Lara Whyte on female hardline right-wing activists

Investigative journalist Lara Whyte reports on the rise of the new wave of female hardline right-wing activists, a band of reactionary influencers gaining a huge online following.

This concudes with adiscussion of the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand

The killer used language and symbols pushed by women featured in this programme – and Lara argues this offers a chilling reminder of the dangers that can come out of some of their ideas.

@inThePaePae:

Exceptional work by Lara Whyte. Features recent visitor to NZ, Canada’s Lauren Southern; & UK’s Lucy Brown, with unconvincing squirming about being labelled ‘far right’; ‘nazi’. Whyte puts their PR, rebranding, softening & mainstreaming in context with Christchurch terrorist.

(Whyte describes herself as a reporter, producer and editor from Belfast).

Anti-extremism expert Julia Ebner, who has infiltrated multiple far-right groups, reveals that many of these organisations have begun actively recruiting young women in the hopes of softening their public image and potentially increasing their mainstream appeal.

We hear from Lucy Brown who underwent a political transformation that saw her quit Black Lives Matter and end up working alongside Tommy Robinson, the former head of the English Defence League. Lara also speaks to Canadian YouTube “star” Lauren Southern who was banned from entering the UK in 2018 following a highly offensive protest.

Many of the women Lara speaks to are outspoken critics of Islam and enraged by the grooming gang scandals for which they blame Muslim culture, including a member of 120 Decibels, a campaign group founded in Germany with the aim of combatting what they call “imported sexual violence” towards women committed by illegal immigrants.

Lara explains that most of the young women in this political movement reject the term “far-right”, despite getting routinely labelled as such in the media and by anti-extremist think tanks.

Also Investigating Extremism on Radio 4:

Roger Bolton hears listener views on a documentary investigating the role of women on the far-right, and discusses the BBC’s annual plan.

Radio 4 documentary In The Right caused controversy this week, stirring debate from listeners over whether figures considered to be on the far-right should be given airtime.

Both are worth listening to.

The feminisation of leadership and public discussion.

Over the last two decades New Zealand politics has had significant feminine influence.

Jenny Shipley became New Zealand’s first female Prime Minister, taking over (rather being elected) and being in charge from 1999 to 1999.

Helen Clark earned her way to the top of the Labour party and then helped Labour ‘win’ three successive elections, leading from 1999 to 2008.

John Key, Bill English and Steven Joyce brought back significant male influence in our politics for the next nine years. Key played on blokiness, quite successfully, a lot, but English moved a bit towards a more caring approach to finance.

Then in 2017 there was a major switch back to feminine influence when Jacinda Ardern turned around a flailing and failing Labour Party to take over the Prime Ministerial office – to an extent ironically thanks to the support of and baubles won by Winston Peters (NZ First does not appear to be a bastion of feminine influence).

Ardern’s takeover of power was sudden and a surprise, but her promise to put more kindness into Government has been largely accepted as a positive, even though she is yet to substantially live up to her PR.

So politics in New Zealand has had and still has a fairly ‘feminist’ influence leading into and for the duration so far of this century. It has been a largely uncontroversial transformation.

Alongside this, while women are still in a minority in some things, especially business management, some balance is apparent in notable or influential positions, with women becoming Governor General and Chief Justice – Dame Sian Elias was the first woman to hold the office, appointed on the advice of Jenny Shipley, and Helen Winkelman has just been announced as Elias’ successor.

This has been happening over several decades.

What has seemed to suddenly change this year is the attempted feminisation of public discussion. This has been brewing for some time, but was given impetus by high profile issues like the Harvey Weinstein fall and the resulting #metoo movement. Properly addressing male abuses of power was long overdue.

But this has led to boldness by some feminist types (there are varieties of feminism) to try not just claim a right to drive public discussions on issues, but some have attempted to discredit and diminish male influences in discussions.

John Roughan (a male!) discusses this in Despite Trump, politics is getting softer

It is not just that more women are coming to the fore in politics but the wider influence of that, in business, the media and the way people are now supposed to think, speak and behave. It has changed quite rapidly, mostly for the better, but I think it is getting excessive.

Some attempts to shut up male voices in discussions is excessive – addressing imbalances often involves some over compensating – but it isn’t really getting a lot of traction.

