So Earth Hour has been and gone and dammit, I was so hopeful that my carefully-managed Twitter and Facebook feeds would be free of fucking rightwhingers/lolbertarians having a cry about it. I was disappointed.
But at least this allowed me to formulate in my head the perfect analogy for this type of Earth Hour hater.
Before I get into it, though, the disclaimer: I don’t think Earth Hour is perfect, even in its wider goal of raising awareness and motivating larger longer-term changes. I totally expect that there are a lot of very privileged people out there who do turn off the lights and light romantic candles and pat themselves on the back and then go straight back to commuting to work every day in separate SUVs.
I also think it’s pretty wanky for western countries who have already done way more than their fair share of resource-plundering and fuel-burning to get to their current “modern” states to suddenly turn around and say “oh, fuck you, all you little countries who we’ve oppressed and kept down, you don’t get to enjoy “modern” comforts because now we’ve had our fun we’ve realised it’s bad for the environment.”
So Earth Hour: not perfect. Critiques of Earth Hour and general global inequities and western slacktivism: totally interesting.
Then there’s the guys you see (and sorry dudes, but for some reason it is always dudes) who are like toddlers. And these toddlers have millions of toys, many probably stolen from kindy, and Mummy or Daddy have said “honey, you have millions of toys, do you really need all of them? Couldn’t we share your toys with some other children?”
And the toddler is sitting in the middle of his room, surrounded by toys, toys piled higher than his head, and even though he literally cannot play with more than one or two at a time, and he’ll be a swaggering cynical five-year-old who has no time for babyish Tonka trucks long before he can wear them all out.
And he’s (very advance for his age) screaming “NO, MUMMY. ALL THE TOYS ARE MINE AND I’M GOING TO PLAY WITH ALL OF THEM RIGHT NOW.”
And – to step out of the analogy – it would be really pathetic-funny if it weren’t for the fact that, unlike that toddler, these people are doing real damage to collective efforts to help our planet, and invariably are in positions where they won’t feel the sharp edges of climate change – at least, not until it’s so bad that most of us are dead or living Survivor-style and thus unable to scream “WE FUCKING TOLD YOU SO” at them on Twitter.
Possibly not, according to the font of all NZ political procedural knowledge and God-Emperor of the kiwipoliblogosphere, Idiot/Savant.
Quite apart from her total lack of experience and dodgy views on such matters, the Race Relations Commissioner must have mana. Devoy has none. But there’s another aspect to this that is worth exploring: the appointment may be unlawful.
On the not-fit-to-hold-a-teaspoon-much-less-public-office front, Morrissey in comments at The Standard raised this interesting piece of history:
Dame Susan Devoy says her testimonial for broadcaster Tony Veitch – splashed across newspapers today – was for an application to return his passport, not to support him in a court sentencing.
In her testimonial presented to the court at Veitch’s sentencing yesterday for injuring his former partner with reckless disregard, Dame Susan said he deserved a chance to get his life back and have the opportunity to work again.
She had written it because she believed Veitch, whom she knew and whose stepmother was a close friend, deserved a chance to work again.
“I mean we can’t ostracise him for the rest of his life. But it is a different kettle of fish when you are writing a letter of support of someone coming up for sentencing.
“And I know that because I have written a letter recently for someone who is actually serving 10 years and six months for something probably a lot less than what Tony has done.”
She said she would not necessarily have refused to provide a testimonial for his sentencing.
Oh no, Dame Susan was totally lied to! She wouldn’t have written that testimonial if she knew it was for Tony Veitch’s sentencing for kicking his partner in the back so hard he broke her spine! Except she also wouldn’t have not written him a testimony. It just … would’ve been a testimony that looked less like she’s willing to exploit her celebrity to bail out a mate’s grown abusive stepson, when entered on the public record.
Fuck, someone probably thinks that episode helps to qualify her for the job, being all conciliatory and open-minded about things. Gross.
So, Dame Susan Devoy is our new Race Relations Commissioner.
