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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Having a sleepy day

Thanks to everyone for the comment deluge over the last day or so - I don't have time to respond to them all right now, but hope to get to many of them over the weekend.

Please do keep discussing and debating, and an extra thanks to (most of you) for respecting each other in the way that you are writing your comments.

Back again soon!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reminder - Blog Stats due rather soon

The end of the month was nigh, and so it was time for NZ pol bloggers to check and submit their blog's post and comment counts for that period of 31 days. Hot cocoa on their desks next to a lit candle stub, the bed-hat wearing pyjamaheed did wipe the sleep from their eyes and tap gently at their keyboards, careful not to wake the sleeping cat on their laps as they did their sums.*

So anyway...

To ensure publication in the first attempt at the March Bloggage post please be sure to email in your stats (to spanblather at gmail dot com) as follows:

  • Subject: March Bloggage
  • Blog Name
  • Blog URL
  • x posts (required), y comments (desired), z something else (if you are so inclined)
by 6pm April 1st (that would be Sunday then).

Thank ye kindly,

PS Here are Feb's stats in case you are in need of a reminder of what this is about.

* Any excuse for a pic of a bed hat!

The taint of infertility

As part of my ever present wondering about the roles of men and women in our society, and in particular when they are in a relationship and have children, I've wandered somehow into thinking about infertility. I'm not quite sure how this happened, but I guess with my posts on the pressure on couples to have children and all the general judging that seems to go on when it comes to pro-creation,* considering gender roles and the inability to pump out progeny was bound to occur to me at some point.

It seems to me that when infertility becomes an issue there is an implicit disapproval from many other people, and you feel a heavy weight of guilt and insufficiency yourself. That somehow the inability to produce new people makes you less of a person.

Biologically, I'm not clear about why others would feel this way about the infertile, unless you are related to the barren one. After all, if another couple can't have kids doesn't it mean less competition for your own offspring? Evolutionarily I wouldn't expect the infertile to be especially valued, but it doesn't make total sense for the fertile to devalue them either - they're less of a threat in fact than those who can breed. Sure they would be of less value if our species based its judgements solely on reproductive abilities, but that isn't the case for humanity.

The family unit is of course a different environment, one where the ability to carry on genes, traditions, and names is often of great import, and from an evolutionary perspective the attitude from relatives makes sense. But my main concerns today are the general ill will from the unrelated and the harsh view we take of ourselves.

Perhaps the aversion some feel towards those who are sterile is more social imposition than biological imperative. Consider if you will the thoughts and feelings of my common foe AJ Chesswas, who feels that sex is always about the pitter patter of tiny feet, a view which seems reasonably common to those more fundamental of religion (Christian or otherwise) and goes hand in hand with desires that subjugate women.

My observation is that women have historically been the bearer of blame when a child is not produced. Certainly this has commonly been the approach within the family and often also by the father. Cast your minds back to the way royal wives were treated if they failed to produce an heir. Men now bear the guilt and hurtful rumours too, as we know these days that it can be the XYer with the medical problem that bars conception.

We seem to still feel less human if we can't reproduce, even though we now know that there are many factors at play and there is usually no one who is actually to blame in a willful sense. I wonder if part of it is that we don't feel fully adult until we have produced a child. Maybe becoming a parent is in fact part of ascending to adulthood, a rite of passage. The three ages of women have been stereotyped as Maiden, Mother, Crone. If you are no longer a Maiden and can't be a Mother then do you skip straight to Crone?

I'd be interested in some reader comment on this (as always), and I'm wondering in particular how people would feel if it became commonly known in their social or work environment that they were infertile, or having difficulties conceiving. How would you feel, for example, if one of your friends was telling other people that you had been trying to conceive for months and were having Troubles? Would you feel worse if it was untrue?

Note: If you prefer to comment anonymously on this, you can do so even if you have a Blogger profile. You simply choose Anonymous from the list in the comment box, above the orange Publish button.

* This is not the place to debate the repeal of s59. I've already written this and this and this and this on that, so kindly comment on that issue on one of the four posts you have to choose from, otherwise a deletion may offend.

So explain to me - why is hitting a child ok again?

Further to the great placard pic that Paul has up at The Fundy Post, I would really like to know from readers who are opposed to Sue Bradford's Bill:

Why is it ok to hit your child, when it is not ok to hit your partner or your
I am not being (intentionally) facetious, I am really baffled by the logic and would like to know your reasons. It just seems completely counter-intuitive to me.

Thanks in advance,

Linky Love - Volume 10

Ok this is published a day earlier than usual, cos it's full and cos there are some other admin type things I need to put up tomorrow morning. Enjoy.

Standard intro - if you have a post of your own, or some else's, that you'd like to highlight please feel free to add it in comments, or to discuss the above posts, or indeed most anything else.

Adventures in Lame - Realization: I'm An Angry, Humourless Feminist - Reb delivers the rant that has many times sat just above my own heart at the hearing of yet another dumb "joke" that isn't actually funny.

DagCentral - Kiwis in Amurrica: nau mai, haere mai... - DC covers the recent Clark-Bush tet a tet, from the point of view of a leftie American who hearts NZ.

Feministe - Why Feminism Is Still Necessary - zuzu exposes one particular case of harassment against a woman blogger, but riffs on the general theme as well.

The Fundy Post - The dog ate my homework - wherein Paul Litterick eventually recreates a recent piece he wrote for Craccum and thus reveals to us all how hard it is to be a tory.

Larvatus Prodeo - WorkChoices one year on - Mark looks at the impact of the Australian employment laws brought in last year by Howard. Two word summary? Not good.

Liberation -The farce of democracy on the Representation Commission - Bryce Edwards writes about the bias of the Representation Commission (which decides electorate boundaries) and the irony of David Caygill representing Labour on it.

New York Times - Why I Was Fired - One of the US District Attorney's fired for "performance related" reasons (said "performance" being the loyal Bushie role he neglected to play) writes about the scandal.

Pandagon - Fighting the system - Sheezlebub follows up her post on the cost of our economic system (listed in Vol 9 of Linky Love) with some practical suggestions to challenge it.

Pandagon - As motherhood slowly changes into a choice - Amanda Marcotte writes in response to a Guardian article looking at three generations of women and the changes in attitudes to motherhood, birth control, and assorted related matters.

PunkAssBlog - On Trolling and PunkAssBlog - A damn fine post on what is, and isn't, trolling.

Sparkle*Matrix - Second Life: Rape games ~ update - Some pretty sick news about online role-playing game Second Life, brought to us by sparklematrix.

Tales from the Reading Room - Sleeping With The Enemy - litlove contributes her thoughts on reviewing a manuscript for a publisher, something every aspiring writer should check out.

WIMN's Voices - Top Model's beautiful corpses - Jennifer Pozner covers the America's Next Top Model scandal. Yes, I tend to agree with Pozner (and incidentally many others who have posted on this in US feminist circles) that taking photos of models made up to look like they died violent deaths trivialises violence and even dehumanizes women.

And don't forget, previous volumes of Linky Love can be found in their own shiny category.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

9 Billion is an awfully big number

And so the day has come to pass - NZ's students (and ex-students it should be noted) will owe over $9 Billion at some point today*.

I remember when I was a student activist and the balance was heading rapidly towards $3B and we just couldn't get our heads around the size of the debt. Now it is three times that.

