Thursday, 26 February 2015

markers of cultural identity

various things in my life have been keeping me busy these days, so that i'm finding little energy to write.  but i've had a bit of time to read about the whole patricia arquette oscar speech thing and intersectionality, which reminded me about another issue related to race.

i don't watch many TV programmes, but favourite ones tend to be legal dramas.  from "LA law" to "ally mcbeal" to "the practice" to "the good wife" (not so much "boston legal", unfortunately).  so i was definitely interested in the new series "how to get away with murder".  i've watched the 3 episodes that have aired, and i really like it.  i love the centering of black people, the strong character development of them, i the central character in both her toughness and vulnerability.  in much the same way as i love the character of kalinda sharma in "the good wife".

the only thing that bothers me with the show is, on the face of it, pretty trivial.  it's that the hair of the black women on the show is invariably straight.  i'd have to go back through the 3 episodes to confirm, but it seems to me that there wasn't any major black woman on the show with the tight curls that many african women have.  i've looked at images of viola davis, and it seems to me that is her natural hair style.

the thing is that it isn't just this one show.  it's a thing with most movies, tv shows, music videos, most of popular culture.  it's a thing that has been written about a lot in america, and here's just one article.  it's a thing that's rooted in american history, where blackness has historically been considered bad, unworthy and the expression of blackness disdained.  it's about a history where black women have had straightening products pushed on them for decades, with the notion that having straight hair makes them more acceptable (reminds me of the whitening cream marketed so strongly in many asian countries).

this is not about viola davis and her individual choice - she gets to present herself how she pleases, as does any black woman.  i certainly don't think of any one of them as sell-outs for choosing to have straight hair.  it's more about a show that is going past so many stereotypes but still adhering to this one.  it's about how a natural marker of identity (and yes, i know that not all african women have natural curly hair) is erased from popular culture - unless it's a period drama.

we have a parallel here in nz, with maori.  the way that moko are treated in every day kiwi life is quite similar.  they're considered unacceptable for employment; they are often viewed as something scary or suspicious; they are rarely seen on our tv screens or in our newspapers.  they seem to me to be an aspect of cultural identity that has been sidelined instead of celebrated.  i can't speak for maori in general, or any maori person specifically, so apologies if i have this wrong.  but could it be that a lot more of them would choose to have one if there wasn't this erasure and negativity surrounding the practice?

i guess these issues are of importance to me because i wear one of aspect of my identity so very visibly, and by choice.  i pay consequences for that choice, of course.  daring to have a marker of identity that is so different from the majority can be seen as an affront, a challenge to the status quo.  hence there can be pushback.  so be it, i find that's not enough to stop me.

but i do know that it shouldn't be so.  i shouldn't be getting push-back.  neither should anyone else, simply for making an overt display of who they are.  or for sporting a marker of cultural identity.  that's why i want this show to be braver, stronger, more challenging of stereotypes than it already is.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

It's raining racism and transphobia on my Pride parade

Content warning: this is about racist, transphobic violence and has been put together from a number of sources online available at time of writing.

Last night during the Pride parade in Auckland a Māori trans woman had her arm broken as she protested against New Zealand Police and Corrections staff taking part.  Other protestors say the security staff targetted her for violence, while cis Pākehā protestors were treated more gently.

You should not have your arm broken when you are protesting.  It's unclear yet whether her arm was broken by the Police or by security staff.  It's also unclear why there was a long delay in seeking medical attention despite numerous reports she was screaming.

We can thank social media for alerting us to how serious this is, because mainstream media coverage to date has been woefully incomplete.  In fact, it almost looks like the Police comms team went straight (pun intended) to work.  The NZ Herald tells us "Proud Police march Pride parade":

The Police press release/NZ Herald article explains that many Police participating were not "gay" (hint: NZ Police, neither are most LGBTIQ folks), they just wanted to show they "value diversity."  Then right at the end:
The only disruption to the parade was a vocal group of three who protested the police contingent.

Protester Tim Lamusse said police had a history of targeting queer communities, "particularly in the 60s, 70s and 80s, they would turn up to gay clubs, make everyone come outside and shame them in front of everybody".

