Sunday, 26 March 2017

Feminist Parenting Forum - AKL, Tues 28th Mar

What:  Feminist Parenting Forum

Who:  Put on by the Auckland Women's Centre, featuring a stellar panel of Emily Writes, Tania Pouwhare and Sisilia Eteuati, all welcome

When:  Tuesday 28th March, doors open at 6.30pm for 7pm start

Where:  Mt Eden War Memorial Hall, 487 Dominion Rd, Balmoral, easy to get to on the 267 or 258 bus routes from the city or the southern isthmus, also the Outer (Orange) Link and cross-town services along Balmoral Rd.  Some parking behind the building too.  

How:  Tickets are on a sliding scale from $0 to $20 based on what you can afford.  Payments can be made in advance to the AWC bank account "Auckland Women’s Centre Incorporated" 12 3012 0782605 00 Reference: your name, forum.  Cash accepted on the night too, sorry no eftpos.  Email to register.

Facebook event here.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Roastbuster Lottery

The clamour for consent education in high schools is growing post the Wellington College rape comments, from journalists to petitions to sexual violence prevention groups to hundreds of secondary school students marching on parliament.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says no, we can leave it to parents, in a line borrowed straight from Family First.  As with other FF stances, this makes little sense.  Since our best information says nearly two thirds of child sexual abuse survivors experience that abuse from a family member, and for one in six that's a parent or a step-parent, "leaving it" to parents really doesn't seem like a safe idea. 

It's a daft idea for another reason too.  For a government that claims it's interested in evidence driving practice, Minister Parata's comments are even more embarrassing.  Because consent education in high schools is the best tool we have to reducing the perpetration of sexual violence.  And that's not a community group I have linked to, it's the ACC information page about the healthy relationships programme, Mates & Dates, developed for high schools in response to Roastbusters.

There are really two issues at play here.  The first is about what good practice consent education looks like.  And there's stacks of evidence about that, fortunately. 

It doesn't look like one-off sessions in assembly, no matter how inspirational your speaker might be.  In fact, it doesn't look like one-off sessions at all.  It doesn't look like telling young people how horrible rape is, or about legal penalties, or telling them to wait to have sex.  It doesn't look like raising awareness of sexual violence.

Consent education which works looks like skills-based activities which allow students to build on the consent skills they already have, and practice them in multiple non-sexual situations.  It looks like enough dosage - 5 weeks - of sessions, happening weekly, over each of the five years of secondary school, so students can integrate the content and bring it to life in their worlds.  It looks like trained facilitators who know their stuff and can manage young people disclosing abuse, because some will.  It looks like a whole school approach which supports the sessions and becomes safer for all students.

That's just the set up.  In terms of the content, it's vital consent education teach analytical skills for young people to analyse gender roles and expectations around sex.  It needs to look at peer pressure, alcohol, the media, music.  It needs to reinforce that consent is about seeking explicit enthusiasm as well as knowing what you want.  It needs to be strengths-based, because that's how people learn, and open to diverse sexualities and genders, because that's how we have relationships.  It needs to be adaptable enough to recognise and be able to tease out and respect different cultural beliefs around relationships and sex.  And it needs to teach bystanding skills - how to intervene to help your friends or others stay safe - to undermine rape culture.

The five sessions of Mates & Dates for each year group cover healthy relationships; skills and consent; identity, gender and sexuality; when things go wrong; and keeping safe together.  They have been designed with the evidence in mind, and they fit into the Health Curriculum but can be taught in any block of sessions schools make available.

So we have a programme which meets the evidence and is available for high schools right now.

Then there's the second issue.  Is the slavish devotion to schools making their own decisions about this wise, or are we literally creating a rape lottery?  Minister Parata is unwilling to make sure every student in New Zealand has access to programmes which reduce both the likelihood of experiencing and perpetrating sexual and dating violence.

How is this responsible governance?  New Zealand has the highest rates of partner and sexual violence for women in OECD countries.  The "cost" of family and sexual violence is estimated by government - and this is based on reported figures - to conservatively reach $6 billion every year.  The figures I'm quoting come from a Cabinet Paper, not an advocacy group for survivors, and they miss out the high rates of sexual and partner violence reported in Rainbow communities, and the one in ten boys who report unwanted sexual contact in high school. 

If we could change this, why wouldn't we?  Secondary school students want help to dismantle rape culture, and they want consent education.  The protests last week showed that, and so did the focus groups around the country that ACC ran in creating Mates & Dates.  We have a problem with rates of violence, and it's costing enormous amounts of resources - not only for the state, but for individual survivors, their relationships, families and communities.  We have one part of the solution, and it's even sitting in a box ready to go.

This should be an election issue, because every single party in New Zealand should want to prioritise their spending on sexual and family violence to make sure it doesn't happen in the first place.  That's what consent education is, done right.  Step up, politicians, listen to what people want and make sure schools become the safe places they should be for all students, not Roastbusters.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Abortion, again

A few things it may help to understand, from my personal observations of being very anti-abortion until I was about 16, then increasingly pro-choice to the point where now I have badges and everything.

Embryo/fetus = baby?
Those who oppose access to abortion for other pregnant people, not just for themselves, often genuinely do see the embryo/fetus as equivalent to a newborn baby.  Science says it's not, and therefore it becomes a moral issue that should be up to the individual pregnant person.  There is heaps and heaps and heaps of science on this, seriously.  I'm not going to link it all, here's just one from New Scientist showing that the neural connections to feel pain are simply not there at 24 weeks gestation.*   

From my personal experience of a miscarriage at six weeks I know that what I lost was not a baby equivalent.  From my personal experience of ultrasounds through three other pregnancies I know that what I was pregnant with at 20 weeks was also not a baby equivalent.  From my personal experience of having three live babies I did not feel like what I carried was a baby equivalent until they were being born.  That's just my experience of course, which informs my decisions and actions and should not necessarily inform yours or anyone else's - which by the way further underlines my determination that the pregnant person gets to decide, not anyone else.

The importance of "innocence" 
There is a view of human adults that is common I've found amongst those opposed to abortion which assumes adults are not "innocent".  I was raised kind of Catholic, I went to a Catholic school for about 6 years, and I'm familiar with the concept of sin, particularly as they apply to women.  There are a number of ideas that go along with this - periods as punishment for women as a result of Eve's apple trick, the idea that menstruation is "dirty" in fact significantly dirtier than urinating or defacating and that those who are menstruating are also dirty, and some really screwed up ideas about sex as sin.  The view is that we are constantly corrupted from birth onwards, at some point, probably in our late teens, reaching a tipping point, as exhibited by the white (pure) coffins for children versus darker colour coffins for adults that are common in Christian-influenced cultures.

The unhelpful construction of Sex as Sin
The sex as sin stuff is particularly awful in my opinion, breeding a lot of the terrible attitudes we have about consent, body image, toxic masculinity and unhealthy attitudes to girls and women.  Sex is considered for reproduction only, which always makes me wonder if those opposed to abortion on that basis have sex during pregnancy or after menopause or if infertile (but I would never ask).  Sex for any other purpose, such as pair-bonding, pleasure, physical release, would be sinful.  Do you know who has pretty much certainly had sex?  Pregnant people that's who.  Can we be sure it was for procreational purposes?  Probably not** if they are seeking an abortion.  Sinners!