My impression is that Labour is comfortable about it, and they think the electorate is comfortable about it too. There is a new consensus around tertiary education, as everyone in Parliament, except the Greens, seems to be of the opinion that tertiary study is a privilege, and one that must be paid for. This makes me sad.

If the electorate is now resigned to tertiary fees, this doesn't seem to hold true for restricting access to student allowances. Repeated surveys, over many years, have shown high levels of public support for a universal student allowance. It still seems bizarre to me, 11 years after I first became politically active because of these very issues, that students are the only group of NZers who can't access some level of income support if they need it. Instead they are judged on their parents' income, until the arbitrary age of 25, and must borrow to meet their living costs if their parents are considered too wealthy and they cannot meet their needs through other means.

According to NZUSA figures, around a quarter of students under 25 receive some level of allowance support, despite the fact that they can get a payment, of diminishing size, if their parents earn under $72,000. This tells me that the bulk of those studying are still the rich(ish), and that is a problem, for both our now and our future. It seems tertiary study and training are still not seen as an option for those outside the middle and upper classes, and that should worry us all.

Is it realistic to expect parents to support their adult children? Particularly as wage growth in the last twenty years has not met inflation and the size of mortgages and rents has increased dramatically? So many students take up the offer of a student loan, for living costs as well as fees, because they aren't getting support from their families and they simply cannot earn enough to live off and still study at the same time.

And of course there's the impact of the student loan after the degree or diploma is gathering dust in the back of a cupboard somewhere. Most of my friends are unlikely to buy a home anytime soon. That choice is constricted for many by significant student loans. Of the contemporaries I know who have been able to get on the mortgage treadmill it has often been due to a windfall - an inheritance, family support, the good luck of a lotto win. And of those who have repaid their loans, many have had to go overseas to do it.

The social impact of student loans is yet to be fully realised. Certainly the scheme is a lot better than when it was first created, but Labour** has not made the real moves necessary on fees and allowances to reduce the need to borrow in the first place. Until it does that $9 Billion will continue to multiply and become even less possible to address.

* NZUSA's handy debt counter hasn't quite ticked over to $9,000,000,000 yet, but it is very very nearly there. If I was really masochistic I could sit here and watch but alas there is work to be done.
** And again I keep thinking, "but National would be worse, so whatcha donna do?"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Supporting repeal

Further to my two recent posts about the repeal of s59 of the Crimes Act, and removal of the defence of parental discipline, Just Left has the skinny on a website where you can show your support for Sue Bradford's Bill, cunningly entitled Repeal Section 59.

What's telling for me is the long long list of reputable organisation on the supporters page. I rather think that Plunket, Barnardos, the Children's Commissioner and the Families Commission* have a considerable collective clue about child abuse in our country and measures that can help eliminate it. These are organisations that are full of parents, full of people who have children of their own and deal everyday with the children of others. And yet they strongly advocate repeal of s59.

Even The Body Shop seems to be on board the locomotive steaming towards Repealville - how long until Family First** calls for a boycott of their stores?

The only form of action advocated by the site so far is writing to MPs, and it provides a wizard to do this with ease. I hope that in the future it may list events at which people can show their support for repeal, and thus powerfully express their desire to change our culture.

I fervently believe that twenty years after this legislation has passed we will look back and wonder why we ever thought it was ok to assault children in ways we would never countenance with an animal or adult. Just as we have looked back in shameful wonder at our society's bigotry before homosexual law reform and our school's legal violence before corporal punishment was revoked. The sky will not fall, but maybe, just maybe, there will be less abuse of children. And that has to be a Good Thing.

* Yep, the Families Commission was created by part-Christian party United Future.
** Don't let the name fool you, this is a pro-smack group. As I've already said in two past posts, yes I do think smacking is hitting.

At least

It seems to me, as a NZ leftie, that really there aren't a lot of choices for me at the moment. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that there aren't a lot of options I like, politically.

On the right hand I have National, Act, and the general Forces of Darkness who throng around concepts I find anathema. Ideas like low (or no) taxation, privatising state services, selling assets, cutting benefits, and generally advantaging the rich (and priviledged) over all others.

The left palm displays the Labour-led Government, which doesn't exactly set my leftie heart aflame with passion for their policies, or even their principles, but is better than National.

And that seems to be all there is. As far as Government leadership goes there's only National or Marginally Better Than National.

On international relations, I can wicker all I want about Helen Clark's senseless lunch attempt to get a free trade deal with George W* whilst delicately not mentioning the USA's human rights abuses. But I know that John Key and his ilk would probably lick the POTUSA's boots clean after the soup and enthusiastically ask him where he got all those fab ideas for dealing with prisoners by the time the entree was on the table. At least Clark didn't commit us to a stupid war in Iraq.**

On education, I can express my extreme frustration with Labour's approaches to tertiary, secondary, primary and early childhood, but at least I know they are not going to set up direct competition between state schools and encourage the profit motive ahead of all else. There is still a pretence (and possibly in some of the Labour caucus a genuine belief) that education shouldn't be about making money. Unlike another party I could name. At least Labour has significantly increased funding in this Vote and brought special education and kindergarten back into the state sector.

On health, I could vent my spleen about the way Labour-led administrations rely heavily on
the goodwill of those working in the system, but I know they won't gut the public provision of healthcare like National would. And they have given the nurses pay parity, which is A Good Thing, and one that National would certainly not have done.

On the parlous state of our police force, in particular it's attitude to women, the Labour-led government certainly hasn't been as fulsome in its condemnation as I would like, but at least Clark has actually said some critical things. What's the National view on the police? Judging by their membership in the blogosphere the general view in that party might be that this was all about a few rotten eggs and not systematic at all, no siree.

I could go on and on with examples, but you get the drift.***

What this situation means is that Clark and co can rest on their laurels to a certain extent. They know that whatever they do it is unlikely to be as bad as what National would do in the same situation, from the point of view of their supporters and those further to the left. Why bother trying when you've already got a substantial number of votes sewn up, purely because the other option is worse?

(I did warn you I was a bit grumpy and bitter at the moment.)

So what's a leftie to do?

* If Sheriff Howard got a bum deal then what chance have we got? Less chance than a koala in a forest fire methinks.
** Maybe our troops in Afghanistan, that forgotten war, put her off?

***Besides, it's quite hard to pin National down on their exact intentions in government because they so rarely communicate any actual policy. I can only judge them on past performance and general principles, neither of which are in their favour from my point of view.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sometime today...

this blog passed 100,000 hits since I installed the Statcounter.*

I have no idea how this compares to other nz pol bloggers, and frankly I'm just really stoked to have made it to here myself. I'm sure only 30,000 of those hits were self-produced ;-)

Thanks so much to all the readers and commenters who have kept me going with their hits and comments, despite my fickleness about whether to continue this strange little experiment.

Although I'm tending towards bitter and grumpy again at the moment, I hope you'll bear with me - I usually come out the other end within a week or so!

Ta muchly,

*About four months after Spanblather actually started. I'm not really very good at the early adopting.

Christians and loins

I was going to just put this in the next Linky Love, but I can't keep my plug for it to a simple sentence.

