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The problem

I had this big long post written out about the many, many issues I have with David Shearer’s speech: the constant buying into rightwing rhetoric and language, the illogical little anecdotes, the poor writing …

But all of that is actually beside the point, the core, the one big reason I cannot get behind David Shearer’s leadership, cannot stop criticising him, cannot stop being a terrible undermining everything-that’s-wrong-with-bloggers person.

Throughout his speech, David Shearer makes it very clear that Labour supports a specific type of New Zealander:  the employed New Zealander (secret code:  “hardworking”).

You think, “duh, it’s the Labour party!” and sure, you have a superficial point there.  But strategically, this is a really stupid thing for Labour to do.

There are a large number of voters who probably completely agree with Shearer’s dogwhistles – that paid work is the only valuable work, that you need to prove you’ve worked hard to deserve social support.  Those people are voting for National, because National offers them tax cuts – hey, you’re so hardworking, why should you pay for lazy teenagers who have a bazillion kids?

They’re not going to buy Shearer’s line because it’s still got a thin facade of leftwing policy.  If they don’t want their hard-earned money supporting DPB teens, why would they want it to go to helping lazy yuppies who can’t save a big enough deposit get a first home?  What about their first home?

They see Shearer’s dogwhistles and say “that’s good … but are you going to give me tax cuts?  Why should I have to pay taxes so other people can get houses?  I could use that tax money to buy my own house, with a nice little linen cupboard to keep all my bootstraps in!”

Then there’s the voters who realise that life and happiness are about more than being a good little productive economic unit, who believe that helping the worst-off benefits the whole.

They see Shearer’s dogwhistles and think “this is not a party of compassion.  This is not a party which cares about the welfare of society.  This is not a party which will protect the vulnerable – including workers – once they’ve been thrown on the scrapheap.  Sure, there’s a thin leftwing facade there, but what are you offering that’s substantively different to National’s approach?  Why would I vote for that when I could help the Greens or Mana have a real influence on you if you do recover before election 2014?”

And to both sides, the approach screams dishonesty.  Hang on, say the first group, if you agree that work is awesome and non-workers are scum, why aren’t you supporting National’s moves to reform welfare?  Why are your supporters declaring that you’re a fantastic social democrat Jesus?

The second group say, “if you really are a fantastic social democrat Jesus, why are you constantly using language to reassure the conservatives that really you hate the beneficiary menace too?”

Even ignoring my personal beliefs on the matter, this strategy does not strike me as good politics.  It’s not really working for anyone.  It’s not really giving a clear picture of either what David Shearer and Labour really stand for, or what they want us to think they stand for.  And to me, that leads to one conclusion:  they still just stand for saying whatever it is they think will get them elected and preserve their shiny Parliamentary pay packets.

That’s the problem.

ETA:  Just saying stole my thoughts and expressed them far more clearly; DPF unsurprisingly nails the scorn deserving of Shearer’s autocue use


This post isn’t getting cross-posted to The Standard, because I’m seriously bored with Shearer supporters

(a) acting like the kind of mealy-mouthed crap he delivered on Sunday is AMAZING ASPIRATIONAL DIRECTION-SETTING GODLIKE ORATORY

(b) acting like criticisms like mine are the real reason Labour’s polling 31%

Marriage equality: because your vague societal niggles don’t trump specific individual freedoms

Labour MP Su’a William Sio has come out against Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill, with the usual “why aren’t we focusing on more important issues” (sorry Sio, didn’t realise you can’t read a book and chew gum at the same time) and “this will cost Labour!!!!” lines.

For a start, Idiot/Savant has actual research showing that Maaori/Pasifika folk may be more likely than us whiteys to support marriage equality.  Oops.

But in the main, the thing that pisses me off is his trotting out the usual crap about “fundamental beliefs”.

Because when anyone arguing from a fundy religious position starts citing their beliefs as an argument against offering other people – people who do not share those beliefs – access to healthcare, access to protection under the law, recognition of their basic human rights – all that says is “My personal religious beliefs should be imposed on everyone.”

All it says is that fundy religious people think they deserve special rights.

“Hang on!” they inevitably cry.  “Aren’t YOU imposing YOUR beliefs on ME by doing something which affects other people who don’t share my beliefs?”

The answer is:  No, fuckwits.

Take the case in point.  If we legally recognise same-sex marriages the way we recognise hetero marriages, this does not affect Su’a William Sio in the slightest.  It doesn’t downgrade his marriage to economy class, it doesn’t stop him from doing anything he already does, it doesn’t force him to do anything he doesn’t choose to do.

(There’s a side argument about whether or not marriage celebrants, as agents of the state, have the right to discriminate, but I’ll let Idiot/Savant take that one.)

How does this force anyone else’s morality on Su’a William Sio?  Well, it means that he’s not allowed to walk the streets accosting gay couples shouting “YOUR RELATIONSHIP ISN’T AS LEGALLY-RECOGNISED AS MINE, HAHAHAHAHAHA.”

Actually, he probably would be allowed to do that, within obvious pre-existing legal limits around assault and illegal detention.

So … how does legalising marriage equality affect Su’a William Sio’s rights and morals?  Oh, because there’s a vague sense of unease amongst religious fundies about the gays.  Though no concrete evidence has yet been found, they just know that marriage equality is wrong and will lead to the downfall of nations.  Any day now.

No one’s personal morality is challenged or threatened by marriage equality unless they’re so fucking attached to homophobic bigotry that it pains them to be told “Sorry, society’s moved on.”  And I just cannot summon much sympathy for their plight.

Meanwhile, loving, caring, committed couples are denied equal rights under the law because a Court of Appeal judge said so back in the day.  They can’t even adopt the children they’re raising as their own.

That’s forcing your morals on people, douchebags.