Innocent versus sinner - choose a winner!
By virtue of being unborn, an embryo or fetus is absolutely clean of sin, ie a total and perfect innocent.  So in a contest of bodily autonomy rights between a baby equivalent that is totally without sin and a pregnant person who probably sinned just getting pregnant, let alone all those others times, guess who wins?  A baby is always a Good Thing, an adult human, particularly a woman, not so much.

A lot of people however don't consider sex sinful, do think it's a good idea that every child is a wanted one, and are a bit iffy about the idea of forced pregnancy.  I tend to think that the pregnant person is a full human here and now, and is the best placed person to choose whether or not to continue that pregnancy, to become a parent or expand their family.  Whatever reason they choose to go ahead or not is a) enough and b) not my business.  

God has a Reason?
There's also a theme that comes across sometimes in anti-abortion missives, that we shouldn't second guess God.  If God wants you to be pregnant then there's a Reason and that should be respected and you should go through with it regardless.  God Moves in Mysterious Ways is not just a weird cover of a U2 song.  What if the embryo or foetus aborted was going to grow up to cure cancer?  (Never to undertake genocide or be a serial rapist, mind).  

This is how sometimes people who even oppose abortion on the grounds of rape or incest position themselves - a baby is always a Good Thing, therefore a baby coming out of the terrible thing that happened is God's way of making it right.***  Other people might think it would be traumatic to know that you are a parent to your rapist's child, of course, let alone have to deal with the sometimes awful experience of pregnancy, any physical resemblance the child might develop, an ongoing relationship with the rapist as the other parent, and so on.  

Surgery is gross
The ickiness of surgical abortion grosses people out. As too would pregnancy and childbirth (c section or otherwise) if they stopped to think about it much.  See also: Stomach stapling, brain surgery, removal of teeth that have roots that have grown around the jawbone (that one made you wince didn't it).  A lot of surgery is gross to non-medical people, and can be quite violent too.  It's one of the reasons they put us under anaesthesia, sedate us, put up a screen between the patient and the area being operated on, during surgery.  I had to have a version prior to the birth of my first child, to try to turn him in the womb, and it was a full on muscular attempt and that didn't even have any blood involved.  The pulling and pushing that happens to your body with a caesarean is intense, despite an epidural.  Surgical abortions are not unique in their grossness BUT the gross details of terminations have been deliberately and widely publicised by those opposed to abortion to up the ickiness factor.  

Add surgery is gross to innocent baby versus sinful wanton woman and you see where this is going.

The cruel twist here is that medical abortions are relatively non-icky.  They are not too dissimilar from a heavy period in most cases.  Yet NZ's abortion law and the stigma attached to abortion means that every year hundreds of terminations that could have been medical have to be surgical because of deliberate delays built in to the system to deny the pregnant person the right to choose.

At the heart of it all
It's distrust of women, innit?****   It's a failure to understand that women are full moral adults, just like men thank you very much.  And thinking women aren't equal well there's a name for that (Spoiler alert: it's sexism).  Here's a particularly egregious example of how this plays out in real life, from 2014 on Dominion Rd in Auckland. 

Often when I've asked people who are squirmy about abortion and consider the current law an acceptable compromise*****  they come down to an argument that they want the pregnant person to be really sure because it is such a big decision.  Yet similar legally enforced overbearing rigor is not routinely required for other big decisions like becoming a parent, having another child, picking a career, getting hitched, or buying an apartment in a 1990s Auckland building with monolithic cladding.  

If not the pregnant person, who else is in a better place to make a decision on whether to continue a pregnancy or not?  No one.  Seriously, no one.  NO ONE.  

The answer is so simple.  If you are opposed to abortion don't have one.  You don't get to make decisions with other people's bodies, and the law shouldn't enshrine that you can.

*  Terrifyingly I had to go down to the fourth unpaid Google hit for this - the first two unpaid were anti-abortion sites lying about the science.  The third was this possibly helpful (haven't had time to read the whole thing) factcheck article.**  Of course there are many people who need an abortion because a wanted pregnancy has become non-viable, which is awful and tragic and doesn't need someone standing outside a clinic with a judgemental sign for those going through that to feel bad.***  The other position sometimes held simultaneously is that women will just lie and say they were raped to get abortions just because they don't want to have a baby right now, which is FUN FACT why the NZ law does not include rape as a ground but only as a consideration, because back in 1977 they thought women would lie about rape to get abortions.  Oh the irony.**** And not just women, because anyone else who is able to get pregnant must have their judgement impaired by that pesky uterus too I guess. 
***** Which it is not, it was considered a victory against abortion even in 1977

No comments, I don't do comments anymore.  I'm easy to find on Twitter @juliefairey if you are so inclined.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Bystander Boys at Wellington College

Wellington College hit the media yesterday in ways their leadership team will not be enjoying - two of their boys were posting comments encouraging rape in a Facebook group.

The similarities to Roastbusters won't be lost on anyone, but the issue of rape culture is far more common than the handful of schools who make headlines.

We have the unravelling of rape culture though folks, right here in front of us.  Two Wellington College boys brag about raping drunk girls - and other boys on the page report it, immediately.

People acting as ethical bystanders - intervening to disrupt norms which support sexual violence - is the best evidence base we have for changing rape culture.  That's exactly what the boys who reported this did, and I want to congratulate them, whole-heartedly, for the bravery in stepping forward and making it their business.

After Roastbusters, I asked a question about how we grew boys. Growing consent, making sure all genders know how to seek and check in with sexual partners in an ongoing way during all sexual encounters, plays an enormous role in shifting norms which make sexual violence possible.  But addressing the social norms which undermine consent in more collective ways, from speaking back to jokes about rape to challenging sexist language about girls to standing up to transphobic victim blaming to stepping in if you see an unsafe situation - all of these things are critically important too.

Rape culture isn't just about the individual decisions you make in your bedroom, or anywhere else you like to be sexual.  It's about the collective norms we allow around us, at morning tea at work, in the sports stadium, at the pub - or on the Facebook site where your mates are bragging about sexual stuff that's not okay.

We need to push for universal consent education in all our high schools - evidence based, comprehensive, multi-year, taught by experts who address gender norms and teach bystanding skills.  Quality high school consent education is the best evidence we have that we can change the rape culture and reduce sexual violence perpetration.  Just before Roastbusters, an evaluation of existing school programmes in New Zealand could not give any a pass mark.  This and Roastbusters was the impetus for ACC creating a high school healthy relationships programme.  Mates & Dates - full disclosure, I was one of the authors - is running now, but it is currently not compulsory.  Schools get to "opt-in" around consent education, and they often don't know which programmes are "good".

If we are serious about unraveling rape culture, it might be time to insist on compulsory, evidence based consent education in every high school.

But for today, I will be celebrating those Wellington College boys.  The ones who stood up to their mates, and stopped them bragging about rape.   We need more boys like them.  We need more people like them.  What will you do to stand up against rape culture?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Rage post about the gender pay gap: warning contains ALL CAPS

So there's new local research out today that the gender pay gap is a) real and b) primarily due to conscious and unconscious bias.

Firstly YES.

And also: it is good to have this in the public arena and being discussed, and for the Minister for Women to accept the findings as opposed to going "but we really need more research to be sure".   It is a victory for all those good folks who have been fighting to get this issue looked at on the facts, for many years now.

