Tagged: identity politics

A few minor points

Spot the interesting trend in the names of the bloggers cited (in order of citation) in Bryce Edwards’ latest article about the “blog wars” taking place around rape culture:*

  • Giovanni Tiso
  • Graeme Edgeler
  • “Prof Andrew Geddis”
  • Chris Trotter
  • Danyl Mclauchlan
  • Scott Yorke
  • Martyn Bradbury
  • “Another identity activist”**
  • Alan Alach [sic]

head tilt

It just makes it all the more tragi-hilarious that Bryce, in the third paragraph of his article, says

Identity politics is, of course, the prioritisation of a person’s identity – ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc – over issues of ideology, and especially economics and class.

The phrasing’s very interesting.  It might almost seem to suggest that a mere identity is unworthy of “prioritising” over important things like ideology.  It absolutely suggests that silly identity politics doesn’t ever involve discussing important things like economics and class.

spacey bitch please

It kinda also seems to imply that things like ethnicity, gender and sexuality aren’t as important as the real issues.  Do you think that might be an easy conclusion to come to when your own personal ethnic, gender and sexual identities don’t come giftwrapped in centuries of economic and social oppression?

romney o really

And do you ever notice how the real issues which identity politics are apparently distracting us from are always the issues which the person complaining about identity politics wants to talk about?

rock eyeroll

And seriously.  Why is it always the men who talk about “prioritisation” like they’re not capable of thinking about more than one thing at a time?

joan bitch please

~

*I have not included Donna Awatere Huata nor Annette Sykes as they’re mentioned in an earlier section of the column – but let’s note the only brown faces to appear on this topic are both supporting Tamihere and Jackson.

**Hi there!  I have a name!

A brief history of Chris Trotter, Waitakere Man, and John Tamihere

2005: John Tamihere interviewed in Investigate Magazine.

INVESTIGATE: What is the most powerful network in the Labour executive?

Tamihere:

The Labour Party Wimmins [sic] Division. Whether it’s bagging cops that strangle protestors they should be beating the proverbial out of, or – it’s about an anti-men agenda, that’s what I reckon. It’s about men’s values, men’s communication standards, men’s conduct.

I spoke to the boards and principals association in Wellington, and I showed them a picture of two girls with their fists clenched, standing on top of two young male students. The object of the exercise was to prove that once again the female students had romped home academically against all the boys. If the positions in the photo were reversed, all hell would break loose.

Where else in the world do Amazons rule?

In our constitutional base you could kill the Prime Minister – sure, there’s a deputy prime minister – but in the interregnum the second in charge is the Speaker. The Governor-General. If those three die you go to the Chief Justice, another woman.

I don’t mind front-bums being promoted, but just because they are [women] shouldn’t be the issue. They’ve won that war. It’s just like the Maori – the Maori have won, why don’t they just get on with the bloody job. I think it becomes more grasping.

Other comments include “I’m sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed”.  Tamihere loses his seat in the 2005 election to Dr Pita Sharples and goes on to host a talkback show on Radio Live.

2009: Chris Trotter coins the term “Waitakere Man” in a post urging Labour to return to its working-class roots.

To win in 2008, National had to break Labour’s grip on the mixed metropolitan suburbs.
The voter escorting National to its First Term Ball turned out to be the sort of bloke who spends Saturday afternoon knocking-back a few beers on the deck he’d built himself, and Saturday evening watching footy with his mates on the massive flat-screen plasma-TV he’s still paying-off.
His missus works part-time to help out with the mortgage, and to keep their school-age offspring in cell-phones and computer games.
National’s partner – let’s call him Waitakere Man – has a trade certificate that earns him much more than most university degrees. He’s nothing but contempt for “smart-arse intellectual bastards spouting politically-correct bullshit”.
On racial issues he’s conflicted. Some of his best friends really are Maori – and he usually agrees with the things John Tamihere says on Radio Live.
National was getting two (or more) votes for the price of one. Sometimes Waitakere Man brought with him the votes of his mother, daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces as well. How had Clark forfeited the trust of Waitakere Woman?
What broke their connection with Clark was the anti-smacking legislation. They felt affronted – as if their parenting skills had been weighed in the balance of the Prime Minister’s conscience and found wanting. Clark, who had no children, was telling them how to raise their kids. She seemed to be passing judgement on their whole family – turning them into criminals. They felt betrayed.
Waitakere Woman’s sense of betrayal, combined with the ingrained misogyny and cultural diffidence of Waitakere Man, was what got National onto the dance floor in 2008. Key should read both Rodney Hide’s intransigence on Maori representation, and the recent Referendum’s unequivocal result, as timely reminders of the price of his party’s admission.
When the band begins to play, Waitakere Man and Waitakere Woman must not be left standing.

2010: Chris Trotter revisits “Waitakere Man” in a post criticising the Labour Party for selecting Carmel Sepuloni for the seat of Waitakere.

In making this decision it has not only chosen wrongly, but it has also dealt what may prove to be a fatal blow to the career of one of its more talented MPs, Phil Twyford.
“Waitakere Man/Woman” is the key to Labour’s recovery.
…[quotes previous post on Waitakere Man]…
Carmel Sepuloni’s going to win back those voters?
Yeah, right.

Following a judicial recount, Sepuloni misses out on the seat by nine votes and was not returned to Parliament due to her placing at 24th on the party list.  Phil Twyford returned to Parliament after winning the seat of Te Atatū.

2012:  Chris Trotter identifies John Tamihere as the “avatar” of Waitakere Man.

Mulling over the Labour Party’s decision to re-admit John Tamihere to its ranks, I’m beginning to understand how Dr Frankenstein felt. “Waitakere Man” – the monster I created more than three years ago on the pages of The Independent Business Weekly – has not only gone its own way, it’s acquired a powerful, new, flesh-and-blood political avatar.

Waitakere Man proved troublesome from the moment he emerged from my computer keyboard. Many people believed he was myavatar. They charged me with counselling the Labour Party to embrace this bigoted blowhard and tailor its policies to suit his prejudices. Not true. My intent was only ever to make Labour aware of Waitakere Man’s existence.