(And like I said in comments at The Standard:  No one is standing in Su’a William Sio’s way if he wants to go out there and “focus” on the “things that really matter” to religious South Aucklanders.  Off you go, mate.  Unless it’s just easier to build up bigot-cred hating on the hard work of your colleagues.)

Hands up if you’ve heard this before [truthiness remix]

Imagine if your sister or a close female friend – or you, ’cause you might be a rare literate uterus-haver – was in the early stages of a temporary medical condition. This condition isn’t necessary, may not be wanted, may endanger her life, and if continued will change it forever.

She goes to a clinic where she is told that ending this condition will be murder and give her breast cancer and send her to Hell. But she isn’t told the full facts about her condition, or about the risks associated with all the different choices she has.  She’s lied to.

Imagine if those who were pretending to provide your sister or friend (or you, mythical person-with-womb-who-can-read) with full and frank information about the risks of that operation were actually actively seeking to mislead her in a religious quest to fuck her life up.

In addition, let’s imagine your sister or friend wasn’t provided with adequate information about alternatives to continuing this life-changing condition – there was also no respect for the decision she’d already made, and the delays induced by these so-called “caring people” only increased the difficulty and risk of the choice she was going to make anyway.

Imagine that once she had made a decision, people not only lied to her, but insisted that she had to think things through – like she was just a flighty child who couldn’t make decisions for herself.

Would we think this was ok?

Wouldn’t you want her to have all the important information she needed before going ahead with this irreversible, life changing condition?  Wouldn’t you want to take the people who are lying to her for their own purposes and smack them upside the head?

Our medical system, policy makers, and health code all recognise the importance of making truly informed and free decisions in healthcare. However, when it comes to the issue of abortion, these minimum standards are often not enough. Many NZ women often end up being conned into going to “crisis condition centres” where people claiming the moral high ground attempt to deceive and frighten them into making the choice those people want.

Pregnancy isn’t a risk-free condition, and for many women it certainly isn’t the blissful carriage-ride it’s often portrayed to be, with a range of serious risks associated with it.

Pregnancies can lead to reproductive problems, impossibly strained finances, domestic violence, miscarriages or even infertility and death.

In the worst case scenario abortion can kill you too – but in New Zealand it’s so fucking rare that antichoice liars have to give you – and your sister or female friend, who probably look to your strong manly visage for advice – a single example from Australia with no context, even though they’re having a whinge about pro-choicers not giving you (sorry, your “sister or female friend”, because only cock-possessors can access the Internet) “the full story”.

Those lying bastards will also talk up the risk of “complications”, which are almost certainly only as common as they are in New Zealand because anti-choicers put obstacles in pregnant people’s paths, denying them the ability to have earlier, safer abortions.

Women who obtain abortions are possibly at increased risk of subsequent mental health issues, including major depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.  Antichoice liars want to tell your sister or female friend that this is because abortion will ruin her life, and despite really, truly wanting her to have full information, they strangely won’t acknowledge their part in creating a society which treats women who have had abortions like shit.  Which might not help on the mental health front.

Studies also indicate that antichoice douchewads are fond of phrases like “post-abortive women”, which emphasise how you will be forever marked and shamed by exercising your reproductive choice.  They aren’t fond of thinking about whether calling people who have had abortions “babykillers” might have something to do with increased suicide risk.  Or the innovative idea that women who have abortions might already have mental health issues – hence not having the spoons to carry a pregnancy to term – or that any “long-lasting psychological suffering” could possibly have roots in a culture which denies them full information and compassion during a difficult time.

They want to pretend to care about people who have had abortions who feel an increase in sadness or depression or anxiety as time passes, but they won’t think about whether the pressure to bottle those feelings up, to not talk about it, to feel eternally conflicted because of antichoice rhetoric plays any part in that.

Women have the right to know about all of the reasonable risks associated with abortion, and the harms that could result. They have the right to full and frank information, so that they can be empowered to make a free and fully informed choice.

They should also know that abortion is many, many times safer than carrying a pregnancy to term, that abortion will not increase their risk of breast cancer, that people will support them no matter what their situation or decision (unlike certain others who’ll bully and berate them right up until the baby crowns and then vanish in a puff of smoke).

Women also have the right to know about all the different options available to them without those options being portrayed as the only ones which won’t inevitably render them traumatised soulless shedevils.

This shouldn’t be about the politicisation of information, and it certainly shouldn’t be about massively over-emphasising the negative emotional issues around abortion, which is nothing if not politicising it. Instead women should be trusted with all of the available facts, and then allowed the freedom and space to make a properly informed decision – which is a far cry from the antichoice desire to impose mandatory waiting periods just in case the silly little girls crack under their advanced interrogation techniques.

Women should also be trusted to know their own minds, but antichoicers don’t think walking uteri have minds (it’s also why they don’t comprehend that not only women have abortions, because walking uteri don’t have gender.)

Let’s trust women, and not hide important facts and information from them when they are faced with one of the most difficult and life altering decisions they will ever have to make.

Let’s trust women, and not lie to them, trick them with the trappings of real health clinics, insist that they can’t be fully informed if they’re not weeping, hating themselves, and choosing not to have abortions.


Women do have a Right to Know.  Unfortunately, Pro-Fucking Your Life Up NZ only want them to know their side of the story.  But it’s okay, I fixed it for them.

The Salvation Army: are they really the allies queer people need?

Via Gay Express:

The Salvation Army and Rainbow Wellington have reached a rapprochement 26 years after The Salvation Army had a hand in the (ultimately unsuccessful) to homosexual law reform.

Now, I am not a member of Rainbow Wellington (for obvious reasons).  I don’t know what their discussions were going into this.  I don’t know their reasoning for seeking or negotiating this exchange of statements – unfortunately there’s nothing on Scoop or their website to give further detail.  In addition, much of the Salvation Army’s statement on the matter seems directly plucked from a 2006 statement, republished in 2008 on their website.