The gentrification of politics is not confined to women. Its ultimate expression came from a man I would have counted among the last converts, Trevor Mallard. As Speaker of the House he has commissioned an independent inquiry into bullying and sexual harassment at Parliament. National, meanwhile, commissioned a review of its own culture after complaints against its ejected MP Jami-Lee Ross.

But these excesses are a small price to pay for the civilising influence of women in politics and the professions, and the progress they are making against sexual harassment. Few large law firms would have read the report of the inquiry into Russell McVeagh without looking hard in a mirror and making changes. All over the Western world, men who take advantage of power and position are being forced to take another look at themselves.

This is a good thing. Men who have abused power and abused women are a small minority but they have done a lot of damage.

There is unfairness from ostracising all men, and dangers from trial by media/social media and also from mischaracterising discomfort from criticism or holding to account as bullying. Lumping trivial offences in with serious things like abuse and rape can detract from dealing with the serious properly.

But this is all just relatively minor imperfection in addressing problems that need to be addressed by making it clear that male abuses of power are unacceptable.

I’ve written a bit about attacks on free speech by some feminists who think that redressing an imbalance demands that males, particularly white middle aged and older males shut up and keep out of discussions.

I think that the best way of dealing with this is to continue to participate in and promote discussions – and address the imbalances by making it easier or more inviting for female input into discussions.

It is far better to improve forums for debate for everyone, and while feminists can and should advocate for their free speech, males can do similar rather than shrink away.

Feminisation doesn’t have to mean a takeover by a few extreme feminists. In public discussions it should aim at freedom of speech that is free from abuse.

Happy Christmas to feminists

This is a negative, even nasty, column.

Lizzie Marvelly: How to survive a feminist Christmas

It’s sad to see such a bitter, grossly generalised rant. Fortunately a lot of women and men get on with living with decent ‘feminist’ principles without dragging themselves down into that level of victimhood.

Successful feminists don’t see themselves as victims, and anyone who doesn’t fit their feminist ideal as some sort of enemy that must tip toe around them on eggshells to not piss them off.

Equality is important to feminism, to an extent (we are all different, and many of us see different things in equality). In principle all of us are sort of equal – but only if we see ourselves as equal.

Marvelly seems to see herself and her brand of feminism, whatever that is, as superior, rather than of equal weight to other views on feminism.

I think Christmas works better when tolerance of differences wins over nit-picking everything that doesn’t fit some sort of impossible ideal.

This means sometimes working together on tasks, but also sometimes doing our own tasks aas we see fit as families and groups of friends and acquaintances.

It’s often not practical for house full of family to al peel an equal number of spuds, to all make an equal trifle each, or to all do an equal amount of dishes – or drink an equal amount of alcohol, or non-alcohol drinks as some prefer.

I hope that most feminists have a very happy Christmas, however they do it, and don’t get bogged down with hard-done-by-ness.

“Why I am a Male Feminist”

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(Note: these are not my views, I have posted it to promote comments. I may give my two bobs worth when I get time later – PG)

Who labels themselves a feminist?

 

Bill English ignited a bit of a furore about feminism when he responded to a question saying he didn’t quite know what the term means. Paula Bennett added to the excitement by failing to state that she was a fully committed 24/7 feminist.

RNZ: PM wouldn’t describe himself as a feminist

Prime Minister Bill English says he is not a feminist; in fact, he claims he does not know what that means.

Asked whether he was a feminist, Mr English said he would not describe himself as a feminist.

“I don’t know quite what that means.”

He made the comment after his deputy and Minister for Women Paula Bennett told RNZ this morning she was a feminist “most days”.

The previous Minister for Women, Louise Upston, said she was not a feminist, however the new minister, Mrs Bennett, said she was one, most days.

“You know there’s some days when I don’t even think about it and I’m getting on being busy, but I still get a bit worked up about some of the unfairness that I’ve seen, mainly for other women and not for myself these days.”

There was a rapid response to this ‘news’ on Twitter, with journalists and opposition MPs expressing outrage.

It was quickly pointed out to English and the world that…

…the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines feminism as ‘the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities’

Most people would agree with that, but it’s not that simple. In fact that definition was cherry picked from Merriam-Webster, which also details:

Definition of Feminism

1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

Definition of feminism for English Language Learners and for Students

: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities

: organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests

Medical Definition of feminism

: the presence of female characteristics in males

Oxford has a different definition:

feminism

The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

It’s possible to agree with and be an advocate for equal rights without focussing specifically or only on women’s rights.

