Diversion, censorship over sexual assault issues

Every blog has the right to allow or not allow anyone to comment in their forums. But how they do this affects their credibility and reputation.

There are different degrees of feminism. I think most people will now support the premise of gender equality in general, but extreme feminism is not for equality, it tries to make women the powerful, and suppress and men.

The Standard has had it’s moments over the years, and I have had my differences with them, but one of the more remarkable examples of attempted message management has taken place over the last couple of days, along with a surge of purging.

The Standard has not had a post about the Labour summer camp sexual assault issue. Instead they have tried to divert from it, including shutting down speech.

The story broke on Monday. The first signs of a clampdown and diversion were after discussion about the issue in Daily Review 12/03/2018 (Monday evening):

Fuck off, you disgusting, sexual assault enabling old prick.

[3 month ban. I’ve been watching your trolling since the election, and you appear to bring little to the site now. What is not ok is starting a flame war in a topic of this nature where many people are vulnerable. Throwing accusations around, using sexual assault to Labour-bash, it’s all the same kind of nasty, macho bullshit that makes it really hard to have meaningful conversations about rape culture on TS. – weka]

A ban may not seem unfair given the comment made, but it was in response to

Crawl back under the rock you came from [Edit. Best not to go there Adam – MS](bm) . How about we let the victims make decisions before we start making accusations.

So a “Best not to go there” edit versus leaving the response and a 3 month ban – not an unusual unbalanced approach to ‘moderation’ at The Standard. This was followed later by a ‘weka’ comment:

My suggestion in general to the men here who want to have a shit fight about this, is to sit down and shut up, and start listening to what women are saying. Women generally understand what the issues are and how to talk about them without making the conversations unsafe or into flamewars.

This is also not an unusual attempt (at TS as well as elsewhere in social media) to shut down male speech.

Then on Wednesday morning ‘weka’ posted Talking about sexual assault:

As news unfolds about the sexual assaults that took place at Labour’s Summer School last month, it’s time for political communities to look at how they talk about sexual assault and rape culture.

This discussed the summer school assaults initially, before widening to a more general topic:

New Zealand is still very bad at addressing sexual assault or knowing how to talk about it, although some spaces are better than others. Yesterday a flame war started up on The Standard in discussing the sexual assaults. I came in late and saw a bunch of left and right wing men having a fight about it.

The ‘left wing man’ had his hand smacked, sort of. The right wing man was banned for 3 months.

Not surprised but still disappointed. So I want us to talk about how to talk about sexual assault, and I want to give a general heads up for moderation going forward.

What is not ok is to make discussions about sexual assault hostile. Women in particular want safer spaces to discuss rape culture and the politics around sexual assault, and when discussions are made hostile many women will simply not take part. Which then leaves the kōrero with men, including men who are either uneducated about sexual assault and the politics around that, or who have an agenda that doesn’t include preventing rape or making spaces safer.

My position last night was that men generally need to sit down and shut up and start listening to what women have to say.

I think that that is often weka’s position.

The main problem with telling men to sit down and shut up is that it’s the progressive and compassionate men that will do so, and they are the ones who are usually more informed and more willing to push back against rape culture. So let me rephrase this. I wrote a post recently about #mettonz and why gender equity matters, and it applies here. If we want to solve the problems that lead to rape and rape culture, then we need to amplify the voices of the people that understand what is going on and how to address it. Women have been at the forefront of pushing back against rape culture for decades.

There are many women who have important things to say, and if the space is yet again taken up by men, those voices get lost.

My request then is this. If you want to understand what is going on, then ask. If you have a good handle on what is going on, then please share from a place of informed opinion, but also please amplify the voices of women, and pay particular attention to making the space attractive for women to take part.

Not just aiming to “amplify the voices of women”, but also to suppress the voices of men.

And make no mistake, feminists know full well that the left is not free of rape culture or sexual assault. So the point here isn’t to bash Labour…

No, it seems to be to suppress criticism.

… it’s to point out that rape culture transcends the conventional left/right divide and all men need to take note of that. Left wing men need to get better at addressing this within their own cultures, and right wing men need to resist the temptation to have a go.

Especially to suppress the voices of “right wing men”.

