It all started while I was at work, and had to limit myself to eye-rolling: Daniel Farrell, one of the Directors of the Waikato Students Union, decided to let us all know that he disagrees with “modern feminism”.
It might pay to clarify at this early stage that Daniel’s definition of “modern feminism” is, um, unique.
But you can’t beat this for logical thinking:
1. A music video is released which a lot of people find rape-y and gross. (full disclosure: I have chosen not to watch said video.)
2. Law students from Auckland University create a gender-flipped version of said video to highlight its misogyny and rapeyness.
3. Flipped version is taken down from YouTube, original is left up.
4. People complain about this.
ERGO: feminists are hypocrites because they complain about objectifying women but are totally okay with objectifying men.
You cannot fucking argue with the man’s logic. You cannot. Because it doesn’t exist.
I don’t believe in siccing people’s employers or future employers on to them because of things they’ve posted online. But you’ve got to ask if Waikato University is going to be happy with this dude’s critical thinking abilities being
blamed ascribed to their teaching.
… and that’s all I originally wanted to say, when I’d first seen Daniel’s blog post, because, well. The rest of it was just laughable, wasn’t it? I mean, we’re talking about someone presuming to pass judgement on feminism who literally sums up the founding ideas of feminism as “initially a movement to stop the “hey, wench, cook me some eggs” of the day. That’s noble enough.” NOBLE ENOUGH. I’m fucking dying here. I cannot breathe.
But then, by the time I sat down to write this response, Daniel had – thanks to a heaping of smackdown from Twitter – posted a clarification. See, he’d written the post in a rush, he’d expressed himself poorly, he just wanted to make it clear that:
There are a lot of people who call themselves feminists who are doing the right thing. They are good people who are simply trying to ensure gender equality. I hope that this is the majority of “feminists”, and I am not referring to them in any way and to any members of that group that thought I was referring to them, I apologise, as that was not my intention. I am referring to one specific type of “feminist” – the militant feminist who goes around saying all males are misogynists simply because they have a penis rather than a vagina. The feminist who goes around saying people who don’t agree with them 100% support things like rape. They are harming the good work that people under the feminist movement do. So when reading this, don’t read it with the pretense that I’m trying to say women are evil or anything silly like that.
Oh, yay! Despite earlier statements, Daniel doesn’t hate good feminists, he just hates bad feminists, the kind who “say all males are misogynists simply because they have a penis”. Sadly, he was unable to link to evidence of the existence of any such feminists, and that makes me sad, because I enjoy seeing mythical creatures. But he’s totally down with feminists “who are doing the right thing”, and shit, ladies, if Daniel Farrell thinks we’re doing the right thing we must be on to something.
The specific little bit about “the feminist who goes around saying people who don’t agree with them 100% support things like rape”? I suspect that’s connected to this tweet, where no, Daniel, nobody said “disagreeing with me means you support rape”. But someone did ask why it was more important for you to completely misrepresent anti-rape-culture activism than to actually confront rape culture.
To give Daniel full credit, though, anyone who questions his mighty opinion is silly. Or irrational. Or childish. Anyway, where are his cookies? He totally didn’t-actually-delete the section where he has a go at sex-shaming feminists who have sex with people (who just coincidentally are not him) in parks. What a sensitive fucking hero.
Final pedantic notes: Daniel has no idea how sex and gender work; and making a throwaway Once Were Warriors reference (LOL BUT IT’S HISTORICAL BECAUSE HE SAID WENCHES, LOL) basically proves any point anyone ever wants to make about his lack of basic empathy.
ETA: Of course, since drafting THIS post and scheduling it, things got better.
Stay tuned! Find episode 2 here!
Remember back when I reviewed Alison McCulloch’s excellent Fighting to Choose (which incidentally you must buy, and read, and encourage others to buy, and read, because it’s really really good) and I said:
Abortion has a long and dramatic history in NZ, but it’s not a history we talk about, or remember.
Here’s another example of that, from the ALRANZ blog. Three great contributors to the NZ abortion rights movement, whose efforts and beliefs and actions, which benefited so many people*, are just erased from history once they’re gone.
It’s almost like we can’t acknowledge their work because then we’d be politicising things, and as we saw in the backlash against the response of many people to the death of Margaret Thatcher, politicising a dead person is just about the worst thing you can do, even if their entire existence in the public consciousness is political. Even when their politics – or belief that an abortion is just a medical procedure which people should be able to undergo – is something they themselves were not shy about expressing.
On the other hand, it’s like we don’t want to talk about those past struggles. Because then we’d have to address those issues as they exist, today, for pregnant people in New Zealand.
Then we’d have to actually talk about people like this young woman who’s been left in the lurch by our healthcare system and urgently needs help to get to Australia for an abortion. (If you want to donate to help her there is a Paypal option as well.) We’d have to actually ask ourselves why someone needs to fly to another country to get a safe, straightforward medical procedure.
Don’t let the mainstream media deny us our history, and the reality we live in.
*Attention antichoicers: yes, this is a trap.
Last time we talked about a quote which purported to prove that Margaret Sanger – and thus all prochoicers, because we’re the side in this debate which has no original thoughts – was all about the unrestrained sexy times.
I will pause momentarily so the Sanger scholars can pick themselves up off the floor. Seriously, I’ve done all of an hour’s reading of her work, and … ahahahahahaha.
Now, the second quote, which is far more interesting for what antichoicers want to pretend it implies, and for the actual context it appears to be lifted from.
Quote 2: We ❤ Baby Murder
The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.
As with quote #1, this is usually cited as:
The Woman Rebel, Volume I, Number 1. Reprinted in Woman and the New Race. New York: Brentanos Publishers, 1922.
… because apparently antichoicers only have the one issue of The Woman Rebel and aren’t too creative when making shit up.
