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

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Is the Young Nats a sexist organisation?

Well this post was inspired by Maria Von Trapp's classy rant over on her own blog about the fight she was having on the Young Nats blog (now sadly defunct) about women's representation and specifically Women's (Rights) Officers.

Having been alerted to the somewhat retrograde attitudes Ms Von Trapp was battling, I had a look at the Young Nats website. And what do you know, almost everyone is a young white man.

Actually some aren't young, that would be those on the history page showing famous ex-YNers, they are somewhat older, and to be fair there is one woman on that page too. That bastion of the pro-woman line, the person who was part of the team that made one of the most vicious and long-lasting attacks on women (and their children) on benefits, yes that's right folks, Ruth Richardson. In the 70 year history of the Young Nats (est. 1936) there is one woman they can lay claim to. Humph. So it seems, from their own website, that women haven't seen (or found) the Young Nationals as a useful stepping stone to greater political positions.

Now MVT referred in her post to the single female on their Exec. She's in the Women's Officer role, apparently. But I couldn't find reference to her on the website. Just an Exec filled with chaps (who look somewhat disturbingly like they are all distantly related, judging by the haircuts).

Of course there will be women in the Young Nats, but when the evidence on their own website is restricted to a shot of some nameless young females on the membership page, and one other picture I noticed that features a young woman (mercifully deemed to be worthy of a name this time, but don't worry the pose rather makes it appear that she is under the control of a male member) then it's a worry. This is potentially the future core of the Opposition after all.

The current National leader has been happy to deal with organisations that severely restrict their own female members*, and claimed he lost a political debate before the election because he was going easy on his female opponent. Perhaps Brash's 1950s attitude to women in public life has trickled down even to the youth wing?

* Is anyone else suddenly thinking about Don Brash's flip-flop on Civil Unions in a new light?


David Farrar said...

I can recall one year where not only all three national officers were women, but so were all five regional chairs - not a single bloke on the Exec of Eight.

These things tend to go in cycles.

backin15 said...

Oh god they look exactly as they did ten years ago - like some sort of B-grade extras for the OC.

stef said...

At guess I would suspect that it has more to do with the fact that women as a group don't tend to support the right so ergo they aren't likely to get involved in the national party.

Amazed they still claim ownership over Winnie, Michael Laws and Jonathan Hunt!

Gerrit said...

Would the country womens institute be considered sexist?

Just because an organisation may not have the correct gender balance does not make it sexist.

All football/netball teams should have the correct gender balance, now that would be interesting!

Me thinks Span is mischief making.

red said...

they have margret thatcher on their front page... I mean really...MARGRET THATCHER!

Maria von Trapp said...

no, they don't have a Women's Officer Role at all.


Gerrit you're missing the point completely - those are silly examples. A political organisation that claims to represent the "mainstream" and thinks they're the best outfit to run our country vs. a sports team.

*Quite* different methinks.

andrewfalloon said...

Heh, I can assure you that Glubb has control over NO woman :)

Span, while I can see your point on the lack of females in top positions this year, why do you see it as a concern?? In past years there have (as DPF points out) a number of females on the Exec, shouldn't the best people for respective positions get the job??

These positions are democratically elected, having a specified female role could actually weaken their position. Rather than running for the Presidency etc, they may instead just take on the WRO role.

What message does it send?? That women are not capable of being elected to the top positions on their own merits?? ACT on Campus is currently run by a female and she does a brilliant job, I should know, she beat me for the position. :)

PabloR said...

David says: I can recall one year where not only all three national officers were women...

Sounds like a blip, not a cycle to me...

Span says: is potentially the future core of the Opposition after all.

Had me rolling on the floor laughing!

I know it is something of a rhetorical question, but Brash's attitude prob had little impact upon the YN's attitude to women: all the 20 something tory boys that I have had the pleasure to know have been mysoginistic (to varying degrees) tossers

Gerrit said...


Just having fun!

How does one get the right gender balance in a political organistion?

More controls?

Should the labour/national parties have a joint male and female leader like the greens?

Some would say political madness taken onto another level.

Just inmgine democratically elected members of an political party being refused office because the gender balance would be out of kilter!

Maybe you just dont like democracy!

Guess the unions have gender balance in all their positions?

Maria von Trapp said...

gerrit said: "How does one get the right gender balance in a political organistion?