A long discussion follows, with ‘weka’ prominent throughout via comments. Like

The point is that women have been addressing rape culture for decades, and men have largely been the ones making that harder. Irrespective of the genders of the people being assaulted. There is certainly an important conversation to be had about the impact of sexual assault on boys and men. I just don’t see the men generally in this commentariat having been capable of that either. That’s the problem I am pointing to today. Left to its own devices, this community is hostile to anyone wanting to talk meaningfully about sexual violence and it is actively exclusive (which to my reading is against the Policy).

There are some men here who are good on this stuff, and I encourage them to speak up, and if you see some good commentary by men from offsite, then please feel free to quote and link. I’m hoping that you also amplify the voices of women who know what they are talking about, and generally make this a good space for women. When this is a good space for women, it will be more likely to become a good space for other genders as well.

Discussions about violence towards all genders is welcome, so long as it doesn’t go down a ‘what about the men’ track. That’s a political position which I can clarify if anyone doesn’t understand.

I don’t disagree entirely with ‘weka’, but trying to control and manipulate discussion on one of New Zealand’s major political blogs, a ‘left wing movement’ blog, hints at an attempt at a not moderate feminist takeover.

‘weka’ was also active via ‘moderation’:

[neither post nor tracey are advocating covering anything up. 2 month ban for trolling and ignoring the post – weka]

[you either didn’t read the post, or don’t care about the post. 3 month ban for ignoring the post and moderation. If you want to talk about the sexual assault of men, see my comment on this elsewhere in the thread – weka]

[additional moderation note now that I’ve had time to catch up. When I say I want this space to be good for women to comment in, abusing women commenters goes against that. I will be using this thread as a reference for future conversations, so I suggest people start paying attention to where the boundaries are on behaviour that is acceptable. – weka]

“I will be using this thread as a reference for future conversations”.

[I specifically said don’t politicise this. I suggested people ask questions rather than jump in with reckons and judgements, and I did that for very good reasons that I explained in the post. I’ve also made it clear that I will clarify where the boundaries are if people ask. 1 month ban.

Yes, I am utterly serious about changing how discussions about sexual assault happen on TS, now you know, and it has nothing to do with Labour and everything to do with too many of the men on this site – weka]

“Too many men on this site”.

[if you are unwilling to engage with the parameters an author sets for a post, then don’t comment on it. I gave you the courtesy of not moderating but responding in depth to two of the questions you raised, and you come back with rape denial.

This post wasn’t written for you to write whatever you want, any more than it was written for the RW trolls or other rape apologists. It was written to create a good space for women and survivors of sexual assault (and others) to talk about those issues. If you don’t understand what the point of the post was, despite me making it very clear, I suggest you stay out of such discussions in the future.

2 week ban (double the last one which was for telling authors how to run the site and likewise ignoring moderation. See the pattern there?) – weka]

‘Ignoring moderation’ is weka for not complying with her message manipulation and control.

She was helped by lprent, with some comments moved to Open Mike 13/03/2018 :

[TheStandard: A moderator moved this comment to Open Mike as being off topic or irrelevant in the post it was made in. Be more careful in future.]

[lprent: How about admitting you are making that up and it is simply you lying. Banned 1 month for trolling. ]

[lprent: The age of consent is 16. The due process is to first ask the victims what they want to do.
Banned for 2 months for being a lying troll. ]

[lprent: You aren’t reading it right. “…sexually assaulted four teenagers, all aged 16…”. What is the age of consent? Duh! 16. It has been even when you and I were kids. It is their choice about reporting anything to parents or police.

Banned 3 months for asking a leading question in a troll-like fashion. I’d suggest that you desist from this style of question because I’m likely to just reduce our workload for a few years next time. ]

[lprent: Age of consent is 16. Drinking alcohol is unfortunately only really controlled for kids and adults in certain kinds of public and non-public places and for being sold to kids – none of which is alleged at the camp..
Banned 3 months for stupid trolling and lying with dumbarse ‘questions’. ]

[3 month ban for politicising sexual assault and using it as an excuse to Labour-bash, and for ignoring moderation – weka]

[another 3 for telling lies about moderation in DR – weka]

[You seem pretty keen on getting banned, so I’ve just doubled your ban in the other thread for telling lies about moderation. – weka]

[lprent: There were some pretty clear warnings by both weka and myself about tight moderation on a post today (probably the one you commented on) because it was likely to attract stupidity from trolls not wanting to discuss the topic posted. And so it proceeded. I think 7 or 8 people today for months as I have limited toleration for ignorant morons ignoring warnings. If you choose to ignore warnings, then it is your own damn fault. ]

So that’s a clear and strong message – comply with weka’s discussion management (it can be difficult to guess what she will find unacceptable) or risk being biffed.