The protest was poorly received by the crowd, which responded with calls of "you're ruining the parade!".

Lamusse said police never apologised for their past prejudices and "they continue to beat up queer kids".
One of the protesters was arrested and later treated by St John staff for injuries she suffered during the arrest.
Both RadioNZ and Stuff at least lead their Pride coverage with the assault, but details at this point are scarce.  Stuff have also apologised for an earlier version of the article describing the woman injured as a "transvestite".

Let's just imagine, for one moment, the quantity and depth of coverage there would be if the Pride parade had involved property damage to a known homophobic bar. Investigative reporting might not be missing in action for that kind of assault.

But that's not the most disappointing part, for me at least.  Because the response from the queer* community has included event organisers saying how "well-handled" the incident was.  Unless, I guess, you're the Māori trans woman in hospital this morning, having your bones reset.

GayNZ has a small story, including a request for more information from those there.  But they also have a much more detailed editorial lauding Pride for being bigger, better and more mainstream than ever before.  Police are praised for the "massive symbolism" of taking part.

How about the "massive symbolism" of racist, transphobic state-sanctioned violence?  How about the "massive symbolism" of people filming the assault also being arrested, or having their phones destroyed?  How about the "massive symbolism" of a uniformed mob allowing an assault in front of them and not intervening to keep a member of the public safe?  

If you're not sure why NZ Police and Corrections staff have a difficult relationship with the queer* community, do some reading.  The Trans Inquiry in 2008 led by the Human Rights Commission detailed transpeople being subjected to violence, harassment, misgendering and exposure to unsafe environments by NZ Police and prison staff, abuse which continues to be an issue.

I have personal knowledge of queer* people trying to report same-sex sexual assault to the Police and being told there was no crime, or worse.  NZ Police do not always take the harassment and violence queer* people experience on the street seriously, even when that violence is lethal.  And the much vaunted Diversity Liasion Officers are certainly a step in the right direction - except when I tried to report some homophobic and biphobic violent threats I'd received a couple of years ago, Wellington Police Station didn't know what DLOs were, and couldn't tell me who I should be talking to.  

Marginalised people do not trust the Police, for good reasons.  In the Trans Inquiry, trans people reported regular Police harassment; Pacific peoples are twice as likely to be tasered as
Pākehā, Māori between the two.

So if you're a trans person of colour, it probably doesn't make you feel proud to see NZ Police "valuing diversity", it probably makes you feel scared.  "Massive symbolism" is empty if it's a lie.

You can support the woman lying in hospital today here.   

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The 81st Down Under Feminist Carnival

It's a pleasure to host the 81st (!!) Down Under Feminist Carnival at The Hand Mirror this month.  Thanks to all those who sent in submissions, I really appreciate your efforts and it made it a lot easier to put this together.

Sex and Relationships
on the challenge of bisexual identity, reconciling one's own masculinity, grindr racism and off soy chips at schoolforbirds
The strategic penis by an anonymous guest poster
Our silver wedding anniversary by Deborah
Monogamy's police by Jennifer Wilson

Race and Racism
Was #IllRideWithYou worth it?  by Tara Ashford
We must not lose faith in humanity by Yassmin
A Tour of Issues of Appropriation and Racism in Melbourne's Restaurants by Stephanie
I call myself an Australian by Sam Connor
intersectional is more than a three-letter country by Stephanie
miss universe australia and asking permission by Stephanie
Australia: a country of vengeful malcontents by Jennifer Wilson
The Aussie Long Weekend: what awaits by Yassmin
On the subject of David Rankin and his latest outburst by tildebhooks
White. WHITE. White by clarencegirl

Pop Culture and the Media
Media Circus: #JeSuisCharlie Edition by tigtog
Australians remember Captain America by Liz
Media Circus: Gratuitous Knighthood Edition by tigtog
Using social media mindfully and for social good is not graffiti  by Carly Findlay
TV: Catching Up on Women Friendly Media by Scarlett Harris
The Choice to Be a Total Diva by Scarlett Harris

Violence Against Women (content warning on these posts, take care)
Standing Up For Leelah by tigtog
Family Violence. Where's the Minister for Women by Jennifer Wilson
Rape: It's Never About Alcohol by Kate Galloway