More controls?"

I think getting the right balance between *manufacturing* a growth in the gender balance and allowing it to happen naturally (with the help of a positive-to-women environment of course) is the way to go. The key is to look for trends - and we are seeing a trend of more women MPs in the Labour Party, so that is a good thing.

"Should the labour/national parties have a joint male and female leader like the greens?"

No I don't think that is necessary.

"Maybe you just dont like democracy!"

What a silly thing to say!

"Guess the unions have gender balance in all their positions?"

Span would know the answer to that - it's probably different in different unions. The difference though is recognising there is a problem if there isn't a good gender balance, rather than just ignoring it. Gender imbalances will continue to occur for awhile, but as long as we are moving towards better equality and represntation then we are on the right path - that is what's key.

Gerrit said...

Point taken Maria,

Still feel that the post was frivolous.

Just because Brash talked to the EB's with their clearly defined gender imbalanced organisation does that reflect his, the young nats, or the national party thinking.

Should he ignore all other organisations with gender

Should the queation be why are there not more women in the young nats?

That should pose an interesting reply!

Ghet said...

I have a feeling I'm going to get into horrible trouble with this, but when I was in Labour Youth, I was often expected to go off with the wimmin and discuss wimmin's issues. This used to bug the hell out of me, because the key issues for me at the time weren't those traditionally side-tracked into the girly area, and I didn't like being told what was important to me because I had breasts.

I don't think you can tell too much just from raw numbers - I'd rather have one Katherine Rich on the front bench than five Judith Collinses. OTOH, right-wing parties do all seem to have trouble attracting women, and that is interesting intellectually.

Span said...

Regarding blips/cycles - yes there are cycles. But my impression with most organisations is that it's not usually all of one gender unless it is an organisation with membership which is largely (and I mean like 80% plus) of one gender or the other. Is this the case with YN?

Currently the YN exec is entirely male. (Thanks to MVT for pointing out my error, shall correct in the post when I get a chance). This may reflect the membership. The impression you get from their website is that it is very much a young white male organisation. I hope they have plans to change this, or it doesn't bode well for the future.

Span said...

AF asked why am I concerned about this. I think MVT summed it up well, in regard to National's aspirations that it represents the "mainstream" of NZ. And yet it's youth wing appears to be dominated by men (don't even start me on the ethnicity aspect).

How can the views and experiences of women be part of the processes of an organisation that doesn't seem to involve them much?

Quite apart from the fact that we know that women often are very interested in politics - actively so. Think of all the examples today of women across the spectrum. Yes it is still less in most parties than a gender balance would anticipate, and I predict that more women will be involved in the future as attitudes change and more are free from various barriers to participation they still face.

So if we know that women are interested in becoming politically active then we have to start asking the question - why don't they appear to be in organisation W, X or YN?

It would be really great to get some input from some YN people on this, I would be interested in their responses.

Span said...

As to Gerrit - just quickly, because I'm running out of time.

1. Yes I was being a bit mischeivious (sp?) but the points made are still valid.

2. Gender balances in unions? Yes definitely far from perfect in many. But most I am aware of have taken steps to build women's involvement by providing a range of ways that they can get involved, including things like Women's Officers, women's networks, setting up harassment networks and making commitments to making their union more woman-friendly.

Gerrit said...

Does making the unions more women friendly make them more men unfriendly?

Or are both genders having equal represented in the womens officers, womens network, etc.

Or will this be case your a woman, here is your safety network. You are a man and your network is seperate.

Cactus Kate said...

Generally if women want to join the Young Nats they are promoted quickly to positions on the Executive. From what I have seen in the past there is almost a bias towards it.

I don't think they are a sexist organisation. Women have just chosen not to be involved at this point in time.

I cannot see why not as the Exec are a good looking young bunch of guys from what I can see here. Calling out Matt and Daniel....yeah not bad...

Why the hell do you want a woman's rights officer? Ridiculous. I am sure Matt is more than capable of upholding the rights of any young woman.

Span said...

In response to Ghet, I think it's important that women (actually everyone) has a variety of ways they can be involved in an organisation, I don't think there's anything wrong with choosing one path or another, whatever suits you.

But it is interesting that the issus you were interested in weren't being discussed in the women's group. Was there not space for you to raise them or did you just prefer an all-in environment?