Because it is undeniable, it really is, that there is a gender pay gap.  There has always been a gender pay gap.  It was a little smaller a few years ago (went down to 11%, now back up to 12%) but it has ALWAYS BEEN THERE.

And yet people have sought to deny it, explain it away, it's because women want to be paid less, take time out for children, aren't as qualified as men, don't need as much income because the man of the house is the breadwinner.  WRONG.

And we knew these dismissals were wrong.  Lots and lots of us.  Not just from lived experience or from observing others around us but from the other many ways that workplaces, and society, treats women as less than men apart from pay, and from statistics, and from court cases and union agitation.  WE KNEW THIS ALREADY.

A little digression about "conscious and unconscious bias".  Can we please just call it what it is?  SEXISM.  That's what you call it when people are intentionally or unintentionally discriminating against women, individually or collectively, because they are women.  It's sexism, it's always been sexism - even the other explanations (now proven to have had only a small impact) like time out for childcare, taking jobs with lower responsibilities, not asking for promotion or pay increases blah blah blah all have a basis in sexism.

So how do we stop sexism, vis a vis the gender pay gap?  Apparently we need to raise awareness.

This is the point at which I start to get a certain song from That Bloody Woman (NSFW lyrics) stuck in my head.


Yes, it probably will help, and it will give the many many organisations that ALREADY KNEW THIS new strength to push for implementation actual practical measures that will close the gap and treat workers fairly.

But excuse me for a moment while I rage inwardly against the people who only now see the truth that was there the whole time, and pledge to eliminate this Awful New Injustice They Had Never Heard Of Before Today.

I heard someone on the radio saying there is a strong business case to pay women fairly.  Of course there is, there always was.  Just as there are strong economic arguments to support the Living Wage, paying teachers more, showing that cleaners bring more value to society than hedge fund managers.


Because businesses who get to pay lower wages save money in the short term.  Anyone who has ever worked in the union movement or a strongly unionised workplace will be able to tell you this -  for too many in management and above keeping the quarterlywage bill low is seen as essential, even when it undermines longer term benefits like staff retention, and increased productivity.

The tyranny of a corporate approach (in government too) that demands the lowest possible wage bill, and the lowest possible number of staff, will continue unless we ACTUALLY MAKE IT STOP.

That means legislation folks, not just raising awareness.  LAW CHANGES, sweet sweet law changes that make it necessary to STOP paying people less based on irrelevancies like gender identity and race.

We've asked nicely for pay equity for many years.  We've even asked assertively and with facts, like men do (eye roll).


I don't do comments anymore.  You can find me on Twitter or FB under juliefairey.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Clickbait hate and feminism which makes us proud

Feminism that includes trans women - and indeed trans and non-binary gender people all across the spectrum - is not a "nice to have".  It's not just a matter of having a jolly conversation about whether pussy hats exclude women without vaginas, clitorises and vulvas. 

Getting that stuff right matters, if we're serious about our feminism tackling power around gender.

But actually, this last week should have reminded cis people in Aotearoa that feminism that includes trans people is vital.

Look here quickly, if you have the stomach, at Rosemary McLeod, who says she doesn't like being intimate with strangers in relation to public toilets.  She calls a girl "the transgender".  Really?  Quick tip, Rosemary, not a good look when you're aiming not to look like a bigot.

Rosemary also tells us a story about a man watching women going to the toilet.  Which is horrible, gendered violence is real and disgusting.  But this violence has nothing to do with trans women, and including this little anecdote in this particular "opinion" piece is code for nothing more than transphobia.  Because trans women are not men, and there's zero evidence, anywhere, that trans women are going to the bathroom to hassle other women.

So here's some steps for Rosemary to consider:
  1. Fight against gendered violence by fighting against rape culture and other ways victims are blamed for sexual harassment and other kinds of sexualised violence.  This will mean not blaming trans people for transphobic attacks against them.
  2. If intimacy in toilets bugs you, don't use public ones.
  3. Stop misgendering trans women.  It's disgusting.  The high rates of violence towards trans people are enabled by these cultural attitudes (see point one). 
Much as the continuing transphobia of Rosemary McLeod is troubling, what's maybe more troubling is the "mainstream" media in Aotearoa continuing to publish such bigoted nonsense.  Traditional news outlets seem to be seeing gender diversity as a clickbait opportunity, where the more bigoted their coverage is, the better.

Contrast NZ Herald covering Laurel Hubbard being selected for the NZ weightlifting team with the coverage over at Newshub.   The Herald article includes comments about the "huge advantages" Ms Hubbard has, as a trans woman, over her competitors.  This is farcical - Ms Hubbard has jumped through all the hoops necessary.  The mounting evidence about hormones and sports performance shows what most people intuitively know anyway - that there is far more overlap than binary difference across genders when it comes to athletic performance, and some of this is about hormones and more is about other factors.  I am prepared to say that I can hit a cricket ball better than most men I meet, because I spent years practicing.  Some of this is old-fashioned sexism - boys are better - some is bad science
It's not even clear whether natural testosterone boosts performance to the same degree that synthetic testosterone does. Holt, the UK-based endocrinologist, told the Court of Arbitration for Sport that "the current state of evidence regarding testosterone's effects on athletic performance is 'rudimentary.'" He said natural testosterone may affect a person's lean body mass, but other things do, too, like high levels of human growth hormone in the body. What's more, he says, plenty of other physical traits give advantages to athletes, and those aren't regulated like testosterone is. Some basketball players are blessed with height, for example, while some swimmers are born with higher lung capacity and large hands and feet.
And most is transphobia, because trans women are not boys.

But the Newshub article is interesting - because it's just factual:
She says it's gone down about as well as can be expected - and while people have voiced concerns, most are supportive once they understand the protocols the organisation must follow.
Ms Pilkington says Laurel Hubbard meets all the criteria to compete as a woman.
Reporting on gender is becoming a place where there are some disappointing and predictable generational issues.  Newer media gets it, understands that in New Zealand one young person in every secondary school class identifies now as trans or unsure of their gender.  Knows that gender diversity is real, an ordinary spectrum of human behaviours that has been restrictively shackled by gender norms feminists railed against and young people are leapfrogging over.

Mainstream media - the Herald and others - are still using trans issues as clickbait.  Still aligning themselves with conservative forces of hate, despite this being just bad reporting in terms of evidence, to say nothing of socially irresponsible and ethically bankrupt.  This is yet another death-knell for them frankly, because newer media are just doing it better.

So folks, in an explosive week of an explosive month of an explosive year of an explosive decade in terms of trans rights, let's make sure feminism is on the side we can be proud of.  When it comes to the pussy hats, let's stop using genitals as shorthand for gender.  Most of us don't believe in this as feminism.  The defensive mantras "this is just fun, stop taking it so seriously, it's not transphobic" reminds me of nothing more than the ways some men react to being called out on sexual harassment.

It's a bit of a laugh, right?  Why are you getting so bothered?  Because it matters, our feminism matters, in a world so consistently treating trans identities and lives with such little respect.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

A crack in the wall

I've been on a lot of marches, organised a few too.  I used to get very affected by the crowd feeling, overwhelmed, which isn't a problem when it's happy but was harder when it was angry or even negative.  I've built a wall (yes, a wall) now that I'm a parent that means I don't react as once I did, especially when my children are around.  I push it all away behind the wall, muttering "later, later", but Later rarely comes.

