The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Now that we've established AJ is real, here's a response to part of this debate.

I wrote:

6. How can you ignore all the evidence that women are a) capable of, and b)
quite keen on, a role in public life and still maintain that we would prefer to
return to the agrarian utopia you propose?
AJ replied:

I am yet to see such evidence. I am yet to meet such a woman who seems content and peaceable with themselves and with the world. I know women who do want to have a role in public life, but never at the expense of their family or their femininity. This I encourage.
Here's some evidence:

1. Kate Sheppard and the suffragette movement - clear indication that NZ women wanted to have a democratic say in their society, ie a role in public life.

2. Women politicians, especially party leaders, eg Helen Clark, Jeanette Fitzsimmons, Jill Ovens, Tariana Turia, Margaret Thatcher, Jenny Shipley, Condolezza Rice (although of course I wouldn't call those last three sisters) - not only capable women (even the ones I disagree with), but also all of them have long histories of involvement in political life, at various levels.

3. Women's organisations that are active in public life, eg National Council of Women, Maori Women's Welfare League, women's collectives and feminist groups at universities (eg the Raving Feminist Witches and Feminist Action, both of which I was involved in a little) - all of these women's organisations (and others) have taken an interest in issues beyond the home.

4. Female leadership in all sorts of organisations and movements, eg Carol Beaumont, Laila Harre, Darien Fenton in unions, Sian Elias and Augusta Wallace in the judiciary, Sylvia Cartwright and Cath Tizard as GGs, mutiple female mayors around the country, Susan St John and Janfrie Wakim in Child Poverty Action, women in student politics such as Kate Sutton and Amanda Hill, women journalists like Audrey Young and Jane Clifton (and others), not to mention the many women such as myself who have blogs that at least touch on politics and clearly show that we are interested in the political sphere and as capable as any of the male bloggers at commenting upon it.

I could go on and on with examples of women who have wanted, and achieved, roles in public life (and encourage readers to list such in comments). Women have made positive political change in NZ - they have been pivotal organisers, behind the scenes and out in front, in every social movement this country has seen, eg the peace movement, HART, the campaign for MMP, the Hikoi.

The fact is that women have wanted a role in public life for generations uncountable. Think about women in history - Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, Victoria, Livia, Penthesilia, Dido, Catherine the Great, Boudicea. Many of these women were warriors, either directly or as the head of nations at war, and all of them were political leaders.

You may see the many women I have listed above as aberrations, but the fact is that their number has been increasing with time, not decreasing. This shows that as the barriers fall more women are keen to be involved in public life, not less.

AJ you have claimed that women who show an unfeminine interest in politics are unhappy underneath it all, implying that the discontent is due to going outside of their natural role by pursuing a role in public life. I say, as one of those women, that this is bollocks. I find that when I do not have a political outlet for my concerns about society I become more unhappy, not less. In the past I have made attempts, due to health concerns largely, to cut politics out of my life, or diminish it, and inevitably I have been drawn back - I have things to say, changes to lobby for, and I cannot meekly sit back and merely watch the game.

To be interested and active in politics does not automatically start to turn a woman into a man, either. The many examples I gave above cover a whole gamut of different women who express themselves differently - but all are undeniably women.

And why is it that we rarely say that a man is putting their career, political or otherwise, ahead of their family, yet mothers are constantly criticised for this? It is possible to have balance in your life, although I admit that our society is not currently set-up to make this easy and it is something I struggle towards myself. Out-moded ideas that only women can care for children and do the housework remain significant barriers to allowing women to achieve such a balance.

Perhaps it would be helpful if rather than making (and responding to) bizarre and out-dated statements about women and their role in society, we all turned our debating efforts towards how mothers and other women can overcome the sexist stereotypes that still make life difficult for many of them?


gpjwatson said...

Chesswas seems rather insular in his thinking.

Women can be involved in both public life and their family, take Ruth Richardson who while in Parliament had very young children so advocated and succeeded in the establishment of a Parliamentary creche.

Xavier said...

And Katherine Rich, If I'm not mistaken, as well? Didn't she have some kiddies while in Parliament? Or am I getting her confused with someone else...

Maria von Trapp said...

Excellently put Span, especially this bit: "And why is it that we rarely say that a man is putting their career, political or otherwise, ahead of their family, yet mothers are constantly criticised for this?"

The idea that all women who want to be involved more in public life fit into some kind of "lost feminity" box is insane. The vast array you list in your post highlights that women still retain their differences, and their womenhood while involved.