Again, weka and lprent can chose to demand that men keep out of conversations, and they can ban, as much as they like. It’s their blog.

But The Standard is increasingly becoming an anti-men weka dictated ultra left wing forum.

Anyone deemed right wing, and now male is at particular is at risk of not being welcome.

From The Standard About:

We come from a variety of backgrounds and our political views don’t always match up but it’d be fair to say that all of us share a commitment to the values and principles that underpin the broad labour movement and we hope that perspective will come through strongly as you read the blog.

Perhaps that needs revision.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t. I’m just pointing out what The Standard has become.


Men’s issues and inequality

Inequality doesn’t just affect women, it can affect men too, sometimes differently to women, but there are prejudices, unfair sweeping criticisms and institutional biases against men as well as against women.

This shouldn’t detract for issues that women face, they are overdue for addressing, but things aren’t entirely stacked for men and against women.

One example that is often quoted is the apparent assumption by police that in violent domestic situations men are the instigators and perpetrators and are the ones that must be removed from family homes. I don’t know how true this is now, in 2018, because the treatment of domestic violence has changed markedly over the last fifty years, but it is an obvious issue of concern still.

A thread at Reddit looks at men’s issues: ‘You idiots, Google it’ – Jack Tame fires up over commenters asking ‘where’s International Men’s Day?’

“I’d love to have a conversation about men’s issues that wasn’t set in the frame work of anti-feminism or misogyny for once.”

“Check out r/menslib. It is just sub to say these are the issues facing men, and no, feminists aren’t the cause.”

“I was going to recommend the same place. Good, positive community. Feminist aligned, rainbow alphabet friendly. Angry misogynists need not apply…”

On domestic violence:

I think it’s fair to direct some criticism at feminists for at least not helping, if not holding back addressing men’s issues.

A good example of this is domestic violence research. Feminist researchers pushed there ideological point of view and inhibited research that showed female perpetrators and male victims. See this articleThis video has clips of a Dunedin Longitudinal study researcher talking about the problems they had with sharing their research. Here another video of a partner violence researcher talking about the difficulty of presenting research that is counter to the feminist ideological position.

On the bias towards women’s issues:

I think there is a real issue with influential feminists and feminist theory though.

For example, Dr. Jackie Blue from the human rights commision frame gender equality as exclusively a woman’s issue. Julie Anne Genter believes there is no need to have specific measures to address men’s inequalities. It these attitudes from people in power that make progress on men’s issues difficult.

I don’t know if this is accurate about Dr Jackie Blue and Julie Anne Genter.

As Minister for Women it is Genter’s job to advocate for women, not men.

And what’s wrong with that, exactly? As a male, I too am concerned about men’s issues in terms of mental health, education and justice laws. These are inequalities that can and should be solved through fixing policies within these particular areas and overcoming the societal problems that cause these discrepancies in the first place (eg. alternatives in the justice system towards rehabilitation will by definition benefit men primarily). Women face unique institutional barriers in representation in parliament, pay equity, and have unique health issues that men don’t face(in terms of pregnancy etc.) that need require a dedicated policy more than the equivalent for men do.

Nor, am I convinced it’s JAG’s job to institute these changes. Why not take it up with men that are directly responsible for these issues? Like Ministers David Clark for Health or Kelvin Davis for corrections?

Health and Corrections (prisons) are two areas that men can have disadvantages – far more of them are imprisoned and stuck in incarceration, re-offending cycles, and screening programs for illnesses that largely afflict men lag that of women’s health issues.

Life expectancy for men still lags that for women.