We need a day that doesn’t necessarily replace Waitangi Day but complements it.
That doesn’t mean we lose sight of the significance and meaning of the Treaty but an opportunity to recognise that New Zealand is a multicultural society continuing to evolve as a nation of many people and not just Maori and Pakeha.
… This would leave … the door open for a day that we don’t feel ashamed to be a New Zealander; a day where we don’t only focus on the grievances of the past; a day that is positive and uplifting and, above all else, makes us feel good about ourselves. After all isn’t that the real meaning of holiday?
Our Race Relations Commissioner thinks Waitangi Day isn’t a proper national day because it focuses on [RACE-BASED] grievances of the past and makes her ashamed to be a [WHITE] New Zealander.
It gets better, though, because earlier in the article Dame Susan notes:
We only need to look across the Tasman to witness how Australians celebrate their day … you do have to admire the way they celebrate their national day with a great showing of patriotism.
Mmmm, delicious patriotism.
Here’s my question(s): does it concern Judith Collins that she’s appointed a Race Relations Commissioner who – at least a year ago – didn’t even seem to know the first thing about race relations in Australia, our nearest neighbour? Wasn’t even aware that a growing number of Australians celebrate Invasion Day instead? Thinks that we shouldn’t even have to spend one day out of 365 considering issues which are at the very heart of race relations in our own country?
Shouldn’t a Race Relations Commissioner know something about race relations? Like, that the concept even exists?
So I wrote a post about 3News’ racist coverage of the whole should-non-New-Zealanders-be-allowed-to-buy-land issue. This was retweeted by @Ellipsister. Cool! I like being retweeted.
Enter Mark Hubbard, who replies:
Whoa! Did you see that, dear readers? If I didn’t know better, I’d think Mark hadn’t even bothered to read my post! The clue is where he says “Not racist, but xenophobic”, which is kind of exactly what I had said and then links to his thoughts on the issue, which have nothing to do with how issues of nationalism and sovereignty are framed in racist terms, nothing to do with anti-Asian prejudice, really just nothing to do with anything I was talking about.
So I asked Mark,
@MarkHubbard33 So … Not one to bother reading the post before linkspamming?
And oh lord, dear readers. I’d gone and done it, hadn’t I? I’d questioned the big powerful libertarian dude about his bizarre need to hawk his unrelated point of view at people who had shown not a single jot of interest in the topic he was talking about. I’d challenged the idea that he had a right to butt in and completely ignore the fact that I’d already expressed some silly little opinions on Topic A, because dammit, I needed to understand his perspective on Topic B!!!
Hell, I’d basically invited his linkspam because that’s totally how the internet works.
Also, it is 100% my fault that he’s earned a lifetime ban from The Standard, because, you know, we’re a leftwing hivemind and dammit we need to understand his perspective and it’s illiberal (apparently Mark’s favourite word) to ban him.
(For fun, I had a look at his comment history at TS, apparently under the handle “Tribeless“: who knew sprout wouldn’t take kindly to being compared to a mass murderer after giving repeated warnings about derailing posts? What an injustice! Five hours after the fact, Mark came up with a hilarious Stalin reference which he also felt the need to share.)
Also, I’m foul-mouthed! Fuck! Why the fuck did none of you shitwanks bloody well tell me?
Here’s the deep sexy analysis bit: Mark is a dude. A white dude. With white dudely privilege. So for his entire life, he’s been absorbing societal narratives which are pretty clear on the fact that his opinion should always count, his voice should always be heard, and when women have the audacity to talk, and retweet each other, he has every right to insert his 2 cents on a completely different topic.
And by doing so, he is of course being completely civil – because any behaviour on his part must be acceptable if it doesn’t actively involve physically attacking people with swords while screaming “fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck”.
White male privilege: I think Mark Hubbard haz it.
Recently, in two different spheres, I’ve seen the delightful little appropriation of social justice comments best summed up as:
But you keep saying gender and race shouldn’t matter, so you’re a hypocrite for promoting diversity!!!