It seems that Phil Goff has coincidentally started following Trotter’s advice, but Trotter, ever the voice of wisdom, warns:

When, inevitably, [Waitakere Man] brings his knee up between progressive Labour’s legs, let no one who voted for Mr Tamihere’s re-admission feign either horror or surprise.

August 2013: Chris Trotter theorises Tamihere will run for Waitakere under New Zealand First, and win.

But, if Tamihere (JT) runs, it won’t be in Labour red. Though the party eventually agreed to accept his 2012 membership application, the word in Labour circles is that a Tamihere candidacy in Waitakere would be approved only over the dead bodies of the party’s women’s and LGBTI sector groups.

That the very attitudes and values that produce such an allergic reaction among Labour’s social liberals and identity politicians might also be the attitudes and values of the average Waitakere voter, is as neat a summation of Labour’s dilemma as one is likely to find in the topsy-turvy context of contemporary electoral politics.

By recruiting JT to the NZ First cause and putting him up in Waitakere against both Paula Bennett and whoever Labour chooses (probably Carmel Sepuloni) Peters could grow the overall NZ First Party Vote by as much as 2-3 percent. On election night that could mean a NZ First tally of 8-10 percent – rather than the 6-8 percent it is currently anticipating.

Trotter also refers to Paula Bennett as “oozing BBW appeal”.

5 November 2013:  Following media exposure of the “Roast Busters” rape club, John Tamihere and Willie Jackson bully a rape survivor on their talkback show.  [Post by Giovanni Tiso featuring transcript of the questions asked]

Tell me this, how old are you?

How did your parents consent to you going out as a 14-year-old til 3am in the morning?

So anyway you fibbed, lied, whatever, and went out to the parties –­ did you not know they were up to this mischief?

Well, you know when you were going to parties, were you forced to drink?

Don’t youse [sic] know what these guys are up to?

Yeah but girls shouldn’t be drinking anyway, should they?

6 November 2013: Danyl Mclauchlan posts on the Roast Busters/John Tamihere issue.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in and around this instantly-infamous Radio Live clip …

… Finally, there’s a huge amount of affection for Tamihere amongst the Trotterist factions of the Labour Party. People like Mike Williams and Josie Pagani feel JT’s well-documented pathological contempt for woman would be an electoral asset among blue-collar male voters, and David Shearer gushed that he’d be an amazing Minister for Social Development. The core tenet of Trotterism is that identity politics isn’t important, and if that faction in the party had its way they’d have a welfare spokesman who thinks that young girls who drink alcohol deserve to be gang-raped. So let me say again that Tamihere would be a poor choice for that role, and that, like Shane Jones he is basically un-electable, and that people in the Labour Party should stop promoting these weird, creepy misogynists. 

Chris Trotter responds:

I’d exercise a little caution if I were you, Danyl.

8 November, 2013:  Josie Pagani (whose views on these issues would have to be the subject of a separate post) posts at Pundit on the issue.

I am disgusted with the attitudes of Willie and JT … But I don’t support banning them from radio. The painful, ugly truth about the attitudes of Willie and JT is that they are shared by tens of thousands of men who think women should take responsibility for not being raped.

Willie and JT’s job is to discuss stuff. You don’t fix their faulty attitude by telling the part of our community who think they have a point, that it should not have a voice. You deal with it by argument.

Because where do you end up if you get banned for expression? You end up like the pathological blogger Dimpost, who effectively attributes blame to me for the words and attitudes of Willie & JT.

It goes something like this – I have previously spoken out in support of Willie and JT, as politicians with something to contribute to the community. Therefore, I am responsible for everything JT says (and therefore the inference is that I agree with everything he says).

How perverse do you have to be to implicate a woman in the anti-woman views expressed on radio? What is really happening here is that he is trying to silence me (and others) because he disagrees with me about other political issues. This is where you end up when you try to have Willie and JT removed from the radio – banning people you disagree with, not just those who hold offensive views.

And Chris Trotter responds in comments:

Danyl McLaughlin’s [sic] association of Josie and myself with the behaviour of the Roastbusters and their defenders – based on nothing more substantial than that we share a political analysis with which he disaggrees – marks a new low for his blog. Perhaps you should ask yourself whether Danyl’s compulsion to denounce, denigrate and distress those by whom he feels threatened makes him more, or less, like the Roastbusters he purports to abhor?

The TLDR of all of this:  Chris Trotter has repeatedly made it clear that he thinks there is a “Waitakere Man” archetype of NZ voter who is a narrow-minded white dude who likes, and is even embodied by (except for the whiteness, obviously) John Tamihere.  Chris Trotter has repeatedly urged the Labour Party to appeal to this archetype – though always in every-so-slightly cagey terms like “dance partner”.  Which makes it very convenient, when Tamihere is an abusive fuck to rape victims, for Trotter to distance himself from the whole situation and paint himself as the victim.

You don’t get to constantly grind down identity politics and put your view of working-class (or is it self-employed?)/lower-middle-class men on a pedestal, then complain when the obvious misogyny and bullying behaviour which comes with that archetype explodes into the public view.

Here endeth the lesson.

Homework: consider the idea, posited by The Egonomist and others, that the promotion of a particular type of bigoted redneck thinking is identity politics – and the reason we don’t recognise this is because some identities get to be “normal” and not “other”.

Cabinet vs Shadow Cabinet: the identity politics

Just because I’m a numbers nerd, here’s a breakdown of a few key factors in the National and Labour top 20.

The Labour list is taken from here; National from here.

Gender, identity and bumping uglies

Labour’s lineup is 35% women, 100% cisgendered, 15% queer.

National is 30% women, 100% cisgendered, 5% queer.

Race and origins

Labour is 20% Māori, 5% Pasifika and 75% Pākehā.  One MP was born overseas (Su’a William Sio).

National is 15% Māori, including Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges, whose Māori ancestry is mentioned in their Wikipedia articles.  One MP was born overseas (Tim Groser).

Geography

Labour is 60% electorate MPs, and three were born in their electorate or thereabouts – Damien O’Connor, David Parker (having formerly held Otago), Chris Hipkins.

National is 80% electorate MPs, and six were born in their electorate or thereabouts – Gerry Brownlee, Anne Tolley, Nathan Guy, Chris Tremain, Nikki Kaye, and, technically, Bill English.