Men face unique institutional barriers as well albeit different ones. I’m actually researching this at the moment so I can make a submission to the UN human rights review. The biggest issue so far is that we haven’t been reporting violations of men’s human rights to the UN. We should have equality under the law, and currently, we have a few laws that discriminate against men. This has not been reported. The amount of violence against women has been reported, but the figure for male victims have been left out.

Another issue is that the Ministry for Women is the government’s expert on gender. It unreasonable for the MfW to have the expertise and knowledge of men’s issues. Cabinet papers are required to have a gender analysis, but this is focused on the effects on women.

Some of men’s issues simply haven’t improved. Boys and men have been behind in education for decades. Suicide rates for men have dropped since the nineties but have flattened out and are still significantly higher than the lowest point. The Justice Minister isn’t interested in addressing the bias against men in the justice system.

You can’t have one gender equality standard for women and another for men. That’s not gender equality.

I’ve made a similar point before – equality means equal standards for anyone regardless of gender.

Problems aren’t always gender equal – for example men are more likely to be violent than women 9but not exclusively), and breast cancer and prostrate cancer are not gender equal.

The argument that women’s issues are different or worse isn’t an argument against a men’s ministry (or equivalent) it’s an argument for a women’s ministry.

The fact that we have some stubborn negative outcomes for men that we haven’t been able to make good progress on in the current system should be enough to consider a men’s ministry or some specific intervention.

Another consideration is that we have obligations under human rights treaties to protect men’s and women’s rights equally.

I wonder if how exactly people expect individual government departments will address men’s issues? Perhaps they will need a men’s advocate for each department and someone to coordinate between departments? Maybe someone who is an expert on men’s issues and can be consulted by other ministers?

A contentious comment:

Except mainstream Western feminism is the very thing that is trying to keep men from discussing their issues. When it began criticising patriarchal gender roles and stereotypes, it made men analyse their own situations and they began to realise things weren’t right.

Feminism needs men to be complacent and accepting of their lot in life. More so it relies on men and their sacrificial tendencies, their need to work for the greater good in order to actually advance their agenda. Hence why feminism doesn’t want men becoming aware because it would result in women losing social and legal privileges, something which the movement today does not want.

A response:

That is just not true. I have lost men in my life to suicide and it has been feminists who offered the most support and only feminists that have been interested in discussing gender roles and the influence they play in the suffering of many men in our society let alone acting to challenge those roles.

Just as male equality and female equality and genders issues are not equal, not all feminists and feminist issues are equal.

There is a tendency to highlight the worst rather than the best examples of feminist activism.

A response to Jack Tame’s comment:

Well he has a point. “What about men’s day” is often used as a reason not to care about woman’s day rather than a genuine call to arms on men’s issues. I do support more attention on a specific men’s day/issues focus tho.

One thing in which men are, in general, not equal is their reluctance or inability to discuss serious issues. There has been a tendency for men, in New Zealand at least, to be ‘strong, silent types’, with debate over ‘strong’.

It can be a weakness to keep problems to yourself. It can adversely affect your well being, and it increases the risks of pent up anger exploding into violence, or of pent up depression or feelings of hopelessness resulting in self harm and suicide – men unequally figure in suicide statistics.

If men want better advocacy on male issues they need to take responsibility for it themselves and not moan about the gains that women’s advocacy have made in recent decades.

If men want a Ministry for men or an International Men’s Day then men should make them happen.

Inequality will not be resolved by inaction.

Julie Anne Genter: feminism = gender equality

Feminism can be a contentious term these days. Like many things it can cover a number of things, from more general gender equality to extreme pro-woman anti-man stances. Some men embrace feminism, some men plead to go back to the good old days of male domination and paternalism.

An interview at Stuff of Green co-leader contender Julie Anne Genter on her feminist credentials: Minister for Women, mother-to-be, full-time feminist – but can a feminist also claim to champion gender equality without a balancing male rights ism?

BM: You’ve called yourself a “full-time feminist”. I was wondering, for want of a better phrase, when was your “feminist awakening”?

JAG: I was always really passionate about equal rights for men and women. But when I was about 19, I took a history class called Women in American History, and that was a revelation. It was the first time that I got to understand the history of North America from the perspective of women, who are often left out of the history books. Ordinary women who make society work. [Of course,] there are the Emma Goldmans [anarchist political activist and writer], who are incredibly inspiring… I had a bumper sticker that was a quote from Emma Goldman: “Well behaved women rarely make history…”

Most people – men or women, don’t ‘make history’. Most men who have been recorded in history stand out from the crowd. Same for women – but far fewer have been recorded in history.

