[Content note: pregnancy, nonconsensual medical treatment]
Recap: an Italian woman in Britain had a mental health issue. She was pregnant. The state, for reasons so far unknown, performed a C-section on her without her consent and put her child in care. This is approximately every level of fucked up.
But now, because more details have become clear, it sounds like a lot of progressive people think it’s not as big a deal, because it was doctors who made the decision to perform the C-section which has now led to this woman’s child potentially being permanently adopted without her consent.
I have a question.
What the fuck are you even doing?
Even the most able-bodied in-full-health no-medical-issues-ever progressive should be able to comprehend that doctors are not gods, and are not infallible, and are certainly capable of making fucked up decisions for fucked up reasons.
Like Dr Joseph Lee who refused to prescribe contraception to a young woman because “his conscience” told him to lecture her about The Duties Of Women instead.
Like the numerous doctors who refuse to perform basic diagnosis on patients who are fat. (Degenerative spine condition?
Like the doctors who performed the Unfortunate Experiment on New Zealand women.
[EXTREME TRIGGER WARNING for abusive medical practice, genital mutilation] Or Dr Graeme Reeves who deliberately mutilated women’s genitals while performing surgery on them.
How about the amount of research which shows doctors are more likely to label people of colour as “non-compliant”? Or prison medical staff coercing incarcerated women to be sterilised?
This isn’t an argument that all doctors are evil and none are to be trusted. Just as pointing out the utterly shitty culture the NZ Police have towards victims of sexual violence, especially sexual violence committed by members of the NZ Police, isn’t an argument that all police officers are rapists.
But frankly, enough of them are that you should not feel comfortable just assuming that doctors – or police officers – are acting with integrity. Especially when the person on the receiving end of their treatment has the black marks of mental illness, migrant status, and gender against her.
So this happened. The Victoria University debating society hosted an event at which one of the moots was:
“This House, as a parent, would tell their daughter to drink responsibly to avoid sexual assault”.
How breathtakingly daring of them.
As people have pointed out on Twitter, it’s not fair to say “all debaters are dudebro neckbeards”. So I won’t.
What I will point out is that this whole structured debating thing seriously reinforces a lot of patriarchal, privileged bullshit.
1. Because it treats serious social topics as completely morally relative
This is how you’re meant to argue when you’re eventually in charge. You’re trained for it, and part of that training is regularly being presented with morally indefensible positions to defend anyway or risk losing whatever competition you’re engaged with. I have seen perfectly decent young men get carried away defending genocide and torture because that’s the only way to win. Those who are unable to do so are taught that they have no business having political opinions. The people assumed to be the future elite are not rewarded for getting the answer which is most correct, most compassionate or humane or even sensible – they’re rewarded for smashing the opposition. And that’s how you get politicians who will argue anything they’re told to, enact any policy they’re told to no matter how many how many people will get hurt, just so that their team can win.
Chief adjudicator Stephen Wittington justified the moot by saying:
“As part of that discussion we discussed what the purpose of debating was, and as part of that discussion we talked about the fact that debating often requires people to defend ideas or arguments that they don’t personally agree with, even in circumstances where people do in fact have very strong views about those issues.”
As though the problem is that some people (in this case, women) just need to be challenged with different opinions. As if “I was raped and society said it was my fault so the rapist was never prosecuted” is just a strong view on the topic. Shocking news: it’s really shitty to use people’s real lived experiences of traumatic events as a thought experiment.
2. Because it holds “rationality” or “reason” or “logic” as supreme
Especially in comparison to emotion. Which is one of the reasons that moot above is supremely shitty. Hey, women, so 1 in 4 of you have experienced sexual assault, and probably been victim-blamed to hell and back, but now we’re going to grade you on how calm and reasonable you can be while arguing in favour of victim-blaming. Win!
Patriarchy privileges intellect and demonizes emotion. Totally coincidentally, men are held to be sensible rational creatures, and women in New Zealand have to convince two doctors that they’re so mentally fragile they deserve an abortion.
3. Because its judging criteria are privileged to hell
Guess what kind of people are most likely to be really good at the kind of speaking and preparation rewarded by formal debating? People from upper-class highly-educated families, that’s who. People who are able-bodied and neurotypical.