Other

As far as I can tell, all 40 are currently able-bodied.

17 out of 20 on Labour’s list and 18 out of 20 on National’s have a university education.  Both parties have two members with a stint at Harvard mentioned on their Wikipedia page:  David Cunliffe, Shane Jones, John Key and Hekia Parata.

Does that make you think?

Identity politics did not cost Labour in 2011

(This post was written and scheduled before the announcement of David Shearer’s resignation – it’s still applicable though, especially as the Labour Party figures out what kind of leader it wants going into 2014.)

The bulk of this comment was originally posted here.

Sosoo said:

The problem is traditional Labour voters staying at home because their interests are continually put on the back burner in favour of identity politics issues that they don’t really care about, and that don’t affect them personally. Some of these people no doubt wonder whether folks like you are saboteurs funded by National and its business backers.

To which I responded:

Fuck I hate this line.

Class politics have never been put “on the backburner” because of identity politics.

The big gains in identity-politics areas – ignoring weka’s very good point that class politics are identity politics – have almost always been through Private Members’ Bills, not Labour-in-Government Bills.

The reason class politics have been put on the backburner is because some fucking idiot white dudes bought into the idea that class politics weren’t vote-winners. That being More Like John Key was the way to go. That pushing the idea of the “deserving poor” as compared to “bludging beneficiaries” would get the votes of Middle New Zealand.

Don’t fucking blame women and queer folk and people of colour for the consistent, deliberate efforts of the Phil Goff and David Shearer-led Labour Party to paint themselves as “good economic managers” who would be “fiscally responsible”.

The party can’t even design a solid, leftwing state housing policy – they have to make it about encouraging the private sector, framing $300k houses as “affordable”, and then slapping Michael Joseph Savage’s face all over it.

That’s got nothing to do with identity politics and everything to do with a party still in denial about the damage it did to our country and its own soul via Rogernomics.

~

Seriously, I must have missed the 2011 Labour Party election manifesto which was printed in rainbow colours with a wheelchair-using woman of colour on the cover, entitled: “KILL ALL MEN” with a First 100 Days plan consisting entirely of day spas, pride marches, nurse-ins at Workingmen’s Clubs and nationwide rallies to smash pink penis-pinatas.

[Repost] Why the Left still needs feminism

I am now a fully-fledged author over at The Standard, largely thanks to my own talents ego.  I’ll be reposting my TS posts here at a slight delay, but don’t worry, you’ll still be getting a lot of the ranty stuff I don’t feel like challenging some of the lovely commenters over there with …

I originally wrote about this way back in February 2011, and though the political landscape has changed since then, the point still needs to be made:  the Left, specifically Labour, cannot focus on a narrow pure economic set of arguments and expect to get majority support.

It’s the 21st century, people.  The “identities” which have been traditionally used to demean, oppress, and sometimes enslave or kill people are real, because those people – women, people of colour, people with disabilities, the whole wide world of QUILTBAG – have been given no choice but to say “Yep, that’s what I am, now you have to deal with me.”

Old white dudes like John Ansell complain about how we should live in a “colour-blind” society, but that’s because for once, for the smallest period of time, and in a time when old white dudesstill pretty much rule the roost, people whose colour and origins have been used to keep them down aren’t staying down any more.

They – and many other historically shat-on groups – are demanding that we acknowledge the reality:  some people have faced systematic, institutional oppression which has at the very least disadvantaged them and stopped them achieving their potential the way they could’ve if they’d been born … well, as old white dudes.

This has economic factors to it, sure – strangely enough, capitalist societies are really, really good at using economic pressure against people – but it’s not a pure old-school Labour ideal of The Workers vs. The Owners.

For Labour to survive, it has to embrace fairness.  It’s certainly claiming to, at the moment, but it’s a narrow, nasty kind of fairness, a very John Ansell definition of fairness:  fairness defined by old white dudes who don’t realise – who choose not to see – that comparatively they have it pretty damn good in life.

It’s the kind of fairness that gets twisted very easily into ignoring all that uncomfortable historic systematic oppression.  Just like this:  Why should a person who can paint his roof on a specific day get a handout from the government, just because our entire economy is based on people working flat-tack 40 hours a week if you’re lucky, just because employers aren’t willing to put up with the unpredictability and extra effort needed to hire someone with a chronic illness?

If you agree with this for no other reason, please consider this:  as soon as you start using the principle of “fairness” to mean fairness for one group of people and not another, you’re being a dick and opening yourself up to attack from the Right – a group who have been far more successful at this game throughout history.

The Left needs to include feminism – and all the other movements for people’s basic human rights – because it should be about “fairness”.  It should be about the many and varied ways in which capitalism controls us and screws us, not just our meal breaks.

Labour, specifically, needs a vision.  A vision of all people being treated with dignity, all people’s situations being considered in compassionate and non-judgey ways, all people being supported and looked after by our society as a whole.  A vision of a society whose members understand that we are all pulling together and we are all more successful when we help each other, even if sometimes this means that on the surface one person is “getting more” than another.  To each according to their need, innit?

Remember, visions are like Excalibur.  If you use them right, they pretty much make you the king.

Originally posted at The Standard

I apologise for accurately quoting Stuart Nash

Stuart Nash would like you all to know that, despite the fact that harridans like myself have

misrepresented my position – and my values

he is

Still Concentrating On The Issues That Matter

and anyway, the post he’s

come in for a lot of flack

about

wasn’t actually about Louisa or the Marriage Equality Bill at all

So I apologise.  When someone’s post begins talking about Louisa Wall and the Marriage Equality Bill, I assume they’re talking about Louisa Wall and the Marriage Equality Bill.  But clearly, Stuart was talking

about the strategy Labour has pursued so far this year

and while you may assume that when a person starts talking about A, then starts talking about B entirely in the context of A, they’re drawing some kind of connection between A and B, you would be wrong.  And you should be ashamed.  Why, when Stuart starts by saying:

I want to start by saying that I support gay marriage and, if I had been in parliament, I would have had no hesitation in voting in favor of Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill. It sits perfectly with the Labour values of fairness and equality.

Despite that, I am not happy about it!

