Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Labour leadership: Too many irrelevant judgements

1.  Why is it only the people who aren't straight white men who have a judgement based on something about their identity, something they can't change?

2.  To take the awful ones in order:

  • "Too gay" -  his sexuality is far from the only thing about Grant Robertson.  If this is a reference to the purported concern that New Zealand won't vote for someone who isn't openly heterosexual to be Prime Minister, then the problem is not that Grant is "too gay" but that NZ is too homophobic.  What does "too gay" even mean?  
  • "Too passed it" - nice to mix up the sexism and homophobia with a bit of ageism.  And shouldn't it be "past it"?
  • "Too many teeth" - because we all know that the most important thing about a woman is her appearance.  ARGH!  

3.  King, Ardern and Mallard have not even expressed any interest in running for the leadership.  Yet they get used to portray Labour as more divided than it actually is (which is, it seems, somewhat divided, but not so divided as to actually have 9 different candidates for leader)

4.  Why not Minnie Mouse? ;-)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Carnival time!

The 76th (yes that's right SEVENTY SIXTH!) Down Under Feminist Carnival is up at The Scarlett Woman.  Thanks to those who nominated posts from here, and to Scarlett Harris for collating it all and sharing it.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The secrets that we keep

Note:  Recently I've been watching Downton Abbey, and I'm up to Season 4.  I'm not going to put any spoilers in the post, but there may end up being some in comments, and I wanted to acknowledge upfront what's prompted me to write this.  Content warning for discussion of rape, consent, secret keeping.

As I've aged I've become privy to secrets I was oblivious to.  I discovered, to give but one example, that my family is riddled with adoption stories, some good some not so good.  Every adult in my parents' generation, on both sides of my family, has either adopted a child or had a child adopted, and in one case both.  I'm pretty sure that has all come out now, into the open, but I could well be wrong.  These are stories with their origins in the 1960s, mostly, and some of the people involved are unknown to me or have died, so I'll never know it all.  These aren't secrets anymore, and they were the unacknowledged realities of others, not me.

The difficulty I'm musing on is in relation to the secrets of other people, and how those of us who keep them are obligated, or not, to disclose them.

Take a situation where you're aware that someone is a sexual predator.  You're also aware that the person (or people) who you know they have attacked desperately don't want anyone else to know.  You can shun the predator, exclude them from the realms you control, even let them know that you know.  But without broader disclosure other people will be in danger, the predator is unlikely to realise the horrible error of their ways and seek help, the predator is unlikely to be held accountable, other victims you don't know about may feel isolated and at fault.  You end up keeping a secret for a friend, someone viciously attacked and feeling awful, but that advantages the predator, not least with continuing their heinous activity.

Then of course there is the lack of justice in this country (and most others from what I can see) for situations like this.  If I could put my hand on my heart and say please go to the police if you are raped, they will do a good job, then I would.  But I can't.  And so I can understand the decision of those who don't report, knowing how difficult it would be to do so, especially when the person who has attacked them is in their circle, their family, their workplace.

To disclose a secret that belongs to another robs them of agency, and in cases like the example I've given above, and many others, they have already had power stripped from them, and I don't want to contribute to repeating that experience, even in part.

Silence enables abuse to continue.  Yet speaking out is not without cost, not least for those who have already suffered.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Guestie: No Shame

By Terry Bellamak

Guest Post
It’s been a week since the MyDecision website launched. The response has been surprising and weird. The Dom asked lots of anti-abortion people for comment, though the site is not just about abortion. Most of those folks have tried to frame MyDecision as a ‘name and shame’ operation.

I find that mystifying. What exactly is shameful about having it generally known that you have taken a moral stance?

There are, however, a few possible reasons why a provider might actually feel defensive about ‘conscienciously objecting’.

First, it is impossible for a health care provider to tell a patient he or she will not provide a service on CO grounds without implying that the patient is morally inferior to the provider. That premise may have sounded reasonable back in 1977 when the law was passed, but in 2014 it’s just bizarre. Who thinks like that anymore?

