed a new pair of boots.

Unfortunately, at some point in the preceding decade the shoe warehouse had decided to discontinue their women’s sizes in tramping boots. I obviously can’t tramp in a pair of oversized boots, so I had to buy boots from a more expensive outdoors store; the cheapest options I could find (that weren’t hideous shades of pink or purple) were well over two hundred dollars. Yes, you do get what you pay for, but in this case I didn’t need the higher-quality boots – another cheap pair would have served me just fine for the amount of hiking I do.

What’s more, that cheap pair I’d bought a decade earlier – they were purchased for a school camping trip. So many parents could never afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of shoes just so their daughters can take part in school camp. Is the only other option for those girls now to miss out completely?

I’m all for buying the best quality you can afford, and the reality is that I could afford to buy the more expensive helmet and boots. But as a woman with a petite frame, I’m sick of being forced to spend hundreds of dollars on items for activities I only take part in casually, when the men around me are able to buy perfectly adequate versions for less than $50. It’s just not fair.


Local Treasures

I love walking around my local neighbourhood and discovering all sorts of quirky little gems tucked away on verges, fences and front yards. The kinds of things you miss when travelling by car because you’re driving too fast to spot them.

Here are a few of the local treasures I’ve stumbled across on my perambulations.

green roof 3

A garage with a green roof. (The neighbouring roof was also rather green – covered with moss and lichen!)

Painted wooden bird


I thought these were baby pears, but when I went back later to check on the fruit it was all gone.


Stairs to nowhere


Perhaps most exciting of all, this beauty was parked up in my neighbourhood for weeks.

gypsy caravan

The caravan was sitting outside a house I’ve privately nicknamed “the urban homestead”. Many mornings on my way work I see hens roaming around the front yard and rabbits nibbling the long grass. It’s a delightful scene, and certainly improves my morning commute. The addition of a gypsy caravan just made the whole scene even more magical.

peter rabbit

Not one of the urban homestead’s rabbits. I actually snapped this photo in Beatrix Potter’s garden in the Lakes District – a descendant of Peter Rabbit?

New Perspectives

Hello, old friend. I know I’ve been absent for a while – nearly six whole months, in fact. Where does the time go?

Truth be told, the last few months of 2016 seemed to disappear in a flash. “Is it really October already?” I thought. “November? December? 2017?!”

I kept meaning to come back here, and write a blog post – or five. My absence has not been for lack of inspiration. But when life is rattling along at a breakneck pace, the easiest commitments to drop first are those I keep solely for my own enjoyment, and blogging sits squarely in that basket.

That’s not to say my life was passing swiftly by without me. When I look back over the past year, I can see I filled my time with things I love and that are important to me – dancing; hanging out with family and friends; learning Te Reo Māori; rediscovering downtime; finding a new home with my husband; moving to a place that helps me to live more in line with my values…

It’s those last two points I’d like to elaborate on now. Moving to a new home brought about several changes in my attempts to tread lightly on the earth, for better and for worse.

Ginger cat sitting on footpath at intersection

The neighbourhood cat

Unfortunately, I found the process of moving to a new neighbourhood rather disruptive to my nascent zero-waste habits. I’d spent months finding local shops and suppliers that enabled me to reduce household packaging, and now I was back at square one. Not only that, but the stress of moving into and setting up a new home took its toll and I found myself growing lax about buying plastic-packaged food. I’ve started to establish new waste-minimising routines here, but getting back on the zero-waste bandwagon is definitely a work in progress.

This was the first time my husband and I moved into a completely unfurnished home, so we had to acquire a number of new-to-us items. Some of these items we did have to buy brand new, either because we needed them urgently or because it’s the only way to source apartment-sized furniture and whiteware in New Zealand. But we also found a lot of the things we needed secondhand, in op shops, online, or donated by relatives. 

One of the things we acquired was a car. It’s the first time I’ve officially owned a car, and I have very conflicted feelings about it. Car travel is far more damaging to the environment and to local communities than going by foot or public transport, but I must admit that it’s so darn convenient to own a car in Auckland. In the past I’ve always been able to access a parent’s car for those trips I couldn’t make by bus or train. At our new house, my husband and I don’t need a car for any of our day-to-day work, study, shopping or recreational trips. But when it comes to visiting far-flung friends and family (or bulk bin stores) there really isn’t a good alternative to the car.