The two spheres are the Labour Party reshuffle and sci fi/fantasy awards, just to cover the whole spectrum of my interests. And the people making these comments – who, honestly, I do try not to assume are white hetero cis-men – seem to think they’re very clever to point out this gaping hole in progressive/identity-politics arguments.
It’s bunkum, of course.
Yes, in the progressive utopia completely divorced from historical context, gender and race (and orientation and disability etc) wouldn’t necessarily be meaningful. They might not even be relevant. People simply may not care about the shade of your skin and simply not understand the concept of certain behaviours being categorised as “male” or “female”.
The two tiny problems with that are:
1. We don’t live in a progressive utopia
2. Even if we did, it would still have a historical context of racism, patriarchy, and general kyriarchal shittiness.
Now, I am kind of tempted to go on this big rant about that whole pesky historical context thing and how oppressed groups have actually been systematically denied the right to excel in many, many fields because of sexism and racism and so on and so on.
But there’s really no need.
Because the people whinging that “you SAID race and gender don’t matter!!!” only ever seem to bring this up under two circumstances: (a) when a line-up of [X] is entirely white hetero cis-dudes and someone points out that this isn’t representative; (b) when a line-up of [X] contains “too many” non-white non-hetero non-cis non-dudes, and people approve of it being more representative.
You’re arguing that race and gender (in these specific instances) shouldn’t matter … but you’re the ones fixated on race and gender when it threatens your privilege.
You insist that everything be (or IS) a meritocracy … when it supports your privilege. When you’re not the person at risk of being kicked out or ignored or unrewarded for your work because of your gender and/or race.
For some totally inexplicable reason, you don’t think gender and race matter when it means people like you dominate everything, but it does when you, for once in your entire existence, don’t get to be surrounded by faces and stories which reflect your life.
Shorter QoT? Your privilege is showing. And it’s kind of sad how suddenly you give a fuck about sexism and racism when it serves your personal interests and keeps women and people of colour down.
In my post on the gender pay gap and school performance – and the apparent disconnect between the two – I pondered thus:
Maybe it’s as callous as this: boys doing less well at school is a problem because it highlights, as Beppie shows, just how bad the gender gap in employment is. It shows categorically that men continuing to sit at the top table more and get paid the big bucks more is not down to superior performance nor training.
Well, I’m not alone in that thought. In an article on sexual discrimination in science, an anonymous author (and I have no quibbles with hir anonymity, because saying this kind of thing can randomly coincide with a downturn in one’s career) tells us:
In total, 127 faculty members were asked to rank the candidate in terms of competence, starting salary they would offer, willingness to mentor the candidate, and likeability. The only difference in the applications was the name of the student – 63 were from “John” and 64 were from “Jennifer”.
The results were stark. Jennifer was ranked less competent than John and was offered a median starting salary almost $4,000 lower than John. In addition, the faculty was less willing to mentor Jennifer, but, strangely, found her to be more likeable. All this from a piece of paper.
And when considering why these kind of results get rejected, our author considers:
Despite the fact that hard data is difficult to argue with, many scientists managed it. My own explanation for this reaction is that on a subconscious level, data like this support the implication that men in science didn’t necessarily get there on merit alone, but also because their female competitors were being discriminated against. That must be quite threatening and hence provoked a defensive response.
Again I emphasise that we’re not saying you’re lazy, menfolk. Just that, well … you could afford to be lazier than we could (assuming the Guardian article’s author is a woman.) You didn’t have to be as exceptional to get where you are.
That’s what privilege is all about.
I am now a fully-fledged author over at The Standard, largely thanks to my own
talents ego. I’ll be reposting my TS posts here at a slight delay, but don’t worry, you’ll still be getting a lot of the ranty stuff I don’t feel like challenging some of the lovely commenters over there with …
I originally wrote about this way back in February 2011, and though the political landscape has changed since then, the point still needs to be made: the Left, specifically Labour, cannot focus on a narrow pure economic set of arguments and expect to get majority support.