Second, the way CO is applied here in New Zealand, the patient’s interest in getting care is sacrificed to the provider’s interest in leaving out the parts of their profession they find objectionable. Think about it. You make an appointment, ask for a service, the doctor tells you no. The doctor is not required to refer you to someone else, so you may have to start the process of finding a doctor and waiting for an appointment all over again, but you may be a few dollars poorer if you just paid for a consultation in which you received nothing of value. The doctor benefits but the patient pays the freight. How is that fair?

I would feel embarrassed if my exercise of conscience insulted and burdened my patients, so maybe CO health care providers feel that way too. If so, MyDecision can help. We have a page especially for providers who agree that ethical CO requires disclosure. Providers can put their names on the voluntary list, along with what services they do and do not provide. This list exists to support ethical CO providers who agree that the status quo is unfair.

Even providers who do not report themselves are not criticised. They are listed without comment. Patients need this information to avoid wasting their time and money on providers who won’t give them the services they need. I have yet to hear a convincing argument why patients should be kept in the dark about health care providers’ CO intentions.

The site’s ultimate purpose is consumer protection.

Some coverage so far:
Marlborough Express: Health Website Not 'Sinister'

Thursday, 21 August 2014

National party alleged rape culture

TW: Discussion of rape culture. Cross posted from my own blog.

In all the anger about the revelations in Nicky Hager’s book, I’ve seen massive discussions and posts about the SIS, Judith Collins’s toxic behaviour, and the various systems of corruption visible in the transcripts.
Mainstream media has been transfixed on Cameron Slater, Kim Dotcom, and the Key personalities involved (capitalisation and pun intended). There have been angry ripples through the left wing and feminist blogosphere, but I’ve been saddened to see that neither the mainstream media nor the right wing feminists picking up on this particular piece of revoltingness.

thanks to @boganetteNZ for the image

If we cast our minds back to the roast busters case where the entire nation was in an uproar (rightly so) because of the rape culture of our young people, Prime Minister John Key condemned the alleged actions of the Roast Busters gang as"extremely disturbing and disgusting behaviour".
"I guess, as a parent, I find the issue very disturbing and abhorrent really.”
"I mean, you are talking about youngsters who are at a very delicate age."
"These young guys should just growup,"

Just to clarify, a grown man knows that young people are vulnerable.
A grown man wants kids to “grow up” and presumably grow out of the toxic rape culture they seem to be embracing.
And what are some of the fully grown adult male supporters of the national party doing?
Deliberately getting young women drunk and pointing out “easy targets” for other National party supporters.
National party; these are your men, your party, your culture. This is your problem.
The fact that someone allegedly sent this email means that they feel so comfortable with the idea of what they are planning to do they were happy to write it down. Comfortable with seeing women as a faceless commodity. Comfortable with the idea that they have the right to compromise the sobriety of women, and deliberately pass “references” on to a group of men.
This comfort means that the rape culture is pervasive, it is normalised, and it is persistent.
Mainstream media, PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME how all of a sudden this rape culture isn’t news worthy? Explain to me how, once the perpetrators are adults, and affiliated with our leading political party – THIS ISNT NEWS??

Young Nats, please talk to your friends. Check in, ensure they are ok.
If you think you have been a target, please consider seeking help or support around this. At the bottom of this post are some resources you can use without having to report officially, if you aren’t ready to take that step yet.
A toxic rape culture isn’t a single individual.
At no point in this scenario are the targets to blame. They are at their own party event.
They are among people they look up to and need as mentors and leaders.
The idea that they are being used by these men and treated with such disrespect makes me feel sick.

Find a sexual support centre near you at the Rape prevention education website “get help” page.

Wellington rape crisis
(04) 801 8973
Email: support@wellingtonrapecrisis.org.nz

Auckland Sexual Abuse Help
PO Box 10345 Dominion Road
Crisis 24 hrs: 09 623 1700
Fax: 09 623 1296

Hamilton Rape and Sexual Abuse Healing Centre
PO Box 1560, Hamilton
Phone: 07 839 4433
Fax: 07 839 4422

Whangarei Rape Crisis
72 Robert St, PO Box 913, Whangarei
Phone: 09 438 6221
Fax: 09 548 6779

Sunday, 17 August 2014

My Decision. Kei a au te Whakataunga.

