Tagged: social justice

Stealing babies: your classist, ableist, racist trifecta

[Content note: pregnancy, nonconsensual medical treatment]

Chris Miller and Sarah Wilson have both done a fantastic job blogging on this story, so I thoroughly recommend reading what they have to say.

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.

[Daily Blog reposts] Marriage equality – and the next steps

This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 18 April 2013.

I’m typing this post up, just as Louisa Wall’s Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill has been made law by a 77-40-something vote.  (I may also have been drinking a liiiiiiiiiittle bit of cider.)

And I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I have to ask: what’s next?

Jami-Lee Ross made comments about our abortion laws in his speech – which is fantastic, because it says he doesn’t fear the word.  But he talked about it being decriminalized – and it isn’t, really.  Do we dare go there?

And as Steve Grey spelled out in his recent post here, there’s a lot m0re going on for queer/LGBT/QUILTBAG folk in NZ than just the right to marry.

Marriage equality means we’ve finally recognised in law that same-sex two-person relationships are equal to heterosexual two-person relationships.  But what about poly people?  What about genderqueer people who don’t want to be assigned to one of two categories?  And what about the continuing violence and oppression and consequent self-harm of our young queer people?

In Parliament tonight, MPs spoke about takataapui, about transgender people no longer being forced to divorce, about intersex people.  There’s a lot more issues out there, and being able to call yourself a bride (because contrary to popular fundy bigot belief, a lot of queer people do use words like wife and husband and bride and groom) is just one step on the path to really accepting allthe wonderful and diverse loving relationships that New Zealanders are involved in.

Tonight, I’m drinking celebratory cider.  Tomorrow, we need to take the next steps.


I highly recommend lprent’s post on the best speeches so far at The Standard, and would add Mojo Mathers’, which seriously made me cry.

We don’t get to be surprised

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.

Support Wellington Rape Crisis on 12 April

Wellington Rape Crisis is looking for collectors for their Annual Appeal.  Visit their Facebook page for more info.

Last year WRC faced having to reduce its hours of operation, even as its rate of contacts had nearly doubled.  Then, they had to rely on positive-media-attention-seeking bribe money from Hell Pizza to re-open their doors.

They provide an absolutely critical service which saves women’s lives and which in any truly just society would be securely government funded.

I’ll have a $20 in my pocket for 12 April.  I bloody well hope you do too.

A living wage: living with dignity edition

The concept of a living wage is one that just makes good sense to me.  A wage should be enough to live on, right?  Because it’s a wage?  Because what’s the point if it doesn’t?  Because … because we have to work to support ourselves and our families and if the wage isn’t enough to live on surely it makes no sense?

(As I ask these questions, my expression gets progressively more and more confused.  I assure you it’s very cute.)

But I realise I am not everyone, and so when a group of very knowledgeable people put together some estimates of what a “living wage” would really be (covered by Eddie here and Ben here), I go “sounds fair to me” and other people go, “But I could live on far less than that, these numbers are too high!!!”

What I’ve come to realise is that “living wage” means vastly different things to different people.

To some people, it means enough to tread water.  Enough to fulfil basic caloric requirements and pay for rent on the smallest place you can find (probably in Kawerau, or Gore, because if you claim you can’t afford rent and you live in Auckland, where all the jobs are, you’re just being demanding), wearing underwear from a $2 shop and using minimal power because you don’t need a television if you’re really struggling.

Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t yet seen a comment saying “but you don’t need to go out even once a month if you really can’t afford to!!!”  And I will thank you not to link me to it if you see it.

To me, there’s an unspoken “with dignity” that sits after “living”.  It means more than the bare bones, more than scraping by, more than just making ends meet.

It means being able to save, so you have a safety net when things go wrong.  It means not shifting from flat to flat when the landlord raises the rent, moving the kids from school to school, and certainly never having the temerity to aspire to home ownership.  It means having treats – a day at the zoo, a movie, a bottle of wine, opportunities to bond and socialise and enjoy the company of your family and other people.

It means being able to hold your head up at the school gate because your kid can have a new pair of shoes (which aren’t shitty plastic that’s going to hurt their feet) to wear to school.