It’s the 21st century, people. The “identities” which have been traditionally used to demean, oppress, and sometimes enslave or kill people are real, because those people – women, people of colour, people with disabilities, the whole wide world of QUILTBAG – have been given no choice but to say “Yep, that’s what I am, now you have to deal with me.”
Old white dudes like John Ansell complain about how we should live in a “colour-blind” society, but that’s because for once, for the smallest period of time, and in a time when old white dudesstill pretty much rule the roost, people whose colour and origins have been used to keep them down aren’t staying down any more.
They – and many other historically shat-on groups – are demanding that we acknowledge the reality: some people have faced systematic, institutional oppression which has at the very least disadvantaged them and stopped them achieving their potential the way they could’ve if they’d been born … well, as old white dudes.
This has economic factors to it, sure – strangely enough, capitalist societies are really, really good at using economic pressure against people – but it’s not a pure old-school Labour ideal of The Workers vs. The Owners.
For Labour to survive, it has to embrace fairness. It’s certainly claiming to, at the moment, but it’s a narrow, nasty kind of fairness, a very John Ansell definition of fairness: fairness defined by old white dudes who don’t realise – who choose not to see – that comparatively they have it pretty damn good in life.
It’s the kind of fairness that gets twisted very easily into ignoring all that uncomfortable historic systematic oppression. Just like this: Why should a person who can paint his roof on a specific day get a handout from the government, just because our entire economy is based on people working flat-tack 40 hours a week if you’re lucky, just because employers aren’t willing to put up with the unpredictability and extra effort needed to hire someone with a chronic illness?
If you agree with this for no other reason, please consider this: as soon as you start using the principle of “fairness” to mean fairness for one group of people and not another, you’re being a dick and opening yourself up to attack from the Right – a group who have been far more successful at this game throughout history.
The Left needs to include feminism – and all the other movements for people’s basic human rights – because it should be about “fairness”. It should be about the many and varied ways in which capitalism controls us and screws us, not just our meal breaks.
Labour, specifically, needs a vision. A vision of all people being treated with dignity, all people’s situations being considered in compassionate and non-judgey ways, all people being supported and looked after by our society as a whole. A vision of a society whose members understand that we are all pulling together and we are all more successful when we help each other, even if sometimes this means that on the surface one person is “getting more” than another. To each according to their need, innit?
Remember, visions are like Excalibur. If you use them right, they pretty much make you the king.
So, after Anne Tolley in 2009 saying the government would make it really hard for schools’ National Standards data to be published in the form of league tables, today Stuff launched an entire new section of their site to … basically publish league tables.
(Oh no, John Hartevelt laments, they haven’t compiled league tables! They’ve just published all the raw data online so anyone with a modicum of Excel knowledge can easily sort the schools by their performance. It’s like publishing a list people’s salaries sorted alphabetically by surname then saying “Oh, we totally haven’t published a rich list, it’s not in order of salary!”)
And we have John Hartevelt to thank, people. He is our hero. Tirelessly combatting the bureaucracy and self-serving interests of those scum who dare call themselves “teachers”, he’s just reporting the facts and letting us decide. Take it away, John:
Many people told us not to publish the information you see on this site.
They fought to stop us. Some sent us bills for the privilege of their school’s data. Others buried the figures we asked for in complex matrices and pages of indecipherable bumph.
Many more gave up their school’s National Standards data with a grave note of caution about the reliability and usefulness of it. We have not been deterred by the criticisms and the cautions,
But some people aren’t so certain that National Standards data is, well, any use at all to anyone for anything:
Anyone who read the National Standards results as a proxy for quality would be quite foolish. …For starters, they are not moderated, so one school’s “well below” may be another’s “at” or “above”. There is just no way of knowing – yet – exactly how the standards have been applied across schools.
But even if they were moderated, the standards alone could not tell you everything about how a school is doing by its pupils. As many of the experts we canvassed for this project have noted, quality is most evident in what a school does to push its pupils up, not in how well they do at attracting the brainiest, most-privileged kids in the first place.