Please note that this doesn’t mean only rich white boys debate. Plenty of people from oppressed groups will be fantastic at debating in this format. But they will sure as hell have to conform to the expectations of privileged groups to do it. (cf Namond Brice)
4. Because it mistakes reinforcing oppression with challenging norms
There are a million ways to challenge people to think outside the box, or to explore current social issues, without going for the bog-standard Bob Jones line of debate.
The fact is, this was a completely unfair debate. Not because people were upset by it, not because it breaches the all-powerful Feminist Code, but because our society has already well-equipped the affirming team with arguments. Nobody arguing in favour of this moot had to think very hard about how they were going to make their case, because their case is made every single day to the point that many people consider it “common sense”. The negating team, on the other hand, had to fight not just their opponents, but centuries of social conventions and assumptions. And some of them will have been struggling with being triggered in the process.
So why do it? Because not all debaters are dudebro Grammar old boys, but plenty of them are, especially the ones at the top. And why would they do anything but reinforce the power structures which keep them there?
So, after all the kerfuffle over yesterday’s post, Daniel Farrell came back to his keyboard to try to retcon his fail a little bit more. At this point, I have to ask if this whole thing is a marvellous piece of performance art from the Auckland Uni Law Revue performers. It would make sense for Auckland students to make their sockpuppet a Waikato dude.
I mean, it’s really hard to believe that right here in our own backyard is a dude who takes a faceful of criticism for whinging about “modern feminism” and thinks he’ll calm the storm by saying “I am not against feminism as it should be”. He thinks it’s going to help, somehow, to say anyone who criticised him is “childish” and “irrational” and then, after making a post in which he specifically attacked a woman for having sex he didn’t approve of, whinge about personal attacks.
Even his “apology” is troll-perfect:
I would also like to apologise to those who were offended by my comments as they were portrayed.
Daniel Farrell, basically, is a walking illustration of male privilege. He’s never learned not to shoot his mouth off on a topic he clearly knows nothing about – because his opinions are valid and people have to hear them! He firmly believes that people must spend more than 10 seconds on his page before commenting on his posts, because HE deserves their attention. Of course he gets to cast aspersions on other people’s sex lives, especially women who do bad things – but don’t you dare fucking call him a bad name, that’s getting personal! And childish!
And why shouldn’t he express his opinions about feminism, what about his freedom of speech?
This is not a person who’s ever had the weight of society telling him he’s a lesser creature who shouldn’t cause a fuss. That’s why he can’t comprehend feminism, or feminist criticism, as anything other than an attack on his very penis.
All I can say is take it away, good folks of Twitter.
The irony of kind of breaking my break to eyeroll at a creepy mansplaining douchebag breaking his break to make sure we’ve all noticed he’s on a break … is not lost on me. But I do have to co-sign all the below posts on Hugo fucking Schwyzer. Make he take an actual break from co-opting feminism for self-promotion any time he likes.
Hugo Schwyzer and the consumption of redemption narratives by Dianna E Anderson
I’d like to thank John Morrison (no, not that John Morrison), Wellington city councillor and mayoral candidate, for today’s breathtakingly perfect example of male privilege in action.
I don’t think you could actually make up a better demonstration of how men are socialised to believe that their own biased emotional outbursts are “rational” speech which deserves people’s attention, despite being the obvious ramblings of a whiny douchebag.
(Idiosyncratic typing replicated from original)
I have given a great deal of thought to the question of how to bring the CCO’s down —
Garry —“ you will survive but we must get rid of the CCO’s — you undertake that … or I promise you will rot in hell “.
I do not like Garry asking people to apply for their own job — it is not acceptable — given that conclusion why would I then agree to do the very same thing myself. —- An eye for an eye!
I’ll be honest, I want to really nail Perksy, Glenys, David Gray, Wickstead etc etc. —and let’s face it Garry will not get another contract after this one!
Please think about this — I am talking about strategy and tactics — not about emotion.
(Advanced players might also like to note the consistent use of male pronouns to describe any future Wellington CEO, because women obviously can’t be CEOs, their menses probably gets in the way.)
