Sheila and the Honourable Member 7.

Women’s chorus to Mr Speaker

we thy most humble servants do plead
that thou must justly and mercifully
as is they wont do hear our meek
soprano voices in petty harmony

contemplate with condescension
our minimal oblation
of eighty-three hot scones plus
four date scones for your most
gracious charming lovely ladies
blessed be their pantihose

we are not worthy but spare us
we pray and excuse

*

Mr Speaker The Committee has given
this Petition most careful consideration
and finds that it has no recommendation
to make to the House

Mr Speaker I move that the petitioners
do lie upon the table

*

Honourable Members: Ha ha.

Rachel McAlpine 1977


To appreciate this poem it’s ideal if you are familiar with the ultra-formal language and conventions of the House of Parliament in New Zealand (and elsewhere). Reading this poem 42 years later I recall with fury the contempt that feminists met on many fronts when we dared to speak in public. And no, we did not see the funny side. In the words of Judge John Hodgman, “If it’s not fun for everyone it’s no fun at all.”

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