Partly this has been due to societies being dominate by men. But partly it was biological – until not very long ago most people did a lot more manual labour just to survive, and most people died much younger than now. This means that women had little time to make history if they did what most did, had babies and raised families.

BM: Was there any particular woman’s story from that course that has stayed with you?

JAG: Women like Harriet Tubman, who were helping African Americans escape from slavery during a time of horrific injustice in North American history… And stories of ordinary women, who weren’t African American – white women – who went against everything in their education and their community because they saw this injustice, who helped lead the abolition.

There were ordinary men who did likewise – that doesn’t detract from what some women did, but fighting injustice and unfair power was a difficult challenge for both genders.

BM: In your own life, who has been a role model for you?

JAG: My mother Pauline, she is pretty inspiring. She’s a scientist and she raised three children. My father was a doctor and they were always champions for all of us. I have two younger brothers. So, I was the oldest. And the bossiest. I’m really good friends with my brothers. I was a bit of a tomboy… Our parents very much had the spirit of, “women are equal, women have an important role to play in society that’s more than just raising children”.

My mother was a significant influence on my attitude to genders and role models. She battled against being confined to feminine roles. Most importantly, she had a strong attitude of not caring what others thought or expected, and she just tried to do what she wanted to do. She was quite successful at this, and she was admired in circles she associated with. But she was quite selfish without knowing it – she assumed others (children and grand children) would love to do what she loved to do.

I rebelled against this a bit as a result – I learned a form of gender equality off my mother, in that anyone should do anything they wanted to do regardless of gender. But just as she did things that others didn’t expect or approve of, I also learned to do things that I wanted to do, and that wasn’t following her interests.

JAG: …I know that they believe in gender equality – and that’s all feminism is about. There’s nothing “anti-men” about it. There’s nothing “anti-men” about being a feminist.

It’s all feminism is about for some people, and it’s an ideal I agree with. For others (probably a minority of feminists) feminism is about of taking over roles from men, of having a turn at power.

Gender equality is an interesting term – it’s hard to argue against all people being treated equally, regardless of gender, but we all have differences – different circumstances and different needs.

A baby should have some equal rights as a human being, but no one suggests they should have the right to vote or the right to marry. At what age should everyone be treated equally (except for prisoners and people who are mentally incapable of caring for themselves) have equal rights to all those older than themselves? Our society has decided this is different ages for different things.

Back to feminism – it is actually a gender specific term. Shouldn’t feminism and masculism be combined into one gender neutral term if it means gender equality. Feminists don’t have an exclusive right to equality.

Equality should be a right regardless of gender.

In general I share Julie Anne’s equality ideals, but I don’t see myself as a feminist, nor a masculist.

I’m not a gender neutralist either: “describes the idea that policies, language, and other social institutions should avoid distinguishing roles according to people’s sex or gender, in order to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than another” sounds like a description of ‘too PC’ to me.

And not adhering strictly to equalitism given the age and other exceptions that seem necessary, I don’t know what to describe my gender/equality views as.

Back to Julie Anne Genter – is someone promoting themselves as a feminist in their bid to become a female co-leader fine because they are balancing themselves against the role of the male co-leader (but does James Shaw promote himself as a masculist?). Is JAG really a champion of equality?

Jenna Lynch, Paula Bennett on feminism

There was a lot of online discussion about feminism on International Women’s Day. Bryce Edwards has done a Political Roundup: The state of feminism in 2017

Feminism is more mainstream than ever before. And as a society we’re talking more about gender issues, inequality and sexual politics. But what does “feminism” mean in 2017 New Zealand? And is it being incorporated into the Establishment.

He includes:

Prime Minister Bill English recently got in trouble with feminists for his reluctance to define himself as a feminist, together with his stated uncertainty about what feminism now means. Deputy PM Paula Bennett was also criticised when she said there are days when she’s too busy to be concerned with feminist issues.