I say work/life balance for all!


It occurs to me there are many issues in this debate. One I am thinking a lot about is the need for outsiders to define what is fulfilling and rewarding for others. Meaning, those who don't live my life try to determine what is best for me and what is most fulfilling. The trouble is as much as we would like to be mind readers and place people in a glass house, there is no real way to determine if someone is truly happy in their way of living. Often times, we may not even completely understand our own fulfillment. There are times for self-examination along the way and adjustment accordingly. Really, it is just not good to say a person is unfulfilled or menacing in this role or that. I am convinced that God will work through us in whatever auspices we have chosen to put ourselves in. I am quite certain in my career as a social worker that I was effective and I believed I did myself right and those around me too. I am home now using those very skills I fine tuned then in a farming arena. I would say I am more fulfilled doing what I am doing here now. I don't anticipate returning to a career outside our farm. I can't say that all women would feel comfortable living as I do. Not all men would feel comfortable doing what my husband does.

The simple truth is women are very influential. They set a certain tone where ever they go. There are many bibical examples of women in a public arena working and influencing people. Lydia, the seller of purple cloth for example, Also, the proverbs 31 woman was quite a business woman. She bought and sold land.

Another delimma I see that hampers effectiveness of women is how we choose to define ourselves and separate ourselves apart from God. We strive so much to have an autonomy apart from men, but the real issue is how we define ourselves in relation to God. Tuning into His purpose for us should bring us in harmony with fulfillment. Such fulfillment does not mean that we must have a man to have significant impact on those around us. It also does not mean we have to be birthing babies to have an influence. Some of us are infertile and some of those dudes kick the bucket early even if we marry them.

I don't think the bible denies the influential role of women. Eve persuaded her husband to sin. Ruth and Rahab are listed in the geneaology of Christ. I think they are two of three women listed.

Delilah used her wiles to manipulate Sampson to tell her the secret of his strength.

The question should not be are women influential in the public arena. A better question is how do we want to use our power and influence? Do we want it to benefit or to manipulate? This is a question posed to all of humankind.

gpjwatson said...

Each individual woman, and man for that matter should decide for themselves how they want to apply their talents and gifts.

I reject the view that women should be looked at as a group, or that women are any more or less influential than men.

It would benefit our society immensely if we looked at people, regardless of their gender, as individuals. This would allow us to assess them on their merits and interact on the basis they are equal.

This division along racial and gender lines, so often pushed by rednecks and the left, is so prehistoric.


I agree with you GPJWatson, I think we are saying the same thing in a round about way. I would only add that we should be so involved in our own walk with life that there is little time to judge others walks as fruitful or meaningless. When I find enough time to entertain such a thought process then I need to get a little busier.

Little Girl in a Black Apron said...

god i love kate sheppard, shes like papatuanuku for white people

mark said...

Great stuff, span. I completely agree with what KSMILKMAID is saying too.

Unsolicited judgement of others = bad

Icehawk said...


As much as I admire your persistence, those who claim the world is flat are not amenable to reason. I suspect you're being wound up...

AJ lives in a country with a woman prime minister, a woman governor general, a woman CEO of the biggest company, and a woman head of the supreme court. If they can't see the evidence in front of their face, you've no hope.

span said...

i thought i was being wound up too, that's why i posted my "questions" post last week. but AJ really sincerely does appear to believe that there is no evidence. i wish he would reply to this post to confirm/deny that, though.

A. J. Chesswas said...

My apologies Spanner. Sorry for not commenting earlier.

I said;

"I know women who do want to have a role in public life, but never at the expense of their family or their femininity. This I encourage."

My thinking clashes with more recent versions of feminism over a definition of femininity and masculinity.

I agree with Piper & Grudem, whose definition is adopted by a number of professors in disciplines ranging from sociology to biology to neuropsychiatry;

"At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships."

"At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman's differing relationships."