Today Later came a little for me, after the Auckland Women's March, when I came across a sexist arse in Aotea Square.  It was the Mansplainiest of Mansplaining.  A man with a megaphone yelling at those leaving the march, mostly women, about how good women have it, and how wrong we all are.

Because the problem isn't the disproportionate impact of poverty on women and other marginalised groups, or the over the odds rate of incarceration for indigenous people in colonised countries world-wide, or the economic inequality and injustice that in our own city manifests in people begging on the streets and children (usually with their mothers) living in cars.  The problem isn't the greed of some, the complicity of others, the oppression that is sexism, racism, discrimination on the basis of sexual identity, body parts at birth, income level, skin colour,religion, and the downright meanness of many.  No the problem is that women are stupid.

The problem is not that women are stupid.

At first I felt not much, as I had on the march - intellectually pleased by the turnout and seeing friends and family, proud of my kids with the signs they made, assessing in the back of my mind how this was playing out as a protest given my own experiences.  I was ok to walk on by, and to then feel bad about doing that because I knew I probably shouldn't.

But then this chap was just so earnest, and so misrepresented feminism and the issues and the arguments, and maybe I've been listening to the soundtrack of That Bloody Women too much lately but I yelled at him.  And then I went closer to him and yelled at him some more.*

I was shaking with anger and knew I needed to walk away.  A few bystanders clapped as I went back to the stroller and someone else yelled at him too.  He kept going, certain in his righteousness, with his red capped mates no doubt pleased he'd got a reaction.

I've seen this before, this supreme arrogance, and it has always got under my skin.  I'm reasonably articulate, it's been a large part of my jobs for years, but I can never find the words to move people like this one.  Not in the moment anyway.  Maybe he'll read this and maybe it'll have an impact but I sincerely doubt it.

Because whenever I've seen this before I've also seen in their eyes the dismissal of whatever I say.  Which, when you've lived a bit longer and had a few things happen to you and people you love, becomes what we used to call on the feminist blogs a few years back "denial of lived experience".

It's a dismissal, a denial, a calling untrue, of what has actually happened to you in your life, what you have actually seen and experienced.  So callous, so ruthless, a simple "no, that's not possible".  Or, more often the more sly refutation of "then why didn't you...".  All of it, all of it, saying what you know is true must not be.

That gets to me, down in my bones, in my very gut.  I can remember starkly a few other times; the argument in a politics tutorial where someone ended up telling me that a child of my acquaintance was choosing to be poor; the pleas to those who would observe a social justice march, walk alongside rather than join in, to come on board, met with sneers that told me I was dirt and my hopes ridiculous;  the shutters coming down on the eyes and the turning away when I was hurting and a peer didn't want to see it; the constituent who insisted on the unimpeachable veracity of information I knew intimately was completely untrue.

And when I got back to the stroller, and the two kids I had with me, my wall had a big crack in it.  Bits were leaking out.  And I couldn't do that right then, couldn't leak everywhere.  One of my children was oblivious, but the other was a bit confused and upset: "I don't like it when you yell at people Mummy."  "It doesn't happen very often though, does it?"   "No, but I don't like it."

A quick fix job on the wall then, rushing to squeegee up all the leaked rage and frustration, squeezing it back over the top to deal with Later.  Mortar of forgetfulness, brick of fake cheerfulness for the kinders.  I've done it before, I imagine most parents do, I'll do it again no doubt.  The wall was solid again.

Maybe it's more like a dam than a wall, maybe.  I shall work on finding a turbine for that anger to power, a positive outlet that creates energy rather than flooding the whole valley.  Maybe this is that.


*  And mis-spoke and said I was paid worse, when I meant I was treated worse, as unlike most jobs in Aotearoa NZ, the pay for my role is transparent and set independently by the Remuneration Authority, that's the bit I'm kicking myself for most, damnit.

I'm not doing comments on my posts these days.  I'm easy to find on social media if you desperately want to tell me what you think, under my name, Julie Fairey.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Three year olds, "science" and burdening society

There is a whopping conflict of interest buried in a horrifying article I want to write about today.  First the horrifying bit:  Professor Richie Poulton is waxing lyrical about which three year old children will grow up to be criminals or poor:
"A simple test at the age of three can predict if children will grow up to be a burden on society, New Zealand researchers say.
The tests on the brains of young children can reveal who is likely to become part of the minority of adults to use the biggest share of social services, new findings from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study show."
Three year olds.  Imagine the state deciding a three year old you know will be a criminal one day.  Imagine what the state will do to that child.  Imagine being that child.

This is Minority Report on steroids.  It's not even pre-criming - it's just class and race profiling, because we all know which (poor, brown) children Professor Poulton is talking about:
"We also found that members of this group tended to have grown up in more socio-economically deprived environments, experienced child maltreatment, scored poorly on childhood IQ tests and exhibited low childhood self-control," Poulton said.

The problem here is not that people without enough are a burden on society.  It is that we have structured our society so that many people do not have enough but the rich can thrive.  Finding ways to blame three year olds for intergenerational, entrenched poverty and racism is a quite the side-step, even for the most vicious of benefit bashers.  I wonder how well Professor Poulton's test predicts white collar crime?  I'm sure it takes into account the institutional racism which study after study has identified in our criminal legal system.  And I'm certain he found a way to pay attention to the fact that the children of rich people may not need to access social services in the same way because they are well-protected by the wealth of their parents.

Now to the conflict of interest, which hasn't even made the small print. The article fails to mention that Professor Poulton is also the Chief "Science" Advisor at MSD.  It does say:
"The findings were enabled by a "unique situation" in which governmental data on benefits, criminal convictions and health services could be analysed alongside the smaller scale but more detailed information gathered by the Dunedin study."
So people's INDIVIDUAL information, about accessing benefits they need, and criminal records, and how and when they have needed healthcare has been handed over to researchers who are interviewing people one-on-one about their lives.  Because of the "unique situation" of Professor Chief "Science" Advisor Poulton - benefiting from government money as a researcher in one role, making decisions about what counts as research and evidence in another while he is part of the vast collection of data about us that is the Integrated Data Infrastructure

I wrote six weeks ago of my concerns at an increasingly pressured community sector being forced to hand over individual level client data to the government if they wanted to continue to be funded:
"The same database which has your tax details, benefit details, student loan, car ownership history - hell, there's no limit to what the Integrated Data Infrastructure might grow to include.  Let's be honest, there's been next to no public conversation about the developing surveillance system this government has created, and what's appropriate to link and why."
How much money is being spent on the Integrated Data Infrastructure?  Enough to feed and house all the people in New Zealand that are hungry and living in sub-standard housing?  How much money is Professor Chief "Science" Advisor Poulton getting for his longitudinal research - particularly in a climate where other longitudinal research funding is being cut?  And just how political are these decisions?  Designed, say, to fit an agenda which criminalises poverty?  Let's not forget how Bill English recently justified cutting funding to New Zealand's largest longitudinal study (not Professor Chief "Science" Advisor Poulton's):
Finance Minister Bill English said the decision was more about providing "value for money" rather than saving money.  He suggested the Government was not gaining adequate access to the data.
"There's a whole history behind the Growing up in New Zealand study, there have been ongoing negotiations for some time, to make sure it meets the Government's needs. 
"To some extent the longitudinal studies aren't as powerful as they used to be, because we've got our own administrative data."
What was important to the Government was the "availability of the data".
The brutality of this government is, I believe, not yet fully appreciated, when they write off three year olds and the families they come from as "professional agency hoppers" and a "burden on society."  Let's not forget too, the changes in child protection for these written off three year olds - changes which without doubt at some point will include introducing private profit motives.

