New Zealand is a gendered culture -- a culture, that is, in which the intimate and structural expressions of social life are divided according to gender. Notions of masculinity and femininity are a pervasive metaphor which shape not merely relations between the sexes, but are integral to the systematic maintenance of other structures of inequality as well. Inequalities of sex, race and class in New Zealand are tied together by and expressed at cultural level through the organization of gender relations.
There are costs to mental health which emerge from the gendered culture. Economic dependency, domesticity and the self-sacrifice demanded of women by the Cult of Domesticity are major causes of women's mental illness.
Motherhood is a source of great stress for women in Maori society for many reasons. It often means a major change in a woman's position; from earning money, to dependence on a husband and being defined almost totally in terms of the child's needs. Feelings of loss of control and helplessness characterize the experience.
Last Modified: 15 March, 2002