On the other hand, I love the location of my new home because it means I don’t need to use the car very often. I can walk to work in less than an hour; the nearest supermarket is just five minutes away by foot, as are op shops and whole foods stores. I can go to dance and yoga classes with a fifteen-minute walk. The local bus route runs every five minutes all day and every ten minutes late into the evening and on weekends, and the train line is also nearby. As far as Auckland locations go, it’s pretty much perfect for (almost) car-free living. Ultimately, being able to access such a variety of destinations on foot gives me a sense of freedom and autonomy. I love that walking can legitimately be the easiest and fastest way for me to get where I’m going, and I love being able to get a regular dose of exercise as part of my commute.

On balance, the move to a small, central apartment has made me feel like I’m living more in keeping with my values. I can drive less, walk more, spend less time commuting and cleaning, and more time enjoying my home. And I can access the people and places I want to visit more easily, so I’m looking forward to another year filled with the things I love. 

Jacaranda tree in bloom

Jacaranda tree in bloom

P.S. I’d love to end on that positive note, but as we dive headlong into the second month of 2017 I feel the need to somehow acknowledge the darkness clouding the world at this time. I’m feeling pretty powerless down here at the bottom of the planet though. While I don’t have the capacity to engage with the issues in a meaningful way right now, I promise: I am here, I am awake, I am watching, I am listening. 

While the light lasts I shall remember, and in the darkness I shall not forget.

Auckland: Fixing Transport and Saving Libraries

Auckland Council is currently consulting on their 10-year budget (you can have your say at Two of the key issues Auckland Council are asking about are transport and rates. It’s an important opportunity for all Aucklanders to have a say, because the decisions made as a result of the consultation will affect everyone — all those who use the transport network to get around, and all those who pay rates (whether directly or via rent).

I’d like to briefly talk about two aspects of the consultation, transport and libraries.


Transport one of the biggest issues Auckland is facing. In the 10-year budget, the Council presents us with just two options:

  1. Basic Transport Network – The projects in the Basic Transport Network can be funded from the existing rates budget, but it won’t support our growing demand for transport so we’ll end up with exacerbated congestion and poor alternatives to car-based travel.
  2. Auckland Plan Transport Network – The Auckland Plan includes a long list of all the projects inherited from the previous city councils in the region, but doesn’t attempt to prioritise between them. As a result the proposed investment is expensive and requires alternative revenue streams.

However, these two options offer a false choice. While Auckland Council is taking an all-or-nothing approach, Generation Zero have come up with a third option: the Essential Transport Budget. In a nutshell, the Essential Budget includes all the projects of the Basic Transport Network, plus investment in key public transport, walking and cycling projects that will provide Aucklanders with congestion-free alternatives for getting around the city. By prioritising spending in these areas, the Essential Budget ends up significantly cheaper than the Auckland Plan Network.

Gen Zero have written a series of posts about the Essential Budget on TransportBlog, and more detail is also available at If you want to submit in support of the Essential Budget you can do so here.


The second issue that concerns me in the 10-year budget consultation is presented as a single sentence buried deep within the Local Board Priorities section.

A Council-led proposal to “reduce and standardise library opening hours” means that many areas will either see reduced opening hours or require top-up funding from local boards to maintain existing opening hours.

I know the Council is concerned about tight budgets right now, but as someone who has a great love and respect for libraries and librarians, and who believes library opening hours are already too short, I’m horrified that the Council is proposing to cut library hours. The savings are minimal and the costs are too great.

Libraries provide life-lines for people who are out of work, who may have limited computer literacy or no access to the internet at home.

Libraries are community spaces, safe havens. They give everyone equal access to information, and they come with librarians who can help us find the useful information.

Libraries give us free things and then let us return them when we no longer need them.

Being able to read — and to read for pleasure — gives children better prospects for their future. Not only are communication and the written word increasingly important for jobs in the modern world, but low literacy is correlated with a higher likelihood of going to prison.

Reading fiction in particular helps to foster empathy, imagination and innovation.

Neil Gaiman gave an excellent speech a couple of years ago that covers all these points and so much more; I suggest you have a read.


But back to the issue at hand: Consultation on Auckland’s 10-year budget is only open for another week, so get in quick at!