In praise of a non-old non-white woman

Emma Espiner expresses things about the growing dumping on ‘old white men’ thing in a way that only a non-white non-old woman could (older white maler people are likely to be ignored or denigrated or dismissed as no longer relevant for saying similar).

From Newsroom – In praise of some old white men

I have felt uneasy about our Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter’s, comments that “old white men” should make way for others since she uttered them. Nobody in my circle of friends is going to cry in sympathy for the old white men, but I do think of some of the mentors I’ve known and how they might feel hearing something like that.

I don’t have a problem with the sentiment of her speech – that the leadership of our country is skewed towards a specific group which no longer reflects (it never did) our diverse population. My problem is this: it’s now acceptable to publicly disparage someone if they have a specific trifecta of age, gender and ethnicity.

I believe we undermine the opportunity to bring everyone on the journey towards a more equitable society when we negatively single out anyone based on their skin colour or gender. If we believe that correcting harmful inequities lies in asserting an inherent malice and/or obsolescence in all people with a specific combination of age, gender and ethnicity then we have already lost the fight. 

The real enemy is the unchecked and uncontested power exercised through institutions, social norms and structures which privilege one group over another.

And in my experience your best allies – speaking from an indigenous perspective –  aren’t always the ones who preach the most about being allies. Occasionally the people who make loud noises about diversity don’t practice it or, they do only to the extent that it doesn’t jeopardise their own position.

The people who are happy to have Māori on their team but who will block Māori from stepping out of the brown box marked ‘diversity project’ and surpassing them. Making space for others if you really care about diversity is not a subtle, difficult to grasp concept. You open up the space and then get out of it. I know some old white men who do this very well, mostly very quietly.

I’m certain there are people out there who would think my perspective on this shows I’m ‘colonised’ and maybe blinded by privilege. That I’m invested in the existing system because it’s delivered for me and that I don’t get it. Kei a rātou tēnā – that’s up to them and we can have that debate. They’re criticisms I regularly test on myself.

Here’s the thing though. I’m telling my Māori daughter that nobody should ever judge her for her gender or the colour of her skin. How do I then turn around, and in the same breath, encourage her to look at her father who’s not far off being an old white guy, and tell her that she can judge him and everyone else like him for exactly those things.

Some very good points made there. I’ll resist commenting further for now and allow readers to make of it what they want.

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  5th April 2018

    Few of the old white men Genter attacked would have said anything as stupid as she did.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  5th April 2018

      Nothing will convince me that that was the appropriate time and place for that speech.

      I take it that the silly tart has failed to notice the number of women mayors, lawyers, judges and other professionals.

      And I bet that I’ll be waiting for some time to hear her demanding than men let women do some traditionally men-only work like rubbish removal, furniture moving and coal mining in equal numbers.

    • sorethumb

       /  6th April 2018

      The case for diversity is * almost* made.
      Diversity *isn’t * a social science term.

  2. PartisanZ

     /  5th April 2018

    It’s a wise woman IMHO who can come back from the polarized, ‘subordinate’ position of being both female and a colonized indigenous person and not have at least some anger if not considerable rage, which can easily transmute into blaming and ‘subordinating’ others …

    The pendulum so often swings too far in the other direction … as it appears to have done in South Africa … as it did with Rogerednomics …

    Kia kaha Emma Espiner …

  3. “the leadership of our country is skewed towards a specific group which no longer reflects (it never did) our diverse population.”

    And there’s me thinking that the job of a leader is to lead, and the job of a mirror to reflect.

    Apart from that pragmatic sop, I thought the article was a rare example of commonsense. She even touched on the fact that “it’s now acceptable to publicly disparage someone if they have a specific trifecta of age, gender and ethnicity”, but backed off from saying that such only applies to to those on the Left. If a conservative should “publicly disparage someone if they have a specific trifecta of age, gender and ethnicity”, they would doubtless be hounded out of their job, reviled by screaming infantiles on Facebook, and very possibly arrested for a “hate crime”.

    Having said all that, I have to confess to being horrified to discover that my local garage has only mechanics in its workshop, every one of whom was employed solely according to their ability to mend a vehicle. There was not a single hairdresser changing oil when I called in the other day, and when I pointed out this lack of diversity to the owner, he told me exactly where I could stuff my car, and it was not in his garage.

    • PartisanZ

       /  5th April 2018

      Every good bag of oranges should have at least one apple, one plum and one peach in it …

  4. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  5th April 2018

    If Genter becomes the mother of a son, will she dwell on the type of man he could grow into…old, white, and privileged?

    When did the Greens adopt such racist, ageist and sexist views?

  5. sorethumb

     /  6th April 2018

    Damage control. Comments from RNZ hint at people being pissed at Te Reo with their muesli.

  6. sorethumb

     /  6th April 2018

    Old white men have been responsible for many of the opportunities I’ve been fortunate to have
    Derrida and the post modernists.

  7. NOEL

     /  6th April 2018

    I wonder if merit will eventually no longer be a measure when the Public Service is leading the gender balance charge.

    • Gezza

       /  6th April 2018

      Well … at least there should be some criteria.
      That’s gotta help, right?
      If you don’t like them you can demand the government change the criteria.


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