This government is finding new ways to make money from those already carrying the burden of greed in our increasingly unequal world.  Some of it just looks like the old ways - giving money, jobs and positions of influence to their mates, exploiting conflicts of interest for all they are worth, making those at the bottom of the heap increasingly vulnerable through shrinking protections and safety nets.  Some of it looks newer - privatising prisons and maybe at some point child protection.

Devastating as all these changes are for those with the least, the biggest damage of all may be to our imaginary world.  Three year olds look like children to most of us now.   But if Professor Chief "Science" Advisor Poulton has as much sway as his title suggests, when will they start looking - especially the poor brown ones - like future criminals? And what will that mean to how we treat them - or how we allow the state to treat them?

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Leading the National Party

"Do you really think it's ok for us to get here so early, John?  Doesn't strike you as a little, well, unfair to hold the leadership vote without anyone here but us?"

"Actually Bill, I'm relaxed about it.  At the end of the day, you're the best man for the job, I've already been straight about that with the New Zealand public.  We need to work on you being relaxed now.  Apparently that might be a bit of a problem."

"Oh John," Bill says with admiring awe in his voice, "no one is as relaxed as you."

"Well, the five houses help.  And the nice little nest eggs I have in my offshore bank accounts.  And of course the Labour Party hasn't exactly been the stuff of nightmares for me, have they?"

The two men, best of friends, chuckle together over their last few years. Relaxing together, again.

Their peace is rudely interrupted by the crash of doors flung open.

"J-j-judith!  How l-l-lovely to see you.  And what's that you've done to your hair?"

"Hello Bill.  It's a new look I'm trying."  Minister Collins approaches the outgoing Prime Minister, swishing her shimmering locks, bound into a tight ponytail.  "What do you think, John?"

"Smashing Judith.  It's a great look for you.  Why don't you come and sit over here?"

"So when do we vote on the leadership?  You should all know, Cammy will be running some rather interesting stories over the next few days.  Investigative stuff.  Hard hitting."  Minister Collins turns her attention to the other man in the room.  "How are you, Bill?"

"I-i-investigative stuff?  W-w-what do you mean, Judith?  I am a clean slate."

John pats his deputy with his right hand.  "Relax, Bill.  The public won't care about that silly little housing thing.  It's hardly like stealing, is it?  At the end of the day, you paid us back.  And no one cares about abortion.  Besides, we tidied that up ages ago, remember?"  Turns to Minister Collins.  "Judith, what's that on the table?"

"Oh nothing John, just my Ipod.  I'll turn it off now.  When are the others getting here?"

"Actually, Judith, we might just hold the vote now, everyone else is late. Oh, who's that?"

Paula Bennett strides into the room, wearing gold leopardskin and sporting a stunning new hairstyle.

"We need to pick someone kiwis want to have a beer with, a few sausages.  We all know that's me," she says, flicking her ponytail high.  "Bless you Bill, you're looking old, are you feeling ok?  I guess those memories from the worst election result ever must feel close now?  Poor darling."

"H-h-hello P-p-paula," says Bill, looking from side to side, checking with the Prime Minister how to behave.  "Great hairstyle."

John is distracted, looking at Paula, eyes clouded over, his hand reaching towards her.  Minister Collins slaps it down.  "Good grief man, be serious."

Minister Bennett says sweetly "are you worrying about people thinking you're a dreadful old Tory, Bill?  I guess I can see that, too."

"Girls, girls, girls," says John, appearing to have recovered his relaxed poise.  "Remember what I always say: the media and public are idiots.  They don't even care when our children behave like they hate the gays, remember Bill?  And we're the party of family values!!!"

"I do hate the gays, John.  All the gays.  I mean, think of the children....."  For the first time, Bill starts to become animated, puffing out his chest and growing a couple of inches in height.

Minister Bennett pours herself a beer, knocks it back in one.  "You've got a problem there, Bill.  Might want to deal with that."

"Hello everyone.  Prime Minister, so good to see you.  Now, shall we get this vote underway?"  Steven Joyce enters the room.  "I have the proxy votes of everyone else, been carrying them for a while."

Minister Collins looks up from her Ipod with a sneer.  "What on earth is going on with your hair, Steven?"

"Transplants, Judith.  I'm getting it cut tomorrow, but I've had to tie it up today because they were so successful."  Minister Joyce fixes his eyes on the deputy Prime Minister.  "Bill, my friend.  How on earth are we going to deal with the fact the public sees you as a loser?  If you're my deputy, that won't be as much of a problem, of course.  Who wants to open all the proxy votes?"

"H-h-hello S-s-steven, I'm n-n-not a loser.  John said so.  He said no one will remember.  And I believe him.  Right, John?  John?"

"Steven, I've never seen you looking so good.  Let's take a look at those proxies shall we?  I'm feeling relaxed about this, very, very relaxed.  Looking forward to my new job and at the end of the day, that's all that matters."

Monday, 7 November 2016

I am not a Hillary fangirl but

As a little girl growing up I briefly hated Helen Clark because I realised she would likely be NZ's first female prime minister and beat me to it.  I disliked Jenny Shipley for a lot longer, before, during and after her stint as PM, for her policies and limited view of society, not least the odious Code of Social Responsibility (which by the way is largely in place these days from what I can see).

When Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential nominee of a major political party in the USA I was a bit excited, although Bernie was closer to my politics and had Larry David as his SNL impersonator.  Could this actually happen?  A woman in the White House not as First Lady or a staffer or a visitor, but as the President?  In the flood of anti-Hillary outpourings that washed over us all, even here on the other side of the world and dateline, over the next few months that excitement was quickly extinguished.

And then for a long time now we have been watching Trump.  This election is all about Trump, much like a real reality TV show (and what an absurd phrase).  I can't believe it has come to this, that what seemed like a joke or a play for attention is now coming to an endgame that could put someone in control of the USA with no political experience or understanding, a seemingly compulsive liar who is racist and sexist (and anti-abortion) and no doubt lots of other awful things I have missed because to pay close attention to this is to take a wound to the heart every five minutes.  I could pepper this paragraph with links to The Awfulness but surely it's accepted by now, despite his  often nonsensical denials, that he has done and said and downright IS these terrible things.

So he's not fit to be President, not fit to be a politician from my point of view.  Like Paul Henry times ten.*

Thus it's quite possible to support Hillary on the basis she is the lesser of two evils, and I take on board the views of the many many people who tell me that's so.  She's quite a long way less surely most people outside the USA can objectively see that, but putting that to one side, she is, as we all are, a flawed human being.  Will she be as good as Obama (himself not perfect, eg the extra judicial execution of Osama Bin Laden)?  Time will tell.  Her championing of Black Lives Matter, an unapologetic pro-choice position, supporting marriage equality all point to a capability to lead on tough national issues that her country seems very divided over from all this distance away, filtered through CNN, Last Week Tonight, and Fox.  The capacity for an inclusive, optimistic, hopeful leader is there.