I would think this one was written especially for Messr Chesswas*, except that I don't think Jill knows he exists. Plus he's "on a break" for Lent, so I feel a bit naughty goading him with it.
Jill highlights a very worrying trend amongst the group of young Christian men covered in a US survey on modesty - not only do they hold views that men are superior to women girls, they further dictate that fathers, brothers, husbands or "brothers in Christ" should be the arbiters of a woman's decision on what she wears (and in fact most other things). This would certainly reflect comments I have seen some Christian male bloggers** make in the NZ context.

Amanda Marcotte is on the case too, particularly examining the responses to a question about a woman's girl's posture or position being a "stumbling block." Apparently the ideal stance for those of the female gene pool is slouched. Don't even think about making eye contact.

Not that far from this to the burqa, folks. Which means I'm gonna make me a bumper sticker that says:

Fundamentalist Christians & Fundamentalist Muslims
Have Different Attitudes to Women? Not so Much.

*Actually I think Apathy Jack would really really like this one. I can hear his future chuckle from here.
** I'd like to acknowledge that there are many young Christian men of my personal acquiantance who are not misogynist fools. I even know some who respect women and treat XXers like actual real life human beings, and partly justify their beliefs about these matters by reference to their Christian faith. Good for them says me!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Apparently the ladies protest too much

Maia has a good post on Shakespeare, and in particular her reactions to Much Ado About Nothing and Taming the Shrew.

MAAN used to be my favourite Shakespearean play (not that I'm an expert), and in particular I loved the Emma Thompson et al screen version Maia refers to. The highlight for me has always been the inter-play between Benedick and Beatrice (especially when portrayed by Brannagh and Thompson, who were a couple at the time). I love the scene in the garden where they are talking at complete cross-purposes.

But watching it again in more recent times, since I've stopped saying "I'm not a feminist but...", I've felt a similar discomfort to that which Maia relays, about the relationship between Hero and Claudio.

I'm not the kind of person who can read a play, particular Shakespeare's, and get a feel for it - I usually have to see it before I can really follow it. So my experience of Shakespeare has been largely limited by what the University of Auckland student group has decided to do each summer. As a university-based theatre troupe, they have tended to play around in interesting ways with The Bard's work and we've seen many female characters portrayed in a much more modern sensibility than Shakespeare probably would have intended. They also have a tendency, every few years, to do the good ol' gender switch (in particular Taming of the Shrew, which was made much more watchable for me through this device), further muddying the waters.

Given that Shakespeare is so frequently reproduced in modern times, can we just say his work was acceptable because it's a product of his times and leave it at that? I've never studied Elizabethan England, but I do have the impression that Shakespeare's women are in fact more bolshie than their real contemporaries would have been, although so many of them do get tamed by curtain's fall.

On the other hand, should we be interpreting these four hundred year old plays with a feminist eye* for the modern audience? I'm thinking particularly about new(ish)films that base themselves on Shakespeare's work, like Ten Things I Hate About You** (based on Taming of the Shrew). Could Shakespeare, with the shackles of his time around his writing wrists, have written differently about the outcomes for women (and I don't mean could he have produced Shakespeare in Love) or should all these sad plays (even many of the comedies) be laid out straight to show the tragedy for the female characters, as Maia suggests?

I'd be fine with Maia's point of view, if these modern interpretations did actually show the tragedy, but in fact so often these "fairytale" endings are considered everything the Kate, Hero or Tatiana should ever want.

Apparently we women of the 21st century should seek the same sexist subjugation that we had to put up with in the 16th. In other words, Shakespeare's work may sadly be just as Ben Jonson described the Bard himself, "not of an age, but for all time."

* Or even a non-heteronormative eye, that would make things interesting!
** Perhaps there is a reason why Shakespeare's plays translate so well now into the stereotypical view of a contemporary American high school.


Starting to feel myself getting a teensy tad bitter again, about all this blogging stuff, so here's a few animal pics I like instead.

Goose, Western Springs

Sheep, Duder's Regional Park

Cattle, Cornwall Park

Gull, Mangere Bridge

Ahhh, that feels better.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Question

I see that David Farrar has decided that there is one union strike he can support, namely the one called by those brave union members in Fiji who have decided to strike over the unilateral pay cut the dictatorship has imposed.

The irony of this is that NZ workers could not legally strike in an analagous situation under current employment law. Yes, that would be the same Employment Relations Act which Farrar and others on his side of the political spectrum currently attack as too pro-union.

So does Messr Farrar support a change in NZ's industrial laws to allow strikes here for political purposes and/or outside of bargaining? Or is that only ok when it's happening in a foreign place where you would like regime change?

PS - Go the Fijian Workers!

Linky Love - Volume 9

It's Friday morning (already!), so it must be time for the next volume of Linky Love.

Standard intro - if you have a post of your own, or some else's, that you'd like to highlight please feel free to add it in comments, or to discuss the above posts, or indeed most anything else.

Celsias - Supermarket Secrets - Craig Mackintosh has the BBC documentaries which cover the supermarket supply chain practices that are questionable for not only the environment but also human health.

Columbia Journalism Review - The Opt-Out Myth - EJ Graff writes powerfully dis-proving the idea that smart, educated women are choosing not to pursue corporate careers. And here's further comment on this article, and the opt-out myth, from Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon. Plus, Make Tea Not War posts briefly on this article at What We Said, and gets some interesting comments out of the bargain.

DagCentral - John Howard: Patriot. Statesman. Dumbass - dagcentral takes on John Howard's ridiculousness about Obama, Al Qaeda and the 2008 US presidential race.

Feministe - Legal Abortion = Lives Saved - Jill (I so heart Jill!) looks at the drop in deaths from illegal abortions, and the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.

Frogblog - Welfare for Australian Banks - Russel Norman looks critically at the Government proposal to cut company tax, through the example of what could happen for Australian banks operating in NZ.

Joe Hendren - Iraq can be a St Paddy's Day issue - Joe examines the parallels between English imperialism in Ireland and US imperialism in Iraq.

Just Left - Four years of blood on their hands - Jordan Carter gives his thoughts about the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War.

The Legal Soapbox - Follow the leader - Legal Eagle examines our lack of tolerance for dissent, and what we will do to avoid being in the ostracised minority.

Mainly Politics - Measuring public sector performance - Chris Hipkins writes about Phil "ex-National staffer" Rennie's "independent" report on where all the money has gone under recent Labour-led Governments.

No Right Turn - Misplaced priorities - Idiot/Savant has the skinny on where our research funds have been directed in regards to energy. And it's not where Al Gore would like.

Pandagon - The cost of the system - Sheelzebub eloquently expands on the theme that sweating (as happens in sweatshops) is an intrinsic part of our economic system.

And don't forget, previous volumes of Linky Love can be found in their own shiny category.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Back soon

Got a crazy few days at work so likely to be low on posting for the rest of this week, but please do check out and contribut to a number of quite live discussions on s59, rape and women walking alone at night, RNZ National's new approach to news, and self-esteem in women (and men, thanks to the commenters).

Plus there is a completely unguessed pic up here for you to have a gnaw at.

Will hopefully pop in to comment, and hope to be posting again by Friday.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Trade Me Stuff

Is Stuff's news crossing journalistic ethical boundaries into blatantly promoting Fairfax stable-mate TradeMe? Particularly as there are now a rather large number of online auction sites springing up, doesn't it seem a bit odd that Stuff puts all its emphasis on that one site?