And over the next two paragraphs says

… I warned that Labour must not get sidetracked …Labour MUST NOT get sucked into the game of responding to these periphery and/or manufactured issues

Little did I know that it wasn’t the Nats who would create the side shows …  Louisa’s Bill was ill-timed … the fact that it was drawn out of the ballot was unlucky for Labour).  For the past month or so this issue has been at the forefront of the mainstream and social media.

And then continues

In the meantime, the state assets sales programme is in trouble, farms have been sold to the Chinese, educationists decry the rise of charter schools, the poverty gap is increasing at an alarming rate, Kiwis are heading to Australia in record numbers, our unemployment rate is climbing, and there is at least one dreadful health story a day that should be in the papers.

Why, in that context, when I say things like

Instead, after Louisa Wall has put in the hard yards and taken shit for something in your own party’s manifesto less than a year ago, what you should really do is buy into the rightwing propaganda machine’s lines about “caring about things that matter”, and what you should really talk about is how, oh sure, a member of your party only brought us one step closer towards our egalitarian ideal, but don’t you wish she hadn’t?

I’m really just misrepresenting Stuart.  He didn’t say that Louisa Wall shouldn’t have submitted her Bill, he just thinks … she shouldn’t have submitted her Bill.  And he’s not buying into the idea that marriage equality isn’t important, he’s just saying it’s a peripheral sideshow issue distracting from the things that matter.  And he’s not bagging her, he just feels the need to write another post talking about the “unlucky” timing of it all on top of his previous insistence that she “hold back” for The Good Of The Party.

But it’s okay, folks.  Stuart has good people around him.  From his second post:

Anyone that knows me, my family and my politics will know that I value human rights above all else.  Equality of opportunity is my guiding philosophy and the reason why I am involved in the Labour party.

And you know that when someone says above all else, that’s a pretty strong statement indicating they won’t compromise on their core principles.  Someone who values human rights above all else would never, for example, write something like:

Louisa has to hold back. The vast majority agree that her bill is morally right and should be passed into law, but now it needs to take a back seat and let the issues of health, employment, education and finance come to the fore, otherwise there won’t be anyone left in New Zealand who can afford to get married.

… just like Stuart did in his first post.  I do so look forward to hearing about how finance reform will mean same-sex couples stop being treated like second-class citizens.  Oh right, because they won’t be able to afford to get married.  You know how the queers like to splash out on frocks, we need to avoid another recession for their sakes!

But then we are dealing with somebody who can sincerely type (in his second post):

Labour doesn’t need to convince voters that our values are sound

Which is true, because before voters can ask if your values are sound they have to know what your values are, and for someone who spends a lot of time emphasising that Labour Is A Great Party With Amazing Values And The Left

owns the political space around human rights

… Stuart sure loves acting like those values don’t mean shit unless Labour can convince voters that they are

prudent managers of the economy

… a phrase used twice in his second post.

Sorry, Stuart.  I guess I’m just going to keep unwittingly misrepresenting you, because for all you’ve made a second post about how people didn’t understand your first post, all I hear is “waa waa waa shut up minorities” with a coda on the theme of “anyway we don’t need to talk about values, just the economy, so shut up again”.

And when you’re blaming a single, well-supported Private Member’s Bill for an entire party’s inability to get on the telly, you should probably reconsider your political strategy cred.

Please, Stuart.  Try to dig up next time.

~

PS.  Doesn’t it absolutely tickle you to see someone waving the Old Left banner talking about “owning political space”?  Human rights discussions aren’t a commodity, Stuart.  And you don’t get to “dibs” the human rights conversation, especially not when you’re saying some human rights (i.e. the icky gay ones) can go sit in the corner quietly while the real human rights issues (i.e. the ones assumed to affect Waitakere Myths) get some breathing space.

Why can’t Labour get back to its roots?

This is a question which gets thrown around every time someone in the Labour Party takes a pot-shot at women, at queer folk, at beneficiaries, and then gets called out for being a judgemental, privileged douchebag.

Why can’t Labour get back to its roots?  Back to being the party of the worker?  As muerk commented on Twitter,

Labour was a party for working class folk, like miners. It doesn’t represent them like it used too.

Well muerk, that might just be because we’re in the 21st fucking century now.

Now, don’t take this wrong.  I’m not saying the priorities of miners are unimportant just because they’re a much smaller part of the population than they used to be (that would just be hilariously ironic); what I am saying is that the privilege of viewing the entire NZ population in terms of:

Rich white dudes | hard-working white dudes | other [chicks | brown dudes]

… is not one anyone with half a brain should be coveting these days.

Yes, welcome to the world of identity politics.  The world wherein people have those horrid “identities”, i.e. have the temerity to be loud and demand that the world recognise the many ways in which we are not just rich white dudes, hard-working white dudes, chicks, or brown.

Identities which were not necessarily chosen, but embraced, because white-dude society used different aspects of our rich and complex human experience to make the world their playground and shut out anyone who was different.

So now we don’t get to just pretend that all politics is an epic struggle between The Upper Classes [white, dudely] and The Working Classes [white, dudely].  Now we have to accept the basic human reality that women, and people of colour, and migrants, and people with disabilities, and queer people, and the non-working poor are actually all around us.  Don’t run, they can only see movement!

And here’s where it gets totally freaky, people longing for The Good Old Days.  Those working-class folk, like miners, who Labour used to represent?

Some of them were probably queer.

Some of them certainly had disabilities, if only through the kind of workplace accidents you get when you’re in a manual labour industry.

Some of them, these days, will be women.  Or Maaori.  Or Muslim.

It is frankly a fucking crime against the amazing diversity of human existence that some people want to pretend that all those nasty “identities” are just exclusive little groups on the fringes, demanding more than their fair share of the political spotlight.

And it is frankly fucking stupid to act like retreating one’s focus and attention back to that once-mainstream group, identified purely by Current Location Relative To Mode Of Production, contains even a milligram of political sense.

Because when Labour people, or people in the non-specific-Labour leftwing zone, attack abortion rights, attack marriage equality, attack beneficiaries, attack Maaori, they’re not saying “let’s get back to focusing on the issues facing all workers”.

They’re saying “let’s get back to focusing on the issues facing all workers which are strictly limited to white, hetero, cisgendered, able-bodied currently-employed dudes.”