Writing and Related Bits
January Update by acbuchanan
What I'm Reading - Andie Fox
Ancillary Conversation by Liz (contains spoilers for Ann Leckie's books)
Dhungur'-yun-nha: a short poem and comment on stuff by Evelyn Enduatta
Page 1 of 365 by Yassmin
2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge Review - Peony by Eileen Chong by Jo Tamar
2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge Review - Too Flash by Melissa Lucashenko by Jo Tamar
2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge Review - MumShirl: an autobiography with the assistance of Bobbi Sykes by Jo Tamar
2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge Review - Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth by Jo Tamar
Minister for Women by Penni Russon

Bodies and reproductive rights
On fat in 2014: The year that was by Cat Pause
You've been targeted: suppporting the AMA and RACGP supporting us by Team Oyeniyi
The Educated Eater by SleepyDumpling
The Realities of Fat Activism by SleepyDumpling
Is this the final taboo for women in sports? by Lucia Osborne-Crowley

Miscellaneous and General Feminism
Cardinal Raymond Burke blames "radical feminists" for paedophile priests by Clementine Ford
Not New At All by SleepyDumpling
ecologically responsible beach hang outs by Stephanie
Swimming into trouble by Chally
People at least as deserving of knighthoods as Prince Philip by Liz
The Credlin thing by Jennifer Wilson
When your heroes let you down is it time to wave goodbye? by Scarlett Harris
Why Julia Gillard's experience is putting some women off politics by Juliette Saly
Internet freedom and the EFF's anti-harassment statement by a guest poster at Geek Feminism

GAYTMs, diversity and respect

"Diversity" is a problematic concept.  I use it sometimes because it's a shorthand way of saying I don't think the most powerful or visible are the best or even the only.

But it doesn't work in lots of ways. Because implicit in the idea of "diversity" is plurality sure, but there's no way of marking the fact that the different positions are valued differently in existing power relations.  So I can say I love the diversity of the suburb I live in - which is true - but that doesn't allow me to note that queer young people in New Zealand have significant housing problems due to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.  Or that our state housing is woefully inadequate for families which do not fit the Pākehā middle-class nuclear ideal.  Or that my suburb is land stolen under colonisation.

Diversity maybe works least well around capitalism.  Those interested in justice don't really want diversity of incomes do we?  We want equity.  We want an end to greed.  We want social and material arrangements that make sure everyone has enough to eat, a warm place to live and the capacity to thrive.

These philosophical issues are part of the irony of the GAYTM debate, part of ANZ's marketing in Australia last year, introduced just this week in Aotearoa to time with major queer festivals in Auckland and Wellington.

GAYTMs "celebrate diversity and inclusion for New Zealand's rainbow community."

ANZ's chief financial officer, Antonia Watson, the executive sponsor of the bank's Pride Network, said it aimed to encourage staff to be themselves at work.
However, she said the move also made good business sense for the bank, "given the make-up of our staff and customers".

The language is fabulous, the GAYTMs are pretty and profits from non-ANZ cards will go queerly to underresourced queer community organisations.  And as part of this burst of publicity for ANZ, they have been awarded the Rainbow Tick.
“We believe that celebrating a diverse New Zealand is not only the right thing to do but also makes good business sense given the make-up of our staff and customers,” says ANZ Chief Financial Officer Antonia Watson, who is also the ANZ Pride Network’s executive sponsor.
“The GAYTMs represent values that are important to all of us: respect, inclusion, equality and acceptance.”
The Rainbow Tick gives organisations queer mana - they are officially inclusive and treat us as well, you know, staff and customers.

Except I'm not sure I want to be treated like one of ANZ's staff.  Well, not all of them anyway.  Last year ANZ was super lucrative, making a $1.7 billion profit so the New Zealand chief executive could give himself a 15% pay rise up to $4.7 million.

Celebrating a diverse New Zealand for ANZ didn't extend to offering their staff 15% pay rises.  In fact, staff began striking from late last year, culminating in national action on Christmas Eve, because they could not get a 5% rise across the line, nor could they get ANZ to agree that having 20% of staff prepared to work without set starting and finishing times or set days of work was adequate.