As a feminist I don't support Hillary because she is a woman.  I support her because she is a feminist woman, a woman with the skills and life experience, a woman who has handled a truly bizarre and hurtful campaign with grace including being stalked around the debate stage by a large man who has encouraged people to shoot her supporters and wants to put her in jail.  I support her because the idea that a woman can be a political leader is still anathema to some, as I see myself in my own political life sadly.

Part of me looks forward to the awkwardness that will ensue.  Bill can't be First Lady.  How often will Hillary accidentally be called "Mister President"?   How much outcry can we look forward to if she refers to founding mothers?  It will be hard for her, and it will be hard for women, to see that everyday sexism happen, but it will also hopefully be a catalyst for change, for realisation by some of those who haven't understood to date.

Clinton is not the perfect feminist left wing presidential candidate.  She's also not Thatcher.  The US Democrats aren't even a particularly left wing party by NZ or European standards, just in comparison to the small minded small government zealots of the Republicans.

Hillary will be the first female president of the USA, and as I did when Obama became the first African American to hold that role, I suspect I may shed a few tears Wednesday afternoon NZ time.

* I originally wrote million, then scaled it down to a thousand, but really seems like they possibly aren't that different.  You get the idea.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Control, surveillance and "professional agency hopping"

In 2009/10, communities won a serious victory against this government when the hated, poorly conceived, cost-cutting travesty that was the "ACC Clinical Pathway" was kicked well and truly into touch by survivors, feminists, mental health support services and specialist sexual violence response agencies.

It was a community issue worth fighting.  In the short time the Pathway was implemented, the review forced by activists demonstrated a staggering drop in survivors who could access support, and horror stories of trauma were told by survivors and by the community agencies and therapists trying to support them.

The ACC Clinical Pathway illustrates the dangers of ideological public policy, and the importance of community safeguards and advocacy in speaking truth to (rape culture, neo-liberal) power.  I'm mentioning it now because I think this government has learned from that public policy defeat, but not the lessons we might hope.  Quietly and quickly, calmly and efficiently they have muzzled the community sector so it will not happen again.

There were some warning signs even back then.  I was heavily involved, in my own time, in fighting the ACC Clinical Pathway.  The sexual violence agency I worked for then was quietly told by an ally in government that we lost a large contract because of my activism, which thankfully my boss did not begrudge in the grand scheme of survivor safety. This should be completely shocking - to change a funding decision based on the private activities of an employee of an organisation - particularly when, as it turned out, we were right.  But in a growing context of threats to advocates, it somehow just started to become intimidation business as usual

This government has decimated the community sector with a series of smart, chilling moves over quite some time, dismantling the sector's ability to play watchdog on punitive government policies.  There were the changes to the Charities Commission, restricting the ways in which organisations registered as charities could "advocate" for social change.  Even far from radical groups like the National Council of Women were forced to take legal action to defend their rights to advocate.  This step institutionalised advocacy, away from the public eye.  It's ok for community groups to meet with nice government officials quietly, to talk about their concerns - but don't even think about saying anything in the media.

Another major step was the introduction into contracts of requirements that community groups cannot discuss their contracts anywhere.  This one policy stroke alone would have stopped the ACC Clinical Pathway activism dead in it's tracks - because gone from public view and debate would have been the volume of horror stories from around the country of the impact the Pathway was having on real people.

Then there are the terrifying spectre of funding cuts.  Everywhere you look.  Services going under, like Relationships Aotearoa, despite nothing to replace them.  Services cutting their hours, and relying yet more heavily on volunteers.  Play nice, little community group, or we'll be sending you home, no matter how many lives you hold in your hand.

While the language of community shifts to neo-liberal talk of markets and providers and social investment and demand and results based accountability, the language of "people who are asking for help" has shifted to the obscene "professional agency hoppers."

The latest nail in the community coffin, that community groups will have to report to government the names and personal details of people coming to them for help if they want to be funded, is just the logical conclusion of all the changes over the last few years.  Taken together, these changes severely undermine democracy and the ability to show solidarity with people with little power.  They also turn community groups into de-facto arms of the state and will certainly stop people accessing community services through fear, shame and stigma.

If you doubt this, think about whether you'd be ok with the STI tests you're having being linked to your name in a government database.  The same database which has your tax details, benefit details, student loan, car ownership history - hell, there's no limit to what the Integrated Data Infrastructure might grow to include.  Let's be honest, there's been next to no public conversation about the developing surveillance system this government has created, and what's appropriate to link and why.

But think again, about accessing services.  Let's say you've got a gambling problem, and your relationship and home are both at risk if you can't change.  But if you go ask for help, that will be linked to all your other personal information.  Are you ready for that, or should you wait a little longer?

Or you've got an eating disorder and it's quietly killing you, but if you ask for help and it's loaded onto your system, will it mean you can't apply for that job you want in government?   

Then there are the safety concerns.  Logging women and children escaping domestic violence into a government database every time they go to a new Refuge will make them much less safe, particularly if their abusive partners can access where they are.  I've worked with women whose abusers were Police officers, and to keep them safe we had to make sure nothing was ever logged in their Police files which might help them to be tracked.  Will this new system acknowledge those dangers?  Of course not.  And while we're on this one, women going to multiple Refuges isn't "professional agency hopping," Minister Tolley, it's acting to save your life in the cycle of violence perpetrators use to control their families.  Just as people who've had lots of trauma and difficult stuff in their lives needing to try multiple agencies to find all the pieces of the help they need isn't "professional agency hopping," it's desperation and fear and lack of trust born from experience.  And it warrants compassion, patience and generosity - not sanctimonious penny pinching and vicious judgment - because do you know what?  If I'd survived some of the things women I've worked with have been forced to manage, I can't even tell you what my survival strategies would look like.  They wouldn't be clean, or pretty, or the model of a perfect little social services consumer though, I'll tell you that for nothing.

If funding contracts which force the community sector to pass on names and personal details had been introduced immediately post the ACC Clinical Pathway defeat, the community sector would have fought.  Fought for their place as safety, for people and families they support, to hold together lives which might be fraying a little.  Fought to remove barriers to help-seeking, not add them.

No, the government introducing it now is smart. 

This government has been confident in shutting down evidence it doesn't want to hear, from silencing researchers to these steps to muzzle the community sector.  It doesn't seem to want the well-informed debate when it comes to complex social issues, debate informed by people with personal knowledge and professional experience in supporting communities.  There are even steps to dismantle the long-term funded research in this area, now the government is exerting more control.  When questioned over the cuts to the longitudinal research Auckland University runs in order to understand child development needs - the kind of research which should help us decide community services - Bill English let slip some frightening honesty:
"Finance Minister Bill English said the decision was more about providing "value for money" rather than saving money.He suggested the Government was not gaining adequate access to the data.
"There's a whole history behind the Growing up in New Zealand study, there have been ongoing negotiations for some time, to make sure it meets the Government's needs.
"To some extent the longitudinal studies aren't as powerful as they used to be, because we've got our own administrative data."  What was important to the Government was the "availability of the data".
If the community sector hands over the names of people asking them for help, not only will it stop people getting the help they need.  Not only will it shift what the community sector is for - away from advocacy and support, towards monitoring and policing services.  Not only will it mean advocacy slips further into the distance, weakening our public policy development.  But it is part of a wider and largely unmonitored shift towards the state controlling more information about us than we've ever agreed to, and with that, making decisions about public spending based on data they control and interpret. 