Note: John Morrison was also apparently in favour of the Wellywood sign, if you needed any extra evidence against his moral character.
I don’t know how you feel,
And I can’t know how you feel.
But I want you to know
That I feel for you, oh
I want you to know that I feel.
And I feel so ashamed,
That your femininity’s been so maimed
By the cruelness
Of party politics, oh
I feel so ashamed
When the LECs sneered with contempt
“Don’t sing me your womanly lament!”
Because you said “It’s my turn”
But you still had to learn
That equality wasn’t their intent
And the cold rain fell
In that procedural hell
You could be a fluent polymath
But you just ain’t a sociopath
And the cold rain fell
But girl, don’t hang your head
Because misogyny’s widespread
It’s no terrible deed
To lack the balls to succeed
So girl, don’t hang your head
Just hush your blog chattering
Over a representative smattering
It’s a man’s game to play
You shouldn’t play anyway
Because a dragon’s hide is so unflattering
I don’t know how you feel,
And I can’t know how you feel.
But I want you to know
That I feel for you, oh
I want you to know that I feel.
Twitter was aflame over the weekend due to this article, detailing how pregnant, incarcerated, predominantly women of colour in California were coerced into being sterilised – for their own good, of course. To save them producing any more little brown burdens on the welfare system. Because they couldn’t be trusted to make their own reproductive decisions.
But amongst the completely understandable outrage, there was another reaction, from the women of colour who I follow: annoyance that white people got to once again clutch their pearls and decry how terrible racism is.
This is racist, of course, and for far deeper, scary, institutional reasons than just the basic facts – because of poverty, because of a judicial system geared against people of colour. That’s not the issue.
The issue is why white people like me get away with continually being surprised by this.
Let’s be fucking angry at this abuse. Let’s be frustrated at how long it’s taken to come to light. Let’s be utterly contemptuous of medical “professionals” who act like it’s no big thing to coerce vulnerable patients into making socially-acceptable medical decisions. Let’s be motivated into action.
But let’s not do that whole “OMG! How can this happen in this day and age?” thing.
Because that’s our privilege talking. Our existence as women-who-will-not-face-this-kind-of-pressure (yes, we’ll face plenty of other pressures, but if you’re a white, middle class, educated cis woman like me it’ll probably go in the complete opposite direction), women who do not deal with this kind of oppression as a fact of our daily lives.
We don’t really have the right to say “how can this happen in the 21st century?” because it’s never stopped for the people who experience it.
The few stories which make it into our awareness aren’t exceptions, except in the fact that they made it into our awareness at all.
There’s a few pieces of framing that came out around ManBanGate (yep, I went there) which tickled me, but my last post was getting waaaaaaaay too long.
Quotas are ~patronising~ to women
No, what’s patronising is having the old boys’ club keep on giving their mates the cushy jobs, and then trying to distract us with bullshit like this.
What’s patronising is continually not seeing women (and every other oppressed group) getting judged on their fucking merits and then being told that, essentially, the reason we’re not succeeding is because we’re not good enough to succeed.
I recall a glorious Twitter spat with a National supporter who insisted that National’s overwhelming numbers of male MPs had nothing to do with sexism, it was a pure meritocracy over there, and no, she didn’t feel less valued at all! Which, if we assume all those statements are consistent with each other, leads to some rather interesting conclusions.
Why do you bring ~gender~ into this?
Gender’s already in this fucker of a system. We can tell by the way THERE’S A FUCKING GENDER GAP.
It’s the equivalent of every argument which starts with Person A saying something fucking disgusting, Person B saying “hey, that’s fucking disgusting”, and everyone jumping on Person B for ~starting the fight~. The fight’s already well under way.
Quotas let [even more subgrade than normal] subgrade minorities in over saintlike privileged people!
I refer to the swim team example I used earlier. If your team is all white kids, and you want it to reflect the school better, and this means you pick a brown kid with a time of 2:57 over a white kid with a time of 2:56, you are not “lowering your standards”. They both made the under-30-minute grade. All you’re doing is countering fucking generations‘ worth of white kids getting automatically passed through because they’re white.
Women hate this, so it must be bad!