One thing I have noted about women's groups within broader organisations is that there is often an attempt to restrict what they talk about. The same with youth wings, ethnicity-based sectors, pink networks, etc. I think this is a mistake.

(Will hopefully get a chance to respond to other comments later today or tomorrow, please keep them coming, this is an interesting discussion)

Gerrit said...


If womens groups restrict themselves to only discussing womens issues are they sexist?

Or by design is a womens group not sexist.

In a similar vein that the maori party advocate that by distinction maori cannot be racist?

One of the problems I foresee is that marginalising (and excluding) the people you ralley against in any end goals the feminist movement has may not help in achieving those goals.

A very extreme example (and it is used as an example only, dont go getting on high horses please!!)is feminist calling all men rapists.

That may lead men to say feminist call me a rapist so their expectation is for me to be one.

Counter productive.

I think the answer lies in inclusion. Would like to see the feminist movement come out with education programmes that for one understand men and their linear, logical thinking and two, work on how the men and women would be able to interact for the common good of both men and women.

Males and especially white males are getting the put down in stereotypical ways as being sexist and racist with the result that their attitude is fast becoming "yea whatever" and tuning out.

Sorry for another essay.

Ghet said...

Span- I always prefer an all-in environment. I understand that due to time constraints sometimes it's not possible to have everyone involved in discussion on every issue. But I also think there's no 'women's issue' that wouldn't benefit from input from men. And yes, the same goes for race issues and rainbow issues and religious issues - the more different perspectives you can get round a table, the better.

I have to say I was also the youngest and least experienced of the women on the council and because of that I felt I wasn't really in a position to dictate the debate. These days I'm older and a lot stroppier.

Trouble said...

Come on, DPF's a sort of young nat, and he has pictures of women all over his website ;-)

I recall a Young Nat I met once defending the scarcity of women in Bolger's post-Ruth Cabinet - he said "well, perhaps there just aren't any more who are good enough to be there."

Maria von Trapp said...

indeed. women who get labelled with the tag: "girls"

says it all really. if I were the nats I'd be concerned about the image his website portrays of their organisation.

Heine said...

Nonsense. I don't see any kicking and screaming about why your own coalition partner NZF have only one woman MP and have been famous for its boys club mentality.

Perhaps before you start throwing stones at your latest target of hate, look a little closer to home.

David Farrar said...

Someone remind me how long ago it was that Young Labour had a female President? Moana and Ana were last IIRC and that was many many years ago - in the 1990s.

Chaucey said...

I was the Lower North Island Young Nats treasurer a year or two ago, and at that time there were several other women on the committee with me.

I don't think there is any sexism - I didn't see any.

What is the proportion of males to females in the general National Party membership? Probably more men, so you'd expect the same in the Young Nats.

I'm completely against the establishment of a special womens role - it sends a message that women aren't good enough to contest the elections for the standard committee roles.

The only bias I have seen in the Young Nats is a bias towards Uni students and their interests. As a working person I found that a bit dull.

Heine said...

Exactly. How insulting to women that we must create positions for them because they cannot get there on their own merits. Tell that to the women in the real world and you will be taught a quick lesson on life!

Span said...

I find it interesting that you (Heine) think this is some kind of coordinated attack by Young Labour. I'm not in Young Labour, never have been. MVT and I are friends, and have discussed a few blog-related things by email lately, but not until after she wrote her original post and I wrote mine inspired by her's.
Not everything is a part of the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. Or at least this isn't.

I also note that your incitement to your own readers to give me "hell" over here has not born any fruit yet.

Span said...

Chaucey, thanks for sharing your experience, I appreciate it. I was hoping that my post might flush a few YNers out of the woodwork who could give some insight and I'm glad you commented. I think your point about university bias is a problem for most youth wings, from what I've seen of the ones on the left of the centre myself. And unfortunately it becomes a vicious circle.

Heine said...

It worked wonders Span, thanks for reading.

Never did answer my questions that I raised though. Pity.

Span said...

It worked wonders by not enticing a single extra comment here? My word you do have low standards.

Span said...

(I'm sure I've made a comment to this extent somewhere else but I can't find it anywhere so I'll risk repeating myself instead.)

Regarding (trying to avoid upsetting Eric) the issue about women's officer roles and whether they are patronising or not.