The Urban Dictionary goes into more detail with as number of definitions – this is their ‘top definition’:

The belief that women are and should be treated as potential intellectual equals and social equals to men. These people can be either male or female human beings, although the ideology is commonly (and perhaps falsely) associated mainly with women.

The basic idea of Feminism revolves around the principle that just because human bodies are designed to perform certain procreative functions, biological elements need not dictate intellectual and social functions, capabilities, and rights.

Feminism also, by its nature, embraces the belief that all people are entitled to freedom and liberty within reason–including equal civil rights–and that discrimination should not be made based on gender, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, religion, culture, or lifestyle.

Feminists–and all persons interested in civil equality and intellectuality–are dedicated to fighting the ignorance that says people are controlled by and limited to their biology.

Feminism is the belief that all people are entitled to the same civil rights and liberties and can be intellectual equals regardless of gender. However, you should still hold the door for a feminist; this is known as respect or politeness and need have nothing whatever to do with gender discrimination.

I suspect a few staunch feminists would rankle at that comment about holding doors open. I hold doors open for women, sometimes, and also sometimes for men. It depends on the situation.

There was some initial anti-English reaction from Green MPs but the Green Party later circulated on social media:

“I don’t really mind if people call themselves a feminist or not a feminist…what really counts is what they do.” – Prime Minister Bill English.

We agree, that’s why we’re proud to stand up for women.

They then detailed ‘7 ways the Greens stand up for women every single day’ – but a blog post was more staunch:

Last week, our new PM Bill English announced his upcoming Cabinet, with Paula Bennett being appointed Minister for Women. Today, English said that he “doesn’t know what feminism means,” following on from Bennett’s earlier comments that she calls herself a feminist “some days”.

Well.

Not only do the Greens understand what feminism is, we work to stand up for the rights of women in Aotearoa and around the world. Every. Single. Day.

Greens on Twitter:

I responded to that:

Quickly proving my point – to some people being a feminist is more than equal rights.

There was an interesting post and comments on this at Dim-Post in Feminism! in which Danyl pointed out

I guess I know what twitter and all of the Green and Labour Party MPs have been talking about today. This poll conducted by a Feminist charity in the UK is a pretty typical example of the various surveys about public attitudes to feminism (I’m not aware of any similar work in NZ). Most people will say they believe in gender equality but very few people will self-describe themselves as feminist:

When split out by gender, women were more likely to identify as feminist, with nine per cent using the label compared to four per cent of men.

But men were more supportive generally of equality between the sexes – 86 per cent wanted it for the women in their lives – compared to 74 per cent of women.

Sam Smethers, the charity’s chief executive, said: “The overwhelming majority of the public share our feminist values but don’t identify with the label. However the simple truth is if you want a more equal society for women and men then you are in fact a feminist.

I suspect the results are similar for New Zealand, and that National knows this which is why we’re having this little sideshow.

A comment on the Merriam-Webster definition quoted:

But that’s a foreign definition. Let’s try the Women’s Studies Association of New Zealand: “We believe that a feminist perspective necessarily acknowledges oppression on the grounds of race, sexuality, class and disability, as well as gender. Māori are the tangata whenua of Aotearoa. We address racism and promote biculturalism in our work and activities as aims of our organisation.”

That’s a fairly wide description.

I did some very limited research in New Zealand (I asked a couple of women):

What is feminism? Equal rights for women.

Do you agree with it? Yes.

Do you see yourself as a feminist? Ah…no…um…

I’m with them. Except that I prefer to look beyond equal rights for women, to equal rights for everyone.

But even that can get complicated. Even in a relatively equal society equality is an ideal that has some limitations. Here’s a few.

  • Criminal prisoners don’t have equal rights of freedom.
  • Prisoners and non-residents don’t have the right to vote.
  • Children don’t have equal rights of adults – they are restricted from getting drivers licenses, marriage licenses, they can’t legally drink alcohol or fight for their country.
  • None of us have the right to trespass on the private property of others.

But we all have the right to choose whether we label ourselves as feminists or not.