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Astroturfing News | ACT on Campus

Astroturfing News | ACT on Campus.

From the link:
“At some point during the debate a group of left-wingers, most of whom Cameron didn’t know, joined in the debate.

They proceeded to call him:

An Idiot
Fucked Up
A Marxist
A Fatuous, self-serving, carpetbagger
Uneducated
A Wanker
A skinhead
A Neo-nazi
A member of the KKK
An Aryan
A Genocide supporter
And a white supremist”

 

The gist of the article implies that people calling Mr. Browne these names was sufficient justification for Mr. Browne to tell a woman he disagreed with – who did not call him any of these names – to “get raped”

One of these things is not like the other. Telling anyone but particularly a woman who you are disagreeing with to “get raped” is not a slur it is the implicit threat of gender based violence. It is permeated in the idea that ‘uppity women’ who get above themselves need to be put back in their place. Mr. Browne clearly used this particular phrase against a woman with the specific intent of silencing her indicating he knows and understands the power and context of it. Nowhere has Mr. Browne apologised for using this phrase.

This is rape culture in action. Using the implicit threat of rape to silence a woman then pretending it is nothing. Do me a favour and if Cameron Browne ever stands for election don’t vote for him – because this is clear evidence of man who is a misogynist and is no ally to women.

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MPs reject employers’ chief’s ‘sexist’ comment – Business – NZ Herald News

MPs reject employers’ chief’s ‘sexist’ comment – Business – NZ Herald News.

So these comments of the head of the Employers and Manufacturers Association of New Zealand are so full of fail I barely know where to begin.

“Mr Thompson today admitted there was a gender pay gap in New Zealand.

He told Newstalk ZB it was partly explained by some women needing sick days every month, along with extra time off to care for children.

“Let me get down to tin tacks. The fact is women have babies. They take time out of their careers.

“Looks at who takes the most sick leave. Women do, in general, why? Because once a month they have sick problems. Not all women, but some do they have children they have to take time off to go home and take leave of…

“I don’t like saying this because it sounds like I’m sexist but it’s a fact of life.”

I find it deeply humorous that a man of Mr. Thompson’s age and stature cannot openly refer to menstruation and refers to it as “monthly sick problems”. I suppose points should go to Mr. Thompson for admitting there is a gender pay gap in New Zealand, but the rest of his analysis suffers from a severe lack of structural analysis.

Firstly the fallacies, Mr. Thompson implies that all women suffer from “monthly sick problems” and have children. Of course this is not true many women either cannot or do not menstruate for a wide variety of reasons and the same applies to procreation.

Even if what Mr. Thompson said is true of all women he would still be wrong. He is implying that women should rightly be paid less because of their biology.  This should not sit well with anyone with even a slightly developed sense of justice. Women are paid less because of a society that systematically devalues their work on every level. From the care work that they do within their homes to the career work they do outside of it. The gender pay gap exists because women are expected to do the lions share of  care-giving and unpaid house work while also managing to have a career.  The gender pay gap exists because women are consistently seen as less than their male counterparts,

I almost wish that every woman could/would go on strike from having children to see whether that would close the gender pay gap.  I don’t imagine it would but it would make people fear for the future of the human race quick smart.

 

I remember quite clearly the moment I truly became a feminist and put myself on this lifelong journey of learning and activism.  I was taking a paper at my university called social justice. It was a political theory paper and looked at the different theories of social justice. Whether wealth should be redistributed in society, how it should be done that kind of thing.  Some of the theorists we covered were feminist theorists. Before this point I had been kind of sceptical  about a gendered analysis within political studies. It had seemed kind of isolationist and awkward. Lectures which looked at a gendered analysis were almost universally the least attended and no one really seemed to take it seriously.

People in New Zealand (and I suppose in many places but I shall speak to my own experiences) have a tendency to believe that gender equality has been achieved, that the fight is over and anyone who doesn’t think this is just silly. So gender equality was something I thought that we were fighting for in the ‘developing world’.

What my lecturer did for me in this particular paper was to remove the blinkers from my eyes and let me see the many small and large ways in which gender inequality has not been achieved in my home country. Where balances of power lie. How the ways in which we critique women are different from men, how women’s work has always been devalued.  It spoke to all the things I had seen that I had not had the language to articulate. It gave voice and legitimacy to the rage I felt about many things which seemed so impotent.

I see the many problems with feminism. How it fails over and over again to serve the needs of all women, yet I can’t stop calling myself a feminist because of all the tools it has given me.