The reason I don't find them patronising is that I don't think they are about coralling women's involvement into one position only. Instead they are about encouraging women to get involved at higher levels of an organisation, by giving them an opportunity to get involved in an electoral contest which is not going to be skewed by the gender of the participants, i.e. male candidates will get more votes simply because they are male. And yes that does happen.

Ok I am more and more sure that I have posted this somewhere else because I remember writing about the time I stood against a male candidate for the student exec who was sure he was the "best man for the job." Unfortunately for him he wasn't the best person.

Heine said...

Well I do have low standards when it comes to some of the comments here Span :)

I still am confused why you guys get into such a lather about how we use words like "man" when there are far greater problems in society.

Having a womans rights officer on campuses where there are more women, women association presidents, women only rooms et al seems a little silly doesn't it? However this sillines is confirmed when you see exactly how many women actually use their womens only rooms!

Anonymous said...

I'm part of the YN Northern Region exec team, and against all odds I'm a female who is not at uni! In fact I'm one of two females that are part of the Northern region exec team, and not attending Uni (don't you hate it when that happens!). I appreciate what your saying in regards to the majority of young white males being represented on the YN website, but you must admit that they caught your attention, and you have helped to increase the amounts of hits we have had recently. So keep up the good work, and if your interested in becoming an honorary YN member, we would love to have you!

Span said...

I'll take your comment at face value anon, although your anonymity does raise some niggly doubts...

As for increasing your hits, I wouldn't have thought this blog generated enough traffic for that, but you are most welcome.

Heine said...

I don't like anon commenters, as you obviously don't either. Nor do I particularly find myself defending the Young Nats often either, esp as I am not a member, nor have been.

I have experienced many instances where the right on campus have been bullied. I am not talking light hearted stuff, more co-ordinated attempts to humiliate (through leftwing student media), threats (through socialist workers members physically threatening people) and student executives actively censoring right wing exec members (and voting in alternative exec members to work "alongside" the democratically elected right wingers) This has all happened and that is why I felt I should speak up.

I am sure anybody would be against this style of bullying, and yet I have never once felt this sort of exclusion from the Nats or any other right wing student group. Why is it that the left can be far more nastier than the right? And you wonder why the Nats have retreated...

Span said...

Ok I already commented very similar to the below but it appears to have disappeared, so here goes again, answering Heine's questions (in italics) from MvT's comment thread:

(Heine) how on earth you equated the woman to be "under the control of a male member" and use that as an example of an organisation that "severely restricts their own female members"

Regarding the photo on the YN site that I referred to, it shows a male and female young nat sitting side by side, the man with his arm firmly around the woman, clutching her arm. As already posted in comments above, yes I was being a bit mischevious, but I don't think it's irrational to accept that the woman is being portrayed as under the man's control, even if that wasn't the case. Perhaps the bigger question is why is there only one current female YN member named on the site?

Also I never claimed that the YN's (or National) severely restrict their own female members. Kindly read the post again. I was referring to those well-known National Party funders, the Exclusive Brethren, although I obviously didn't make that explicit enough for some readers.

(Heine) You mentioned in your blog that the YNs had only one woman they could lay claim to, Ruth Richardson, and yet convieniently forget NZs first PM Jenny SH#hipley

The YNs didn't claim Shipley so I think it's pretty logical to assume that she wasn't one. Don't blame me if there's only female MP the Young Nats claim as a former member. But it does rather suggest that there is only one that they can claim...

Ok here's hoping that this comment sticks...

Heine said...

Yes, you were being rather mischievious with that photo!

Again I don't see what the problem is regarding the lack of "named" female Young Nats on their site. I know an awful lot of female YN members who are brilliant at what they do, and they don't deliberately seek popularity or publicity or call for quotas for more females either. Telling them that they don't have enough presence on a website is petty. I wuld rather judge any YN on their performance rather on what sex/orientation whatever they might be.

It just looks like the left are more inclined to judge anything by the diversity rather than the performance output. Probably another reason why our hospitals are failing... but we shall leave that for another day!

Claire said...

Haha you're reading way too much into a photo...I actually know the subjects, looks like Andrew with his arm around his girlfriend, he's not 'controlling her' he's being affectionate.

Some people really weren't hugged enough as children.