Sure, the kid could wear jandals, and nobody’s going to die without a glass of $10 sav, and takeaways are going to kill us all … but seriously.  What complete sociopathic lack of empathy do you have if you can’t even allow that human beings deserve lives which include enjoyment and reassurance and dignity?

And if you really are a middle class bastard motivated purely by self-interest, you know what else letting people live with dignity means?

People not becoming totally disillusioned with our society.  People not doing everything they’re told they have to do, only to feel like they’re never going to get ahead.  People not turning into criminals, breaking into your home, stealing your shit, and burning your fucking house down because they have been browbeaten and shat on and starved and shuffled from low-paying temporary job to low-paying temporary job until they have fucking snapped and said “fuck it, why the fuck not go eat the rich?”

People don’t have bread and you’re sitting back saying “Let them NOT eat cake, cake’s a luxury item!” and you don’t expect this shit to bite you in the ass?

A living wage is a wage that lets people live with dignity.  Is that so much to fucking ask?

Time to help HELP

Following on from the funding shortfall at Wellington Rape Crisis, now it’s Auckland’s turn.

The HELP Foundation take 12,000 calls a year, and despite government promises to assist them … yep, they’re in trouble.  More info and account details to make a donation in this article – please note at this point the donation account is only open until 26 October.

On the cynical side of things, does anyone really think it’s coincidental that these two crises for organisations providing badly-needed services, in an area Good Decent People don’t like to talk about at the dinner table, have occurred so close together?  Take it away, NRT:

There’s an obvious pattern that emerges from these two incidents: the government doesn’t care about rape victims. These services cost a pittance, and yet there is no money for them. Why? Because unlike tax cuts, inflated CEO salaries, there’s no obvious benefit to rich white men like themselves.

Funding services for sexual assault victims also doesn’t fit the smile-and-wave idiom, nor provide a great opportunity to rark up people who think of themselves as “middle-class” about Not Getting Their Fair Share.

Can you imagine if our government – and that’s any government, not just the current one – treated sexual assault like benefit fraud?

Wellington Rape Crisis is okay – for now

Wellington Rape Crisis has managed to achieve its funding goal in just a week (yes, somewhat thanks to a bunch of sensationalist marketing wanks who fucked up and tried to buy their way out of it).  This means they can keep operating – for this financial year.

And that’s ignoring the fact that their return to “full” services is still only five days a week.  They can’t afford to be a 24/7 organisation.

So their problems aren’t over.  They need ongoing support, and since our government provides minimal financial aid – and does such a spectacular job of supporting sexual violence survivors themselves – that means we have to keep doing it.

Of course, this is the rightwing dream:  see, we all have our own money and we choose where to spend it!

Except Rape Crisis isn’t a bakery.  It’s not a car yard.  It provides a very necessary service to people in need, and its survival shouldn’t be premised on its appeal or urgent pleas for aid when things get too tight.

More from Luddite Journo.

Wellington Rape Crisis needs your help

As of Monday, Wellington Rape Crisis has had to cut its services to sexual assault victims from 5 days a week to 4.

They need $55,000 by 1 April or they can’t keep operating.

Our government does as little as it possibly can for survivors of sexual assault.  We shouldn’t need organisations like Wellington Rape Crisis filling a much-needed gap, but they do.  Between 2011 and 2012 their client contacts have nearly doubled and now they can only provide their incredibly-needed help from Monday to Thursday each week.

As the PSA says, they need more than cake stalls.

You can donate to Rape Crisis through their Fundy page and learn more on their Facebook page.

Please help Wellington Rape Crisis.

My single cynical thought on this whole thing is that maybe if the Salvation Army weren’t a bunch of preachy, charity-hogging thugs, Rape Crisis might be in a better financial position.

The War on Gay Teens addendum: and us liberal bastards too

Because my last post on the matter was getting a little verbose, I wanted to take some extra time to address those closer to home.

There’s a lot, in the Rolling Stone article, about the teachers who, in fear for their jobs and livelihoods and reputations, went along with the stupid, contemptible, evil “No Homo Promo” (vom) policy in schools.  A policy which was, in all likelihood deliberately, not explained (because once you explain things, you create loopholes, and we can’t have that.)  Which led to gay teachers staying in the closet, English classes avoiding gay authors or books dealing with anything vaguely challenging to the heteronormative order, senior teachers ignoring homophobic bullying.

