Search results for: issues that matter

From a prochoice position, changing our abortion laws DOES MATTER

First things first:  lump of coal to Stuff for publishing an article with an alarmist headline based on shitty research into abortion and mental health, which I’ve blogged about before.  (A tinier lump of coal labelled “old news, much?” will be delivered in five months’ time.)

But today’s post is not about that shitty research.  It’s about the comments of Dame Linda Holloway, chair of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, and apparently no fucking ally to pregnant people.

Dame Linda Holloway, the chairwoman of the committee, said any move towards liberalisation would be a “difficult political argument and from a pro choice position it doesn’t really matter”.

Doesn’t really matter?  It doesn’t really matter than pregnant people are treated like they’re incapable of making their own decisions, that they have to get permission like they’re schoolchildren on a field trip, that they may not have accessible services in their own area and have to travel, sometimes overnight, to get a very safe and very normal medical procedure done?

I don’t know how Dame Linda Holloway defines “a pro choice position” but it’s not one I’d sign up to.

“The chance of changing the abortion laws in New Zealand at this time are sub-zero. At the moment we have assured successive ministers of justice that we can operate under the law as it is.

It’s so fantastic that these two sentences are right next to each other.  Gee, do you think maybe the lack of political will to change our archaic, condescending abortions laws might have anything to do with those “assurances”?  Think you might be playing the smallest part in ensuring that pregnant New Zealanders are

“If we start opening the whole thing up to do new legislation my concern is that we might end up with something that is worse than what we have got. The chances of that are quite high.”

I guess I have to give this much:  Dame Linda Holloway, as chair of the ASC, is under constant attack from the likes of Right to Control Your Life.  So maybe this has given her the impression that the antichoice feeling in New Zealand is overwhelming.

I talk about abortion a lot, and my perspective is that while a lot of people think it’s icky and don’t want to talk about it, as soon as you say “did you know that abortion is still a crime in New Zealand?” much less “did you know pregnant people are still regularly travelling to Australia to get abortions?” they’re very much on board with updating our laws.  Sometimes you literally have to argue with people who insist we have abortion-on-demand – and articles like this one don’t really fucking help, so another lump of coal to Stuff for propagating bullshit myths which oppress pregnant people.  But once the facts are explained?  The majority of people still don’t really want to think about it, but they are, at a basic level, prochoice.

Holloway said she would prefer to “soldier on”.

“If I thought we could get a perfect world I would be all for it.”

Bully for you, person-who-doesn’t-have-to-raise-money-to-fly-to-Australia-for-an-abortion.  Perfection or nothing, that’s a fantastic way to approach things.  The staggering irony is that the antichoice movement, especially in the US but also here, have demonstrated the terrible effectiveness of not demanding perfection or nothing.  They (or at least, the moderately-douchey ones) don’t say “illegalise abortion, nothing else will do”.  They start with “oh, parents should be notified, you’d want to know if it was your child!” and “maybe you should have to wait a week to properly consider things” and “oh you really should have to have an ultrasound beforehand so you really understand what you’re doing.”

We probably can’t get free universally-accessible holistic-care abortions-for-all in one go.  But we can at least start by taking abortion out of the Crimes Act and removing the need to get Mummy and Daddy to sign your permission slip.

At the very fucking least, let’s stop making it easier for antichoicers to lie about the situation in NZ, could we?

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Pay no attention to the “oversensitive” blogger with “obvious issues” behind the curtain

[TW: ableism and ableist language used with vicious sarcasm]

Oh, who would’ve fucking guessed it:  it’s actually complete and utter bullshit to assume that violent people are mentally ill or that people with mental illness are more likely to be violent.

Or, just in case this isn’t clear, it is simply impossible to watch someone’s YouTube channel and psychically diagnose them with paranoid schizophrenia.

I assure you, dear readers, I am wearing my shocked face right now.

Rather than looking at individual cases, or even single studies, Fazel’s team analyzed all the scientific findings they could find. As a result, they can say with confidence that psychiatric diagnoses tell us next to nothing about someone’s propensity or motive for violence.

But you know what?  This is a lot like an issue which comes up in fat acceptance when people are discussing studies showing this or that.

It actually doesn’t fucking matter.

It’s not actually fucking relevant, because even if there were a clear connection (just to repeat for all the douchebags clinging to stereotypes to justify their douchebaggery, there isn’t) you would still be a gigantic asshat to make assumptions about people’s mental health based on their actions and your prejudices about how humans are meant to act.