But being the cynical picky person I am, I just feel compelled to point out that none of these phrases belong anywhere near a genuine, heartfelt apology:

judgemental and prejudiced words were spoken on both sides

many Salvationists were deeply opposed to, and embarrassed by, the intemperate manner in which views were expressed during the debate

We now understand that The Salvation Army’s official opposition to the Reform Bill was deeply hurtful to many, and are distressed that ill-feeling still troubles our relationship with some members of the glbti community.

We regret and apologise for any hurt that may remain

Just to recap, that’s one order of “everyone was equally bad” served with a side of tone argument, a cranberry-and-“get over it” jus, and a glass of chilled “sorry if you were offended.”

It concludes,

We may not agree in the future on all issues, but we can respect and care for one another despite this

Isn’t that sweet?  The Salvation Army still care!  Why, in 2010 Major Campbell Roberts was even quoted as saying,

“I would be keen to learn further from the gay community on ways in which you feel we can further build bridges of understanding and respect to gay people”.

I have an idea!  You could revisit this nice little section of your website, which clearly states that the Sallies believe marriage is a strict cis-man cis-woman arrangement and thus implies that same-sex couples (and hetero couples Living In Sin) can’t really enjoy the

profound feelings of love, mutual respect, inter-dependence and belonging

which hetero marital cock-in-vag sex provides.

You might ask, “does this really affect how the Salvation Army treats gay people in need of help?  Does this really mean they have to be our enemies in the struggle for marriage equality?”

Well, how about this:

The Salvation Army is firmly convinced that the support and encouragement of the institution of marriage is vitally important to the maintenance of secure family life, and that this, in turn, is crucial to stability in society as a whole.

The Sallies believe thatpreserving marriage for hetero cis folk is essential to our society.  You bet they’re our fucking enemies in the struggle for marriage equality.

That being said, the NZ Salvation Army site is strangely remiss in not clearly spelling out how they feel about queer people.  But handily, they link to sister sites, like the UK Salvation Army who manage to hold this awesome piece of cognitive dissonance together in their heads:

Human sexuality is part of God’s creation and as such it is good and to be celebrated … Sexual identity is widely accepted to be unchosen by the individual … The Salvation Army teaches that sexual acts should take place only in a monogamous heterosexual marriage

Sex is lovely!  And sexual feelings aren’t conscious decisions!  But don’t do it except in this very limited patriarchally-endorsed way!  I suppose it is just a variation on the classic “just because God gave you certain feelings and made you a certain way, it doesn’t mean he wanted you to act on those feelings, because he is a massive douchebag.”

Australian Salvation Army get right down to it:

It is The Salvation Army’s belief that, whilst recognising the possibility of such [homosexual] orientation, (the origins of which are uncertain), the Bible expressly opposes homosexual practice, seeing such activity as rebellion against God’s plan for the created order.

We firmly believe that obedience to God together with the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, make it possible for all to live a lifestyle pleasing to Him. This may include celibacy or self restraint for those who will not or cannot marry.

And by “cannot” marry they of course mean “because you want to marry someone with matching junk, which is badwrong”. It’s okay, though, they go on to explain that as long as you follow the rules – i.e. never act on your basic God-given emotional and sexual feelings – you can totally be almost as good a Christian as they are.

I’m interested to see if Rainbow Wellington comment any further on this.  I know I’m a tad unbending when it comes to dealing with douchefucks who use the words and teachings of Jesus – who didn’t have a hell of a lot to say about The Gays, strangely enough, and whose entire spin-off faith was kinda focused on creating a new covenant between God and the people to replace the old covenant (he mumbled something about retaining all the old laws, sure, but that’s what you do when you don’t want to get turned over to the Romans by your own people) – to justify their patriarchal bullshit.

It’s practically the original patriarchal bullshit, because in the world described by these “beliefs”, women are duty-bound to find a husband and pump out his babies.  There’s literally no other options, because they explicitly state that that’s what God intended and that’s the only way human beings can ever be whole.

Of course, they’d argue that men are just as duty-bound to marry women and fill them full of babies, but let’s be honest, one partner in this relationship gets to carry just the tiniest bit more of the risk and damage and life-long effects of reproduction, one partner in this relationship is held to slightly higher sanctions if she “strays”, and one partner in this relationship has traditionally been treated as the property of the other.

So maybe they aren’t that radical.  Maybe they won’t be that activist if Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill gets drawn from the ballot.  Maybe it makes sense to Rainbow Wellington to shake hands and draw a line under the 1986 issue so they can focus their energies on more important fights.

At the end of the day?  They still think that acknowledging any relationship beyond a monogamous hetero cis Christian marriage is a threat to the fabric of society.  We’ll have to fight them eventually.

Same ableist shit, different day

[ETA: IB has taken my comment on board and edited his post.]

Comment just posted to The Standard, on the second post in a day to make the painfully predictable “Breivik was totes cray-cray!!” argument:

Damn, IB.  I was hoping you’d not join the ever-growing list of Standard writers to throw around words like “loon” and “batshit crazy” to describe someone whose actions you simultaneously want to ascribe to logical, “sane” causes.

Yes, rightwing extremism is a problem.  Yes, violent hate speech should be challenged whenever possible.  But either those two statements are true, and there’s a societal problem which society needs to confront, OR certain people are just obviously crazy and dangerous and therefore should be pre-emptively locked up because we can all tell they’re not stable, amirite?

