Meka Whaitiri: “brown women have to talk extra loud to be heard”

In August Labour MP Meka Whaitiri was demoted as minister when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she no longer had confidence in her. This was after allegations were made public that Whaitiri had shouted at and bruised the arm of a staffer.

A subsequent report into the incident found it was “probable” that the staffer’s version of events was more likely than the Minister’s.

For the first time since being demoted, Whaitiri has spoken about the impact for her and how she felt about it.

NZ Herald: Meka Whaitiri addresses her sacking, and the hurt of the fallout

Meka Whaitiri has addressed the accusation of bullying that led to her sacking as a minister.

Speaking to Hawke’s Bay Today, Whaitiri says she “doesn’t shy away from the incident” but believes there are underlying issues with the way it spiralled.

“I think the whole process in terms of how it was managed was a bit disappointing with the leaks.”

Whaitiri says there are certain parts of the report she agrees with, but others she “actively continues to challenge”.

“In this country, we have a hierarchy; white men, white women, brown men, brown women, and sometimes brown women have to talk extra loud to be heard,” the MP said.

As soon as news of the incident broke, Whaitiri decided to “ride it out”, withdrawing from social media, and interviews with mainstream media.

“I knew as soon it came out I was going to get scrutinised worse than anyone else. No matter what I said, it was going to be painted that I’m a bully, an assaulter – all this crap.

“I’m trying not to make excuses or water down the allegations, all I am trying to say is there are often things that we want to say, that no-one gives us time to say.”

Whaitiri says the events have taken a toll on her family.

“My 80-year-old mother has been the strongest,” she says, tears welling in her eyes.

“When your name is being trashed … by ill-informed, exaggerated, no-evidence statements by political broadcasters and commentators and I’m not allowed to say anything because I am co-operating with the investigation, I would never wish it on my worst enemy.

“It was debilitating.”

That is a difficult position for an MP to be in, but there’s not much they can do about it as people take free shots.

Whaitiri is now undergoing counselling, mentoring, coaching and a number of courses, including mindfulness.

Perhaps better mentoring should be available when MPs first become ministers, but there may not have been many able to provide advice when an incoming government has been out of office for nine years and a party (has lost a lot of experienced MPs and staff.

“It’s allowed me to step out of the pressures of being a minister … and work on myself.

“Because sometimes, when you’re in the thick of things, you can’t see the wood for the trees.”

“I’m only here for a short time.”

Whaitiri said Ardern gave her the impression she was “leaving the door open” for her to come back into the ministerial role.

She said she didn’t want to leave “any stone unturned” to show how serious she was about coming back as a minister.

If she has shown she has learnt from her mistakes there should be a way back for her, if not later this term then next term.

On the “brown women have to talk extra loud to be heard” I think that’s a stretch. Shouting at staff is not a good approach for anyone.

Leave a comment

25 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  27th December 2018

    No mention of the sacked staffer or any offers of counselling for her.
    Of course it is different when the Left do it.

    Reply
  2. Geoffrey Monks

     /  27th December 2018

    It is a tragedy in the making if the assertion that brown women should in any way be entitled to dominate civilised communication by shouting is ever accepted. Anybody who could think that, let alone state it publicly, has no place in cabinet.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  27th December 2018

      She said ‘louder’ – doesnt mean its shouting and anyway its hyperbole not meant to be literal.
      What she meant is that if she spoke at all , no one listens , so she has to put emphasis on what is said.
      However its common to all women in politics. Even Theresa May has on occasion had men mansplaining her

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  27th December 2018

        “Even Theresa May has on occasion had men mansplaining her’

        Funny, perhaps this would not happen if she had even the slightest clue what she was doing.