And that’s a ridiculously small segment of society these days.  And a lot of them actually support progressive issues which don’t actually affect them individually!  It’s like they understand that society is made up of a lot of people and when we’re all being treated with dignity and respect and given the opportunity to live our lives to the fullest, everyone benefits!

So, really.  When you talk about “Labour getting back to its roots”, all I hear is “waaaaaah, stop talking about issues that don’t affect me personally, I want all the attention!”  Because it’s not even politically rational.

Unless of course these people honestly do believe that a political party can only discuss one issue at a time.  And that thought is simply depressing.

Labour dudes: shut up please and let Louisa Wall lead you to victory

Via Giovanni I was led to this guest post at Recess Monkey by former MP and former Shearer Chief of Staff, Stuart Nash.

It’s lovely when the internet provides you with confirmation of your opinions.  Take it away, Stu!

I want to start by saying that I support gay marriage and, if I had been in parliament, I would have had no hesitation in voting in favor of Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill. It sits perfectly with the Labour values of fairness and equality.

Despite that, I am not happy about it!

Cue then your generic “Labour should care about the issues that matter” with some wonderfully value-free “we need to focus-group everything” rhetoric in the comments:

While a party can NEVER betray its philosophies and principles, in opposition it must always look to maximise opportunities to prove to the voting public that it is on top of the issues that matter: or at least show that it understands the issues and has a plan as to how to deal with them. Only by proving competence will a party achieve electoral support (and fair enough too).

The notion that Labour, as our second largest political party, as the “main” or “major” political party of the Left, has absolutely no ability to actually influence those “issues that matter” is pretty much 90% of the problem with the party at the moment.

The idea that Labour has no power to say “Oh check it out, our economy’s in the toilet and our social services are suffering” in the face of John Key smiling and waving next to Hilary Clinton is ridiculous.

That Labour just has to jump aboard whatever bandwagon NACT is currently driving, has to parrot whatever rhetoric Paula Bennett is spewing about beneficiaries, has to “prove itself” to people.  Not, by the way, in any kind of “prove we have those philosophies and principles we can never betray” way, just in a “find out what people think is important, presumably by reading the front page of Stuff, and then talk about that” way.

So you can probably look forward to Shearer’s next speech to the heartland being on the importance of Sally and Jaime Ridge to our economy.

You know how you retort to people, Stuart, when they say “ugh, gay marriage, focus on things that matter“?

You say, “It’s the luck of the ballot!  Louisa put forward a bill that meant a lot to her, and in Parliament we have time put aside to consider those issues.”

You say, “New Zealand is a country that prides itself on fairness and treating people equally.  I think that does matter because it affects every single policy we have.  Do you think National thinks the same way, with Cabinet Ministers breaching people’s privacy and John Key getting carried around Rarotonga on a litter?”

Wait, no.  That’s not reaching to the middle!  Instead, after Louisa Wall has put in the hard yards and taken shit for something in your own party’s manifesto less than a year ago, what you should really do is buy into the rightwing propaganda machine’s lines about “caring about things that matter”, and what you should really talk about is how, oh sure, a member of your party only brought us one step closer towards our egalitarian ideal, but don’t you wish she hadn’t?

This is the writing of a man who was leading Shearer’s Parliamentary office.  This is the attitude of someone who must have had a major role formulating Labour’s approach and tactics and messaging.  And he thinks it’s a good idea to parrot rightwing key lines and undermine a great achievement by someone who in any just universe will be the future of his goddamn party.

It gets better:

Both David Clark’s $15 minimum wage bill and Clayton Cosgrove’s bill on state asset sales were both drawn in the same ballot as Louisa’s bill (how many knew this?). Both these bill’s represented headline Labour policies at the last election, and were very popular across a wide range of voters.  These are prime examples of Labour concentrating on issues that matter to a significant number of good hard working Kiwis, yet many of those same struggling Kiwis have no idea that we are still fighting hard on their behalf. Both issues have, by-and-large, been lost in the mele caused by the marriage equality bill.

You know what, Stuart?  The “melee” of the marriage equality bill happened because people give a shit about it.  Because ordinary people on their own mobilised Facebook pages and got out there on Twitter and created hilarious memes and challenged the Conservative/Family First bullshit right where it was happening, on Facebook, in Stuff comments, on the grounds of Parliament.

People with no Party resources or history of organisation to back them up.  People who cared, who found that this issue, rather than a somewhat highbrow economic discussion of minimum wage vs unemployment, rather than a bill on asset sales which seems superfluous given they’re already out there collecting signatures, was something they could really hold on to.  Something that mattered to them, even the heterosexuals.

Now, sure, marriage equality had a huge advantage in terms of being part of a global discussion; if we could only get George Takei to shoot a 30-second PSA on the living wage it’d do wonders.  And Gods know it’s easier to mobilise ordinary, unpoliticised people when you can say “You see that mean man Colin Craig?  He hates Tamati Coffey.  What a dick, right?”

But Labour is just sucking, as it has sucked for a long time, at making simple, punchy messages which engage people.  And what do you do?  You sit around complaining because someone’s brought more attention and mana to your party than its own leadership could manage in years.  Because it doesn’t fit the Waitakere Myth, which for some reason all the straight white dudes are desperate to cling to.

Please, senior Labourites:  get a fucking grip and recognise a good thing when it’s happening to you.  

Also, seriously, it’s this bad now: follow Gio’s advice and hire someone like me, who’s been offering you the same advice free of charge since 2009 and here again in 2011:  identity politics are not your enemy.  You’re the enemy, when you alienate your natural allies and shit all over your own success, when you buy into bullshit about how recapturing The Glorious Centre is a winning strategy instead of wondering why hundreds of thousands of people saw nothing worth voting for in 2011.

Related reading:  Scott Yorke at The Standard

Down Under Feminists’ Carnival XL: bigger, better, more punnage

Welcome to the 40th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival.  I am your stunning hostess, Queen of Thorns, “QoT” to my friends and “single-handed destroyer of progressive NZ politics” to my trolls.