It’s probably obvious I’ve got an axe to grind in this fight, but here’s the thing, it’s two axes.  One about casual fucking ableism which makes the lives of people with mental illness shittier than it has to be, and one about the sheer fucking laziness of writing off violent, terrorising extremists as “nutters”.  If we allow that people like Breivik or Jared Lougher are just irrational/mentally ill/crazy/insert slur here, we deny ourselves the right to call that shit out, because the extreme Glenn Beck types who egg them on will just say “Oh, but they’re craaaaaaaaazy, it has nothing to do with my continual eliminationist rhetoric”.

So I’m going to get on my soapbox and plead with y’all.  You’ve got an opportunity to deny hate-speakers an excuse to ignore the consequences of their actions, and you get to make the world a better place.

Seriously, people.  I know we on the blogging left like to get all high and mighty about how awesomely smart we are – what kind of idiot votes for National because they like John Key’s smile, right? Who seriously watches Fox News [unless it’s for awesomely cool hipster lulz, y/y?]?

But it seems like we lose sight of the fact that the people who do vote in a way we don’t like, who do trust news sources we scoff at … are still people.  People probably getting just as, if not more, fucked on by capitalism as the rest of us.  People who don’t have the privilege of time and spoons for political awareness and sarcastic bloggery.

Those people are not insane.  I mean, do I even have to say that?  Apparently.

Because it’s not insane to be raised in a culture with ideals and memes about journalism and the news, and believe what the news tells you.

And it’s not mentally ill to accept that politicians who get elected to office, or people who write books which become bestsellers, or people with big fancy letters after their names, are people we are meant to listen to, or people who are assumed to have integrity, or people whose status indicates knowledge and entitlement to lead.

And maybe if it’s not insane to watch the news, to trust journalists, to listen to politicians, in general terms … it’s probably not insane to end up with a general sense of unease and distrust and xenophobia.  It doesn’t take mental illness to become convinced that basic democratic principles are under threat wherever one may be, and it’s not subnormal to be swayed by rhetoric and propaganda techniques developed over fucking centuries and which societies have become pretty good at using to perpetuate their own values and avoid change.

It certainly doesn’t require an assumed lack of intellect or cognitive function to gather that we are at war with [Muslim] Eurasia and have always been at war with [Muslim] Eurasia.

It’s not batshit to watch any action film produced over the last thirty years and pick up the idea that lone operatives who are the only ones who know the truth and must struggle against a conservative/ignorant/bought-and-paid-for-by-The-Man authority have to take matters into their own hands and will be proven right some day.*

It’s not a cool idea to play with, people, but we live in a world in which it is simply not illogical or utterly irrational or obviously nuts for someone to come to the belief that [insert political demon] is a threat and [insert political authority] won’t do anything about it and [insert way of life] is getting destroyed and oh, did we mention that pop and folk culture are full of awesome heroes who Made A Stand, usually with lots of guns and frequently for nationalistic purposes?

Either that, or everyone’s fucking insane and the label has no fucking meaning any more, so stop fucking using it to dehumanize people whose actions you want to pretend are inexplicable and incomprehensible (especially while also claiming that they are completely explicable because, um, you ran out of fat jokes to make about Cameron Slater).**

We might sit at our ivory fucking keyboards feeling all high-and-mighty because we never grew out of our adolescent punk/goth/anarchist/general period of saying “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” to the world, but we are in no fucking position to pass socially-twisted pseudomedical judgment on the vast majority of the human race.  Judgment which has shitty fucking consequences for people who do experience mental illness or neuroatypicality, and judgment which destroys our own credibility in challenging extremism.

It’s not fucking hard.


*Have some TVTropes: Cowboy Cops, Military Mavericks, Omniscient Morality Licence, Pay Evil Unto Evil

**And since 1 in 5 people experience some mental illness in their lives, there’s going to be overlap between People Who Do [Thing I Want To Blame On Mental Illness] and People Who Have Mental Illness, but until someone works out that whole “correlation ain’t causation” thing you are welcome to blow yourself.


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

Queer the Night/ Hand Mirror clusterfuck: the fail continues

[Trigger warning: links include discussion of transphobia, mainstream Feminist silencing tactics and more than your recommended daily intake of cis/white women’s tears.]

I think if we’ve learned anything from the internet it’s that when white cis feminists on “mainstream”/large/established blogs commit massive fail, it only gets worse when they try to apologise (admittedly, a large number never get to the apologising stage, so hey, points for effort!)

Thus it is with Julie’s “apology” (yep, scare quoted it) at The Hand Mirror, where those commenters who didn’t get to show their own pantlessness in the original debacle decided to make the most of their second chance.

Let’s start with Scuba Nurse, who is totally sure they don’t allow abusive comments, and then happily conflates “abuse” with “disagreement”:

Offensive comments: As far as I know, we do allow comments as long as they do not personally attack anyone, are abusive or demeaning.
We have allowed several people making some comments I found exceptionally offensive because of my personal viewpoint on their beliefs around abortion, women’s clothing choices, racism etc etc. The trans-phobia discussions are certainly not the first time we have had differing opinions debating.

QoT’s Words of Wisdom:  Commenters stating “I refuse to consider calling a specific trans woman a guy transphobic because I don’t think it is” is simultaneously personal, abusive and demeaning!  Pretending that “”guy” is just a gender-neutral word!” is a matter of “differing opinions” which exists in a complete vacuum unaffected by cisgender privilege is douchey!

ScubaNurse is joined by anthea and stargazer in the “oh, but we just didn’t know what to do and couldn’t interfere because we were such timid little flowers afraid of getting it wrong!”

QoT’s Words of Wisdom:  This is hardly the first fucking time transphobic shit (not to mention misogyny, rape apologism, abuse apologism or general lack of moderating) has come up on The Hand Mirror.  You had your chance to figure this shit out [and as demonstrated below, you’ve got a pretty fucking clear commenting policy which should have provided you all with a damn clue].  Instead you chose personal comfort over calling out a cis woman’s massive disrespect and triggering behaviour of trans women.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

George returns!  Can you smell the fail already?