Hat tip to Satsuma Salad, who has the above link and a some a couple of other examples in her Fairfaxwatch category.

A little more on s59's repeal

Further to my post on the weekend about the appeal of repeal, a reader emailed me with the list of MPs that Family First* is targeting their lobbying efforts toward. If the forces against the Bill think these are the wavering parliamentarians, then those for the Bill should definitely get their views in these ears too.

Labour - presumably people who might be convinced to vote against
Clayton Cosgrove, Sue Moroney, David Cunliffe, Damien O'Connor, Harry Duynhoven, Mahara Okeroa, Mark Gosche, David Parker, George Hawkins, Mita Ririnui, Dave Hereora, Ross Robertson, Darren Hughes, Dover Samuels, Winnie Laban, Maryan Street, Nanaia Mahuta, Paul Swain
(Labour are whipping MPs to vote in favour of this Bill, so for an MP to vote against would probably mean major ructions)

NZ First
Brian Donnelly, Barbara Stewart, Doug Woolerton

United Future
Peter Dunne

National - presumably people currently voting for
Paula Bennett, Simon Power, Jackie Blue, Katherine Rich, Paul Hutchison

You can find contact details for all of these MPs here.[PDF]

The Family First list also included the Maori Party but I can't see them going back on their promise to support Sue Bradford's bill now. I do wonder about the potential of Labour's Maori MPs voting against, given that it could provide them with a point of difference with their Maori Party opposites in contested Maori seats in 2008, but I suspect no Labour MP won't break ranks. Tim Barnett, Labour's Senior Whip, is not only highly respected (and by many sides of politics) he's also clearly very good at his job. He must be pretty glad he doesn't have to herd Taito Philip Field anymore!

Many of those on the Labour list surprise me (particularly Maryan Street), but it comes with no shock, not even a sliver of an eyebrow raised**, to see the usual suspects for conservatism: Cosgrove, O'Connor, Hawkins, Robertson, Duynhoven and Samuels.

I have no idea why the National MPs who are voting against have decided that way but I note that both Jackie Blue and Paul Hutchison are medical doctors and Katherine Rich has little children (I think she had one just before or after she was elected?). Has anyone asked John Key his views? Other than where he'll put his actual vote? Links in comments most welcome.

It seemed like this vote was all sewn up last week, with the Maori Party's announcement they would cast 4 in favour, but now it's seeming less secure. Which I guess was the point of Field's attempt at filibustering, so at least he's achieved one thing as an independent, even if it's not something I like much.

*Who you might expect to be against violence towards children, but they are Pro-Smack.
** Except perhaps sardonically. I do love a good sardonic arched eyebrow.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

ScoopIt now enabled on Spanblather

Massive thanks to Idiot/Savant for navigating me through the coding.

ScoopIt is a NZ equivalent of Digg, and enables users to submit and rank articles, posts etc that they like and determine for themselves what makes the front page. You can find out more about ScoopIt here, and register as a user over here. Go here to vote on the Pending Scoops.

I suspect not that many Spanblather posts will get voted through (if any) but I figured I would give it a go and see what happens. At the very least I now have a shiny new button under every post!


Cat on a Hot Aluminium Bonnet

In honour of jo blogging about her beautiful cat Maxine, here's another shot of the always on-form Mara.

Thank you, thank you very much.

The Appeal of Repeal

It's my fervent hope that in the next few weeks Sue Bradford's bill to remove parental discipline as a defence under the Crimes Act will pass into law. I haven't written about this earlier because I haven't really had time, but I'm about to rectify that omission, oh yes indeedy.

For me the debate about repealing s59 actually began in 2000, when I was first involved in Staunch Alliance and was made aware that repeal was on Laila Harre's agenda as Minister of Youth Affairs. It was something on the edges of my political perception - I didn't fully understand it and it didn't seem likely to pop up on the public agenda anytime soon. Certainly it didn't apply to my life right then - it was a long time since I had been smacked, and the likelihood of me in the possible role of smacker seemed an equal infinity away.

Now Sue Bradford (my favourite Green MP by a long way) has a Private Member's Bill that looks likely to pass in the next fortnight, removing an archaic defence from our books. I've long found it anathema that many see their children (particularly their daughters) as personal property. It just seems bizarre to me that we purport to care so much for our children, and yet we hit them.

I don't recall being smacked often myself. In fact I can only explicitly remember one time - the last time. I think it was the third time I was ever smacked, I was a pretty tame child.

I remember this occasion quite vividly. I must have been about 7 or 8 and I remember Mum sitting down on the edge of her bed, facing the wall, and pulling me over her knee. It was the old bedspread, the blue paisley one, but it was new then. I recall that she was very very angry, and I can remember thinking that she wasn't really angry with me and that what I had done wrong (lost in the mists of time) wasn't sufficient for a smack. As the hits came I felt a righteous anger that I hadn't deserved it, that, bloody-minded little bugger that I was, it wasn't going to stop me from doing whatever I'd done again. Serve her right I thought, she's punished me and I will punish her. Eye for an eye and all that. Being much littler than her I intended to store my vengeance away, stoke it mightily, and one day wreak my revenge. I can't recall if I ever did or not.

The other thing I remember very strongly was the tears. Not just mine, but Mum's too. She was angry yes, but when she was done she was sad. She apologised to me and hugged me, we were both crying. I still felt unfairly treated, but I recall being grateful that she had recognised the injustice in her action.

Not to malign my mother at all, who has been and remains a really wonderful parent and grandparent, but I always had the sense that she did it at a desperate time, not because she thought it would be the most effective parenting tool but because she needed to lash out. Certainly I could see afterwards that we both felt bad about it; me because I felt it was uncalled for, and she perhaps because she knew that. We've never discussed it, so I don't actually know what her motivation was or how she felt, beyond what I could see for myself and interpret with my child's mind, and what I remember of that now.

Smacking from the parental perspective is not something I've experienced yet, so I have to go on my recollection of being on the receiving end. I acknowledge that experience changes your views on things. Just as in the past I have changed my mind about abortion, there is a possibility I might change my view on smacking, or anything else for that matter. But I can't really write about how I might feel in an unknown future. Certainly my intention now is not to use violence against my own children.*

But I can see the argument about slapping a child's hand away from a hot element, carefully carrying a child to a time-out place, pushing a toddler out of the way of harm. I do not believe that any of these sensible precautions, motivated not by anger but by protection, will be prosecuted after s59 is repealed.

In fact Bradford's Bill (amended and subsequently backed by the majority of the Select Committee who considered it) very specifically allows this kind of action, thusly:

1. Every parent of a child... is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of:
preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence;
or preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour;
or performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

2. Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

3. Subsection (2) prevails over subsection (1).

The Select Committee report is an interesting read, in particular the summary of the points made by submitters for and against, and the statement that Child, Youth and Family indicated they did not expect their thresholds for removal of children would change if s59 was repealed. The report states in it's conclusion:

We consider that there is widespread misunderstanding about the purpose and
possible results of the bill as introduced. We do not consider that the repeal of section 59 will lead to the prosecution of large numbers of parents ... in New Zealand. (my emphasis)
I've been thinking about how we eradicated corporal punishment** in our schools. It was a similar situation, where many teachers had to dig deep and find new tools to control and discipline their students now that violence was no longer an option. And they did. It is now rare that a child is hit by their teacher, and when it does happen there is outrage from everyone involved, and rightly so. Why should parents magically have a right to strike their child when no one else does, and it is acknowledged that no one else should?