Does anyone seriously think these changes will be good for our communities?  Trevor McGlinchey from the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services absolutely nails it when he says:
There has been a quiet revolution occurring which will have profound impacts on community-based social services organisations......Robust discussion and critique is needed to ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities can access the services they need, and community organisations can continue as independent promoters of civil society and community development.
Call me cynical, but the people that brought us the ACC Clinical Pathway are not qualified to make decisions about communities without us acting as safeguards.  Bill English and his "administrative data" do not fill me with confidence, because this government is ideologically driven to support the powerful and leave the less powerful to rot, in cars, substandard housing, shiny new prisons, a decimated community sector.  It's almost as if, the more they silence our voices and have control over interpreting our voices, the less we matter.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Tamariki, raupatu and the legacy of Margaret Thatcher

This National government has found it's foreshore and seabed.

It's not been enough to flirt with punitive legislative changes to benefits, legal aid restrictions, fail to curb housing greed or meet housing need, or make marginalised people more marginalised in a variety of other ways, with the sure knowledge that all these areas will impact disproportionately on Māori.  Nope, National have lit the powder keg, just like the raupatu in 2004, with their proposed changes to how the state supports families and whānau to be safe, thriving places for children.

No one doubts that our systems to respond to family violence are struggling.  But the new "Ministry for Vulnerable Children" replacing Child, Youth and Family and removing the parts of the Care of Children Act 1989 which required consideration of how a decision to place a child affects the family, whānau, hapu, iwi and family group will not improve outcomes for children living with violence at home.

It flies in face of the evidence, which tells us that in families where there is a violent parent, the best things we can do to keep children safe are to support the non-violent parent and their support systems, and stop the violent parent using violence.  Not easy - but the very people you want involved in stopping violence in homes are those connected to the family, because those are the people that are around all the time.

The inquiry into racism which informed the 1989 Care of Children Act, the Pūao-te-Ata-Tū Report of 1988, stated as it's first objective: 
To attack all forms of cultural racism in New Zealand that result in the values and lifestyle of the dominant group being regarded as superior to those of other groups, especially Māori, by: (a) Providing leadership and programmes which help develop a society in which the values of all groups are of central importance to its enhancement; and (b) Incorporating the values, cultures and beliefs of the Māori people in all practice developed for the future of New Zealand.

Because, again, the evidence is clear.  What works to prevent violence for ANY cultural group is that group identifying, promoting and celebrating their own cultural norms and practices which are protective and non-violent.  Every culture has protective practices.  It's just that colonisation has ripped into the fabric of what it means to be indigenous everywhere colonisers went.  In Aotearoa that means the horrible outcomes for Māori across every social indicator we can think of will only be kicked into touch through decolonisation.  Access to kaupapa Māori services, whakapapa and knowledge to just be Māori.  Systems set up for Māori, by Māori which value cultural values enhancing wellbeing for all the whānau.

What the "Ministry for Vulnerable Children" is proposing is nothing like this.  It's essentially proposing we treat children as beings completely independent of their family, whānau and caregivers.  Just as we now have "Child Poverty", we have "Vulnerable Children".

Margaret Thatcher must be sighing, self-satisfied, as she settles comfortably into her grave.

When Thatcher was dismantling the post-war British consensus on fairness in the UK otherwise known as the welfare state, she was very clear - there was no such thing as society, there were only individuals and families. This new tack of the National government - there's not even any such thing as families, there are only children - takes the Thatcher doctrine to it's logical conclusion.

Make no mistake, this is bad for all of us.  But it's much worse for families more likely to come into contact with the state in punitive ways - especially since new data systems mean we don't even know how much state monitoring is going on.  And for Māori, it's something else again, another pit stop on colonisation highway.

Raupatu, only this time it's Māori children that are being stolen by the state.  Indigenous children in other British colonies have faced similar fates - racist assumptions of children needing saving allowing Canadian and Australian governments to rip Native Canadians and Aboriginal Australians into state care where the levels of abuse were obscene.  Taking children away literally steals culture, steals the ability to pass on knowing who you are on this land, where you belong and who your people are.  It is an attempt to force assimilation down the throat of the colonised.  It's telling that while assimilation has been aggressively pushed at Māori since the 1840s, it's taken this National government - with it's commitment to privatisation of state institutions like prisons - to start removing the small protections which existed in the Care of Children Act, and ignore all the reports detailing why iwi should be part of these discussions.

There's been a lot of commentary on these issues in Māori media, from iwi leaders to those working in the area with extensive experience.  The Hands Off Our Tamariki Facebook page is feeding evidence and community events into the discussion, and social workers have been all over it too.  There's an event hosted by Te Wānanga o Raukawa in Ōtaki, tomorrow, with Moana Jackson (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou) and Paora Moyle (Ngāti Porou, Te Whanau a Tuwhakairiora) which will be well worth attending.

I think there's going to be a lot more, and I think it's time for all violence prevention and intervention services, and all those concerned about family wellbeing and violence as well as racism and colonisation to get busy, supporting the great work that is being done to resist this by Māori.

Apologies:  I am supporting a friend having surgery over the next couple of days, so I've closed comments on this post because I'm not going to be able to moderate, and it's likely that would be needed.  But feel free to rant about how much you agree/disagree with me in your own lives.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Darth Vader, Don Brash and tino rangatiratanga

Don Brash is my father.

Not in a Darth Vader way.  But sadly, I don't believe Dr Brash's views are so way out we should just laugh at the stock photos on a website featuring a gallery of old white people.

I'm also not convinced that this is pure Pauline Hanson style racism.  For some of the people involved, sure.  You don't have to delve too far into the Hobson's Pledge website to feel bigotry stirring, and for many Pākehā, Dr Brash's words provide the scaffolding for not just supporting institutional racism, but for feeling bold enough to be viciously, personally racist to children.

The lack of acknowledgment of colonial history or ongoing negative impacts of colonisation has been slammed with ease by Louisa Wall and Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga.  Many journalists have asked Mr Brash how his analysis makes sense of the negative statistics for Māori around health, education, violence and the criminal justice system.  He's been clear he doesn't want to go there.

Don Brash is my father, and these are conversations my father has in the pub he's been drinking in for 45 years, with men who used to work in the freezing works or factories of the Hutt Valley.  Dad says his pub mates, some of whom are Māori, don't believe in people being treated differently.  The consensus, according to him, is that treating everyone the same is the way to stop racism.

There's a simplicity to this which is deeply compelling.  It makes sense, in the kind of teachings small children receive about fairness inside the Pākehā world, that sharing something means we all get the same amount.  This is the part of Don Brash's argument that most needs addressing, because this is the reason, I believe, we see these arguments resurface, over and over again. 