Don’t beat yourself up Julie. No one made any personal swipes at anyone, no one defamed anyone…quite frankly I think it was a huge misunderstanding based on the lack of voice intonation and body language on the internet.

TURN UP NEXT TIME EVERYONE! That’s the lesson here. 🙂 If you want a say in the kaupapa of an event, then come along and be part of it.

QoT’s Words of Wisdom:  You know what, George?  That nice apology I snipped out of the middle of your comment would’ve been marvellous if it weren’t bookended by the above assholery, in which you declared your version of how things occurred (guess what?  The women you were an asshat to probably disagree!  But gaslighting is so much easier when the thread is conveniently no longer visible …), continued to tone argument people, and finished off with a good ol’ tip of the hat to “if you don’t participate you can’t complain!”

People don’t actually have to show up to events which they find problematic and which because of you they do not feel safe at in order to express their opinions.

Julie clarifies that actually she wasn’t even apologising for the thing she should have been apologising for:

I haven’t addressed it because that wasn’t how I was thinking of it – as a stuff up involving transphobia – I was thinking of it as a stuff up of moderation. However I can see from this discussion that that was a mistake on my part – the stuff up is intrisincally related to the subject matter of the thread. Again, another useful aha moment for me, thanks.

Of course I think I’m not transphobic. I imagine Enoch Powell didn’t think he was racist either. And this has been a case where I’ve been blind to my own ignorance (of trans issues) and blind to my own prejudicies (of assuming cis as the default and not even seeing that I was choosing sides that lined up with cis versus trans until someone pointed it out).

QoT’s Words of Wisdom:  Your self-education could also involve a 101 primer on ableist language, Julie!  As for Enoch Powell?  Probably entirely aware he was racist, actually, just probably didn’t see a problem with it.  That’s how a lot of racism works.

I can tell this seems a lot like I’m having a go at Julie.  That’s because I am.  I really, really struggle with the notion that a person who has been part of one of the oldest, best-established feminist blogs in New Zealand, who is politically aware and internet savvy and has had the issues people have with The Hand Mirror’s moderation brought up to her on multiple occasions, is meant to be given a pass because she’s so busy, she chose to moderate while in a bad mood, she totally didn’t mean to thank people by saying she appreciated their efforts and found their contributions really useful, she thinks she totally moderates blatant transphobia but oops, maybe her definition of blatant is different to others’ because she’s so new at all this.*

Not buying it, sorry.

But the supreme award for fail simply must go to Stef.

I missed the details of this bust up (yet again) but I feel that comments that THM needs to be this that or the other thing fucking obnoxious as I do bitchy comments that it’s only a blog about cupcakes and THM doesn’t do feminism properly. Seems to me part of this (not scar’s comments) is about new bloggers trying to get a rep and followers by picking on one of the big players and THM is so mainstream yada yada that it needs to be taken down a peg or two. Seen it happen in far too many online communities to give it much more thought than that. *yawn*

QoT’s Words of Wisdom:  Are you twelve fucking years old, Stef?  “They just hate us ’cause we’re so cool, mm-hmm, pass the fruit-scented lip gloss, omg I’m so, like, over this whole thing, right, they’re like, so jealous, omg.”  is your actual argument?  With bonus passive-aggressive not-naming-names-because-they’re-only-doing-it-for-attention?

For those unable to see the original post, Stef is probably talking about Octavia and Scar.  They’re either two Kiwi women with relatively newish blogs who think transphobia is fucking awful and should be called out, and aren’t afraid to go into spaces they perceive as inherently unsafe and call out blatant misgendering and privileging of cis women’s opinions and feelings, and an acknowledged moderation method based on Who Is Annoying Julie Right Now, where it is acknowledged that moderator comments thanked and privileged people who were being silencing and personal and transphobic …

or they’re just, like, totally ~desperate~ for ~attention~ and can’t handle that The Hand Mirror didn’t invite them to the after-prom party.

I find the latter to be a completely convincing argument.

But it’s their blog, their rules!

A final point a lot of the defenders are bringing up is “HDU tell the Hand Mirror writers how to moderate their blog!  They can do what they want!”

And this is a very valid point.  God knows I’m a huge fan myself of telling people to fuck off and make their own blogs if they want to do [insert obnoxious behaviour].

But here’s the problem.

The Hand Mirror does not anywhere state, “This is not a safe space for trans* people and gendered language and silencing tactics will not be moderated.”

Their commenting policy does say abusive comments or links to abusive posts will be deleted – yet moderators basically encouraged people to continue posts at their own sites,which was read by at least one commenter as saying “you have to go deal with [commenter who was accused of transphobia] at his own blog where he will probably continue to be transphobic at you but we don’t care about that.”

The commenting policy does say, “Disagreement should be written in a manner that does not demean either party.”  But this was clearly not interpreted by anyone at the Hand Mirorr as do not refer to a trans woman as a “tough guy”, nor do not tell trans women that they shouldn’t be offended because “guy” is a totes gender neutral term.

And the explicit stated purpose of their comment policy is:

We want this to be a safe space for women, and indeed for those who are othered in an internet (and political) culture dominated by white heterosexual men of comfortable income and right-wing politics.

Scar and other commenters aren’t actually holding The Hand Mirror to any higher standard than The Hand Mirror’s writers have already set for themselves.  If The Hand Mirror team want to clarify that no, they aren’t going to police transphobic language and no, they aren’t going to firmly moderate on any other basis than “I was tired and anyway you’re a troll” then now is their chance to make that clear to everyone.

Going on what has happened, and how they have followed up?  It’s pretty clear to me.


*In case I haven’t repeated this slightly key point enough?  “Blatant transphobia” apparently doesn’t cover referring to trans women as “internet tough guys” and refusing to accept that others find that offensive!