While I don't want to give too much kudos to the Maori Party (given that the Greens and Labour have backed repeal all along and deserve more of the credit) I did like what Pita Sharples said when he announced their four votes in favour (mp3):

We are asking NZ to be brave, to look at the possibility of a culture where we
don't hit our children, and that we can actually find an alternative way of
bringing up our children.
I'm an idealist, there is no denying that, and a piece of legislation like this, one that imagines a hopeful future, is one that I can joyously back with my whole heart.

* Yes, I think smacking is violence. It's hitting isn't it? I haven't got room in this post to go into the particular issue of the way this debate has been hijacked to be about just smacking, when it is actually about violence, of which smacking is a sub-section. I accept that the debate now is about smacking, as much as that was never Bradford's intention, and so that's what I've written about here.
** Which I note often took forms similar to current child discipline methods used by some parents.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Linky Love - Volume 8

Standard intro - if you have a post of your own, or some else's, that you'd like to highlight please feel free to add it in comments, or to discuss the above posts, or indeed most anything else.

High number of posts about sexism and the like in this volume, because of International Women's Day on March 8th. In the USA this was of course our March 9th, and it was dubbed Blog Against Sexism Day.

Alas (a blog) - Fear - Maia (who has also posted this at Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty) tells the story of what happened to her after the Wellington IWD protest, sadly an everyday tale of the fear women face walking alone at night.

Auckland's Burning - What drugs are the socialists on? (And why don't they share?) - John's message about climate change to the socialists? No having of cake and eating it too.

blogging it real - A que cono esta Bush? - Bobert asks why the hell has George W headed down to Latin America when only bad things can happen? (Apologies for mangling the title of Bobert's post, I don't know how to insert the correct grammatical letters).

Feministe - Hi, I'm Jill, and scummy law school sleazebags have gone after me too - This one will have you outraged within seconds. Or at least it should.

Hear Me Roar - In-depth Look at Rape - Tobes particularly examines a startlingly long list of movies that perpetuate the myth of the high frequency of women making false rape accusations.
Ilyka Damen - "We Don't Go For That Sexism 'Round These Parts" - gennimcmahon outlines her first memory of experiencing sexism and asks readers to contribute theirs. A fascinating comment thread.

Ilyka Damen - Early Registration - Ilyka examines the birth of her feminism, and the realisation she had in her late teens courtesy of a Cover Girl eyeshadow trio, in the staff restroom at MacDonalds.

Joe Hendren - Rickards case raises real issues with jury trials in New Zealand - Joe gives us his thoughts on the police rape trials, and the surrounding legal issues.

Kiwiblog - How to delay a bill - David Farrar explains the various delaying tactics those in Opposition can use, in the context of the debate on the repeal of s59 of the Crimes Act.

Kiwi Herald - Kiwi Mums and Dads Get In Last Few Slaps - John reports on the trend in Moenui, ahead of Sue Bradford's bill to repeal s59 becoming law.

Liberation - 2008 NZ election likely to be fought on the environment - Bryce Edwards postulates that our 2008 Bunfight will go a similar way to politics in the UK at the moment, namely end up focused on a fight about how to beat climate change.

Maramatanga - Field's path to re-election - Maramatanga looks at Taito Philip Field, Labour, and Mangere, and the possibilities for a new Pacific Island or family values to evolve from the mess.

No Right Turn - The section 59 debate - Idiot/Savant covers the Parliamentary debate(s) over the committee stage of the repeal of s59, doing his bit for enlightening us all on the creation of law.

Pandagon - I Like My Sexism Like I Like My Hardwood Floors: Deeply Ingrained - Auguste writes about his evolution away from sexism and towards enlightenment.

Ranting off the ROK - Ranting in Laos: Planes, Plains and Phonsavan - stef has left Korea and is travelling home via as many other Asian countries as she can shoe-horn in. In this post she writes about Laos, with pics!

Secret Passage - Corned Beef, dognuts and representing the Western Springs - Robyn reports colourfully on her visit to the Pasifika Festival.

Smell the Magic Kitty - Lindey Lohan upskirt, Britney crotch shots - Yes, I know, you can't believe you just read that on this blog. Bear with me; click through, and then mouse over the hot links...

Tales from the Reading Room - Atwood & Tolstoy - litlove covers The Handmaid's Tale and Anna Karenina, with some very interesting feminist observations.

Previous volumes of Linky Love can be found in their own shiny category.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Faking & Making

Recently I've been musing a bit on self-confidence and I think I may have finally concluded that I'm not a total freak.

Two things happened today to reinforce that view.

I talked to a colleague (who we'll call Shirley, because that is surely not her name) about our belief in our own abilities, in relation to our job performance. I shared with Shirley that when I first won by current job another woman working in our industry had told me "fake it until you make it," but that I still felt like I was faking, not making, two years later. Shirley in turn told me of all the strong, capable, inspiring women she knows who have told her recently that they too feel considerable self-doubt. Our korero turned from focusing on our insecurities to thinking about the reality - that if other people perceive that we are achieving perhaps we truly are, despite our own deficeit of confidence.

When I got home today and cleared my Bloglines there was a post from Amanda Marcotte about how women share critical comments about their own bodies and abilities to bond. While this is depressing it is undeniably true for me and for many women I know. If North Harbour had scored a try for everytime I've traded tales of my body imperfections with another woman then my team would be top of the table every season and make no mistake. It's like a reflex - sometimes when I say it I don't even mean it at first, it's just the polite thing to say, but then after the words have escaped into the world they take on a reality of their own and I start to believe them.

And really, is it any surprise that women police not only each other's body image but also their broader self-confidence, when we live in a society that still often sees women as inferior beings? We are so frequently told, subtly or overtly, that we are just baby-makers, or sexualised objects for men to do with as they will, or the property of a father or husband. That we constantly reinforce that status ourselves, internally and with other women, is commensurate with the world we have lived in for generations, albeit against our own best interests.

All of this negativity, to ourselves and to others, is a coping mechanism. I blame no woman for going down that path, but I hope to reject it myself.

Update, 16th March 2007, 9.33am: gennimcmahon also has a post on this subject, from a the angle of thinking about her daughter, including the quote that sums it up:

Our culture makes clear to girls that liking themselves is egotistical and therefore insufficiently modest.

* This doesn't mean all other women are above my criticism. It means that they are open to the same level of criticism as men, i.e. based not on silly irrelevant things like appearance or conformity with the gendered division of labour.

King of the Beasts

As always, guesses in comments please - but, not as always, I would like you to kindly identify (if possible):

  • Country
  • City
  • Place in the city
  • Event
That should make it a bit trickier than the last one which Gerrit got far too quickly.

Although I should point out that the Spanish pic is still unguessed...


Word verification temporarily off

Darling readers (and commenters in particular),

It has come to my attention that some of you are having difficulties with the word verification thingy on the comment form. Namely that the scrambled letter picture is not appearing.

To rectify this I have turned off word verification until such time as Blogger fixes the problem or I drown under a sea of spam comments.

I hope that this will be an efficacious solution for the time being.

