Cunliffe’s sorry, support slumps

There are many reasons why David Cunliffe’s and Labour’s support is slumping. Cunliffe has conceded that saying “sorry for being a man” may have contributed.

How he has dealt with it could also be indicative of his struggle to impress people, especially men but also women.

Audrey Young reports on NZ Herald’s latest poll results in Labour losing its appeal for men:

Labour’s support among men has fallen to just 23.9 per cent in the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey and leader David Cunliffe concedes it may have something to do with his “sorry for being a man” speech to a domestic violence symposium.

Since last month:

  • Labour’s overall support fell from 30.5%  to 26.5%
  • Men’s support fell from 27.6% to 23.9%
  • Women’s support fell from 33.4% to 29.1%

When Cunliffe spoke to the domestic violence symposium he received praise from people attending the symposium but had a much more negative response in many forums. He was accused of putting on an act. One suggestion commonly made was that it was a speech targeting an audience but lacked conviction. He has been accused of similar in the past.

Mr Cunliffe said it was hard to tell whether his speech to a domestic violence symposium was behind the fall.

“It may have had some effect.”

It most likely has, and not just support from men, some women also rolled their eyes at his statement.

In comments since then Cunliffe claims he does not resile from what he said but has avoided repeating his “sorry” claim.

“I certainly don’t resile from the comment that family violence and domestic violence is something all New Zealanders need to consider carefully and to take some responsibility for.

“At no time have I suggested that all men are guilty of it.”

No defence of saying sorry. No explanation or clarification.

This adds weight to the impression he was targeting an audience and doesn’t want to say the same thing to a wider audience, even though he was well aware there was media coverage of his speech.

Mr Cunliffe said he had clarified what he meant and was not planning to give another speech on it.

He has only partially clarified what he said but has avoided the most contentious part.

And that he doesn’t plan to “give another speech on it” suggests that outside the symposium audience he isn’t very committed to his words.

Mr Cunliffe’s speech was praised by many of the women at the family violence conference.

But if it was just a speech and he has no intention of backing it up with anything more even that praise may be short-lived.

Cunliffe talked the talk, briefly, but that seems to be where his “brave statement” ends.

This adds to a wider problem Cunliffe has – he appears to say what he thinks different audiences want to hear, without conviction, persuasion or proof that he meant it.

It’s not just men who don’t warm to Cunliffe’s speeches. Women also prefer politicians who give some action that they might practice what they preach.

Cunliffe’s sermons on the moment will continue but the congregation is rapidly losing faith.

Why there’s anger, Murray

There’s been wide and varied reactions to David Cunliffe’s “sorry to be a man” comment and to Tania Billingsley casting aside anonymity and speaking out about her feeling about the political reaction to her case.

This is understandable, especially when collective guilt is applied to “all men” and men are told to shut up and not talk about it. Many men and more than a few women have reacted against this. Some of the response has been reactionary and awful, especially when politics is put into the mix. Some of it has been angry.

But, and this is a big BUT, there is much deeper anger seething to the surface. Survivors of rape and domestic violence have deep hurt about what men have done to them and anger about the attitudes on display. Murray McCully is bearing the brunt of much of this. His apparent nonchalance and disinterest in the Malaysian diplomat case has spark a furor.

This angry reaction has taken many aback because while the feelings are evident the reasons are not clear to most people. There’s a good reason for this. Most survivors of brutality don’t like talking about their ordeals, especially in public, so their side of the story has been missed by most.

While many men have been momentarily miffed by accusations of guilt they can quickly move on to other things. Survivors can’t. Every time a rape case or a murder or assault is publicised it reminds then and drags their hurt to the surface again.

On a blog yesterday someone did speak out and put the respective hurt and anger into perspective – “I got an apology”… said no survivor of rape or gendered violence ever.

As I write this I am so tired. I am tired of repeating myself. Tired of having to explain why the “not all men” arguments are damaging and not a legitimate or helpful response to discussions about violence against women. There are women on this planet who have had legs ripped out from their sockets while being raped. There are women who have been beaten so badly they have not survived. My friend was hit so hard one time she shat herself. It is hard to say anything new about the same old issues when so few people hear the voices of those who have survived. When change is incremental. When the response is so often “…not all men”. Yeah. Moving on.

That level of violence is always perpetrated by men. Disgraceful male animals.

“I got an apology”… said no survivor of rape or gendered violence ever – See more at:

Most men abhor this sort of violence. But those who are miffed when the blame finger is pointed at them need to understand my some women – far too many women – are angry at men.