Everything is a lie

Originally posted at The Standard.

There’s a hard truth to NZ politics at the moment. It’s not one people like to think about, it’s not one people readily accept, and it’s not one that gives Labour/the Left any actual tools to dismantle the shitty state we’re in. But it helps to be reminded every now and then:

Everything NACT does is a lie.

No, seriously, everything.

The topical example of the day is the Welfare Working Group report, with its vicious, predictable, you-could’ve-paid-Danyl-Mclauchlan-a-lot-less-to-write-it-as-satire recommendations, including forcing some women to look for work when their youngest child is 14 weeks old.

This is bullshit, the blogs cry. The Smiler is quick at hand to (predictably) rule out the most extreme measures. But even the more moderate measures won’t work! We complain. This is no way to get people off benefits! You need job creation, not forcing drug addicts to starve, that’s only going to make things worse!

We are too charitable.

We assume, as does the media (even the good ones) and as do the general public, that the leaders of the Left and Right in this country are just approaching the same issues from different perspectives. They just have different ideas, different theories about human nature and economics, but they’re still looking at the same situation and aiming for the same results.

NACT are not aiming for the same results. Everything is a lie.

I hear the objections already. I just want you to think: which is the more likely scenario, Occam’s Razor-styles?

That our Government is run by people who cannot see that tax cuts don’t stimulate the economy, who do not understand that there are no jobs, who will not acknowledge that being “tough on crime” and simultaneously starving/victimizing the most deprived people in the country are not going to make our society safer …
Or that they just don’t care, and everything is a lie.

Thus we see the entire existence of the Welfare Working Group is a lie. It’s not about people, or liveable incomes, or hope, or dependency, or jobs. It’s all a sideshow, because to people like Key and English and Brownlee and Hide it doesn’t matter what they implement, how or if it’s going to work. The goal is power, the goal is scapegoating beneficiaries (for now), the goal is getting you to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain while he’s stripping your assets for lolly money.

This is the NACT modus operandi: do the bare minimum to keep the economy going. Throw out Crosby/Textor lines to persuade the voting public – a public sadly not entirely made up of people with enough time/energy/interest to argue this shit on blogs – that Scapegoat of The Day is the source of all their problems (beneficiaries, Maori, Greens) without actually doing anything. Pillage everything in sight. Once unelected or bored of juvenile tussles in the House, fuck off in your spaceship to Hawaii and let everything end in fire.

And we are fucked. Because if the comments on this post don’t contain at least one person accusing me of jealousy, of tall poppy syndrome, of conspiracy or paranoia … well, I’ll wonder where all the good trolls have gone. But that is exactly the argument that will be made, and when the kinds of people the Left has to convince in 2011 are exactly those people most susceptible to C/T spin and cheerful Smiler soundbites, and when the truth you’re trying to convince them of is really fucking unpalatable … proper fucked.

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.


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.


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.

Yes, Gordon Campbell, you’re a rape apologist

Gordon Campbell has made his third post in a row in which he treats the accusations against Julian Assange, and his own journalism!fail, so seriously they’re the second item in the column.

After explaining that his “comments policy” boils down to “I don’t have to engage with my audience, now I’ve made my declarations from on high you are permitted to talk amongst yourselves”, Campbell has a go at me.  Without being so open as to just name names, then people might actually look me up and see both sides of the story, which I understand is the most important thing in the world to him under other circumstances.

But since there’s still some apparent confusion, let me explain why Gordon Campbell is, indeed, a rape apologist.

From the most recent post:

I do not, and have not, absolved or condemned Assange’s personal conduct.

Gordon, you’re a rape apologist because you equate “accurately stating what the charges against Assange are” with “believing the charges against Assange”.  You’re a rape apologist because you are contributing to the narrative that says people who say they want Assange held to account in a court of law must actually be “assuming” he’s guilty – and therefore, obviously, are not worth listening to.

You’re also a rape apologist because you refuse to address the fact that his personal conduct involves not simply denying the charges and waiting for trial, but employing lawyers who have outright lied about the charges and allegations and continually fed into rape culture with their statements about the accusers.

In the second Wikileaks article, I repeated the gist of the accusations against Assange, and put them alongside the gist of his initial response in court to them. It was an attempt at balance, not to absolve the left’s golden boy of the hour.

You’re a rape apologist because you continue to pretend that the answer to “you have printed misinformation about the case” is “okay that bit was maybe kinda wrong but here’s their side of the story!”

You’re a rape apologist because you’re acting like accurate reporting of the accusers’ statements – not agreeing, not supporting, just stating what they have said and what the charges are – needs to be “balanced” by Assange’s [lying] lawyers’ statement.

Guess what, Gordon.  If the Herald prints that Remmers McFlorist won the Ellerslie Flower Show, and someone points out that actually, Flowers McArrangement won the Ellerslie Flower Show, it would be a bit fucking douchey if the Herald then printed, “Okay, okay, so we printed the wrong name, but here’s 500 words from Remmers McFlorist on why she SHOULD have won!”

That’s not balance, Gordon.  And Assange’s rebuttal is not actually relevant to you correcting and apologising for your misinformation – misinformation which was weeks out of date.  You’re a rape apologist because you have taken the lies of a “golden boy’s” lawyers at absolute face value over the statements of women You’re a rape apologist because you instantly believed that unprotected sex is a crime in Sweden (those silly liberals, eh?) and thus the charges must just be nothing that Real Countries would prosecute.*

From the second post:

I think Bianca Jagger’s piece in the Huffington Post explains why doubts exist about the sturdiness of the case against Assange …:

It is widely known that the complainants first approached the police because they wanted assistance in securing an STD test. Initially, there was no mention of pressing charges of rape, coercion or molestation. How did this escalate from a request for a test to an investigation of a criminal nature? Who made this decision? After considering the evidence, Eva Finne, a female Chief Prosecutor chose to dismiss the charges. The case was then taken up by a politician who was facing re-election and whose motive may be questionable. The matter was taken to a prosecutor in a different city where none of the events had taken place. Why was this done? Was any pressure brought to bear? These are the questions a truly committed investigative journalist should be asking.