It’s been a long time in the making, but today marks the public launch of a new web project aimed at informing people about health care professionals who object to or refuse to provide reproductive health services, like contraception, abortion, non-directive and non-biased counselling, pharmacy products and so on.

Called My Decision/Kei a au te Whakataunga the site grew out of failed efforts to get the people who should be doing the job of keeping patients informed, such as the Medical Council of New Zealand, to do it. There’s a lot of background about the long road travelled on this issue here in Aotearoa New Zealand over at Alranz’s blog, but this is broader than abortion rights (and not an Alranz project, though they’re supporters. By way of probably obvious disclosure, I’m involved in this project).

Below, you’ll find the media release that went out this morning, and at the end of this post, a couple of interesting links to recent discussion about the issue of conscientious objection/refusal to treat/conscientious obstruction (supporters of reproductive justice are coming up with some interesting ways of describing whatever this is).

We hope people will spread the word across social media, networks, etc. There are some downloadable fliers on the site itself. And, of course, let the site know about providers who object.

My Decision. Kei a au te Whakataunga.


MEDIA RELEASE                                                    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
17 August 2014


A new grassroots project aimed at sharing information about doctors and other medical professionals who hinder reproductive health-care access because of moral or religious reasons is being launched today online.

Called My Decision/Kei a au te Whakataunga (www.mydecision.org.nz), the project invites people seeking services like contraception or abortion to report any experiences of hostile or unhelpful health professionals to the website.

But the site is not just for patients. My Decision spokesperson Terry Bellamak said organisers were also inviting doctors and others who “conscientiously object” to some services to list what options they do and do not offer.

“From the standpoint of consumer protection, it makes no sense to keep potential patients in the dark about their health care providers’ intentions. ‘Conscientious objectors’ who agree can demonstrate their good faith by registering on our site,” she said.

Ms. Bellamak said the project, which has been a year in the making, was sparked in part by the 2010 court judgment that expanded conscientious objection rights of doctors, and the Medical Council’s subsequent decision not to mount a challenge, nor to publish doctors’ conscientious objection status on their website.

Since then, there have been several worrying cases, including one in Blenheim last year, when a woman was denied contraception by a doctor who was reported as saying he didn't “want to interfere with the process of producing life".

“In the spirit of the old ‘Hot and Cold Doctor files’ compiled by women’s health activists in the 1970s, we decided we’d have to do this work ourselves,” Ms. Bellamak said.

Further Reading:

Conscience 'not always a force for good': women seeking contraception or abortion neednurses with 'conscientious commitment', rather than moral objection. by Rose Stewart, in the NZ Nurses’ Organisation Journal.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Remembering Robin Williams with Pride

Robin Williams died last night. There is nothing more final, more complete. But people around the world are sharing his stories, his jokes, and his characters. People will remember him for generations thanks to the work he chose to do, making people happy.
I want you all for a moment to step back from how he died, to how long he lived with his troubles. What those troubles are is irrelevant. We all have them, some of us are privileged enough that we don’t have them permanently. He carried that bag of troubles for his lifetime, and the fact it was a little shorter is irrelevant.
The length of that life doesn’t change the brilliance of it, or the bravery of sticking with it.
The manner in which he died should not minimise the joy that he spread all over the globe in his work.
And if we do one thing in his memory, it is to feel pride, empathy, and understanding that people who struggle with mental illness are the best and brightest this world sees. Their brains work in different ways, and their empathy is strong.

The easiest way I can describe it is that we are all light houses, alone, protecting our dangerous rocks. We shine light into each other’s lives and that is all that matters.
People with mental illness break the mold. Our mirrors are wonky, our lights are often brighter and sometimes more dull, but oh my goodness. With those wonky mirrors and sparkling lights, we can be seen for MILES.

So hold up your chins and remember Robin with a smile, because he is proof that mental illness changes nothing for the world around you, except that you shine differently. Those burdens are your own, but your friends will help you with them, just for the chance to be nearer to your light.
Rest in peace Robin, and don’t give up shining, any of you.