I’m entirely enamoured of the fact that 40 in Roman numerals is XL, so I’m putting our plus-size Antipodean bloggers up first:

New study shows correlation between fatness and selling one’s soul to Satan

Definatalie writes about re-learning her love of cycling.  sleepydumpling at Fat Heffalump talks about Why I Don’t Diet and Fixing the Relationship with Food.  Bri at Fat Lot of Good sees that fat-shaming is now getting aimed at four-year-olds to the extent some are developing a fear of food.

sleepydumpling is on a crusade, people.  A crusade for all super-fatties, deathfats, people who just cannot find clothes in their size for love nor money.  Warning: utter fuckwittery in the comments.  Remember, fatshion is activism.  And no, fat acceptance will not in fact kill you.

There’s been discussion lately about the role of the fatosphere on people’s perceptions and lives.  Dr Samantha Thomas has done a for-real ivory-tower-shaking academic paper on how the fatosphere proactively challenges fat stigma, and sleepydumpling covers the same topic in Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Shame.  Sonya at Lipmag was one of the interviewees for Dr Thomas’ paper.

The body plays a huge (BOOM BOOM!) role in a lot of feminist discussion, and things always get good and heated around one fact in particular: pregnancy and how you are probably Doing It Rong right this minute.

You read a book while pregnant?  You’re gonna DIE!!!

Feminethicist posts a quick note about double standards around scars – especially stretch marks.  Aussie MP Andrew Laming fights the good fight for homebirths.  Bluebec confronts the notion that any particular way of having babies is “unnatural”.

Pregnancy isn’t always wanted or continued, of course, and that’s why apparently I have to keep explaining that the “right to life” movement are a bunch of wanks with the intellectual honesty of a guppy.

And of course once Junior makes it out into the world it’s all downhill for progressive parents, who simply cannot win.  Ever.

Buy this Mozart CD or your baby will sprout wings!

Blue milk continues to post on her presentation on feminist parenting.  Part 4 covers “what is feminist parenting?” and Part 5 looks at the difficulties with being a feminist parent.  She also talks about the idea that some parents are too sexy to breastfeed – and provides a challenge with a follow-up post on glamorous images of breastfeeding.  Another post discusses pro-feminist fathers.

Breastfeeding also shows up as a really nifty shorthand for “crazy woman” in the Game of Thrones series, as discussed at Hoyden About Town.

Bee of a Certain Age talks about learning to love after having her children.

Our kids just aren’t getting a break:  Lessons to be Learned covers the Toddlers and Tiaras phenomenon and blue milk looks at high fashion’s role in sexualising girls.  Feminethicist has been having some fun challenging the heteronormativity when people play joke-matchmaker with babies.

Unsurprisingly, I did not take kindly to Family First’s insinuations that some families are just “obviously” worse than others.

For further reading, Mindy at Hoyden About Town has reviewed The 21st Century Motherhood Movement.

Where does a lot of this crap come from? Our wonderful media, of course.

This just in: reading mainstream media could be the reason you’re really angry all the time

Feminethicist is just thrilled by a camera app that makes your romantic partner look tolerable again. I have a slight issue with bra companies’ media releases being treated as scientific fact, with a sprinkling of obesity panic on top.

Rachel at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman takes on the latest theories of Bettina Arndt and the treatment of women who are famous for being pretty and throwing together a good outfit.

LudditeJourno, posting at The Hand Mirror, covers Michael bloody Lhaws’ preference for referring to poor brown people as “feral” and coleytangerina at The Lady Garden gets freaked out by news of a “cougar attack” … then a tad depressed.

Emma at Lip asks where the strong women are in literature.  Kate Barker discusses anti-feminist imagery.  Cara at Life is a feminist issue talks about our media ban on reporting suicide, and whether that’s really looking all that effective.

MJ at Kiwiana (inked) tells Stuff where they can shove their scare quotes when reporting on domestic violence.

Time for something a bit more positive:

Retrospective:  awesome women being awesome

Penguin Unearthed talks about Gudridur Thorbjarnardottir as part of her Travelling Feminist posts – here’s another on Norway.  The Hoydens share the news that Sensei Keiko Fukuda has become the only woman ever granted the 10th degree black belt in judo.  Double Antandre talks about Nancy Wake.

Another big issue of the past month has been identity, especially given Google’s being douchebags about what’s considered a “real” name (all the more aggravating because it’s based on needing “real” demographics to sell to shitbox marketers).

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine

Chally talks about the kinds of history that go into building identity.  blue milk passes on information on the My Name is Me project created in response to Google+ being douches.  Giovanni talks about Google+, identity and cyberpunk.

Where does a lot of identity come from?  Our “race”, social construct that it is, and religion, and culture, and all other kinds of pretty touchy issues.

Nothing witty to put here

Mindmadeup asks if Australia is a racist nation.  Chally confronts racism at the bus stop.  stargazer discusses how the “default is male” concept extends to commentary about Muslims.  stargazer also posted about the start of Ramadan.

Chally challenges the notion that feminism and religion are mutually exclusive.  Bluebec talks about gender exclusion in the Freemasons.  Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear covers freedom from religion.

Queen Emily at Questioning Transphobia asks “When am I trans?” and when trans people are “real”.

Love and Marriage

In happier news, Rachel is getting hitched!  Of course, planning a wedding doesn’t get any easier when you’re a feminist so she’s provided a handy Guide to Feminist Wedding Planning.  News With Nipples covers some tragi-comic anti-marriage-equality protests.  Hayley at Equal Love Equal Rights posts on marriage equality.

Mr Wainscotting is pleased to announce the launch of Legalise Love, a group looking to get some actual marriage equality happening in NZ.  Idiot/Savant has been taking an interest in our MPs’ views on the subject:  here he is on Hone Harawira and David Parker (and it’s not good news).

As Chally notes, though, we shouldn’t devalue single women.

Then there’s some perennial issues for feminist bloggers:

Poverty

stargazer helped produce a session on poverty at the Human Rights Commission’s diversity forum and also blogged her speech from the forum on needing an action plan on human rights.  Maia at The Hand Mirror dissects a “game” where privileged people get to pretend to be poor for a while and probably learn some Important Moral Lesson.

Deborah Russell discusses welfare in the Dominion Post.