Finally, for a satirical take on Paula Bennett’s part-time feminism, see Katie Parker’s opinion piece on RNZ’s The Wireless website: Diary of a Most Days Feminist.

Surprisingly he missed this from Jenna Lynch at Newshub: The critics are wrong: Paula Bennett is a staunch feminist

Lynch on trying to convert her boyfriend to feminism:

The thing is, I want him to be a feminist.

I want him to care about equal pay and domestic violence and sexual violence.

I want him to understand the impact those things have on me, on his sister, on his mum  on all of the other amazing women in his life.

It took me a while, but I now understand why he doesn’t want to be a feminist.

Truth be told some feminists can be pretty damn nasty and as a man he feels attacked – like he can’t really join the conversation.

And as I wrote that sentence I thought of the people he thinks of when he thinks of feminists. Those people will probably say I’ve just set the cause back 10,000 decades.

They’ll probably call me a misogynist apologist, or a patriarchy sympathiser, or something equally as ridiculous for even trying to understand his side of the story.

Let’s make one thing clear: Of course I’m a feminist.

New research shows that the pay gap is mainly down to bias – outrageous.

Women look around boardroom tables and all they see is men – woeful.

Our domestic violence stats are horrendous. Our sexual violence stats are appalling.

But when others were baying for blood because our Minister for Women said she’s only a feminist “most days” I found it difficult to understand.

So she asked Bennett to explain her “part-time feminism”.

“The truth is I am every day.”

The reason she initially said “most days” is because some days, being a feminist is bloody hard yakka.

“There’s some days when there are ones that are just so anti, and man-hating and awful that you think if I’m compared to them that’s not who I want to be.”

Those (a small minority but often vocal) who try to enforce a strict and extreme form of feminism and attack anyone who dares to dally outside their box can be counter-productive to their cause, they drive away or shut up more moderate feminists.

What she does want to be is Minister for Women. She has two issues to tackle: The gender pay gap and sexual and domestic violence against women. She’s passionate about both.

She says she specifically asked the Prime Minister to be the Minister for Women – and admits Bill English was surprised to hear it.

“The Prime Minister was like ‘Wow, I hadn’t thought of that’.”

That’s because the portfolio has previously been treated with disrespect or even contempt; hurled at a junior minister to up their number of responsibilities.

Disrespect and contempt has been hurled at Bennett for trying to do more with the Ministry.

For example at The Standard (written by a man) The gender pay gap – grandstanding but no action

A new report has some really interesting findings on the gender pay gap. Paula Bennett engaged in a bit of grandstanding, but it rings completely hollow given National’s history on the issue.

Bennett is calling on employers to “conduct gender pay audits and to declare the results”. As if that is going to happen. If the Nats were serious about addressing the pay gap there is much more they could do. Instead of voluntary audits, how about some legislation? Eight long years – and counting.

Keith comments:

Bennett is so pathetic. Where has she been this last 3 months?

It is transparently obvious National are panicking and quickly whipped up a script for her to say something, anything meaningless but yet to appear relevant. Jacinda has taken way too much limelight.

But if you really cared, which you do not, how about the appalling and growing inequality on all levels Paula of which you know about this well, families holed up in motels, living hand to mouth, living in cars, working people Paula, not your hated bennys! Inequality for woman’s pay has nothing on this festering sore.

Do you have the guts to deal with that rather than this floss? The fuck you do, that’s way too hard and anyway it’s a natural spin off of Nationals moronic economic management!

Back to Lynch on Bennett:

But Ms Bennett wanted it this time to show it is important.

“We’ve got a couple of big challenges and I’m fully equipped to kind of leap in and tackle them so I just wanted to be the Minister for Women, I thought it was a great message as well that the Deputy Prime Minister and most senior woman in Cabinet wants the job,” she says.

But instead of focusing on a Deputy Prime Minister WANTING to stand up for women many feminists were outraged because she didn’t fit in their box.

They forgot that she punched through glass ceilings herself. They forgot she mentors other women so they can do the same. They forgot that she spoke out against violence against women – remember when she took on the Chiefs rugby franchise for their awful treatment of a stripper when the former Women’s Minister wouldn’t?

Well yesterday the minister clapped right back.

“We define feminism in this day and age for ourselves.

“I believe in equality for women.”