Aotearoa was colonised late, so late that Home Office instructions to Hobson acknowledged Māori sovereignty and insisted that Māori should agree to a British colony.  This was not the approach towards indigenous peoples taken earlier in British and other European colonisation.  The meanings we can take from Hobson saying "we are all one people" are many.  He could have been signposting that colonisation would deliberately suppress Māori cultural values, ways of organising, language and social systems.  He could have been warning people that understandings of mana whenua would be supplanted by British concepts of ownership, already entwined with capitalism.

He could have been saying that he firmly believed, in line with (racist and sexist) Enlightenment thinking on progress, that equality meant everyone being treated the same.

This simple, liberal, individual rights based argument underpins the conversations in my father's pub, and underpins many white people's approach to behaving well in the world now.  My father is aghast when we argue and I describe his views as racist.  He doesn't recognise that view of himself, because he honestly believes that treating everyone the same is the way to everyone having a fair suck of the sav.

This simple, liberal, individual rights based argument underpins anti-racism work in the UK - and it works better there, to challenge why say, white immigrants from New Zealand are treated better than Black immigrants from the Caribbean.  When this argument is marshaled to insist on equity with indigenous people who are in control of their land - as is the case in the UK - it can acknowledge the historical context and ongoing impacts of colonisation and be used to challenge racism.  But when it is marshaled to deny the historical context and ongoing impacts of colonisation, it stops being progressive in any way, shape or form.

Countries that have been colonised need different kinds of anti-racism than coloniser countries.  Unpacking colonisation here actually means tino rangatiratanga - not equal rights.  We need to shift what feels intuitively fair to us - and I'm talking to other Pākehā here - because colonisation has caused deep harm, trauma and dislocation which can only be repaired through tino rangatiratanga.  To draw another comparison with fairness and children, when I visit Marama's house, we eat food she has, play with her toys, her family decide what time we go to bed and where, what kinds of games we are allowed to play.  And when she comes to my house, my family provide for and make those decisions for us.  These are the kinds of concepts of fairness Pākehā need to explore to shift this repeating conversation.

Photo from Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

In case you were wondering ... removing pubic hair is less hygienic than leaving it alone

Caitlin Moran and others have pointed out that the fashion for removing all pubic hair from ladyparts arose from the proliferation of pornography via the internet.

Sometimes it's argued that removal is good for female hygiene. In a survey of 3,316 women in the US, published this week in JAMA Dermatology, 59% said they did it for “hygiene reasons".

But according to this useful Guardian article, exactly the opposite is true: it is more hygienic not to remove pubic hair, and the survey explains why.

"Your pubis is your own business. But pubic hair was put there to protect your genitalia from friction and infection..." 

Monday, 13 June 2016

Indiana woman appeals 20 year sentence for her own illegal abortion.

If you thought Donald Trump's widely condemned call for women who have abortions to be punished was totally off the wall, think again. It's already happening in the USA. 

In February 2015, an Indiana court sentenced Purvi Patel to serve 20 years in prison for giving herself an illegal abortion. The Guardian explained (2 April 2015) that because the prosecution contended that the fetus had been born alive, she was in fact: 
"convicted of feticide and neglect of a dependent, making her the first woman in the US to be charged, convicted and sentenced for giving herself an abortion. The law was passed by the Indiana legislature in 2009 in response to a bank shooting in April 2008, in which a man shot a woman who was five months pregnant in the abdomen, killing the twin girls she was carrying. Most feticide laws are designed to be used this way – to charge a third party accused of hurting a pregnant mother or unborn fetus. Patel’s conviction, reproductive rights experts said, is the first time such a law has been successfully used to convict a woman for attempting to abort a pregnancy."

Her appeal against her sentence has now been filed.

Please Note: Some commenters want to constantly discuss the morality of abortion, particularly the issue about fetal personhood, regardless of whether that is relevant on the post in question.  The Hand Mirror has established a separate page (click on the Abortion and Morality heading above) for discussion of that element of the issue (the moral arguments, not just fetal personhood).

In terms of this post, I want this aspect of morality issues to be discussed on the separate page provided, not here on my post. Please respect this. Comments that do not respect this direction are likely to be deleted.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Changing the face we value

Most people have done something for which they want to be forgiven.  Things they feel ashamed of, and want to do differently in the future.  Maybe they've said harsh things to people they care about, treated people around them callously, participated in or failed to stop bullying.

Most people have changed their behavior after getting feedback from people around them that it wasn't ok.  Stopped being late whenever they meet a friend; stopped using a racist or homophobic word; stopped drinking or using drugs more than is helpful for relationships around them.

Nearly all of us, I think, want to believe in redemption. 

So when sports broadcaster Tony Veitch returns to the media to tell his story, again, about the broken bones he left in the body of someone he said he loved, many New Zealanders want to believe him when he says sorry.  Anyone who has hit a partner or a child wants to believe him.  Many who have been hit by a partner or parent want to believe him, because they want to believe their partner or parent is sorry - and maybe they are.  Anyone who knows someone who uses violence wants to believe him.

I believe in changing behavior, that violence is learned, not "natural" or only and always linked to masculinity.  I believe violence is linked to power, always, and I believe we can end violence by shifting balances of power towards more equity, whether that's in terms of addressing the harms of colonisation or ensuring equal pay for work of equal value or addressing the impact the greed of a few has on the poverty of many or teaching that gender and sexuality diversity is pretty damn ordinary and nothing to be scared of.  If I didn't believe in changing behavior and the possibility of ending violence, I wouldn't be a feminist.

But there is something else going on in the case of Tony Veitch, beyond the mere desire to believe that people using violence can change.

Ironically, a truly bizarre piece of writing over at the Standard captures it perfectly.  RedLogix says in their defense of Mr Veitch:
You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about Tony Veitch. I think we should let him speak for himself and allow the space for catharsis as Incognito so very elegantly expressed it. While his words will not placate every judgmental urge, personally I will accept them at face value and wait to see what comes next.
People believe men using violence, rather than women experiencing it.

This accepting at face value happens at every stage.  In the telling of violence in the first place - or it wouldn't take 57 women calling Bill Cosby a rapist before we even thought we needed to investigate Dr Huxtable.

It happens in the re-telling, in court, where many defendants simply use the "she's lying" defense, effective when victims can't get every single detail right when recalling traumatic events.

And it happens afterwards, when men like Tony Veitch simply do not tell the truth and rely on our collective desire to believe him getting them by.  As his victim's father says:
"Tony, to atone for your actions, you must stand in the complete truth.  This was no one-off, as you still attempt to mislead the New Zealand public to believe.  The other charges were never presented to the court, but they remain evidence of your systematic abusive pattern. In those files lies a very inconvenient truth for you."
I would LOVE to believe Tony Veitch regrets the years of abuse that his Police file details.  But for me to do that, he would have to stop making jokes about punching people.

He would have to apologise, not just for the incident he was punished for by the court, or even the years of other abuse, but for his appalling treatment of the woman he abused throughout the media furore which surrounded his court case - and the impacts all of his behavior has had.

You see, I don't think Tony Veitch can possible be sorry for the harm he caused - because he never, ever, ever mentions it.  In all his apologies, we have heard only about how hard it was for him, to be caught out breaking someone else's back that one time.

I have a suggestion for people who want to believe in redemption.  Listen to the person or people who were harmed.  Listen to them some more.  Think about what redemption looks like for them.  Centre that.  We have to stop giving Mr Veitch and others who use violence a free platform to re-frame events to suit them.  We have to change the face we value.