Gordon, you’re a rape apologist because you uncritically post comments which criticise rape victims for not behaving the way they “should”.  You’re a rape apologist for posting comments which imply that the cases must be silly if a women lawyer dropped the charges initially.

Below that, you’re a rape apologist for posting the “gist” of the charges against Assange … a “gist” which just happens to omit that whole “tearing off somebody’s clothes”, “holding somebody down” aspect.  Funny how the charges, which you misreported, get given the “gist” treatment while the lying lawyers’ statement bullet points get the full “can I hold your coat while you take the stage, sir” rub-down.

Back to the latest post.

What I’ve said all along is that Assange’s personal conduct shouldn’t determine, one way or the other, how the revelations by Wikileaks are judged.

Gordon, you’re a rape apologist because you’re the one who keeps bringing up Wikileaks.  You’re the one who keeps waving the Wikileaks flag and you’re certainly fucking smart enough to know that waving that flag just keeps everyone conscious of the fact that Julian Assange is linked to Wikileaks, and Wikileaks is awesome, and the Powers That Be hate Wikileaks, and so we have to take accusations of rape with a grain of progressive dudebro-brand salt because HEY, WIKILEAKS!  DID I MENTION WIKILEAKS YET?

If you want the charges against Assange and the work of Wikileaks to be treated separately, maybe you could stop fucking playing the Wikileaks Is Important card every fucking time you are asked to report ethically on the charges against Assange.

You know what would be awesome and bold and courageous, Gordon?  If you had stood by your premise from the start:

Assange’s alleged sexual misconduct has managed to divert some media attention away from the content of the cables. The two things are – or should be – unconnected.

Who keeps connecting them, Gordon?  I’ll give you a clue:  it’s not the feminists who want rape charges treated seriously.  It could, you know, be Assange himself who wants to constantly remind us (when not playing the I Can’t Help It If I’m A Rocking Stud line) that there are powerful forces against him and that “CIA honeypot” is a real conspiracy-theory-tickler of a line.

But don’t think he’s done, people.

Yet at this point, Assange has to be presumed innocent until proven guilty of the charges against him.

Gordon, you’re a rape apologist because you have just busted out Rape Apologism Maxim the First.  Guess fucking what?  That’s a principle applicable to justice systems.  Is my blog a justice system?  Is media reporting a subset of the justice system?  And hang on, at what fucking point is accurate reporting of the nature of the charges tantamount to assuming guilt?  At what fucking point have I said “you have to assume he’s guilty”?  OH THAT’S RIGHT, NEVER.

We claim to want the same thing here, Gordon.  We claim to want to see these charges answered in court.  But because you’re a fucking rape apologist you aren’t waiting until the charges are answered in court, you are making statements right now that the charges are silly, the women didn’t act the way they should have, HAVE I MENTIONED WIKILEAKS IS IMPORTANT AND IMPLIED THAT THIS IS A CIA HONEYTRAP YET???

The Guardian’s actions in releasing part of the Swedish prosecutor’s file against him was – I thought – an injustice.

You’re a rape apologist, Gordon, because you think an “injustice” is having the facts of the case published AFTER Assange’s lawyers have lied about them, AFTER Assange’s lawyers have lied about the entire Swedish legal system, AFTER the accusers have been not only named but had their photos and addresses publicised and been FORCED INTO HIDING.

But sure, what the Guardian did was the “injustice” here (now you’ve gotten around to reading it).

I found it interesting that one commenter portrayed me as part of a gendered tendency to minimize women’s experience and testimony in sexual complaints, while also denigrating me for linking to Bianca Jagger

Don’t worry, Gordon, this one isn’t about you being a rape apologist.  This is about how you’re a misogynist douchebag for acting like quoting Bianca Jagger magically absolves you of your significant contributions to rape apologism.  You’re a misogynist douchebag for going on to say naming the accusers mustn’t be that bad because hey, these Famous Feminists totally did it – failing to mention that one had retracted those names until after the quote, which was even better for your argument what with it boiling down to “everyone else did it so I did it too”.  But as a bonus, you and Bianca Jagger are both rape apologists for pretending that criminal cases can never be re-opened unless Dark Forces Are At Work.

Then it’s a fine finish with a lather/rinse/repeat of “we can’t assume his guilt” [CITATION NEEDED] and a wonderfully oblivious expression of male privilege:

Personally, I do find it depressing that so much energy has been spent on Assange’s actions in bed and so relatively little on the morality exposed in the Wikileaks cable

WHY AREN’T THE WIMMINZ INTERESTED IN REEEEEEEAL ISSUES??  Oh, and Gordon?  You’re a rape apologist for spending so much time pretending to care, so much time claiming it was about balance and fairness and did you mention Wikileaks … and then you fucking write off rape allegations as “Assange’s actions in bed”.

Gordon, you’re a rape apologist because you continue to make excuses for the fact that you spread misinformation.  You’re a rape apologist because you pretend that factual reporting of charges requires a critique-free rebuttal.  You’re a rape apologist because you have continued to downplay the charges and continued to privilege Assange’s side of the story.  You’re a rape apologist because you have on multiple occasions, contributed to a culture which denigrates rape victims and treats rape as far less serious than other crimes.

You’re a rape apologist because every single thing you have said over three columns is straight out of the rape apologism playbook.

I can’t think why Polanski-defenders came to mind in light of all that.


*Protip, Gordon:  most countries are pretty shit at even prosecuting “real” rape cases.

