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.

Overreaction to silly Genter ‘old white men’ comments

Green MP and Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter said something a bit silly last week about old white men, and she wasn’t helped by a misleading headline.

Stuff (Thursday 22 March): Minister for Women says old white men should ‘move on’ from company boards

Women’s Minister Julie Anne Genter says old white men need to “move on” from company boards to help close the gender pay gap.

Speaking to students at Christchurch’s Cobham Intermediate School on Thursday, Genter said the private sector needed to address the low level of female representation on New Zealand company boards if more businesses were to be led by women.

About 85 per cent of board members were male, and many were “old white men in their 60s”.

“Some of them need to move on and allow for diversity and new talent,” she said, later clarifying she had “no problem with old white men” on company boards generally.

Targeting people on the basis of their age, gender and race is not a good look for someone whose Ministry is supposed to promote equality.

If someone said that female immigrants in their thirties weren’t experienced enough to be a Minister and should stand down there would probably have been an uproar.

It doesn’t give a lot of credence to campaigning on equality when you single out very specific groups.

As it turns out, Genter’s comments did stir things up in social media, and it is still in the news this morning (on Newshub). Duncan Garner has just said that she is a Minister and not a protester, so should start acting like one.  It will be interesting to see if there’s a reaction to that.

She would have been better to promote and encourage diversity on boards positively rather than dumping on some directors and one narrow demographic.

Genter is free to say what she likes, but has to bear the consequences if others take her to task. She has been both defiant and defensive of her comments, but I suspect she will have learnt a lesson from this. She should have.

But some of the criticism is going too far:

That’s ironic, given that petitions have been a tactic often used by the Green Party and associated groups when in Opposition.

This pitiful & severely uneducated attack is not to be tolerated in New Zealand, Aotearoa: a country founded on a partnership between many peoples. We are better than that. We all know we are.

Julie Anne Genter no longer deserves to represent NZ or to even be a NZer.

She does not represent us. Our children do not need to read or hear such things. Times up. You are the minority.

In signing this petition we urge you, our Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern to remove her from Parliament and deport her from NZ.. It is in your power. Set a precedent for the country and a message that this will not be tolerated and hate speech of this type is not welcome here.

That’s a pathetic and ridiculous over-reaction.

If  all MPs who said something silly were forced to resign, or were sacked, there would be on one running the country.

Online petitions are a modern form of free speech but they are open to abuse, as is the case here.