I can sympathize, to an extent.  A lot less so on that last point, because even if you can’t say “don’t call other kids that word” (seriously) you at least have to hope that the fundy fuckers will have difficulty spinning “stop punching that kid” as a “promotion” of the “gay lifestyle”.

But then again, maybe they won’t.

Because (and let’s remember this article was specific to a small region of the USA, so we can always hope things ain’t so bad in fluffy-bunny New Zealand) maybe those fundies have found themselves in a position to scream “satanism” or “corruption” or “immorality” at anything that takes their fancy, because good ol’ liberals have refrained from calling that shit out.

Because somehow a bizarre bit of “logic” has become received wisdom:  we can’t call out the fundies on their shit, because saying “I personally don’t believe Jesus was all about condemning men/women to hell for loving the cock/the vag” will somehow, magically, mean we look anti-morals.  We look anti-religion.  We look like … we’re okay with gay people.

How the fuck did anyone come to believe that bit of bullshit?

But hey, we see it all the time.  Phil Goff has to attend Family First’s annual judge-in and has to pick his words carefully when asked about people’s basic human rights, because oh, we’ve got to show we’re open-minded and willing to listen to everyone.  Barack Obama has to continually let the Republicans force anti-Planned Parenthood, anti-reproductive freedom amendments through at every opportunity, because oh, we have to be bi-partisan and find common ground.  I have to stop criticising Working for Families and subliminal bludger rhetoric coming from the Leader of the Opposition because oh, the alternative is so much worse.

There is no common ground with people who, as I subtly hinted in my last post, are evil fucking liars.  There is no fucking point to pursuing magical consensus-building bi-partisanship with people who continually screw whatever concessions they can from you and don’t actually give anything back in return.

And we have to stop pretending that getting kicked in the teeth and letting people’s basic self-determination slip away because gods forbid we say something mean, the media won’t like it! is any kind of “progressive” “social justice” “humanitarian” move.  We have to demand better of liberal politicians, better of the people who claim to stand for the underdog, the less-privileged, the marginalized.

We’re liberals, people.  The media is owned by Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner.  They’ll hate us no matter what we do (and our state-owned television will follow them down the ratings-driven-by-pointless-drama rabbithole).  So if we’re condemned to go down, can we at the very least go down fighting and take some of those wankers with us?

On the front lines of the NZ abortion rights struggle

La Ranita has a post up at the ALRANZ blog about her attendance at the Supreme Court hearing on the Right to File Ownership Papers On Your Uterus case against the Abortion Supervisory Committee.  On the basis of her report, I have to be optimistic – RTL’s lawyer sounds like a complete numpty.

Again, things kept coming back to how the ASC can be assessing certifying consultants’ performance without second-guessing their clinical judgement in each case. RTL argue that certifying consultants are “gatekeepers” and need to be honest. While clinical decisions are theirs to make, the ASC can review them (again, how this can be done without second-guessing the clinical decision was never made clear. And round and round we go, for a couple of hours…)

This decision has the potential to severely fuck with pregnant people’s access to abortion in NZ.

There’s a nasty little part of me, backed up by my own economic and social privilege, which can see the silver lining of such a decision, though – because right now, far too many people, including people who probably think of themselves as middle-of-the-road but are actually prochoice once you strip out the Family First spin on issues like parental notification or waiting periods, don’t think there’s a problem with our laws.

Because they never come up against them, never have to try to find two, let alone one, certifying consultant to sign off on their right to control their own fertility.  They never have to deal with having to travel cross-country to get their procedure certified, and then performed, maybe having to take time off work or find childcare – because they probably also don’t think about people who are already parents wanting, or needing, to have abortions.

Part of me really feels we need some horrible, ghastly, heartrending catalyst to actually make so-called progressives sit the hell up and realise that there’s a problem.

But you know, I will happily settle for Right to Tell You What To Do getting their sanctimonious butts handed to them so organisations like ALRANZ can get on with changing mainstream attitudes and getting our politicians to realise that the vocal religious minority who get their thrills screwing over peopel with uteri aren’t actually any kind of major voting bloc.  Hence the whole, “Conservative Party aren’t in Parliament” thing.