For those who are still refusing to get it:

You do not get to make the call about someone else’s mental state unless you are that person, or their duly appointed medical practitioner.

You do not get to assume that “only a craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy person” would do xyz.

You do not get to whinge that “it’s obvious” and at the same time pretend that you’re using words like “insane”, “craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy” and “nuts” in some kind of Totally Nonjudgemental Clinical Way, especially when you are operating in a linguistic culture that frequently uses those words in entirely non-clinical ways.

Right now you may think that this is just some over-sensitive crap from someone with obvious triggers around mental illness, and you, Marty G, may somehow sincerely believe that that statement is not in of itself buying into prejudice around mental health, is not full of nasty little implications*, is not inherently gendered.

You’re fucking kidding yourself, dude.

You also, Scott, don’t get to say “maybe this guy did this thing in a vacuum because he’s insane.” Guess what, folks? People with mental illness strangely have this thing where they still live in our society, they still receive societal messages about things, and they still get influenced by “normal” stuff just like you.

You don’t get to imply that none of the prevalent language of violence and hatred and freaking gunsights over people’s homes might just all be nothing to talk about because hey, we all know that mentally ill people just randomly shoot people because they’re craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy. And somehow this isn’t you buying into demeaning stereotypes?

Could someone please explain that one to me again, and try not to just repeat “But I watched his YouTube channel and he’s clearly craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy” because I’m just not sure how that’s meant to be any kind of argument against you being a judgemental asshole with no qualifications to make that call basing your opinions on ableist stereotypes.

Less-ranting related reading: Discussion of an assassination: ableism & the failure of sociological understanding, just in case my obvious triggers and oversensitivity totally harsh my cred.

~

*I do just want to deal with this one directly; Marty, you see, just thinks I “have strong reactions over anything to do with mental illness and [he doesn’t] know or care what the root cause of that is“. Fuck off, Marty.  If I say “Marty obviously has some issues dealing with stroppy women who won’t fellate his intellect” I’m not going to whinge that I’m totally not calling you a sexist pig, I’m just, you know, observing a pattern of behaviour and I don’t care what the reason is!  Your implication is obvious.  Have the fucking spine to own your assumptions when it’s someone you [vaguely, internet] know and not just the Progressive Bigotry-Scapegoat of the Week.

“self image issues, daddy issues and religious indoctrination issues”

The title of this post comes from a comment on the stuff.co.nz article on NZGirl’s “empowering” marketing ploy pornbait “awareness” campaign.

Because apparently, objecting to a website’s exploitation of breast cancer to get attention makes me (and specifically folks like Boganette and BiscuitCIB who are quoted) a prude.

A prude.

Apparently, the objections can only be because we feminists, who frequently say fuck and have tags on our blogs like “vagina vagina vagina“, actually hate breasts and think women should go around covered head to foot and we need a (wait for it …) “more european” attitude to breasts.*

And enough people are harping on about this theme (apparently without actually bothering to let the words on the screen process through their brains before hitting “Add Reply”) that apparently this is some kind of logical train of thought to a lot o people.

So let me explain.

Women’s bodies are amazing.  Whether they have pert little breasts or full and wonderfully heavy breasts or racks of doom or no breasts at all.  Whether their thighs are taut, soft, long, curved, sliding into hips that can be straight, angular, bulging, nipped into a tiny waist or anchoring a proud belly balancing out a butt wide or narrow or apple-shaped.  Whether their arms are all muscle or all sinew or all flesh or any combination of the three, whether their hands are “dainty” or “strong” with calluses or painted nails or both, whether they’re in wedding dresses or swimsuits or pyjamas or business-casual or a corset and stockings.

Speaking as a heterosexual woman, women are fucking hot, because their bodies are physical manifestations of their souls and personalities and existence as human beings.  And those bodies [and existences] are constantly constrained, criticised, measured, found wanting (no matter which bits of the above paragraph they fall into), labelled, judged according to archaic condescending patriarchal bullshit (and yes, NZGirl, “rating” the photos on your site is pretty much just that).