Yours always,

Bad News

National RadioRadio New Zealand National has undergone something of a brand transformation of late.

Michael Wood has already noted the cheesy "Sounds Like Us" campaign, which was also satirised by Saturday morning host Kim Hill. I didn't mind the SLU soundbites all that much initially, but pretty quickly they seemed waaaay toooo looooong and frequent. Plus the sounds picked seemed to me more like some 1950s NZ that never was, as if the Jon Pertwee Doctor had travelled back in time to the Taranaki of the past and was stranded on a small farm.

While the SLU campaign seems to have quietly diminished, sadly there is no denying that the transformation is no longer limited to external advertising and stings.

Morning Report stories are now often festooned with music, some of which seems irrelevant, and most of which goes on for longer than the actual reporter or quotes of the participants. There seems to have been an increase in "human interest" stories - the dreaded 7 legged spider stuff. And there is now an absolutely terrible advert for Morning Report that tries to sell Geoff Robinson and Sean Plunket as some kind of jovial FM breakfast crew, with Nicola Wright chipping in at the end with "it's not all bad news."

Well I'm sorry, but it is bad news. In fact it's not news at all.

I also feel that Nine to Noon has morphed a bit this year. Instead of a few indepth interviews we now have Kathryn Ryan (who I have totally hearted in the past) engaged in at the most two lengthy interviews per morning and then conducting several short filler chats with various people. I don't mean the regular "columnist" type slots, many of which I find very interesting. These are one off interviews with people who are either a) not that intriguing ("human interest" rears its ugly head again) or b) very very stimulating indeed but only allocated five minutes of interview time.

The rebranding info on the RNZ site states:

There are no major changes to programmes or schedules for Radio New Zealand National or Radio New Zealand Concert as a result of the new branding.
But my strong perception is that the dumbing down has begun. And that makes me sad.

What do other listeners think?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Steaming onwards!

The Onehunga Rail line is to be re-opened


That is all.

Memey Meme Meme*

Your Personality is the Rarest (INFJ)
Your personality type is introspective, principled, self critical, and sensitive.
Only about 2% of all people have your personality - including 3% of all women and around 1% of all men.You are Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging.

Hat tip: Sparkle*Matrix

Not the best ever Briggs-Myers** test I've done, but the most recent. Last time I did any of those tests I got a different answer for each test (I did about five out of frustration).

* I freely admit that my meme song is a poor imitation of my really quite excellent toast song.
** Is that what they are called? I can't remember and I'm too lazy today to even Google.


This one should be a little easier than the last. As usual, guesses welcome, prizes remain (sadly) imaginary.

And for those still playing at home, the town or region of Spain within which this shot was taken remains unguessed...

National hearts unions?

So National's new industrial relations spokesperson Kate Wilkinson has discovered that unions are not The Enemy. Hat tip to Aucklander at Large who has written about his scepticism, a sentiment I share.

One thing that bugs me about National and their approach to unions is watching John Key simultaneously sidle up to his idol John Howard. Howard has brought in some of the heaviest anti-union legislation seen in a long long time, far worse than our own Employment Contracts Act was. National has got to be looking across the Tasman with longing, especially given they all seem to believe that the unions provide the bulk of Labour's campaign funding (not true).

Kate Wilkinson is a loooong way down the caucus rankings, so her hold on the industrial relations portfolio suggests to me that National doesn't intend to do much campaigning in that area in the next year or so. This worries me. It means that that part of their policy isn't going to get much media scrutiny, and probably that journalists will be gentler in interviewing Wilkinson, as a newbie, than they would have been with the previous holder, Wayne Mapp.

Because surely we must all know that National will want to at the very least gut the Employment Relations Act? There is no consensus between the Big Two on industrial relations, far from it. And employment law affects every worker in New Zealand.

An unscrutinised industrial relations policy (or simply, an unstated one, as seems to be the case with most National policy these days) could mean some big surprises after the 2008 election for voters, if National take the Treasury benches...

Update, 15th March 2007 6.47pm: Bryce Edwards gives his take on National's new paramour too.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Weather Talisman the Third

Because I really really need the weather to hold up for tomorrow!
I'll put my order in:
  • sufficient wind for sailing but no white caps
  • wind direction preferably not directly on to or off the beach
  • no rain
  • light to medium cloud cover
Ok, fingers are crossed.

Police and rape and dealing with uppity women who complain

The threads advertising the International Women's Day events at both No Right Turn and Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty have turned into debates on what happened at the Wellington protest and the heavy criticism of the police culture of misogyny that the media has portrayed as the main thrust of all the events around the country.

I want to focus for a moment (well probably several moments) on the role of the police, and the broader justice system, in the recent outrage about rape and violence. I've made a few comments around the traps, and on my own post about the Auckland march, and I want to tie them all together and hopefully coherently communicate about this issue.

I write this an activist woman, a leftwing feminist, who has been involved in a lot of protests (compared to your average Kiwi) and organised a fair few. Mostly this was from 1996 - 2000, although I do still attend marches and rallies on issues I care about, when I can. The vast majority of these demonstrations of various kinds were about education issues, although I have been on some organised by women's groups, peace activists and environmental concerns. Almost all of these actions of varying kinds having been in Auckland - out of the City of Sails I've been on an anti-war march in Wellington in 2004 and I was involved in all the protests on the Bus Tour to Wellington taken by Education Action Groups around the country in 1996. So there's a bit of context for you.

Before I became an activist I had had few interactions with the police. I remember as a school girl being at a few parties that the police broke up, being in cars that were breath-tested (and never failed), that kind of thing. My parents have never been burgled, and as a child and teenager I wasn't aware of the police as anything other than a benign force protecting us all, when they weren't annoying us youf by shutting down parties.

This perception changed mightily through my years as a protest organiser and since then, but not just because of the way marches and the like were policed in Auckland.

The policing of protests is always a difficult area. As activists we know that the police exist, in this context, largely to suppress the rights of demonstrators and to manage the way that these events are covered in the media. If there is any conflict, no matter how minor, between police and protesters, regardless of who is to blame, that will become the reported issue as opposed to whatever the protest was actually about. I've seen this happen too many times for it not to be a strategy used by some police. The second question media always ask about a march* is "how many arrests were there?" or some variant of this.

There is an argument that police deal with protests in a way to protect those demonstrating and ensure their rights to free speech are upheld. And sometimes this is true. I organised a march once where the police officer in charge actually asked me, as we reached the end of the march route, if we wanted to go the wrong way up Alfred St. As the march had gone well and there had been no conflict, I asked if we could. He said yep and I got to vicariously tick off one of my minor dreams - to drive a vehicle the wrong way up Alfred St. The next week we had another march and it was a totally different story. Something had changed, and I never worked out what. Violence did ensue and to be honest the march organisers were baffled as to why, beyond an intention by the police to fuck shit up. Of course it was the violence that got the coverage, not the issue.

I could tell you all my protest war stories, but there were two particular incidents that really impacted on my view of the cops. One was a bizarre incident that I still can't fully believe it really happened - I won't go into the detail of it now but let's just say it includes the lines "and then the helicopters swooped out of the sky" and "thankfully they didn't have any female officers or they would have found me hiding out in the KFC toilets." That's a story for another time.

But the tale I want to focus on today speaks strongly of the reason why so many women activists are sceptical of police genuineness about complaints of violence and rape that we might make.