Womanly things

Sometimes I get so frustrated with how anything associated with women is deemed frivolous and unimportant. Women’s fiction, women’s  cinema, women’s interests, women’s issues.

Being girly in common parlance means being into fashion and make up and skin care and interior decorating and having things match. Basically making all things including yourself pretty. There is nothing innately wrong with this it is just simply the assumption that this should be all a woman should want and could ever be interested in that is deeply problematic.It is just as problematic that ANYONE who is interested in these things is frivolous and stupid and womanish because that is what they are womanly.

I feel like that the way things operate right now is that it is awesome for women to like things that are traditionally associated with masculinity and that these things are ‘gender neutral’ and that this neutrality has freed us from having to be interested in silly traditionally womanly things, as no one would REALLY be interested in these things given the choice.

This is obviously not true and makes many women feel at odds with the mainstream feminist movement and also does nothing in terms of making socially constructed gender boundaries more fluid as it is OK for women to be interested in and to do more masculine things because they are ‘better’ but not for men to do the opposite because traditionally female things are ‘worse’.

NGO funding again

Over time I am becoming more and more frustrated and disgusted when it comes to the funding of NGO’s. Funders seem to have no clue what it takes to actually provide services or achieve outcomes. I strongly believe that it this is in large part due to the lack of value care work has to contemporary society because it has in the past always been done for free by women.

NGO work is in a lot of ways on a macro societal level what a home maker does on a micro individual/familial level. Trying to make sure that everyone one is cared for, that they have clothes and food and are as healthy as they can be, that they get a reasonable education, They they stay out of trouble and away from things that could harm them.

These tasks in contemporary society both on the micro and macro levels have often been considered of little value because they are not related to income generation or economic development.

The only way our capitalist system can fucntion is if there is someone to do this care work. With the advent of the dual income family there has been the rise of cheap domestic labour travelling across borders.  With the advent of governments being unable to provide baisic services to their needy citizens NGO’s have stepped in to fill the gap.

However just because this work is now being paid for does not mean it is valued any more than in the past. In the vast majority of countries domestic work does not count as ‘real’ work and is not covered by labour laws leaving (the almost all female) domestic workers open to exploitation. NGO’s have to fight tooth and nail to get money for actual staff, even programme staff and finding money for support staff is a joke. There is an expectation that these things can just happen without people being paid even a fraction of what they are worth.

This way of thinking is deeply embedded and needs to change, some work is considered important and some is not and it has very little to what you actually in real terms contribute to the world. I challenge you to think about how you view the people in your life that do domestic work, I challenge you to think about all the mundane things that make it possible for you to live the life you do.

Sucker Punch The Movie – A Reading

I found this movie really interesting to me. Of course there were some deeply problematic elements (there almost always are in mainstream pop culture) but there was also a lot that spoke to me. This post is going to have a lot of spoilers so don’t read if you haven’t seen it yet and you care about that kind of thing.

I suppose because of my particular experiences and perceptions I read this film very differently from many other people who seem to think it is purely  a male masturbatory fantasy.

The story goes like ths: A young woman known only as babydoll is framed for the murder of her younger sister by her step father who after their mother’s death becomes enraged as she has left all of her money to the two girls. As a result Babydoll is committed to a mental institution. From here in order to cope with the realities of life in the institution Babydoll descends into her mind where the institution becomes a girly bar and brothel and further from there when she dances to please the men she goes deeper into her mind and creates vivid mental pictures of fighting villains with swords and guns in order to complete missions. These missions are linked to retrieving the objects she and her friends require to escape from the asylum.

What I saw that was deeper about this movie than a mere sexy chicks and guns gore fest was this.

The film presents a world that is ruled by men. Even when women are in charge they are not actually, they have some power but they still have to play by the rules which are created by men. This is seen by the character of Dr./Madame Doskey who is meant to be the real authority at the mental asylum but is subverted by the orderly Blue and who is in charge of the girls in the brothel but is ruled over by the pimp Blue. She is an authority figure but her authority is never absolute, she is always either not being taken fully seriously or ignored when what she is doing does not suit the men around her.

At the same time however the movie indicates that subverting male authority is difficult but possible. This is seen when the ‘girls’ (babydoll and the other patients and the asylum) band together in order to find the things they need to to get out. This to me spoke of using the tools of the world order to subvert them – Babydoll would do her sexy dancing to distract men while other stole or copied the items they needed.