Women get self image issues because they are constantly being told how much they don’t measure up physically and how much they must suck as human beings because of that.  Women get daddy issues because we live in a fucking patriarchy that says “you will be dependent on male authority for everything so you may as well like it”.  Women get religious indoctrination issues about not showing their bodies because the religions that preach that kind of bullshit know full fucking well how hard it is to run society without a handy slave class to do the shitwork.

I want women to be able to be proud of their bodies and open about their bodies.  I want to live in a world where posting an anonymized photo of your tits isn’t “empowering” or “enlightening” because it isn’t a fucking taboo to say “I like my breasts” or to know what other women’s breasts look like.**

I want all types of cancer research to get enough fucking funding to find a cure as soon as humanly possible – not just the ones we can market really well to a guilt-ridden middle class by saying “think of the babies” or “think of your mother” or “think of your husband”.

In conclusion: I love breasts.  I would love to know that any woman [or man] could go topless down the street showing theirs off whenever they wanted.  Why I somehow must not feel that way because I think a website encouraging women to post anonymous boob shots for marketing purposes and indirect financial reward =/= empowerment … is kinda beyond me.

~

*Flashbacks to Jezebel!fail.

**And when ratings and financial incentives get involved, NZGirl editors, you don’t get to claim you’re participating in any kind of activism towards this goal.

[Daily Blog reposts] Reform NZ abortion law now

This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 21 March 2013.

I’m returning to an old theme of mine, on this shiny new platform, not only because it’s an issue which I think is important, but one which needs to be discussed.

It needs to be discussed because it’s a matter of basic human rights.

It needs to be discussed because a lot of people – politically-savvy people who are interested in law and rights and progressiveness – really don’t have a good basic knowledge of it.

It needs to be discussed because treating it like an icky scary gross vagina-related issue is one of the reasons New Zealand, a country so bloody smug about its achievements in other areas (*cough*givingwomenthevote*cough*), continues to have condescending, paternalistic, backwards, health-endangering laws around abortion.

Abortion, as part of a whole big wibbly-wobbly thing called “reproductive rights”, is a human right because no one else has the power to commandeer your internal organs for their own purposes.  It’s a health issue because, no matter what restrictions have been placed on it historically, pregnant people have always found ways to end pregnancies they do not want.  Some of these ways are a lot safer than others.

It’s a public health/social welfare issue because forcing people in difficult circumstances to go through pregnancy – not, in fact, a picnic – and then raise a child they do not want, on the generous support of a Paula Bennett-run social welfare system, may just lead to bad outcomes:  hungry kids.  Abused kids.  Unemployed parents.

And abortion in New Zealand is not on demand, no matter how often people who pretend to “love life” insist that we “practically” have abortion on demand.  The hoops pregnant people have to jump through are ridiculous, even when they’re accessible (note: Southland DHB has now begun offering abortion services in Invercargill, despite the best intimidation efforts of “pro-lifers”).  It’s patronising.   It only delays the inevitable – because pregnant people who don’t want to be pregnant will find a way to end that pregnancy, and the longer they are forced to wait, the more dangerous it becomes for them.

Abortion is still a crime under the Crimes Act in New Zealand – with a big messed-up process to get around it, like a labyrinthine self-defence defence.  New Zealanders deserve better.  They deserve the right to control their own bodies and fertility, without petty obstacles.  They deserve the right to make their own medical decisions in private (and yep, that also includes pregnant people who want to remain pregnant).

Now do go on and tell me I’m a soulless baby-killer while I get a cuppa.  If the leftwing men would form a backup chorus for the “why aren’t you focusing on issues that matter” number later this evening that’d be great too.

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.

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

Why do cis men defend the outing of trans women?

[Trigger warning: discussion of transphobia, transmisogyny, misgendering, self harm]

This was going to be a post about Caleb Hannan, a man who calls himself a “journalist” and who, in the course of what he thinks “journalism” is, hounded a trans woman into suicide, and then (because that wasn’t enough) turned his “story” – and the details of her suicide – into a self-aggrandizing, sensationalist narrative about himself.

But you can read many other excellent people’s writing on it:

I want to discuss a different aspect of this article: the reactions of journalists, predominantly cis men, who have tried to insist:

  • we can’t tell her life story without mentioning her gender identity! (when the article was never about her life story)
  • it’s just like how we mention people’s past marriages! (when there are obvious differences in how our society treats divorcees and trans women)
  • we should focus on the “fascinating” ethical side of this! (when a woman is dead)

And those points are all just so utterly irrelevant to the facts – that a journalist invaded an interviewee’s privacy, ignored her pleas for respect, and exploited her suicide – that I can really only come to one conclusion.