NOTE: "a wife's submission would take different forms depending on the quality of a husband's leadership...she must never follow her husband's leadership into [wrongdoing]...But even where a wife may have to stand against the will of her husband...She can show by her attitude and behaviour that she does not like resisting his will and that she longs for him to forsake [wrongdoing] and lead in righteousness so that her disposition to honour him as head can again produce harmony."

fthis definition seems oppressive and unjust to you, it may pay for you to read the whole chapter to understand the underlying aesthetic, and appreciate its potential for personal fulfillment, contentment and satisfaction;

Now, of course, this definition of femininity and masculinity is at odds with the positions of women such as Helen Clark, Dame Silvia Cartwright, Tariana Turia, Margaret Thatcher, Jenny Shipley and Condolezza Rice. It is not necessarily at odds with women like Kate Sheppard, who simply led a social movement rather than an establishment social institution. Same applies to groups such as Maori Women's Welfare League, although there are many cases where exclusively female groups have produced thought and action that is more than slightly concerning. Also, these definitions do not preclude women such as yourself from contributing to political dialogue (otherwise I wouldn't be having this discussion with you now). Mind you, I am wary of the relational implications and epistemological pitfalls of male-female communication; and conclude there must be a reason the Apostle Paul thought it best for "a woman not to teach a man". This is a principle I need to explore further before I'd be willing to adopt or espouse it.

I'm not arguing against a role in public life per se, I'm debating the nature and extent that role should take, given the nature of masculinity and femininity. I would not like to deprive you of a political outlet, I'm only suggesting that outlet should be tempered by an understanding of what it means to be a woman. You could go down the Helen Clark path, or the Kate Sheppard path. Have a look at their portraits sometime, and consider whether or not feminism has betrayed its etymological roots and become something more akin to female masculinism.

A. J. Chesswas said...

Now consider this, from the book of Romans (Chapter 1):

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

NOTE: What begins by refusing to glorify God as creator, by refusing to give thanks to him (for what he has given us - ie our masculinity and femininity); our hearts become darkened and our thinking futile. Those who follow this path often find themselves drawn to a lifetyle of sexual perversion, which in turn leads to bodily and spiritual destruction.

You can't dismiss this as just religion, or morals. Romans 1 describes what many of us see every day - a world committed to the rejection of things natural, and the embrace of things perverse.

A. J. Chesswas said...

Also, men abscond from masculinity as much as women do femininity;

"At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships."

If men were more benevolent and responsible women would not be as compelled to provide for and protect themselves.

NOTE; I believe women should certainly be equipped with the skills and ability to provide for and protect themselves. But I also believe that protection and provision are primarily the man's responsibility.

A. J. Chesswas said...

I would be interested to hear Paul's views on the matter (SubversNZ), a good friend of mine who is currently a student and whose wife is the main provider in the household.

span said...

just a quick reply as i am at work, but do you accept now that there is in fact evidence that women are capable of a role in public life?

and do you accept that many women actively seek such a role?

just trying to clarify as you seem to be talking about a whole other argument in your comments (one which i still disagree with, but more on that later)

A. J. Chesswas said...

It is hard to say re: capability - there is more to a role than just skills. Every job and role takes place within a relational context, and political and management roles involve very subjective decisions and actions that are hard to evaluate within a framework of "capability". I can accept that women can do maths, understand economics, science, technology etc. I can accept that some women are better than some men in the jobs that they do. But, as I said, any role carries with it relational implications as well as utilitarian imperatives.

Of course I see that women seek roles of political and business leadership. However, Just because they seek such roles, or are "keen on them", doesn't make it right. And it doesn't mean it's what they necessarily really want and/or need.

span said...

and so we get back to AJ being offensive again (soon to be no doubt followed by AJ being startled and defensive).

so if i said that Christians don't really want to believe in God, they just feel empty due to the capitalist society we live in and they fill this hole with mindless religion, would you find that offensive?

what would it take to prove to you that some women (a large number) do want roles in public life?

and where do you get off telling us what we do and don't need?

of course you are never going to believe anything i type on this subject because you think i am just deluded. you seem to think that all of the women i have listed above, who have sought and played roles in society outside the home, are deluded too - is that right?

i find this whole thing exasperating and i think i'm going to have to stop very soon.

span said...

actually my attempt to be offensive isn't anywhere near as offensive as your comment AJ. i would find it difficult to write something in a comment like that myself.

A. J. Chesswas said...

My comments could only be deemed offensive if you expect me to trust you; why should I trust you given that I don't even know you? Ideas aren't held in a vacuum, they are lived out or not lived out in the life of a person, successfully or unsuccessfully, consistently or inconsistently. The integrity of a person's idea depends on their ability to live it out. Thus I cannot trust you, or any radical feminist, until I have got to know them and seen them live their ideas out successfully and consistently.

My life experience, which includes meeting, befriending and observed many women (, tells me that despite towing the 21st century line of formal education and employment women really just want to have children. Nature confirms this. Furthermore, my experience shows me that nobody really knows what they "want" (; that most "ambition" stems from some egotistical need to prove oneself, and that most aversion to parenting is really due to a sense of insecurity either about one's ability to parent, or a pessimism about raising children in this mess of a world.