At the end of the movie it is made clear that a group of orderlies have been sexually abusing the patients of the asylum and it is likely that this is where Babydoll’s inner fantasy of the brothel comes from – she sees the asylum as a place where men can use women for their pleasure and they do. This speaks to the disturbingly high rates of sexual abuse in institionalised women because society does not value them and their voices are not heard, something I feel is a running theme throughout the movie.

This is not to say that prostitution is always victimisation, just that the particular juxtaposition of the two environments in the film leads to this particular contextual reading.

What I like most about the movie I think is the idea that men are both in the position of opressors but can also be allies. Throughout babydoll’s battles there is an older man present. He reminded me of the Charlie character in  Charlies angels – telling the beautiful young women who’s butt they were meant to kick. I definitely found this off putting. However at the end of the movie his ‘real life’ role turns out to be the bus driver who drives the bus that leaves from the station near the asylum and he helps the one patient that makes it out to get back to her home town.

Of course there are plenty of elements to this movie that were not necessarily pro woman at all, but I did think there was a lot more there than many other people. Perhaps I am reading too much into it but I found it interesting nonetheless.

Random thoughts

Sometimes I find blogging and engaging in the blogosphere (even just reading) very difficult.

I really really love Melissa’s concept at Shakesville of social justice activism as being a teaspoon against a tidal wave, but sometimes that tidal wave just seems so huge and my particular teaspoon so small.

My job is in social justice and I spend a lot of my free time engaging in social justice spheres trying to become a better activist and ally. It gets very tiring and so sometimes I just have to leave it all for a while to prevent myself from getting burnt out.

To make myself feel better I think I am going to list all the ways I teaspoon on a regular basis.

I am a fat person (particularly here in Thailand) who does not try to hide my body. I am a fat person that goes clubbing and rocks it hard (you better believe it) on the dance floor every weekend.

I try to gently challenge the body hatred of the people around me

I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full even though this means I seem to eat a lot more than the people in my office.

I frequently challenge peoples assumptions and stereotypes about sexuality and gender

I am a critical race feminist even when this means people around me think I am overreacting or making assumptions

I work out nearly everyday and this to me is a political act.

In my professional life I work to give a voice to women who don’t usually have one

I make sure that the work I do involves a lot of shutting up and listening so I can be a good ally

I try to spread this message as far as I can

 

I try my best and no one can ask more of me than that.

 

 

 

Interlinked

This post was inspired by the  controversy that happened earlier this year when the Feminists With Disabilities Helen Keller blogswarm clashed with Juneteenth. One of the comments made was that Juneteenth is a North American/ US’ian holiday and as such only relevant to North Americans US’ian’s.

Slavery is and was not just a North American tragedy. It was a tragedy that is felt by all of  humanity. I say this not to diminish the other human tragedies that have occurred throughout history like colonialism, the holocaust, ethnic cleansing etc.. but rather to illustrate how these tragedies are tied together. They occurred for many reasons but they would not have been possible without the denial of the humanity of the groups that were targeted. Denying the humanity of those who are different from us is something human beings are very good at and in my opinion the catalyst for many of the great evil’s that happen in the world.

By claiming that slavery in the USA was only a North American or USian tragedy we deny the cultural factors, the political discourse and the simple othering that is common to the ways in which all marginalised people are marginalised. This is not to say that all opressions are experienced in the same way, only that the process by which white supremacy, or abelism or any other opression operates are built upon the same blocks. Denial of personhood and autonomy, othering, objectification.

I view all opressions as being the symptoms of the sickness of the kyriarchy and so being a good ally is as important as fighting my own battles. This to me means seeing the tragedies of all oppressed people as being my own tragedies because they are allowed to happen by the same system that allows my own. This means listening to people who are oppressed because of different factors to me and ensuring that I am subverting – not reinforcing those forces that make their oppression as well as my own possible.

The other reason that this is so important is because of intersectionality. Oppressions do not exist in discrete boxes and neither to people. We all have many facets to our idenities and can be both privileged and oppressed by many different factors at any one time. Intersectionality not only forces us to take heed of those whose voice have been most erased by mainstream social justice movements, often because they are invisible within them, but to also see the commonalities as well as the differences between our marginalisation.

Solidarity has often meant making some people wait for their rights and recognition so that some can progress now. It has often meant the silencing of critical voices in the name of the movement. What I want is a true solidarity that comes from collaboration, true listening to the concerns of all marginalised people, and a universal rejection of the kyriarchy – not just the bits that affect us as individuals.