Y’all are a bit fucking insecure about trans women, aren’t you?

Every objection, every insistence that we treat this case as part of a “wider discussion”, every excuse about “telling the full story”, every lie told that Dr V’s gender identity was somehow relevant to a story about a golf putter and possible discrepancies in her academic record, boils down to one thing:  WE MUST KNOW THAT SHE IS TRANS! WE MUST! THE WORLD MUST KNOW!

And we have to see this in the context of a society which treats trans women as a punchline – where the scenario of cis-men-who-have-sex-with-trans-women-without-knowing-it is treated as the height of “gotcha! oh snap!” comedy.  Ally McBeal.  The entire plot of Ace Ventura Pet Detective.  Austin Powers.  Nip/Tuck.  And in a more serious vein, God knows how many episodes of the various Law & Order and CSI franchises – which usually highlight (in their sensationalist way) the real, terrible issue of trans women being murdered by their “betrayed” sexual partners – who are usually portrayed as violent thugs, but you know, violent thugs who maybe had a good reason this time.

The “reverse” situation – cis-woman-has-sex-with-trans-man-without-knowing-it – is almost non-existent.

So we end up in a society where heterosexual cis men are told that having sex with a trans woman is tantamount to having homosexual sex (and therefore wrong!  And unmasculine!!!)  Where trans women are seen as inherently deceitful, to the point that being-a-trans-woman-and-not-disclosing-your-history-before-sex is tantamount to a deliberate conspiracy to make poor hetero cis men have gay sex (and therefore become Not Real Men!!!)  Where the good and proper dudely thing to do is to make sure that all the other dudes know that someone is a trans woman (and thus, to them, Not A Real Woman).

And we end up in a society where Dudes Who Journalise vehemently defend the rights of another Journalist Dude to invade a woman’s privacy, threaten her safety, ignore her pleas and cause her suicide.  Using arguments which are irrelevant to the actual facts of the matter.

We end up saying, “how dare you treat this real-life tragedy as a thought experiment”, but what I wonder is: are they really treating this story as a thought experiment?  Or does it all just boil down to hetero cis men’s sense of ownership over bodies-they-might-want-to-fuck?

Stealing babies: your classist, ableist, racist trifecta

[Content note: pregnancy, nonconsensual medical treatment]

Chris Miller and Sarah Wilson have both done a fantastic job blogging on this story, so I thoroughly recommend reading what they have to say.

Recap:  an Italian woman in Britain had a mental health issue.  She was pregnant.  The state, for reasons so far unknown, performed a C-section on her without her consent and put her child in care.  This is approximately every level of fucked up.

But now, because more details have become clear, it sounds like a lot of progressive people think it’s not as big a deal, because it was doctors who made the decision to perform the C-section which has now led to this woman’s child potentially being permanently adopted without her consent.

I have a question.

What the fuck are you even doing?

Even the most able-bodied in-full-health no-medical-issues-ever progressive should be able to comprehend that doctors are not gods, and are not infallible, and are certainly capable of making fucked up decisions for fucked up reasons.

Like Dr Joseph Lee who refused to prescribe contraception to a young woman because “his conscience” told him to lecture her about The Duties Of Women instead.

Like the numerous doctors who refuse to perform basic diagnosis on patients who are fat.  (Degenerative spine condition?

Like the doctors who performed the Unfortunate Experiment on New Zealand women.

[EXTREME TRIGGER WARNING for abusive medical practice, genital mutilation]  Or Dr Graeme Reeves who deliberately mutilated women’s genitals while performing surgery on them.

How about the amount of research which shows doctors are more likely to label people of colour as “non-compliant”?  Or prison medical staff coercing incarcerated women to be sterilised?

This isn’t an argument that all doctors are evil and none are to be trusted.  Just as pointing out the utterly shitty culture the NZ Police have towards victims of sexual violence, especially sexual violence committed by members of the NZ Police, isn’t an argument that all police officers are rapists.

But frankly, enough of them are that you should not feel comfortable just assuming that doctors – or police officers – are acting with integrity.  Especially when the person on the receiving end of their treatment has the black marks of mental illness, migrant status, and gender against her.