I don't remember what year it was** but I was involved in an Auckland group called Feminist Action. One of the issues we were focusing on at the time was a particularly abhorrent advertising campaign by The Rock radio station, which disgustingly blended sexism and homophobia to promote their breakfast show. We decided to occupy their radio station one afternoon, about ten of us, to show our contempt for their tactics. I was pretty nervous, this was a bit edgy for me, but we marched into their offices and started chanting, after we failed to get in the actual studio door. We had underestimated the sexism of the staff - some of the women were wearing white Jenny Shipley's Not My Sister t-shirts, and the men deliberately doused these women with drinks, in the best tradition of wet t-shirt contests. While there's more to it than this (of course) we were assaulted by these men, despite the fact that we were leaving anyway, and one woman was so badly hurt she ended up on crutches.

Once ejected we went across the road to the police station to complain about the assaults. They went far beyond using reasonable force to remove trespassers. However the way the police dealt with it was revealing. We were split up and interviewed in pairs. I was with the woman whose leg had been badly hurt and she was in a lot of pain. I asked repeatedly for the police to get a doctor, and they kept ignoring me. As a baby law student I was an annoying pain in the arse to them. We didn't understand why the focus of the police was not on the men who had assaulted us but on our protest. We worked it out when they served us all with trespass notices and kicked us out of the station, refusing to take our complaints of assault. I managed to guilt one officer into driving me and the badly hurt woman to the nearest White Cross. He used this opportunity to lecture us on our actions, as if we were children. My friend was too hurt to take it in, I was seething but we needed the lift as she couldn't walk properly so I shut my trap.

What we did may have been illegal, I'm not an expert on trespass law, but what those men in that radio station did to us was definitely against the law. But who did the police choose to pursue?

Since then I have heard many tales of women not being taken seriously by the police when they have complained of rape, abuse and violence (mostly outside of the context of political protest, although Maia can tell the story of a nasty incident in Wellington that was not). Louise Nicholas and the other women who took the recent cases are examples of women who persisted with complaints not just about rape but also about abuses of power by the police. Yes those complaints were historic and yes they applied to particular police officers. But one of the key issues here is why they weren't dealt with at the time, or when the women originally complained. That is an issue of the system, not individual bad eggs.

Yes I think the system has improved. The increase in women police officers has been one of the drivers of change I'm sure. But there is more to be done.

We need a police force, as part of our justice system, that deals sensitively and appropriately with complaints of rape and violence towards women. We need to find a way to resolve the difficulties of the "he says, she says" nature of rape allegations, particularly when the victim is too traumatised to come forward when there is still physical evidence. Who thinks first of protecting all that evidence of violence rather than trying to destroy it, when they can still feel the hands of the rapist on their body, think of the weight of his body on theirs, still notice the pieces of himself he has left behind? I doubt I would have the incredible strength necessary not to scrub myself raw. That would be superhuman, imho. Should we expect more of rape victims than we do of anyone else?

In reference to the protests this week, I think Terence has put it well in his post about the Wellington march:

1. I was marching against the culture of misogyny that still persists in New Zealand. And which provides oxygen for the violence and rape that affects too many New Zealand women's lives.

2. I marched in particular on this day against the manifestations of this misogyny that can be found in our police force.

3. I also was marched to express my outrage against the rapes committed by Shollum and Shipton, and Rickard's repulsive attitudes and abuse of power.

4. And I was marching for changes that lead to a justice system that is more in tune with the needs of rape victims and which, while still offering fair trials to all, makes it easier for the perpetrators of rape to be brought to justice.

Ultimately I think that many people don't want to believe that the police force is still in part a sexist institution. We can't believe it, because then who is there to turn to when rape happens?

Update, 10th March 6.48pm: And when I wrote the above I didn't even know about this. Shudder.

* The first question is invariably how many people were there. Questions about the actual issue being raised, the arguments being made, are a long way down the priority list. The reporting of protests, imho, is not about exposing and considering the cause of the protest, but about getting pictures that are exciting. Conflict is always creates exciting pictures, and thus always gets coverage. This is one reason why savvy protesters often seek to construct another visual image that the media could use, eg an effigy burning (fire almost always makes it onto the news or into print), people in crazy costumes, everyone wearing the same colour, or some kind of visual symbol of the actual issue like the Debt Monster that student protests have used in recent times or the five red stars laid out by the Auckland kindergarten teachers to indicate the concerns about quality or the creation of a funeral complete with coffin, etc.
** I had ME for three years and it has wiped a lot of the detail from my memories pre-2004, sadly. I think this particular event happened in 2000.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Linky Love - Volume 7

Standard intro - if you have a post of your own, or some else's, that you'd like to highlight please feel free to add it in comments, or to discuss the above posts, or indeed most anything else.

Alas (a blog) - Workplace deaths are overwhelmingly male - Ampersand looks at the reasons why US workplace deaths are mainly amongst men, in particular occupational segregation. My perception is that NZ stats would be similar.

Auckland's Burning - Workers fired because of union membership - John has text and pics about a group of Unite members who had jobs at the Ascott Metropolis in Auckland, until they were fired for having the gall to be union members.

Contradiction - Recanting - George Darroch changes his mind about the post featured in an earlier Linky Love about banning gang patches. Good on him for doing so publicly.

Feministe - File Under: Get pregnant, lose your civil liberties - Jill shines a much needed light on yet another example of discrimination against pregnant women.

Feministe - The New Feminism - Another great post from Jill, this time about how a new reality TV show based on the Pussycat Dolls is apparently empowering to women. That would be why high heels are so uncomfortable to wear then - the pain is empowering me!

Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty - Expecting More - Maia rips apart the post by Russel Norman, Greens co-leader, about the trials of Rickards, Shipton and Schollum. She has written some amazing stuff on the trial and its outcome, including this, this, and this.

The Fundy Post - Listener now to be available as soothing Gel - Paul Litterick flexs his satire muscles in response to news of a declining Listener readership.

Hard News - Bad men - Russell Brown on the police rape trials, resulting in a multi-faceted comment thread which dips into trollville before being redeemed by D&D veterans. A thread to make you cry a lot, and, eventually, laugh a little.

The Legal Soapbox - The Old School Tie - Legal Eagle explores the issues lefties face when choosing between public and private schooling for their progeny.

The Legal Soapbox - Barefoot and pregnant with a gavel - Legal Eagle gets a second nod for a post on some really quite ludicrous reasons why women shouldn't be judges according to Shariah law.

A Long Time Ago and Not True Anyway - With these bombs democracy - Terence expands on a debate on Public Address System about imposing democracy, comparing Germany and Japan with Iraq.

Make Tea Not War - Know Your Rights - MTNW has a handy explanation of a basic consumer right; being able to return things wot don't work good. Includes a dandy letter you can use for your own broken stuff crisis.

Pandagon - Marriage's downward spiral - gay folks didn't do it - Pam Spaulding writes about the socioeconomic reasons why less Americans are marrying and concludes that it has little to do with homosexual marriage.

Single Malt Social Democrat - Charity begins in Parnell - Carl points out that it doesn't have to be private charity or government funding, and argues that the idea of citizens being totally reliant on charity is abhorrent.

stanselen - Ageism and Sexism - jo writes about her experiences within activist groups as an "older" (32!) radical feminist.