I am radicalising

When you side with someone who says quite literally that I can never be a real ‘New Zealander’ you help to create this radical. When you dismiss the many small and large hurts I suffer as over-reactions or claim that someone didn’t mean it ‘that way’ you help to create this radical. When you act as though marginalisation and discrimination is my fault for not trying hard enough to ‘assimilate’ or ‘integrate’ you create this radical.

I am angry. It is not a flash in the pan anger that burns itself out quickly. My anger is a slow burning molten rage that cannot be extinguished. It exists because of all the little things people do, even those closest to me – my friends my family, that re-create in microcosm the society and institutions that deem me unworthy, underserving and unattractive.  People who talk about ‘jungle fever’ when they find themselves attracted to a person of colour – as though it is a form of illness. Those who wonder how anyone could ever date a bisexual person because – they would never feel like they were enough for that person – as though bisexual people are greedy and disgusting. Those who make snide remarks about people not practicing monogamy or engage in kink to any degree – as though these people are deviant and disgusting – as though it is any of their business. The lack of thought that around accessibility and the claim that it is too much effort as though disabled people are undeserving of the basic accommodations that they require to engage with the world and live comfortable  Those who happily engage in fat phobia regarding their own bodies and other peoples never once thinking about how their comments affect those around them. These casual remarks, said with the assumption that what they say is appropriate and acceptable. Said without any clear evaluation of privilege.

These types of casual comments and many others are the kindling for my rage. This is all it takes to create a radical. One who is tired of trying to engage with the system which has no time for me, that doesn’t really give a shit about me or people like me. That uses us only as a way of scoring political points, or a way of seeming edgy and cool. So when you are tired of my anger, when you get annoyed with my tone, when you feel as though I ruin everything by turning it into a ‘big issue’. Remember that you created me. Remember this is how I feel every day, minute, second of my life as I am bombarded with all the shit that cuts me to the core that I am not meant to care about.

Maybe then you can shut the fuck up and listen.

NGO Suckitude – A small rant

Something I have noticed quite clearly in my admittedly short time working for NGO’s is how frequently they reinforce the very behaviours, attitudes and structures they aim to dismantle. In many feminist and/or women’s rights organisations it is fairly common in my experience to not make proper allowance for women who have children, to rely heavily on unpaid work, to operate from a heavily hierarchical structure where those who have not actually contributed to projects but are more senior in the organisation get to enjoy the ‘perks’ of those projects (such as attendance of conferences, book launches, activities etc…).

I personally find this deeply problematic. I understand that some of these practices are driven by pragmatic concerns – funding for not for profit organisations is never easy to secure and most philanthropic avenues do not seem to think that funding operational costs is a valuable use of their money (something I will comment on at a later point).  Thus there is a very real need to keep operational costs down – including  the cost of staff. Hence the heavy reliance on voluntary labour, howeber I do not think there is enough analysis of why such practices are deeply problematic despite their practical neccessity.

The devaluing of women’s work has been one of the cornerstones of patriarchal social structure. Care work has been particularly devalued but women’s contribution outside the home has also suffered. Women are paid far less than men for doing exactly the same work, Women’s achievements are often co-opted by their male superiors or co- workers, women are expected to do the crappy jobs no one else wants to do and not complain about it. A famous example of this dynamic is the historic discovery of the double helix shape of DNA – credited to James Watson and Francis Crick  but was actually initially made by Rosalind Franklin who found the shape via X-Ray crystallography. She shared her prints with Watson and Crick who published it.  History is littered with examples where a women’s professional contribution has been undervalued or credited to someone else.

Looking at this context it is deeply problematic to me that this history of undervaluing women and women’s work is continued in the very organisations that purport to work to benefit women. Furthermore women who speak out against this system of internalised exploitation are attacked and criticized for not being sufficiently committed to the cause, or for acting too entitled. This is a form of silencing that is very damaging.  I understand the practical limitations that constrain most women focused NGO’s however I believe that small changes to ensure organisations are critiquing this patriarchal dynamic rather than reinforcing it. Allowing volunteers or people lower down the food chain to enjoy the fruits of their labour by attending a conference perhaps. Simply acknowledging that the current situation is less than ideal but it is all we can manage right now and reinforcing that all contributions are valued can go a long way to subverting rather than reinforcing patriarchal attitudes towards women’s work.

 

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