She addressed her critics  explaining herself while still respecting them.

“If you are a little bit not-fitting-in-the-box-that-other-people-want-to-draw-for-you, you come up against this criticism.

“I just can’t get over if you don’t fit into someone else’s definition of what they think an absolute feminist should be, you get this absolutely harsh critical sort of shout out to you that’s kind of unnecessary.

“So I’ll own it for me. I’ll define it for me. And I’ll totally respect everyone else’s ability to do that for themselves.”

The minister is right. Feminism is whatever we want it to be.

If Bennett wants to make real progress for women through what she has volunteered for she will not only have to fight hard against prejudices against women that are still entrenched.

She will also have to fight against political prejudices. And against people who call themselves feminists but have strong prejudices against anyone who doesn’t fit their ideal.

I would have thought that a core part of being a feminist would be allowing women with variations in views to express them and to promote and live with feminism in their own way.

And not to be bound by the dictates of an intolerant and narrow minded matriarchy.

Gender and feminism in politics

In his latest Political Roundup Bryce Edwards has a detailed look at gender issues and feminism in politics.

Political roundup: The Rise of gender politics and feminism

Feminism is on the rise. This year has seen a greater focus on gender issues than perhaps ever before. In this extended column Bryce Edwards looks back on one of the most important trends in New Zealand politics in 2015.

A variety of different gender issues have been part of the political conversation in New Zealand this year. Some have been focused at the elite level – such as how to get more women into the ranks of the political or financial establishment. Other debates have been about attitudes, ideas and behaviours – especially “casual sexism” – but also about domestic violence. And another focus has been on the women at the bottom of the heap – those struggling on low pay. 

The variety of gender politics stories show how feminist politics has now moved from the margins into the mainstream. Now it seems almost everyone wants to call themselves a feminist – from Judith Collins through to Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

He then looks at a number of issues.

Who is a feminist?

Are you a feminist? It’s becoming increasing popular to identify as feminist, even if you’re a man, and especially if you’re a politician. This year has seen a surge of concern about gender inequality, discrimination and the degraded position of women in many aspects of New Zealand life.

A number of high profile advocates for women’s rights have spoken out recently. And many of these are men: a campaign was launched on Friday to get men on board the feminist struggle – see Simon Collins’ Men sign up to feminist cause.

Collins’ column referes to a HeforShe campaign

A journalist, comedian and the national police chief are among 21 Kiwi men who are championing a campaign to end inequality between men and women by 2030.

Journalist Jack Tame says men should be proud to call themselves feminists when they sign up to the “HeforShe” campaign launched at the United Nations last year by actress Emma Watson and kicking off in New Zealand in Wellington today.

I don’t know if I’d sign up for something like that. I’m more for equal and opportunties rights for everyone – more MeforUs.

I grew up strongly influenced by my mother, who was someone who just bloody well did what she wanted to do without considering she was disadvantaged as a woman. In many respects she acted like a staunch feminist but without labelling herself or using a label as a tool.

She was just very independent and determined to achieve what she wanted to achieve. She just was rather than claiming to be.

Back to Edwards.

National’s progress with women

Feminism used to be associated with the political left, but today’s feminist agendas are often pushed from the political right, including within the National Party. Probably the most prominent MP speaking out this year on gender issues has been National’s Judith Collins. In May she talked about her feminism and what it means to her, stating “I’ve been a feminist a lot longer than most people. I’ve been a feminist all my life” – see the NBR’s Lifelong feminist Judith Collins wants cabinet job back.

That could as well be Women’s progress with National. Political parties should allow equal gender opportunity but quality women have to step and promote themselves and compete and prove their worth – just like men should.

National’s problem with women

John Key’s “rapist” allegations in the debate about the Australian detention centres has clearly made the Prime Minister vulnerable to counter-allegations that he’s insensitive to rape victims and gender issues. His refusal to apologise for any offence caused has been criticised by the Herald – see it’s editorial, Why John Key should say sorry.

columnist Paul Little paints Key as an old-fashioned male chauvinist for how he has handled his opponents: “he is about old-fashioned values, like putting women in their place, teaching them to be seen and not heard, and never backing down or apologising, especially when you’re in the wrong” – see: John Key put those women in their place.