Why women are angry at Murray McCully for appearing not to care about victims. Why they don’t give a toss about the hurt feelings of peaceful men.

Sure they may overstate culpability of males who are not violent. But that comes from eons of their violation and hurt being grossly understated and ignored.

You know we have a massive problem as a society when a man apologising for the violence men commit against women causes more outcry and insult than the violence he is apologising for.

One billion women on this planet have survived violence. One billion women are living with the aftermath of this violence; the PTSD, the nightmares, the anxiety, the isolation, the shame and stigma… the blame. When a man says sorry for the abuse women have survived, why do so many people and media sources run to defend “good, non-violent men” everywhere, but when a woman has the courage to speak about surviving her own rape or surviving violence she is shamed? Why is she asked “What where you wearing?”, “Were you drunk?”, “Did you say no?”, “Did you deserve it?” Why does no one run to her defence?

Some do quietly defend and confront the excuses and redirection of blame. That often results in attacks – I’ve been viciously attacked and receive ongoing abuse in social media for speaking up against man crap.

But much more male speaking up has to happen to confront one of society’s dirtiest secrets.

I’m not sorry I’m a man at all. Neither is my wife sorry I’m a man.

But I’m sorry for the fact that more men don’t speak up and confront diverting and demeaning language – man crap. I see the excuses and the making women responsible for their safety frequently.

Men should be collectively doing far more about it.

Bickering about who is and who isn’t to blame is pointless. Men need to come up with a way of fixing their own shitty record of wrecking women’s and children’s lives.

Only a small minority of men are vicious animals, but they cause a huge amount of damage in our society.

We can either say it’s not our fault, not our problem and ignore it.

Or we can collectively stand up and do far more about it.

A good way for Murray McCully to end his privileged political career would be to make a real symbolic difference, but for him to do that he woukld have to understand the problem he is very much a part of.

I don’t agree with this petition – Demand Murray McCully, Minister for Foreign affairs, resign.

Demands are more likely to entrench opinion against resigning.

But McCully could decide to resign of his own accord, if he got what the problem he is embroiled in is and chose to do something significant about it.

Victims of rape and violence don’t so much need apologies, they need understanding of their anger and they need far more action to prevent so many women and children’s lives being wrecked, and far better support given to survivors.

Cunliffe’s calamity

As soon as I heard a report of Cunliffe saying sorry for being a man I thought it would would be bad for him. And that’s how it is looking. While some have praised him for “speaking bravely” many many people, both men and women, have reacted negatively. Some very negatively.

Cunliffe has gaffed too much already, but this could be the gaffe to top all gaffes. It could be a calamity for his leadership. People don’t respect apologetic wimps.

He obviously doesn’t under stand the violence debate well. Neither do those who have advised him on this approach.

Sure some would have thought it was a great approach, especially for a women’s refuge audience. But his speech was also aimed at a much wider audience. It was a major policy launch.

But there was no way an apology like that, whether staged or authentic, was going to go down well with many people. Men and women.

One problem is that people want party leaders to be strong and confident. Saying you are sorry for being what you are portrays the opposite.

Another problem is that this feeds into the image of the Labour party being dominated by women. By targeting the opening of his speech very clearly at a very feminine (and feminist) audience reinforces this.

But the biggest problem by far is that stating he is sorry for being a man in general terms implies that he thinks he is to blame for male violence, and that he thinks all men are to blame for violence.

That implication really really gets up the nose of many men. Especially men who abhor violence and would do anything they can to confront and reduce the violence in our society. Men like me.

Men who are proud to be what they are and who they are.

And the reaction from some women has been very negative as well. From a fundamental level of not respecting apologetic theatrics. And on a more common sense and practical level.

Deborah Morris-Travers of children’s lobby group Every Child Counts said:

‘‘One of the solutions to family violence is having all men healthy, educated, feeling good about being parents, feeling supported and engaged in their community and having a strong identity – not apologising for being male.’’

We need strong leadership to address appalling violence in our society. We need strong male role models.

The Cunliffe of yesterdays speech is not someone many people can look up to. They don’t just see his comment as wrong, they feel insulted.

This isn’t superficial tribal politics. It goes much deeper and personal. It questions the decency of all men.

So far Cunliffe has stood by his comment. It’s difficult to see how he can repair the damage and recover any respect he may have had with many people.

This could be Cunliffe’s clinching calamity.

We may now see this excuse for a man limp to an election lashing.

Someone else will have to lead the campaign against violence. Someone who can stand tall and can be respected.