So why publish National Standards data at all?
Wait, no, that was also John Hartevelt, in the very next paragraph. Why indeed, John?
Well, let him tell us, people, it is not a business decision and they are not doing it to drum up pageviews, and mumble mumble something about Letting The People Decide.
Let the people decide what, John? You’ve acknowledged that the data is inconsistent across different schools. You’ve acknowledged that the data has no correlation to actual school quality, and cannot be used to draw meaningful conclusions about, well, anything.
What debate are we meant to have with rubbish data as its foundation?
It’s like they’ve launched a new Science And Evolution section based entirely on spreadsheets of the Biblical genealogy of King David. “Look, we know that this is only one source which doesn’t accurately reflect any kind of scientific consensus,” John would trumpet, “but we have a duty to the people, and we trust them to weigh up the non-existent facts and baseless statements.”
Does John Hartevelt understand why journalists exist? There’s a reason that the mainstream media is still holding on despite the rise of parasite bloggers like myself – because people do assume that journalists have done the background work, they do assume there’s some kind of accountability and adherence to basic facts, and you know what, John, they kind of think you get paid to sort through the bullshit for them.
If we all had the time and expertise to play around with statistical data you wouldn’t have a job, John.
So please, let’s stop kidding each other. This is all about drumming up baseless stories to run down our teachers and keep pretending that poverty doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter, that the gap between rich and poor is just about not being able to pre-order an iPhone 5, that Reading, Writing And Rithmetic is all you need to know because that’s what gets you a job.
And as a bonus, John Hartevelt gets to sell himself as our hero. Isn’t that nice?
Paul Young, who really, really has to see a video of women who agreed to be filmed under the condition men not look at them, thinks this whole Dowse thing is “the thin end of the wedge.”
I agree. Why, allow this 3-minute video to be shown off in a tiny blocked-off out-of-the-way of a public gallery, and what’s next? Five-minute videos? Ten?????? My god, they might extend it to an area larger than a toilet cubicle! It might not be tucked away behind the reception desk!
Seriously, though, watch the 3News video. Now when they’re talking about Paul and his mates “politely asking” to see something in the full knowledge it violates the wishes of the participants, who talks about “respectfully declining”? The gallery head does. Who brings up “maybe they’ll call in the police!!!!”? Paul Young does. Gee, which side do you think is trying to stir shit up? Which side do you think has a grandiose sense of entitlement?
If the Dowse Gallery is clever, they will have a handy power switch at reception which will stop the exhibit playing if any entitled wankers like Paul Young try to bully their way into an exhibition which does not affect them, does not impede them, does not harm them – except for the terrible damage done to their privilege.
Paul Young is hopeful they’ll “sway” the issue – i.e. the exhibit will be “canned” and no one will be allowed to see it. Because Muslim women’s ability to have private spaces and interactions outside the male gaze is that fucking threatening, apparently.
White male privilege: you haz it, Paul.
Part 1 of this post was published yesterday. Check it out, ’cause it’ll probably make this post make more sense.
3. A life lived in stress is a life half-lived
Let’s assume, for this section, that one completely rejects the notion of “reclaiming” or “subverting” patriarchal norms, that all sexiness is collaboration and all nail polish is Giving Aid And Comfort To The Enemy.
It is pretty fucking difficult spending all one’s time enraged at the strictures and oppressiveness of kyriarchy. It is pretty fucking stressful, at least for me and I have no doubt for others as well, to be constantly analysing my every thought and preference and decision against the context of social narratives.
Do I like these shoes just because patriarchy says I have to look pretty for men? Do I enjoy Game of Thrones just because I’m presented with no other options in terms of racist, sexist medieval fantasy tropes? (I’m going to come back to this shortly …) And let’s not even start on my sexual preferences.
