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Visual texts related to gender equality

Under the heading 'She's got your number', shows a billboard featuring the New Zealand ten dollar note with the annoyed face of Kate Sheppard.

'She’s Got Your Number', 2014 by Sharon Murdoch. Ref: DCDL-0030528 Alexander Turnbull Library.

Visual texts are a great way to explore gender inequality. Cartoonist Sharon Murdoch uses symbols related to women’s suffrage to comment on gender equality in the workplace.

'She’s Got Your Number' by Sharon Murdoch

The cartoon shows a billboard featuring the New Zealand $10 note with the stern face of Kate Sheppard. 2 men are using red paint to replace the 10 with 8.50 and to change 'ten dollars' to 'women's dollars'. The cartoon refers to the gender pay gap in New Zealand in 2015, with women earning only $8.50 for every $10 earned by men.

Questions for students

  • What are the first things you looked at or noticed when you were shown the cartoon? Why? Do you think this is intentional?
  • How has the cartoonist used colour and scale to convey a message?
  • Why do you think the cartoonist gave the cartoon the title 'She’s Got Your Number'?
  • Why has the cartoonist made use of Kate Sheppard in her cartoon? Do you think this association is valid? Why or why not?
  • What is the purpose of this cartoon? Who might be the intended audience?

Further activity

Kate Sheppard’s image on the $10 note was also used in the 2014 Demand Equal Pay campaign. Discuss why Kate Sheppard is an effective symbol for drawing attention to the gender pay gap in this video:

Watch 'Demand Equal Pay' on YouTube (1:00)

'How Far We’ve Come' by Sharon Murdoch

Cartoon in two panels, the first recreating a famous cartoon celebrating suffrage equality, the second modifying it to indicate women are not being supported in achieving pay equality.
'How Far We’ve Come', 2015 by Sharon Murdoch. Ref: DCDL-0031650 Alexander Turnbull Library.

The first panel recreates an image from an 1893 engraving published on 21 July 1894 in 'The New Zealand Graphic' in reference to women's suffrage being achieved in New Zealand. The image depicts a woman climbing to the top of a mountain, holding a flag which reads: 'Perfect Political Equality'. A man already at the top takes her hand to help her up to the summit labelled 'Parliamentary Heights'. In the second panel, the image is replicated in the year 2015, where a woman climbs the mountain with a flag labelled 'Perfect Pay Equality'. This time, the man at the top of the mountain labelled 'Social Justice Heights' reaches a hand out to her, but then extends his leg against her, to prevent her from climbing any higher.

Questions for students

  • What did your eyes focus on first when you were shown the cartoon? Why? Do you think this is intentional?
  • Discuss the significance of the way the 2 people in the 2015 version are dressed. For example, why is the man wearing a suit? The woman on the left has bare feet, while the woman on the right is wearing flat shoes. How might the cartoon’s message be different if the 2015 woman also had bare feet? Or was wearing high heels?
  • What are the key differences between the 2 images? Why has the cartoonist compared 2015 to 1893?
  • Why do you think the cartoonist called the cartoon 'How Far We’ve Come'?
  • Why did the cartoonist include a speech bubble for the man in the 2015 version?
  • What is the purpose of this cartoon? Who might be the intended audience?

Further activities

Investigate the role that men played in achieving women’s suffrage in 1893 and the roles they are playing in today’s pay equity campaigns.

Look at the original 1893 engraving

Discuss the HeForShe campaign

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