Your Marxist comments about religion do not offend me at all. I agree that religion has been used both in the past (settler NZ), and now (Bush), to aid and assist "capitalism". I also notice, like any decent neo-Marxist, that capitalists also use promote materialistic and hedonistic lifestyles to create markets - the subject of exploitation is now as much the consumer as the worker. Interesting you use this example, though - the concept of "false consciousness" Marx identified is very similar to that described in Romans 1, and explains well the indoctrination of today's women by radical feminists. After all, in today's economy, the commercialisation of women's production and consumption aids the capitalist agenda as much as anyone's.

Icehawk said...


Give up.

He's saying that no matter how much empirical evidence you have, how good people are at leadership is unmeasurable. And therefore his subjective judgements are unassailable by any empirical evidence.

It's a debate ender: a "I've got my fingers in my ears and I'm not listening" point.

Likewise "false consciousness". It's a way of dismissing all contrary evidence: "oh they all _say_ that but really they don't know their own minds, they don't know what they want, they just think they know". You can advance all the evidence you want, he'll claim that despite the vast majority of people saying and doing things counter to his view it's just because they don't really know what they want.

It's another debate ender: another "I have my fingers in my ears and I'm not listening" point of the debate.

Likewise his dismissal of your views as ones he cannot trust. There he's also pulling a post-modernist embodied praxis line: "oh, and life has to been lived, ideas can't exist in a vacuum, so if I don't like you then I don't have to listen to you". It's a fairly common move in certain post-modernist circles: embodiment of praxis taken as a counter to rational debate. But he's certainly in character here: the importance of embodied life is very much a standard of catholic philosophy, post-modernism got it from there (via Heidegger).

It's another "I've my fingers in my ears and I'm not listening" point of the debate.

It annoys me greatly that AJ keeps insulting my mum. It annoys me that he is going to continue wandering the blogosphere, with his fingers in his ears, ignoring all criticism, insulting my mum nonstop.

But like a conspiracy theorist he's severed any link between empirical evidence and his views. So rational debate won't stop him.

Give up, span. You've better things to do with your time.

Make Tea Not War said...

I agree with Icehawk. The conspiracy theorist analogy had struck me too.

jarrod said...

Icehawk and MTNW are dead right.

Having said that, I'd like to give A.J. something to think about - and it's this: anecdotal evidence (i.e. evidence in the nature of "in my experience" etc) isn't actually evidence at all. It's just an anecdote.

Unless A.J. has solid reasons to believe that:

1. the women he has spent enough time with to analyse (and I'd guess that's a pretty short list) constitute a representative sample - i.e. there are no possible reasons why these individual women might differ from any (or every) other woman in the population; and

2. his analyses of these women are accurate and unbiased

then his observations are precisely worthless. They amount to "every woman I have met, in my admittedly biased opinion, was unhappy with her lot in life and would prefer to be making babies".

This serves to tell us a whole lot about A.J., possibly a little bit about the women he has had meaningful encounters with, and nothing at all about women in general.

Which is a shame really because I fully support A.J.'s struggle against our future female overlords. I myself become resolved to man's eventual subjugation and enslavement by women some time ago, and A.J.'s appearance briefly cheered me.

But I just can't tolerate crappy logic.

A. J. Chesswas said...

Jarrod; The Discursive Nature of Truth. If what I am saying is true then other people will identify with it; based on their experience. If everyone actively engages with and thinks about people around them, and shared those thoughts and experiences in forums like this, truth would ideally win out in the end. I anticipate your contribution, and that of anyone else who begs to differ with mine (as Span has most graciously done).

jarrod said...


The idea of experiential discursive truth is flawed - everyone's "view" of the world is coloured by a cognitive schema.

Your interpretation of a given event, therefore, is somewhat likely to vary from (say) mine. You might then argue that if more people relate to your interpretation of events than relate to mine, then your interpretation is "true".

Sadly, you would be incorrect. The truth or untruth of your interpretation cannot be validated by a discursive process, no matter how democratic that might seem. The number of people who hold a viewpoint is not a measure of the truth of that viewpoint.

Your failure to understand this is why you will inevitably fall to the relentless machine-like logic of our feminine conquerors, while I will be among the most favoured of their slaves.

span said...

so AJ, many people are telling me that I am wasting my time trying to engage with you on these issues, and frankly (no offence servant) i am beginning to agree. Tell me, do you think i am wasting my time? Are you ever going to seriously consider any points made in this debate by a mere woman?

