Mana wahine is often incorrectly thought of as Māori feminism. To truly understand mana wahine, however, one must define it through a Māori worldview. Simmonds identifies one of the struggles of understanding mana wahine comes as result of the dominance of Western paradigms overshadowing the significance of kaupapa Māori (Māori centered) theory (Simmonds 13).
Māori, as well as other indigenous peoples, have struggled greatly in wake of colonization in trying to live in the frameworks created by their colonial histories. Frequently regarded as the Western world’s ‘Other’, Māori have been subjected to influence from dominant colonial ideologies that have sought to determine Māori identity.
The focus of mana wahine is not so much to balance gender roles within the Māori world, but to redefine what it means to be a Māori woman free from the context of colonization. Mikaere and Simmonds both point out the balance between genders pre-colonization, one example being the lack of gender specific pronouns – ‘ia’ meaning he/she, ‘tona/tana’ meaning his/hers (Mikaere 1; Simmonds 14). This does not suggest a perfect equality between genders, but the balance between genders pre-colonization were much more intertwined, with mana wahine a part of mana tane, mana whenua, mana whanau, and mana atua. The projection of mana wahine is one of decolonization. It is to redefine and represent Māori women using the tools of kaupapa Māori rather than the words, texts, and images of others.
Mikaere, Annie. Māori Women- Caught in the Contradictions of a Colonized Reality. University of Waikato, 1994.
Simmonds, Naomi. “Mana wahine- decolonising politics.” Womens Studies Journal, vol. 25, no. 3, 2011, pp. 11-25.