Rape culture / violence

Blue milk on some truly grotesque rape-as-comic-device bullshit.  Deborah discusses the ridiculous “guidance” given to women around “keeping themselves safe”.

The Naked Philologist deals in two parts with the subject of teaching problematic material – Can you teach Chrétien without talking about rape? and You might be able to teach Chrétien without talking about rape, but I shan’t.

LudditeJourno posts about the Wellington Sexual Abuse Network and preventing sexual violence.  Idiot/Savant notes that domestic violence still gets excused if you’re rich and powerful enough.

Disability

A guest poster at Hoyden About Town talks about being a “border gimp”.  Joanna at The View From Down Here talks about building community.

Pay gap

Deborah talks about the gender pay gap and another Deborah’s predictable privileged attitude towards it.  Idiot/Savant covers the Greens’ and CTU’s calling of National’s bluff: if people can just ask labour inspectors to check there’s pay parity in their workplace, maybe we should just start doing that all the time.

And finally, a little collection of random items to fill out your reading.

We can’t stop here, this is bat country!

Blue milk on potentially-problematic vulva-themed art.  Geek Feminism on social media protest action.  Bluebec on trusting people to make their own decisions.  Maia at The Hand Mirror on the cost of being a woman in public.  Chally’s thoughts on being “born this way”.  A guest post on Geek Feminism about encouraging women’s participation in geekiness.  Blogger at the Cast Iron Balcony on how to help the Sylvia Creek anti-logging protesters.  Bluebec on polyamory and doing it right. Feminaust posts on listening to sex workers.

That’s all she wrote

Thanks to our lovely submitters, especially Chally and Rebecca who made my job a heck of a lot easier!

The 41st edition of the DUFC will be hosted at A Touch of The Crazy.  As we still seem to be having issues with blogcarnival, send your submissions directly to stef_thomp [at] hotmail [dot] com.  We’re four years in and going strong but we need your help to keep it awesome!

The list of DUFC contributors is woefully out of date, but feel free to peruse it in the meantime while I get some well-earned coffee.

Why the Left needs feminism

[This post first appeared in two parts at The Standard on 31/1/2011 and 1/2/2011.]

I had set my mind to writing this article a few weeks back after IrishBill said some charming things to me on my own blog.

Then, because this is how the Universe works some days, the very issue came up on Kiwipolitico when Pablo sought discussion on where all the young left thinkers at. George D commented:

I know perhaps 20 or 30 minds as sharp as the ones you mention, all to some degree politically engaged. But absent a home – they are just speaking into the wind. Most prefer to save their breath. Many have deserted “left politics” for more direct forms of struggle/praxis: working class, union, and beneficiary activism; tino Rangatiratanga; environmentalism; feminism; and animal rights. Most engaged in at least one, with the knowledge that the structural conditions that enforce one enforce them all.
By this home I mean a space in which they can express their ideas and be taken seriously, at the very least by each other, and from which to develop a sustained and productive critique of society.

This really crystallized one of my key arguments: that the Left in New Zealand has been weakened by (among other things) the loss of activists and voices to other issues that aren’t specifically focused on class struggle or strictly economic leftist ideas. (I really focus on feminism here as that’s my baby.)

To put it in my more usual terms, the Left, and especially Labour, have screwed up by ignoring, cutting out and downright condemning feminists and other progressive activists and they need to get the fuck over themselves.

Also, it’s your own fucking fault.

Part One: history lesson

Second-wave feminism grew out of a lot of things. Yeah, there was dissatisfaction with horrific job discrimination and middle-class housewives were finally getting mad that their supposedly perfect lives left them feeling unfulfilled and directionless and women were haemhorraging to death in hotel rooms after botched abortions. And some women were feeling a wee bit angry about that.

But one thing that really helped kick things off? Leftwing men. Leftwing men who could talk your ear off about the oppression of workers but let the women volunteers stuff the envelopes and make the coffee. Leftwing men who were all about opposing men being drafted for a capitalist war but didn’t have time to think about how, war or no war, women got drafted into producing the next generation of cannon fodder.

Leftwing men who tried to tell us (and the people of colour, and the people with disabilities, and everyone else) that the problem was capitalism, obviously. It was all about class and once we got rid of that mean ol’ power dynamic all those other oppressions – those oppressions that didn’t matter quite so much – would just vanish.

Now could you please go make some coffee while the boys are talking?

And those angry women realised that relying on men to give a shit about issues that only affected the segment of the population categorised as “food provision/fucking” was about as good a strategy as deploying marshmallows against a Flammpanzer II.

Thanks, guys, I don’t know if we could’ve done it without ya.

Part Two: more recent history lesson

Nine long years of Labour, etc etc and oh, there was a lamentation and a crying of neckbeards, for women occupied a few powerful positions simultaneously and surely the end was nigh. And thanks to the 9th floor being transformed into a feminist lesbian cabal or something, we now have basic social support for parents (predominantly women) to take paid leave and not get fired, and The Gays can get almost-but-not-quite-proper-married, and you can’t just rape hookers safe in the knowledge that the cops, with their wonderful culture, will just arrest your victim because you’re a nice white pillar of the community etc. etc.

Oh, for shame.

Then our Beloved Leader smile-and-wave got into power, Auntie Helen handed over the reins and headed off to the UN just to let y’all know that the cabal is everywhere (or she could be immensely talented and qualified for the role) and lo, there was a great releasing of pant top buttons and a relieved round of burping at the caucus table and, well … the guys went a little silly.

Did I say a little?

These people have become the fervent champions of an indigenous culture they can never truly join because, fundamentally, they despise their own.

Yep, things got to the “white leftwingers who talk about Maori issues are race traitors stage a little quicker than I might have expected…

Part Three: identity politics kicked Chris Trotter’s dog

But don’t think Trotter reserved his scorn just for tino rangatiratanga:

[The] ideological roots [of “knee-jerk liberal orthodoxy”] descend into the swamp of identity politics and the New Social Movements which were at that time engaged in tearing apart the complex web of personal and political relationships that made up the traditional labour movement.

Trotter is speaking about the 1980s, that golden age of namby-pamby identity politics when the left got distracted by piffling little side issues like whether men should be held accountable for raping their wives and whether gay men should be allowed to be gay.