Despite their commitment to diversity, ANZ needs all new staff to be prepared to have their working hours change month by month.  Hard for parents, caregivers, people with study, voluntary work, sports, music or any other kind of commitments really.

The hypocrisy of ANZ's pinkwashing - and make no mistake, this is inspired marketing - allows their behaviour with their real staff to be minimised.  From The Financial Brand:
Key Insight: This is what smart, savvy brand builders do. ANZ has transformed the otherwise mundane activity of withdrawing money into a branded experience that has helped the bank generate huge amounts of name awareness.
But the chief concern for me is that when the queer community lines up behind GAYTMs, when we offer these kinds of workplaces a Rainbow Tick, we are saying that shiny things for queer people are more important than worker's rights.

Like these are different things.

Queer people's rights are workers rights.  You cannot be a good employer for queer people just by talking about respect and diversity.  You have to also offer working conditions that are acceptable for all workers, because queer people need to know what time their day starts and ends too.  We need to know we will have enough money to feed ourselves and our loved ones, even if we're not a chief executive.

You can contact Rainbow Tick here if you want to let them know this pinkwashing doesn't work for you.  Or even better, you can support workers rights at ANZ by telling ANZ here.  First Union are updating where negotiations for ANZ staff are at regularly here.

Friday, 6 February 2015

The Mainstream Media Paepae

It's Waitangi Day, Aotearoa.  Time for Pākehā to reflect on what it means to live on colonised land, where promises were made but not kept and the consequences are discrimination, disadvantage and disrespect for Māori.

Unless of course you're the Race Relations commissioner, who's bored with the political shenanigans and couldn't care less. 

There will be Opinion Pieces.  There will be White People Saying Stuff about those rude people at Waitangi and remember when they wouldn't let Helen Clark talk and do none of them have jobs, anyway?

The lack of knowledge of our colonial history will be on full display.  Many New Zealanders actually believe individual weaknesses of Māori explain any problems we have now, protestors are just divisive and that it would be lovely if we would just play rugby, drink and sing together.

It's this lack of knowledge which makes for some very strange public spokespeople emerging.  Leaving Ms Devoy aside, the person who's grabbed the most airtime this year hasn't been a kuia with lots of mana like Naida Glavish, or a lawyer who's been working on resolving Te Tiriti claims for decades like Annette Sykes, or even the chair of the United Nations working group on the rights of indigenous peoples, like Moana Jackson.  

Nope, it's a white dude who doesn't like cats

It's not the substance of Mr Morgan's comments on Te Tiriti I'm interested in here - other people have already done that well - it's the media constructed attention he's getting.   Like other rich white men his age (cough Bob Jones), Mr Morgan is enjoying a media platform amplifying his voice in ways he does not deserve. 

Check this out - Orewa, 2015, showdown between Old Rich White Men Talking About Race.  In the blue corner, we have Brash Man.  In the corner he bought for himself, we have Mr Morgan.  Nineteen people come to listen to them, all, it sounds like, from the same demographic.  Nineteen.  I can get that many people to come listen to me talk about who's going to win the cricket world cup if I offer to cook dinner.  And none of my friends like cricket.

But look at the fine print in this article.  It says there are "almost the same number of media representatives".

That's the shame.  When the media could be covering incredible orators with vast knowledge like Moana Jackson and Annette Sykes, when they could be asking young Māori what Te Tiriti means to them, when they could be approaching Pākehā historians like Anne Salmond or James Belich to educate us, to expand our views, to move us on, they are trailing around after a bloke who doesn't like cats.

No disrespect Mr Morgan, but check your privilege here.  I don't actually like the things you are saying - I think they are cloaked in dangerous, racist discourses like one law for all and Treaty industry - but as importantly, I don't like the fact you are taking advantage of your privilege to influence public debate on a topic you are ill-qualified to comment.  Perhaps you could use your influence to help ensure we hear the voices of people who have dedicated their lives to understanding Te Tiriti and colonisation?

That's who I would like to listen to and learn from today. Tino rangatiratanga peeps, hope Waitangi Day opens new learnings for you.