Tales from the Reading Room - Fantasy Podcasts - litlove muses on which great dead literary types she would love to interview, and what she would ask if only she could.

Blog Spots

The Net Guide Web Awards for 2007 are on now, and there is a category for Best Blog. Go forth and nominate!

Also, I've added quite a few new NZ pol blogs to my blogroll, including Caraka and Celsias (both green-minded), Policy Matters (related to a VUW Massey Public Policy paper), Laws 179 (who I've been meaning to link for ages), Liberation (a former Alliance ally who I've never actually met) and Mainly Politics (ex VUWSA EVP and ministerial advisor Chris Hipkins). Hat tip to NRT for the first 5.

It's good to see more leftie NZ pol blogs around. I'd love to see some more women in this part of the 'sphere too (and indeed a bit more diversity in general) but there are certainly more XXers blogging than there were when I started, and I'm hoping the lack is something time will fix.

I also note that the Philosophically Made crowd are at the least slowing down, if not actually "taking a break to pursue other projects" as they say in the music biz. I look forward to reading more of their posts on PhilMad or elsewhere.

In closing, if you are out there reading and you feel the wish to comment, on any blog, please do. And if your lurking and commenting makes you desirous of a blog of your own to write take the leap. It's easy to set up and you can do as much or as little as you like, you can even stop if you decide not to continue. Don't let a fear of not being able to deliver quality hold you back, there are plenty of blogs of dubious merit (this one included some would say) and when I look back at some of the early stuff I wrote I cringe. But I'm glad I persisted.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Marching forward, together

Tonight I went to the Auckland International Women's Day event, which was (unsurprisingly) focused around rape and violence, particularly in relation to recent tumultuous events to do with police, rape, batons, bottles, and some very brave women who have faced a barrage of slanging from some quarters.

I arrived a bit late. I wasn't sure I wanted to go, for reasons previously canvassed on this blog, but I was meeting Ol' Moe so I fronted up. I'm very glad I did.

There were some fantastic speakers in Aotea Square - I was a fair way from the action, but I was particularly impressed with the woman from Rape Crisis who read a powerful message from Louise Nicholas, another woman from Stop Demand who I also don't know the name of, and Laila Harre (speaking as a feminist and as leader of the National Distribution Union). There was an open mic too, with speakers not always covering the topic at hand, and receiving unabashed booing from a quite conservative pocket of women who had come along.

It was a diverse crowd, not just politically, but also in terms of gender, age and ethnicity. Certainly a wider range of people than I've seen in the past, and a significant number of men wanting to be counted as opposing rape and violence. Of course I spotted one particular man who really shouldn't have been on the march, given its focus, but then activist circles aren't necessarily less sexist than general society, and sadly I suspect he wasn't the only hypocrite pounding the tarmac for International Women's Day. I didn't let him get me down.

After the speakers we headed down Queen St, chanting angrily, waving placards, and generally showing our distaste for rape and the police culture, along with our support for each other as human beings. The organisers did a great job, and it was really heartening to see so many young women playing a leadership role. A lot of those attending had made their own placards and banners, and I tend to think that's a good indication of the level of outrage and concern. When someone bothers to come up with a slogan, procure some paint, and commit their words to coreflute or calico, then their depth of feeling is certainly more ocean than river.

At the bottom we stopped in Downtown Plaza for a romper stomper speech from Jane Kelsey, before heading back up the hill and ending in the Square again bang on time for a mass of pretty fireworks from the Sky Tower. It was a good upbeat ending to what I found was a surprisingly positive march.

And so now we get to the bit where I write about how I felt. As I've already stated above and elsewhere, I didn't think I could go tonight. Put simply, I was worried I would cry. I thought that the crowd emotion, and the subject at hand, would dissolve me and I'd end up a total wreck in the middle of Queen St on a Thursday night.

And for the first twenty minutes or so that was a real possibility. As regular readers will know, my outrage over rape and other forms of violence is very visceral, very raw, and has been very close to the surface in recent years. Also I have long picked up very strongly on crowd vibes, and when I arrived at the rally it was an angry angry group of people. I could feel it in my toes, the frustration and rage of the many, but the speakers channelled it well and gave a sense of hope. By the time we were walking down the road I knew I wasn't going to lose it, but I avoided chanting all the same. I was happy to let my presence alone speak for my passion about this issue, for once.

I have an inkling that there were many women who didn't come tonight for reasons similar to mine. In our society crying is seen as a symptom that we are not coping, that we are weak and worthless. This is, of course, also how rape and sexual abuse often make people feel. And yet crying is in fact a coping mechanism, and one far less negative than hitting or yelling. It strikes me as no surprise that the shedding of tears is characterised as a "womanly" response, and bears negative connotations, while shouting or smacking is seen by some, still, as a sign of the strong, the male.

I felt angry tonight, more than once. But I also felt a sense of hope that I haven't previously; perhaps our primal scream has finally begun to ululate from our throats? Have we reached a tipping point, not only for our public consciousness, but also for our legal system and our police force?

It's my fervent desire that we look back on these months and years of searching and hoping and in the decades to come we reflect "that was the turning point, that was the moment when rape began to stop." Because I don't think I can wait much longer.

Other International Women's Day event reports:
- Tony Milne was in Wellington and gives a brief report
- Apathy Jack was also in Auckland but is a lot grumpier than me. I knew I shouldn't have poked him in the leg.
- Indymedia has the original notices and thread for the events today, plus coverage of Wellington (and more pics), and also a great bunch of shots from Auckland tonight. Added 9th March, 9am: Indymedia has a full index page up now, with links to the growing number of articles covering yesterday's events.
- Stuff has brief coverage of Wellington and more detail on Auckland. Interestingly, they give the Union of Fathers nut more credence than he deserves - I think he drove past twice and although he was annoying (and got booed) we couldn't really make out what he was saying, and the speakers could still mostly be heard (and I was at the back). Added 9th March, 9am:
Stuff has a more detailed article this morning, focusing more on Wellington.
- Added 9th March, 9am: The Herald this morning has an article focused on the confrontation between police and protesters in Wellington, but also mentioning Auckland's event. There's also a small image gallery - all the shots are from Wellington except for the last two which are Auckland ones.
- Added 9th March, 9am: Scoop has a plethora of links on International Women's Day on it's front page, currently the second lead under NZ News.
- Addded 9th March, 11.15am: Riddley Walker, frequent PA System commenter, gives a report on the Auckland march too.
- Added 9th March, 2.07pm: jo at stanselen recounts a conversation with a male police officer she encountered on the Christchurch march.
- Added 9th March, 7.54pm: Maia's listing of the events around the country has become a comment thread covering some of the events and also critiquing what happened in Wellington.
- Added 10th March, 11.01am: Terence was in Wellington and writes about why (and why he wasn't there because he hates the police).
- Added 10th March, 11.01am: Auckland's Burning has a big posse of pics from Auckland.
- Added 10th March, 11.01am: jo gives a further report, including pics, of the vigil in Otautahi/Christchurch.
- Added 10th March, 6.53pm: Bomber covers the Auckland march, which he attended, and also comments on the police actions in Wellington and the broader issue of rape and violence towards women by police.

(If you have links to add please email or comment them and I'll slot them in as I get a chance).