University debating supports patriarchy

So this happened. The Victoria University debating society hosted an event at which one of the moots was:

“This House, as a parent, would tell their daughter to drink responsibly to avoid sexual assault”.

How breathtakingly daring of them.

As people have pointed out on Twitter, it’s not fair to say “all debaters are dudebro neckbeards”.  So I won’t.

What I will point out is that this whole structured debating thing seriously reinforces a lot of patriarchal, privileged bullshit.

1. Because it treats serious social topics as completely morally relative

The point of debating is not to discover truth.  It’s to win.  This article from the New Statesman (h/t Elle) explains it far better than I can:

This is how you’re meant to argue when you’re eventually in charge. You’re trained for it, and part of that training is regularly being presented with morally indefensible positions to defend anyway or risk losing whatever competition you’re engaged with. I have seen perfectly decent young men get carried away defending genocide and torture because that’s the only way to win. Those who are unable to do so are taught that they have no business having political opinions. The people assumed to be the future elite are not rewarded for getting the answer which is most correct, most compassionate or humane or even sensible – they’re rewarded for smashing the opposition. And that’s how you get politicians who will argue anything they’re told to, enact any policy they’re told to no matter how many how many people will get hurt, just so that their team can win.

Chief adjudicator Stephen Wittington justified the moot by saying:

“As part of that discussion we discussed what the purpose of debating was, and as part of that discussion we talked about the fact that debating often requires people to defend ideas or arguments that they don’t personally agree with, even in circumstances where people do in fact have very strong views about those issues.”

As though the problem is that some people (in this case, women) just need to be challenged with different opinions.  As if “I was raped and society said it was my fault so the rapist was never prosecuted” is just a strong view on the topic.  Shocking news:  it’s really shitty to use people’s real lived experiences of traumatic events as a thought experiment.

2. Because it holds “rationality” or “reason” or “logic” as supreme

Especially in comparison to emotion.  Which is one of the reasons that moot above is supremely shitty.  Hey, women, so 1 in 4 of you have experienced sexual assault, and probably been victim-blamed to hell and back, but now we’re going to grade you on how calm and reasonable you can be while arguing in favour of victim-blaming.  Win!

Patriarchy privileges intellect and demonizes emotion.  Totally coincidentally, men are held to be sensible rational creatures, and women in New Zealand have to convince two doctors that they’re so mentally fragile they deserve an abortion.

3. Because its judging criteria are privileged to hell

Guess what kind of people are most likely to be really good at the kind of speaking and preparation rewarded by formal debating?  People from upper-class highly-educated families, that’s who.  People who are able-bodied and neurotypical.

Please note that this doesn’t mean only rich white boys debate.  Plenty of people from oppressed groups will be fantastic at debating in this format.  But they will sure as hell have to conform to the expectations of privileged groups to do it.  (cf Namond Brice)

4. Because it mistakes reinforcing oppression with challenging norms

There are a million ways to challenge people to think outside the box, or to explore current social issues, without going for the bog-standard Bob Jones line of debate.

The fact is, this was a completely unfair debate.  Not because people were upset by it, not because it breaches the all-powerful Feminist Code, but because our society has already well-equipped the affirming team with arguments.  Nobody arguing in favour of this moot had to think very hard about how they were going to make their case, because their case is made every single day to the point that many people consider it “common sense”.  The negating team, on the other hand, had to fight not just their opponents, but centuries of social conventions and assumptions.  And some of them will have been struggling with being triggered in the process.

So why do it?  Because not all debaters are dudebro Grammar old boys, but plenty of them are, especially the ones at the top.  And why would they do anything but reinforce the power structures which keep them there?

Top 10 best things about Family First’s deregistration notice

Family First have helpfully posted online the full text of the letter and decisions informing Bob McCoskrie of his deregistration as a charity.  I’m not sure why he thought this would be a good idea – maybe he just copy-pastes things on autopilot these days – but we should all be thankful for the lulz.

Note:  IANAL.  The following is based on my own reading of the linked document and I am happy to be corrected in matters of fact.

10.  One of the precedent cases cited by the Charities Commission is Draco. (properly In re Draco Foundation (NZ) Charitable Trust HC WN CIV 2010-485-1275)

This makes sentences like “Draco also approved comments in the guidelines published by the Charities Commission” just really funny in a post-Harry Potter age.