Places where they will help

Lifeline 0800 543 354

Depression NZ

Mental health NZ

National depression hotline 0800 111 757

Youthline 0800 376 633

Alcohol Hotline 0800 787 797

Outline 0800 802 437

Chinese Lifeline 0800 888 880

The lowdown Or text the lowdown team on 5626

Thursday, 7 August 2014

A Mighty Girl

Here's a great site I just discovered, thanks to a friend's post on Facebook:


Books, toys, clothing etc to encourage Mighty Girls everywhere.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The truth about women and men

Marianne Elliott is a former employee of the Human Rights Commission here, and the author of Zen Under Fire, about her time working for human rights in Afghanistan. Here's the remarkable and must-read guest post she has put up about what women encounter.

And to go with it, this outstanding post by Kelly Ellis about how shifting from "male" to "female" sharply revealed the reality of male privilege.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Pat Rosier and Who We Remember

Pat Rosier died on 12 June. She was many things to many people and won’t be forgotten by any of them. Her death, from a heart attack at age 72, was unexpected, and it prompted an outpouring from all those whose lives she touched: both personally and politically.
Pat, left, and Prue; and Pat's son, David with partner, Julia
And it’s for both personal and political reasons that her life is important to remember; her death important to record. The personal is best left to those who knew her intimately, particularly her partner of 17 years, Prue Hyman and her son, David. I contacted Prue, wondering if it was OK to write something for The Hand Mirror about Pat: “As far as I am concerned,” she replied, “the more people write and talk about Pat the better.” The first thing you should probably read is what Prue herself has written, in a tribute titled “Pat Rosier – Shalom” and which is online at the Kapiti Independent. That piece also includes lots of links, including to Pat’s own blog and to the video of the 300-strong celebration of Pat’s life, held at Paekakariki where Pat and Prue lived together.
As Prue writes, Pat’s early life was relatively conventional. Her dad was a railway clerk, and she grew up at a time when no one in a working class family, “let alone a girl”, went to university. She married, had two children and trained as primary teacher, which was her job from 1973 to 1985. Then, something happened. Pat found Simone de Beauvoir, the Women’s Liberation Movement, lesbianism – and reinvented herself.
Pat chronicled at least part of that reinvention in the 1991 collection, Changing Our Lives: Women Working in the Women’s Liberation Movement, 1970-1990 (eds Christine Dann & Maud Cahill, Bridget Williams Books). Her entry was a spare but powerful three pages composed entirely of bullet points. Here’s a selection with ellipses indicating where things are missing (with thanks to Bridget Williams Books, Prue and Christine Dann for permission):

In 1970 I was:
• twenty-eight years old
• trying hard to be a good wife and mother, and succeeding rather better at mother than wife
• sure that men were more interesting to talk to than women, who were stuck in domestic and kid stuff (apart from one or two good friends)
• bored, bored, bored, but not recognizing it
• back-combing my hair, shaving my legs, and making my own dresses

Pat, left, and Prue
By 1980 I had:
• discovered Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in a bookshop in Takapuna and read it with an increasing feeling that, for the first time, something made sense of my life
• bought an automatic washing-machine and a car
• realised that among women teachers I was considered opinionated and outspoken
• almost reached the end of my marriage
• noticed that there was something going on called a women’s movement and wondered how you got into it.

By 1990 I am:
• a radical lesbian feminist with both socialist and separatist tendencies
• co-editor of Broadsheet, New Zealand’s feminist magazine
• an experienced women’s studies tutor
• cynical about the media, the government and the state
• totally sick of everything to do with it being 1990, especially ‘celebrating’ a treaty that’s never been honoured
• hardly ever bored
• angry about phonecards, post office closures, user-pays education, and all the other exploitations of rampant capitalism
• more at ease with myself and my life than at any earlier time
• planning to become more outspoken and outrageous.”