There could be an element of truth in that but Key has put a number of women in places of significant importance and power, not just in his Cabinet.

Sexism in parliamentary politics

Debate continues about whether the National Government will be harmed by John Key’s controversial “rapist” comments, with Patrick Gower reporting last week National still ahead in polls despite ‘rapist’ remarks. 

TVNZ’s Q+A put together a 12-minute panel discussion on Sexism and politics, featuring Judith Collins, Annette King, Julie Anne Genter and Claire Robinson. And RNZ’s Amelia Langford asked: How sexist is New Zealand politics?. For more on the topic you can also listen to her 18-minute Focus on Politics for 30 October 2015.

Regarding apparent sexist comments and behaviour by political leaders and their popularity it should be noted that some women, and possibly many, are bothered by what some see as sexist behaviour. There will be some women who by choice look up to men as leaders.

Women at the top

It’s a sign of how mainstream feminism has become, that today much of the gender politics agenda is about the women at the top – the broadcasters, CEOs, politicians and others in positions of power. There is currently a particular focus on women in business – see, for example, Fran O’Sullivan’s article from Saturday:Women’s arrival at top taking too long. In this, O’Sullivan celebrates “that women are finally taking their place at the top tables of New Zealand business”, but laments that the changes are happening too slowly.

Significant societal changes will almost always happen slowly. Some people will be impatient with that but it’s a natural reality – most people resist drastic change – and lurches can create as many problems as they solve.

Equal rights and opportunities will always be a work in progress.

And society will never be perfectly balanced in everyone’s eyes.

Casual (and serious) sexism

Much of the renewed feminist focus in politics is about highlighting some of the behaviours, stereotypes and beliefs that are said to be rampant in a sexist New Zealand. The problem of so-called “casual sexism” was outlined well by Alison Mau back in March with her column, The curse of #casual sexism. This referred not just to the everyday gender discrimination experienced by many women, but also to TVNZ’s Facebook post of “Vote For Our Sexiest Female Presenter”. Similarly, see Aimie Cronin’s I’m not sexist but….and Shelley Bridgeman’s Sexism is alive and well.

Some women (and men) may abhor “Our Sexiest Female” anything, but what if some women don’t mind it or even like it? Should things be PC’d out of existence because some oppose?

Domestic and gender violence

Possibly the single most controversial item published on the topic of gender and domestic violence this year was Rachel Stewart’s New Zealand has reached the pinnacle of world number one in domestic violence. In this she laid the blame and the solution for domestic violence “firmly at the feet of men” and called for some tough physical responses to the offending men.

Violence is a huge and insidious problem in New Zealand. Certainly some men are the main and worse culprits with violence of all types, but this is a far more complex issue than some acknowledge.

Some women are violent, especially versus children but also in relationships albeit on a smaller scale than male violence. They are real problems that shouldn’t be ignored.

And when psychological ‘violence’ is taken into account the responsibility will be more evenly spread. There’s no excuse for violent reactions but frustration and provocation are significant factors.

Individual responsibility is important – but so are joint responsibilities in relationships.

Women at the bottom

Although much of the attention of gender politics is focused on helping women “at the top” of society, or dealing with sexist stereotypes and behaviour, some is focused more on economic structures and how they impact on women at the bottom. 

For Deborah Hill Cone, much of the focus on “casual sexism” is banal when more serious gender discrimination is going on, and so she responded to Alison Mau’s column on “The curse of casual sexism” by saying: “What I do care about is the reality of the economic power of women, especially older women and minority women. This matters more to me than the objectification of television presenters. Like most things in life, it all comes down to money” – see: Let’s turn focus to women’s pay. 

It’s low pay that is probably the biggest problem for women at the bottom of the socio-economic heap

Income inequality is a real problem but also with no easy or quick solutions.

Gender inequality and sexism in general remain issues deserving of more attention and action.

But I think we have to be careful and avoid making this a them versus us issue.

We, men and women, need to do more to strive for more equal rights and opportunity.

But we also have to recognise there is no perfect equality, and equality means more to some peoeple than others, and equality looks different to different people and grouops of people.

I’ve only posted small excerpts from Edwards’ column. All the detail is here: Political roundup: The Rise of gender politics and feminism