        Reply
      • Geoffrey

         /  27th December 2018

        Guess you are right. I got carried away with the bruises and stuff even though ‘speaking loudly’ doesn’t quite cover that either.
        Spreading the burden to all those women with a degree of browness is an interesting excursion don’t you think?
        But I digress: if ever the lady is again to become a Cabinet Minister, she needs to demonstrate contrition, not seek to establish a colour coded excuse for repeating her behaviour.

        Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  27th December 2018

    Today’s “everyone is racist except me” non-news story.

    Reply
  4. The cycle of violence never ends within a family, demographic or community until the perpetrators and apologists acknowledge they’re complicit and that they’re proliferating inter generational abuse.

    It’s a decision. You think you speak it, you act it.

    It ends.

    Meka is clearly nowhere near this stage. She is still the victim of a hierarchy and still blaming three tiers she sees above her. Immediately there’s Māori men, then there’s Pakeha women, then Pakeha men.

    Reply
  5. Gezza

     /  27th December 2018

    “I knew as soon it came out I was going to get scrutinised worse than anyone else. No matter what I said, it was going to be painted that I’m a bully, an assaulter – all this crap.

    Does she know Maggie Barry? Anyone know?

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  27th December 2018

      She might want to talk to Maggie. Poor pale-skinned redhead got positively publicly excoriated for having a sharp tongue.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  27th December 2018

        Thats because she s played in public the kindly granny- when shes more a hard faced bitch- not that theres is anything wrong with that.

        Reply
  6. duperez

     /  27th December 2018

    Lack of Ministerial experience and lack of mentoring? Okay, that’s reasonable. What is less so is the apparent naivete of Meka Whaitiri. And Clare Curran.

    They didn’t seem to realise that they would be possums in the middle of a highway with all vehicles large and small targeting them. They didn’t seem to realise that there were those ready to catch them doing something less than perfectly, calling them ‘Possum’ and chucking them in the middle of that road. They didn’t realise they would be under watch by those hoping to catch them so much as breathing and calling that the crime of the century, naming them ‘Possum’ and chucking.

    Being elected was by far the easiest bit. It may have been dog eat dog up to that stage but the fury roused by that in some, was/is in the Mad Max league. And will continue to be so.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  27th December 2018

      Meka’s problem is that she’s got a history of bullying; even H1 is reported to have stepped in once to put a stop to it when she worked for Parakura & was said to be bullying folk around her back then. I got the impression her previous form was probably taken into account by Jacinda.

      Reply
  7. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  27th December 2018

    This woman does not lack experience.
    FGS, she has been a senior public servant.
    https://www.labour.org.nz/mekawhaitiri

    http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1305/Meka__Cirriculum_Vitae_May_2013.pdf

    You keep your hands off the workers at ALL times.

    Reply
  8. i can’t help but wonder, if a male minister put his hands on an employee hard enough to leave bruising, would an article like this be published about him?

    Reply
    • Pink David

       /  27th December 2018

      Depends on how many intersectional bonus points he had.

      Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  27th December 2018

      Yes. It’s mainly her own words.

      I think that the male minister could quite possibly have had a harder time with the press, especially if it was a woman. A man, I imagine, would have kept quiet about it.

      Remember the stoush between the two male ministers ? That ended up in court, although the one who was hit first didn’t want this and the two sorted it out. But Graham McGreedy-for-attention took a private prosecution against the wishes of the ‘victim’.

      Reply
    • Trevors_Elbow

       /  27th December 2018

      Are you kidding? see PM pulls girls ponytail – how many articles?????

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  27th December 2018

        And how many articles blamed the waitress?

        Reply
        • Trevors_Elbow

           /  28th December 2018

          Probably a few Duker… but that that wasn’t the point I responded to was it? The question would a male have had a story at all. And the answer was Yes it would.

          Reply
  9. Reply
    • Trevors_Elbow

       /  27th December 2018

      On’t be silly – Meka has multiple victim cards to play – she is obviously used to playing them to get away with her aggressive bullying behaviour and she is now very put out that the victim cards are not being honoured as they normal are….

      Reply

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