It was in 1985 that Pat took over the editorship of Broadsheet magazine, getting the job after Sandra Coney stepped down, and holding it for the next six years. (She was also a co-founder of the Women’s Studies Association journal.)
Anyone wanting an understanding of the so-called “Second Wave” or “Women’s Liberation Movement” of the 70s and 80s would be well advised to spend some quality time with Broadsheet, which published its last issue in 1997 and is apparently in the queue to be digitised by the National Library. Even if you don’t have access to the magazine itself, Pat made sure there was another entry point. Been Around for Quite a While: Twenty Years of Writing from Broadsheet Magazine, (New Women’s Press, 1992) is a compilation of selected articles and brief history of the magazine’s first 20 years, edited and introduced by Pat.  
 Like the magazine it’s drawn from, the compilation is both uplifting and depressing. Uplifting for the impressive range and diversity and power of the writers and topics; depressing for how many of the issues are still with us. Or, as Pat put it in her introduction: “Few of the issues raised in Broadsheet have ‘gone away’ or in any way been resolved. New ones appear, and they all move in and out of the foreground.” Also in the intro, she chronicles some of the discussions, debates and phases, for want of a better word, that both Broadsheet and feminism went through, from abortion in the 70s (and still!), contraception, marriage
Sharon Alston's illustration of Pat's 1986 article 'Fighting Fat Phobia'
(and alternatives), child-rearing, equal pay, Māori women’s voices (and challenges to the WLM), lesbians (“with a ‘lesbian cover’ appearing in June 1973”), violence against women, rape in marriage, attacks on beneficiaries… and so it goes. In Broadsheet proper, Pat also wrote numerous feature articles, including in 1986 “Fighting Fat Phobia”, about “how hatred and fear of fat is used to control women”, and several in-depth pieces on reproductive technologies.
After leaving Broadsheet and Auckland in the 90s, Pat continued her activism and writing – turning to fiction, and eventually publishing four novels. (Details of her nine books are available here at her blog.) According to Prue, more publications are planned: “Her lesbian writing group is hoping to produce two posthumous volumes – the first their already planned group volume where they will attempt to use some of her partly written fifth novel (she and I were both convinced this would be the best – and the others were good). The second will be a book of her poetry – including some written for me and never yet published or seen by anyone else.”
Pat's 2004 novel
Those post-Broadsheet years were also marked by terrible sadness with the death in 1996 of Pat’s daughter Helen, then 32, from bronchial pneumonia. Prue quotes from something Pat wrote about this, the “saddest event in her life”:
“The death of a daughter changes my reality; everything after is different from what was before. The grief and pain are a blanket of fog for months and I welcome the fog, fear its ending. I grab and cling to the grief, the loss, the sadness — I cannot bear to lose that gnawing, grinding, consuming pain, for this is what I have of her; I must keep her always in my mind, my heart, be overwhelmed, or else she is fully lost to me… Time does go on. A year and more. The grief is just as intense, but smaller in size… I have a grief in me. My grief at the death of my daughter will not die, I will not ‘get over it’, it will not be ‘healed’ by time. She is in me for my forever, a forever I grasp fiercely, demanding joy.”

            I got to know Pat at a distance when she was editor of Broadsheet in Auckland and I was doing some writing for the magazine including a fairly short-lived “Our Woman in the House” column I wrote while working as a journalist in Wellington at the press gallery. I was insecure, she was supportive. More recently, she was just as supportive and helpful (and I was probably just as insecure) during the five years I was researching and writing my 2013 book on the abortion rights struggle, Fighting to Choose.
            Thinking about Pat these past few weeks also got me thinking about what an important role she played in the politics and culture of this country, and yet how invisible it probably is to those outside her circles. In turn, I began to wonder (yet again) how the WLM years will be remembered – or not remembered – given that we are starting to lose some of the women, like Pat, who were there.
I hope you will excuse the segue into a bit of research, but following these thoughts, I’ve started work on a longer piece about this question, (will, for example, our WLM/ “second wave” have to be “rediscovered” as the so-called first wave of feminism had to be?) and I’ve arranged a few interviews with older, middle, younger feminists. To that end, I would very much welcome any thoughts readers might have on these questions, just pop them into comments. (You can also email me directly at alisonmccull[at]gmail[dot]com)

More importantly, of course, do write about Pat. Reiterating Prue, the more people write and talk about Pat the better. (And for northern readers, a celebration of her life is planned for Auckland on Saturday August 30 at 1:30 pm . I will add location details to this post when they are available. Venue: Auckland Women's Centre, 4 Warnock Street, Grey Lynn.)
Kore rawa atu e wareware.
Above and below, flier for Pat's life celebration