Many links sourced from megpie’s excellent round-up.

Easy discrimination, inconvenient reality

So Te Papa has been loaned a collection, and some of the items – not on general display – are such that it is Maori spiritual belief that they should not be viewed by pregnant or menstruating women.  And this has been related to other museums’ staff invited to take a tour of the collection (along with a pathetic “it’s not a BAN, you just have to” deflection).

Cue furore, media suddenly taking an interest in feminist bloggers’ points of view for the sake of argument, and the usual consequences when oppressions and oppressed groups’ interests intersect.

Two very good, disagreeing (NO WAI it’s like a group blog can have members with different opinions expressing themselves respectfully) posts at The Hand Mirror cover different aspects – with some great discussion in the comments – and I/S covers the legal side of things at No Right Turn.

Now, I am white and frankly ignorant of the cultural/spiritual issues involved, and these are being discussed elsewhere.

What I want to knock on the head are the facts that this “condition” is rendered a lot more acceptable by our patriarchal society and a cultural shunning of icky women-bits*, and that this isn’t just about whether or not we respect a culture’s beliefs in a vacuum where doing so has no practical consequences.

I’m Having My Period Right Now

There’s a TV ad for applicator tampons that revolves around women lining up for a camp toilet.  Oh noes!  The lightbulb goes out!  But never fear, for the heroine of the piece has an applicator tampon and therefore can still use the loo in the dark.

Which makes perfect sense if you don’t know that women’s spines aren’t usually flexible enough to allow them to watch their genitals while they insert a tampon.

But no one would screen an honest ad for applicator tampons, which would probably read something like “APPLICATORS:  BECAUSE YOUR VULVA IS DISGUSTING AND SHOULD NOT BE TOUCHED”.

Remember the South Park “Bloody Mary” episode?  You’d think the episode where they portray the entire Catholic Church as pedophiles who obey a giant spider-queen would’ve been the one the Church hated the most, but nope, it was the one where the words “Virgin Mary” and “vagina” appeared in a sentence together.

Basically, our society is not a friend to the labia or the splendiferous things that lie between them.

And I mean, we’re basically enlightened, not like those heathen paganist primitive fools.  They hate lady-bits even more than we sensible white folk hate lady-bits.  It’s probably something to do with their airy-fairy connection to the Earth, but hey, they’ve got a point, amirite?

One of the first comments I saw on this issue even cracked a fantastically original “oh shit I hope all the menstruating women don’t stage a protest, those chicks are fucking BITCHES at that time of the month right guys???” joke.

Which is probably why no one at Te Papa seemed to give much serious thought to the whole question of “should we actually accept the loan of items with this kind of condition attached?”

As a comparative, let’s try to consider an item from a culture that goes the whole hog on Levitican taboos.

Wellington’s Te Papa says it is advising men who have had wet dreams against attending one of its tours, which includes sacred objects, “for their own safety.”

An invitation for regional museum staff to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of Te Papa’s collections included the condition that “men who have recently experienced a nocturnal discharge” were unable to attend.

Te Papa insists the request is not an outright ban and is defending the move.”Bed-jizzing men are sacred and the policy is in place to protect them from these objects.”

I’m not seeing it, really.

Perhaps You Could Come Back at a More Convenient Time, Like Never

Apparently this is all just a tempest in a teacup and really, girls, you just need to be honest about the aforementioned vagina-bleedy and come back at a later date.

Assuming you know you’re menstruating (since the bleeding will probably be happening for one or two days before the bleeder gets to see any of it) or pregnant (which a fertile uterus-possessing woman could be at any point when she’s not bleeding or even if she is).

Assuming you’re happy letting your colleagues know, or suspect, that you’re menstruating or pregnant – and don’t come from a culture or work in an environment where discussing menstruation is itself a taboo.  And aren’t having a high-risk pregnancy which you’re not telling anyone about yet.  And aren’t actually scheduled to have an abortion next week so feeling kinda iffy on discussing the contents of your uterus with anyone.**

Assuming you won’t actually suffer professional consequences of not attending, by being left out of the “wasn’t that fascinating” lunchroom discussion or by some wonderful logician deciding that, well, as a woman you just can’t be as expert in the area as a man who gets to work with the subject matter all month round.

Assuming that it won’t just be too inconvenient for the curators to organise yet another tour, I mean come on, now we have to wait for all those silly bints to get their cycles into line so we just have to do this once.  And of course the items will still be there in ten months’ time, assuming you’re not wanting any of that fancy parental leave stuff, and of course now we can’t just be taking a whole half day out of important people’s calendars just because you want to have a look, they’ve got other projects to be working on.

Also, Fuck Your Career, Think of Your Baby Like A Proper Woman

A tangent from the first point, because you know what’s an even more prevalent message than vaginas = icky?

If you do anything wrong while pregnant your baby’s gonna die.

Which might be an especially fucked-up thing to lay on a woman who’s been trying, who’s hoping that this time things will go all right, who’s terrified that just thinking the wrong thoughts might make God kill her baby because he’s a bit of a bastard like that, and who now has to potentially damage her career prospects right at a time when a reliable income is kind of important.

Am I saying that women museum staff everywhere are going to suddenly get laid off by wanker bosses?  No, but thanks for trying, any strawmen out there.  My only points are that it’s a shit-load easier to marginalize menstruating/pregnant women in a society which others, demeans and threatens them, and that it is not just about evil feminists whinging about the inconvenience of respecting cultural beliefs.


*Said culture of course preferring to ignore the fact that a currently-functioning uterus does not a woman make.

**I personally would take some great delight in informing a manager, “Sorry, I can’t go on this professional development trip, I’ve got Communists in the funhouse”, but I’m a misogyny-wrapped-up-as-politeness balloon-popper that way.