And jarrod, WE will determine who the favoured slaves are not you :-P (but keep up the good work)

BerlinBear said...

Good try Span, but the writing is on the wall, as Icehawk and others have said.

Yet again, I am utterly stunned that someone can evidently be so well read and yet so completely deluded. It clearly goes in, because he can quote it all and bandy about the fancy terminology, but somehow it just doesn't seem to click. Weird.

KSmilkmaid said...

AJ has good points but where the problem comes in is judgement and generalization. God is the ultimate judge and mankind was not made with a cookie cutter. After all we are made in his image. He says we can never understand his height, depth and breadth. So, if we are made in his image, like him, why would we think we can size up mankind and happiness with a series of propositions to live life this way to gain happiness?

Many people latch on to joy and hope in a particular approach to life. During this process they have several options. Share the joy or hoard the joy. 1) Share the joy unrestrained with no conditions placed on the recipient. There appears to be a biblical mandate to this approach. Live your life in such away that when people see the hope that lies within you, be prepared to give an answer with reverance. I think this is found in 1 Peter. The implication is that you are not actively vocalizing your happiness but living it out. The other implicaition is you are waiting for people to ask you about the hope that lies within you. You are just offering unasked for advice.

2)They can also hoard the joy claiming only people who live a certain way will obtain such joy. It is an ego centered distortion of true joy. It is similar to the pharasees creating external customs in addition to the law.

There is a fine line though that is being crossed here. The line is prescribing for everyone what they should be doing to acheive happiness.

Yes, the state of our world is bad, but it isn't because of industrial living or feminsism. It is because of human nature...sinful nature. All the things debated are not new. The are so very old. There is no new set of standards that will help us put an end to such peril. There is only one answer and that lies within the word to be discovered and studied by individuals. It is far better to encourage people to seek God in the word then try to intepret the word for them. Let God do the talking. His word speaks clearly on its own. It is sharper than a two edged sword and cuts to the marrow. God does not ask any of us to open the letter and give our views of how it should be applied in all circumstances. He asks us to deliver the letter.

We can not limit God and say that because people live opposite to what we do that God will not be glorified in their situation.
For example, I homeschool my children. The public school here is not keen on God. Does that mean all children who go to public school are uncapable of glorifying God? No. Take for example the Columbine High shootings. Those murderous teenagers shot and killed a girl named Cassie. They asked her a simple question. Do you believe in Jesus? She said yes and they shot and killed her. As horrible as this appears, it was on all over the news media. A teenager in public school took her stand. She confessed Christ. I don't know if any of my children have that strength. I would hope so, but I can't say that they do just because I home school. The point is God will be glorified no matter what choices we make. He is working in all arenas. City life, country life, men and women.

To be real honest, I would love for people to live like I do, not because it brings God glory, but it makes ME feel better about ME being right. It is very self serving, not God serving.

Jesus spent a great deal of his ministry demonstrating how generalizations do not work. We want to be able to look at the external things and judge a persons heart based on that. God knew what he was doing when he created us without the ability to read minds and hearts. It is not the business of man.

I refrain from saying farm life is the only way for everyone. It is the only way for me. I refrain from saying Christianity and feminity is the only way for everyone. IT is the only way for me. Many others have chosen different routes. Only they know their thoughts when they pillow their heads at night. The bible is full of examples of God revealing himself to all people in all circumstances. He is notorious for offering hope to people of all walks of life in all settings.

I see AJ as humble but misguided by pride. I was there not so long ago. God showed me through a great biblical truth. I was being judged so critically in my life. It brought me to a point of desparate pleaing with God to take the pain of that judgement away. I had to come face to face that I was being judged by the same measure I was juding others by. Only when I let go of my pride of my personal lifestyle, was I able to free myself from my critics clutches.

A.J. proceed with caution. You seem like you are right where I was a few years ago. Just share your joy in a simple agrarian way. Let God do the convicting and changing. Your working to hard at this mate and getting hammered in the process. His burden is easy and his yoke is light.

SubversNZ said...

By inference I am absconding from my masculinity (which is measured by my ability to provide for my wife) by studying my wife is working.

We wouldn't like to think of marriage as a partnership of equals, no that would be too much.

You should read Stoic philosophers Allan, you'd like them.

Men, do this,
YOUR women do that,
YOUR children do this,
YOUR slaves do that.

I simply don't get your obsession with gender roles, when the NT spends so little time discussing them.