But does the quote exist?
Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaahkinda. It does not appear in The Woman Rebel Volume 1, Number 1, but the original quote appears in chapter 5 of Woman and the New Race. And we all know context is everything:
- Chapter V is entitled The wickedness of creating large families.
- It outlines the steadily rising mortality rates of children under 1 year old based on the number of children in their family.
- It notes that these mortality rates are in fact not the full story, because of course a number of children who make it to age 1 don’t make it to age 5.
And thus Sanger concludes:
The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it. The same factors which create the terrible infant mortality rate, and which swell the death rate of children between the ages of one and five, operate even more extensively to lower the health rate of the surviving members. Moreover, the overcrowded homes of large families reared in poverty further contribute to this condition. Lack of medical attention is still another factor, so that the child who must struggle for health in competition with other members of a closely packed family has still great difficulties to meet after its poor constitution and malnutrition have been accounted for.
Sanger is obviously not saying – as the antichoice quote purports – that killing babies is always a totally cool thing to do. She’s talking about babies who might have a less-than-50% chance of living out a year. She’s talking about babies born into poverty and overcrowding and poor medical care.
She has a particularly nasty view – as disclaimed in my earlier post – about children born into such environments who have disabilities, and also notes somewhat dispassionately that older children forced into work to support younger siblings will unfortunately drag down their father’s wages. It’s not all sunshine and prochoice lollipops, but it’s also not what RTL and antichoicers across the internet want to pretend it is: murdering babies for funsies.
Because Margaret Sanger was against infanticide. In fact, she was against abortion in principle, and seems to have had a utopian view of a world where no one needed to have abortions because contraception was available and foolproof. But she couldn’t ignore the facts that a lot of children were living in dire poverty and being killed after-birth anyway, and that control over reproduction was vital to women’s liberation.
That’s prochoicers for you. Comprehending the realities of life and understanding that babies aren’t always exactly what Hallmark gift cards crack them up to be.
There is an article in The Rebel Woman Volume 1, Number 1 which also deals with infanticide. It is Benita Locke’s Mothers’ Pensions: The Latest Capitalist Trap which argues, similarly, that poor families may be killing infants (or, to use a classic antichoice loophole, “letting them die”) because conditions are so unsustainable.
The plain truth is that among the children of the poor, the birth of a child is a misfortune, while its death is a blessing, not even in disguise. Parents often deliberately remove their children from the world rather than that their little ones should be condemned to the veritable hell on earth which they feel they would be obliged to endure, if allowed to live.
Locke’s main argument though is that state benefits provided to poor families (mothers in particular) to encourage them to keep their babies is basically a capitalist trap, designed to ensure more workers are produced for the economic machine while not actually providing sufficient means to raise the babies in question happily and healthily.
But of course for antichoicers to acknowledge the absolutely horrible conditions which some ~precious unborn babies~ must live in after birth, and the lack of comprehensive social support for them, would involve some actual compassion and logical consistency on their part.
And they’re far too busy making up lies to actually give a fuck about born babies, who are no more use in their campaign to control pregnant people’s bodies.
Let’s also note
The extra lying cherry on top of the lying pie in RTL’s original media release is that not only are the two “quotations” presented as fact, they’re joined with an ellipsis, implying they’re part of the same piece of text.
The same piece of made-up antichoice lying text, maybe.
Tonight, dear readers, I am attending a most splendid event, the launch of Alison McCulloch’s amazing history of abortion in NZ. Seriously, get your copy now. Proper review coming soon!
In the meantime, over the next few days it’s going to be all abortions all the time at Ideologically Impure (but when isn’t it?) as we investigate the strange hateful not-our-Earth-logic propaganda of NZ’s own Right to Lies.
So, originally this was going to be a ranty post about how seriously grossed-out I am by repeated comments by lefties, in response to National’s prison labour proposals, which toss around the phrase “Arbeit macht frei” with little regard for either Godwin’s law or basic fucking proportionality.
Then I did a search for “arbeit” on The Standard and … well, the scale of the issue became very evident.
Forcing prisoners in New Zealand prisons to work is shitty. It’s oppressive. It’s an abuse of power. It’s capitalist scumthuggery.
It’s not a fucking Nazi death camp.
The phrase also gets thrown about casually in discussions about Paula Bennett’s vicious welfare reforms.
Forcing beneficiaries into low-paying, un-liveable jobs is shitty. It’s oppressive. It’s economic bullying. It pushes families into further deprivation.
It’s also not a fucking Nazi death camp.
Verbscape on Twitter summed it up pretty perfectly:
Q: What things are like deathcamps? A: Deathcamps.
Q: What things aren’t like deathcamps? A: Every-fucking-thing else.
You are not fucking clever because you can remember one single iconic piece of information from 5th form history, people. Can’t we just criticise this shit because it is wrong, and not so you can totally show off your awesome History Channel referencing abilities?
Moff’s Law states, in a roundabout way, that critical discussions of art and entertainment will inevitably attract a commenter who says something like “it’s just a [book/movie/TV show/artwork], why do you have to analyse it???” and further that said commenter should shut the fuck up.
Because analysing art and entertainment actually makes it more fun for a lot of people.
Today’s fantastic example of this comes from Tumblr:
She is upset, devastated in a way that one is only when someone has died. And the guy’s still bothering her, like her problems are flippant bullshit and she needs to just smile or pay attention to him because ladies are supposed to be pleasing for men no matter what shit they’re going through.
19th-century art as a gateway to critiquing the “pick-up artist” movement. Brilliant.
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…
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.
[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:
- Harassed on bus by guy who wouldn’t leave me alone.
- First question asked at job interview: “Do you have kids?”
- Threatened with sexual violence by blog commenter.
- 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.