9.  Copy-pasta strikes again!

“But, but we educate people!”  Family First cried, and indeed, educational purposes are a fantastic ground for charitable status.  Unfortunately – and this one gets three numbers all to itself because it’s so awesome – the Charities Registration Board doesn’t think much of the “education” offered by their website:

… the Board considers that, viewed holistically, the Trust’s publications to its website are predominantly opinion pieces intended to promote the Trust’s point of view on controversial social issues.  The Board considers that this description is apt for the news items and media releases.

8.  Your book reports suck

Research!  Family First does research, right?  Wrong:

Thirdly, the Board considers that the research papers commissioned by the Trust do not advance an educational purpose and do constitute propaganda

The papers do not represent original research.  With the exception of The Value of Family … the reports (i) do not … provide a balanced and rigorous analysis of the empirical evidence for conclusions reported; and (ii) do contain emotive language and calls to action, and engagement with alternative points of view that is fairly polemical.

7.  Whatever you paid Curia, it was too much

Specifically, the Board considers that the Trust’s activities in commissioning polls do not advance research but rather canvas support for political outcomes advocated by the Trust

Ooops!  Who’d’a thunk it?

6.  If Family First actually gave a fuck about real families, they’d have done better.

A big issue in the consideration of whether an organisation counts as charitable, when it’s saying political things, is the self-evident public good as a matter of law.  The example they use is that saying you promote peace through disarmament doesn’t count, because disarmament-for-disarmament’s-sake isn’t really a matter of law.  Promoting peace through eliminating weapons of mass destruction does count because WMDs are obviously something our law recognises as bad, mmkay.

Unfortunately for Family First:

In particular, the Board rejects the submission that the Trust’s point of view accords with New Zealand’s international and domestic law recognising the rights of the child and support for families.  Neither New Zealand’s international law obligations nor New Zealand’s domestic law favour “the natural family” over other forms of family

Yep.  Promoting one narrow-minded view of the family doesn’t align with our domestic and international laws.  Maybe if Family First actually bothered to advocate on behalf of all families they’d have done better.

5.  That’s just, like, your opinion, maaaaaaaaan

Family First have copy-pasted an “affirmation” from the “World Congress of [limited definitions of] Families” to describe their views.  The whole point of calling it an “affirmation”, of course, is that saying “I affirm the sky is green” sounds a lot more forceful and definitive than “I believe the sky is green.”

Unfortunately,

The Board considers that the Trust’s perspective on family can be fairly described as an opinion on what is best for families and civil society.

The Board also considers that the Trust’s perspective on family is one that is controversial in the relevant sense, i.e. that its benefit to the public is not self-evident as a matter of law.

4.  You must be deregistered for the greater good of all charities

After summing up how Family First doesn’t meet the requirements of a charitable organisation:

Accordingly, the Board considers that it is in the public interest to remove the Trust from the register as this will maintain public trust and confidence in the charitable sector.

Yep.  I know, I know, it’s just formulaic legalese, but by Satan and all his little wizards I love the idea that the public of New Zealand will have less faith in / respect for charitable organisations if Family First remains one.

3.  Three strikes and you’re out

This is not simply a matter of Family First forgetting to do some paperwork.  They have been deregistered for failing all three tests the Board has put to them:

  • Their purpose is to promote a point of view
  • They aren’t promoting religion nor education
  • They are trying to “procure governmental actions”, i.e. make policy changes, in line with their views

Not even a couple of sausage sizzles for the orphans could have saved them.

2.  The fact that Family First deliberately avoids mentioning the fundamentalist Judeo-Christian basis of their beliefs is part of their undoing.  

Because while it looks way better to J Public to pretend that you’re just defending “tradition” instead of “extremist teachings which conflict with pretty much everything Jesus had to say about anything”, unfortunately when you’re trying to avoid paying taxes by claiming you’re a religious outfit, it kinda damages your case to never have mentioned religion anywhere in your many many websites.

1.  Bob McCoskrie apparently has no idea how much he’s undermined himself by publishing this document.

Seriously.  Anyone with high-school graduate literacy can read the entire thing, and – barring the technical legal jargon – understand absolutely why Family First was deregistered.  Because they don’t promote education.  Because they’re a political lobby group without even a smattering of charitable deeds to their name.  Because their views are not actually as mainstream as they constantly insist they are.

Thanks, Bob.

Boromir - this is a gift!