Originally guest-posted at The Standard.
I suppose one must be grateful to Alasdair Thompson for one thing; at least he didn’t imply that we feeble little women should just avoid all sudden movement lest our ovaries fall out. (This is not to say that all women have ovaries, or even periods, or that men cannot have ovaries, or periods, but I don’t want to blow Alasdair’s tiny mind. For those feeling brave, check out this hot childbearing bamf.
Lew at Kiwipolitico thinks it’s a good lesson in not believing your own hype, and certainly Helen Kelly’s got to be viewing this whole situation as a gigantic win for putting the spotlight on the pay gap and the slightly-scary amount of bullshit our Captains of Industry are seriously small-minded enough to buy into.
But that’s what gets me. Fear not, readers concerned that I’m never going to find a man because I’m such a bitch; I’m not offended. I’m not even contemptuous towards Alasdair Thompson. I’m just a little baffled.
I mean, Alasdair Thompson is the head of an organisation whose sole purpose is to basically convince us that everything is a beautiful level playing field and pay is totally based on ability but also maybe you shouldn’t tell anyone else what you’re paid because then, um, the total fairness of your pay might shock you so much you’ll get confused and fall down. And really being forced to take four weeks off every year is just terrible. And getting a bunch of your coworkers together to negotiate a shared set of terms, well, no one should have to do that.
That’s not actually the easiest sell.
So you’d think you’d entrust the job to someone with enough basic political instinct to not say, in front of a woman union leader and a microphone, that “Women do, in general, [take more sick leave] why? Because once a month they have sick problems.”
(It’s okay, Alasdair. In the 21st century we use the word “period”. And if you’re going to use code, break out the fun shit like “they have Communists in the funhouse”.)
He does seem to have got his bullshit-mojo back though, as he’s had a bit of a whinge at being accurately quoted and is now spamming people on Twitter saying,
Of course women should be paid more than men where their output and productivity is greater than men’s. It’s a pity if saying this is un-PC.
Yes, Alasdair. That’s totally what people are complaining about. Who thinks he’s a clever little derailer den?
But it brings up another of those wonderful rightwing slogans: output and productivity.
Given how committed Alasdair is to his principles, I can only assume his personal KPIs are based on “saying things which your old, white, male Board think are just plain common sense” and measured by “how many women who are obviously on the rag take offence.”
But let’s face it. If that epitome of modern capitalism, the IMF, is anything to go by, all Alasdair has to do is go on being an old, white, rich dude who works for and on behalf of a bunch of other old, white, rich dudes. And the hypocrisy is simply never going to occur to him.
PS: inevitable neggers: go read this shit and know that every time you whinge that it’s not sexist, early childhood teachers just aren’t worth as much as fly-fishing chief executives, God kills a merchant banker.
PPS. Thought about kicking this off with a nice snappy self-aware disclaimer about my own menstrual status. Like you sexist pigs who are already drafting your “lol ur on the rag” trollisms care.
Related Link Round-Up
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.