Yes. A lot of women have been convinced through a really effective marketing strategy known as patriarchy that they are totally equal, that quotas or affirmative action mean they get “special treatment”, that feminism is their enemy. Some individual women have even been really successful, so there can’t be anything standing in our way but our own silly ladybrains.
Guess what: getting an oppressed group to buy into the means of their oppression is a really successful strategy for oppressors. Apparently we on the Left have no problem buying this concept when it’s National selling “aspiration” to the working classes, but once girls are involved, well that’s just silly girl-talk.
More recommended reading on the topic
So, on the back of a comment on a week-old post about Adria Richards, I tweeted:
It’s like I’m literally causing this dude physical pain by implying he should think for two seconds before making a cock joke in public.
And received this response:
So, where do you stand on say… women talking about their menstrual cycles (for example) in public ?
I asked if the tweeter in question thought talking about periods and making dick jokes were identical, and was told:
Identical? No. But why should women be allowed to talk about something that men may find offensive, and men cannot ?
So that went about exactly how I expected.
Here’s some obvious facts, which I charitably want to assume that maybe those of you who are confused on this point just haven’t thought about.
- When a male-dominated industry or workplace tolerates a culture of constant “look at my masculinity” posturing – be it centrefolds in the locker rooms or dick jokes at conferences – this sends a pretty obvious signal as to what type of culture and perspective is welcomed in that industry or workplace
- Dick jokes have not historically been treated with the same level of shame, silencing, and gross-dirtiness (as compared to aren’t-we-all-being-vulgar-blokes-together-dirtiness) that menstruation has.
- People from oppressed groups talking about subjects which have traditionally been (a) taboo and (b) used to oppress them is not in remotely the same field as people from privileged groups talking about things which have been used to keep them on top of the foodchain.
So, yeah. Sorry, dudes. But cracking dick jokes in a crowded room at an industry conference when the industry is trying to address why it lacks diversity, and being informed that this isn’t cool, is not the same as people who menstruate challenging a status quo which tells them their bodies and biological functions are shameful and disgusting.
If you choose not to get that – and let’s be honest, it is a choice you are making because the situation ain’t that complex – then please, at least stop complaining to me about how hard it is to be a man.
There are some obvious parallels here with other privileged whinging about “why can Oppressed Group say X but not meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?” and I’m sure you can connect those dots.
By now you’ve probably heard about the Danish MP, Marie Krarup, and her racist little commentary on traditional Māori welcomes.
Hopefully, you’ve been following the sovereign rule of the internet in such matters, i.e. Do Not Read The Comments. But if you’re as much of a masochist for privileged whining as I am, here’s a handy bingo board which might make the exercise a little more amusing. Every single square can be hit just in the comments on Breakfast’s Facebook page.
Sadly, I had created this before reading Colin Craig’s “are you really really really sure this isn’t a parody?” defence of Krarup, but on reflection, it’s an entire bingo board of its own, and all of the squares read “Oh my god, you can’t just ask people why they’re so white.”
Bingo squares read, left to right, top to bottom: Māori are naturally angry, listen to Willy and JT on talkback; Don’t blame her, blame her political advisors; She’s not really putting down Māori culture, read between the lines; Māori culture wasn’t meant to be civilised; Danish people are just naturally blunt; There’s way to much Māori culture around anyway; We should stop living in the past and making whitey feel ashamed; Really, who are we to judge?; She’s just one person – getting widespread media coverage; Well it is rude to poke your nose in other people’s faces; She must have just been poorly translated; Even Captain Cook thought Māori were aggressive; FREE SQUARE: I think Danish people are barbaric, so take that!; What about freedom of speech?; Stop forcing your beliefs on the poor white woman!; Can’t we white people take criticism maturely as a country?; You can’t expect her to learn about the culture of a country she’s visiting; You wouldn’t be complaining if Paul Henry said it!; The poor woman just didn’t understand, that’s all; Why can’t we spend more time focusing on European culture?; But powhiri are screamy and scary; Her comments are totally bad – because it’ll damage our tourism industry; Māori are a minority so their culture doesn’t count anyway; Really we should take it as a compliment; Well they did kill the Moriori