I like a lot of things that are problematic. I dress in a way which is very patriarchy-approved, albeit in a fat body so I can’t really win there (I’m either wrong for daring to look conventionally-sexy while fat, or I’m wrong if I stop trying to l0ok conventionally sexy despite being fat). I enjoy medieval fantasy, the Saw films, corsetry, etc etc. I know these things are problematic, and I know that a lot of the reason I like these things is due to being raised in a white, Western, patriarchal society.
(There’s a hell of a lot of other contributing factors, but let’s not let the complexity of human existence get in the way of judging people now.)
But, and here’s where y’all can start selectively clipping quotes to back up your stereotypes of a “choice feminist”, I still like those things.
I still like those things despite being aware they’re problematic, despite knowing that a lot of my choice is not fully of my own free will. Because none of us are making choices of our own free will.
Put it this way: if you’re a radical feminist who hates society’s treatment of women as a sex class and never wears high heels? In a world where patriarchy completely desexualised women and demanded they be entirely unnoticeable, $5 says you’d be breaking out the mascara and fishnets.
Mascara is not, in of itself, patriarchal. Our ingrained responses to it are.
Here’s my main point: I choose to not fight against every single patriarchy-approved preference in my head. I choose to prioritise other things to spend my mental energy on.
I understand how my conforming choices can benefit me, can make my life easier, can allow me to pass under the radar in some aspects of my life.
I acknowledge that it’s utterly shitty that our society demands such choices of us and rewards us for going along.
But my mental energy is my own to spend. My stress is my own to decrease or increase. And if I choose a type of activism which isn’t about standing as a personal refutation of patriarchy, if I choose to balance up the number of areas where I will challenge my programming and decide that I can’t live a full and happy life worrying about every last little thing I do … that’s how I will survive. That’s how I will make the best fight I can of this, and achieve a hell of a lot more than if I worry myself into a death-spiral of self-criticism.
And you can fuck right off judging me for that. You can fuck right off dictating that I put stress and pressure on myself to conform to Real Feminist Approved non-conformity. It’s simultaneously tragic and fucking hilarious.
4. Guess what, conforming doesn’t make life easier
Because, and this might be a slightly off-the-wall idea, we live in a patriarchy. So as women, we’re already the lesser, the other, the object. (Extend to kyriarchy and other oppressed identities as necessary.)
So even if we pucker up and make up and dress up, we’ll still be at the bottom. Even if we’re given a modicum of influence/status (see every painfully poorly written article of the past year entitled something like Why I’m A Smart Enough Girl To Reject Silly Feminism And Love Men), there’s still no getting around the fact that we only hold influence/status by the grace of The Man. And that can be taken away with the merest flick of a Leaked Nude Photos magic wand.
Conforming does grease the rails. And for those of us who can conform (remember, the majority of women are never going to be equally considered sexy or attractive or permitted a little autonomy as the most privileged, white/cis/hetero class) things get a lot less stressful. Bully for us. It’s still patriarchy, it still dumps on all of us (though, yes, less so on some than others.)
Sure, choices aren’t feminist just because a woman chooses them. The act of choosing isn’t inherently feminist and isn’t distinct and exclusive of kyriarchal programming.
But. Hate the game, not the player. Kyriarchy/patriarchy puts us in these positions and gives us these non-choices and labels all our actions in line with its own priorities. And it’s pretty much just massively uncool to take a superior attitude and judge individual women who for all you know are navigating life as best they can in the face of massive pressures to conform.
Even when – no, especially when these “choices” aren’t just about lipstick and heels, when we’re talking about sex-selective abortion or surname-changing or participating in sex work, how fucking cruel do you have to be to tell a person, “you have to suck it up and take whatever violence or deprivation is going to be thrown at you, it’s your job to represent our entire struggle against [insert problem here] because choosing anything else is UnFeminist”?
Fight sexism. Fight discrimination. Fight the norms and standards and assumptions. Don’t fight the people who you’re presuming to defend, and try not to act too fucking smug about how much better you are than the rest of us.
Related reading: amandaw at FWD/Forward.