A time when the Left wasn’t, to quote Phil Goff’s own advisor John Pagani on that thread, “connecting with things that matter to people”. You can probably draw your own conclusions as to the kind of people he means.

I must admit to some naivety, because it came as a bit of a shock to me that identity politics could so easily be divorced from leftwing thought and cast as unrelated to the struggle against capitalism.

I mean, what is sexism if not a manifestation of capitalist reliance on women’s unpaid labour and reproductive capacity? (More on this in a later post, methinks.) And what is racism if not another handy way to separate out one sector of society to be exploited for their labour, all wrapped up in “science”? What is ableism if not driven by capitalism’s need for the most “productive” labour at the lowest cost and accommodation? How is enforcing heterosexuality and strict gender roles not about ensuring an increasing population to fuel the capitalist eternal-growth pipe dream?

(I certainly don’t want to imply that capitalism is the be-all and end-all of these oppressions, see previous “we’ll let you make speeches when the revolution is over, kitten” commentary.)

But nope, apparently these issues and concerns and theories were all just chaff getting in the way of the real workers’ struggle and the things that matter to people.

Again.

To quote myself:

[W]hen two guys get in a huddle and start slanging against the Liberal Left and the evil distraction of identity politics, and whinge about how we need to think about ordinary people, I think we can make a few very good guesses as to the kind of people they’re talking about.

And I’ll give you a hint: it ain’t you or me, assuming you are not a middle class white heterosexual cisgendered currently able bodied male.

Because here’s what matters to me:

It matters to me that I not be passed over for a job or a promotion because I’m a woman who’ll obviously just leave to have babies.

It matters to me that I have the right to be paid the same as a man for doing the same work.

It matters to me that gay men and women can have their relationships recognised by the state just like every two-in-three-chance-of-divorce hetero couple.

It matters to me that people of colour not get pulled over by the cops because brown people shouldn’t be driving expensive cars, or are obviously on drugs because they’re brown, or not be played by white people in movies about their lives.

It matters to me that people with disabilities can travel on aeroplanes, and get into buildings, and pass exams at school (look out for that incredibly-expletive-filled-post tomorrow!) and go shopping without worrying some bastard’s going to throw them out for having a hearing dog.

It matters to me that trans people shouldn’t have to worry about being murdered because someone else feels they have the right to judge what defines a man or a woman.

It matters to me that people should be able to practise their faith without fear of persecution, and that people not-of-faith should be able to say so without harassment.

But fuck all that! That’s just identity politics! That’s just me assuming that the way people identify, the way society wants to identify them, the assumptions others feel free to make about you because of your identity or assumed identity, might actually affect people! It might actually rate a bit higher on their List Of Things That Pissed Me Off Today:

  1. Harassed on bus by guy who wouldn’t leave me alone.
  2. First question asked at job interview: “Do you have kids?”
  3. Threatened with sexual violence by blog commenter.
  4. Still alienated from means of production.

TL;DR: when a capitalist society chooses to force identity markers on you to aid in its goals, the shit you get for having those markers is probably going to be a bit relevant to your interests.

Part Four: how’s that centre vote treating you?

Going by Chris Trotter’s figures, the choices are between sucking up to the “5,000” nasty liberal left bastards who want to ruin everyone’s fun or bringing back the “150,000-200,000” voters who went over to National last election.

The assumption being, of course, that they did so because whinge cry nanny state nasty feminists etc.

Or it could be something to do with a notion roundly accepted and bemoaned on leftwing blogs at the time – the idea that the voting public just thought it was “National’s turn”. Or to quote a certain teacher in my family, “at least we expect to get screwed under National”. Or simple voter fatigue with a front bench of far-too familiar faces with too much baggage attached. Or the eternal tax-cuts bribe which probably seemed to make a lot more sense with 9 years of healthy surpluses dimming the traumatic memories of the last National government. Or fuck it, maybe a lot of people do just think John Key is a nice down-to-earth chap.

Nah, probably just the evil feminist cabal chased them away with our brooms.

But if the question is “why did a bunch of traditional Labour types vote for a cuddly, definite-statement-free-zone John-Key-led National” one is really struggling to think of why anyone in Labour thought the answer was “because they wanted some more of that uncuddly strong-statement Don-Brash-led-National type racism”.

And when your answer to anything is “make ourselves more like John Key” it doesn’t matter what the question is, you’re probably just fucked.

Conclusions

So, leftwing men being douchebags who refuse to consider the distinct oppressions suffered by other, not-them groups of people have managed to drive a lot of natural allies away. Natural allies who surprisingly don’t take it well when told that shit that affects them every day of their lives isn’t that important. Most recently in NZ this has been done by the Labour Party because everyone wants a piece of the elusive, self-contradicting “centre” vote. And as we approach a general election, a heck of a lot of good liberal-yet-still-left people just don’t know what the fuck to do to set things right.

Here’s a few ideas.

Stop buying into the idea that acknowledging the actual harms suffered by actual people is “polarising” or “distracting”. All it does is signal loud and clear to women and Maori and queer folk that they are expected to once again sacrifice themselves For The Good Of The Left. We’ve already seen how that kinda doesn’t work out so well.

Acknowledge where relevant that if you are white, male, cisgendered, currently able-bodied, living above the poverty line, and reading this post online and in vivid Technicolor, you have privilege. Probably another post in that concept because I’m just so sure a few types will refuse to get it.)

If you want to throw around concepts and slogans like “for the many, not the few” try to bloody well remember that the “few” in that should be the people on the top of the heap, not the bottom.

If you want to make any kind of political play on a platform of fairness and ability/need and compassion and social justice it might fucking help to do some social justice.

And when the Right (and your own mainstream commentators) decide to attack you for focusing on “fringe” elements or “irrelevant” issues, you just look those bastards in the eye and say “Our society should be free and fair for everyone. No one should be attacked or discriminated against just because of who they are. We are doing this because we care about people, even though some of them will still vote against us for other reasons or even though they’re already a part of our core vote or even though their votes won’t make a difference in the election. It’s the right thing to do and we are going to do it because all New Zealanders deserve to live in the kind of country that takes care of its people.”

Just remember: an issue may not be important to you. But if you’re on the Left you better be motivated by something more than what you fucking get out of it.