The white male problem

It’s becoming increasingly common to see criticisms and attacks on people and their opinions because they appear to be white and male.

This was rife this week in relation to the Metiria Turei issue. Some portrayed it as an attack on female Maori solo mothers and any white male was an enemy to be condemned and excluded from the ‘conversation’ promoted by Turei.

It was misguided – when Green MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon made a stand on principles and ethics they were abused, and I saw a number of attacks along the lines of ‘good riddance to white males’. Clendon happens to be tangata whenua.

‘White male’ generalisations have been increasing for some time. I February Catriona Maclennan wrote:  Beware the terms men use to maintain power

There is no such thing as identity politics. The term is used by white men seeking to hold on to their power and deny the human rights of Maori, Pasifika, women and LGBTQ people.

Human history is the history of male domination and, primarily, of white male domination. Black and brown people, women and LGBTQ people have been prevented by law, custom and outright physical force from accessing political power, jobs, votes and resources.

Groups which have suffered legalised discrimination for centuries are increasingly fighting for full human rights and equal treatment. This has angered white men, who are determined to hang on to their power. One of their weapons is language, and that is why the term “identity politics” has gained such currency.

The following is a brief dictionary to assist those who find dealing with the language of the genus white male confusing.

“Broad church” – a phrase commonly used in relation to political parties. It means white men should retain control of all the key positions in the party.

“Merit” – a subjective criterion which holds that traits displayed by white men are the most desirable qualities in job applicants and political candidates. Once women and non-Pakeha acquire the prescribed qualifications and experience, the goalposts are shifted to say other qualities they do not possess are vital to the role.

“Political correctness” – any move to protect the human rights of anyone other than white men. Epitomised by the supporters of United States President Donald Trump who have reportedly assaulted women since his election win because “political correctness” no longer applies.

“Racial or gender quota” – a plainly unfair device to deprive white men of their pre-ordained right to the overwhelming majority of top jobs and political positions.

“Shrill”, “screeching”, “shrieking” and “screaming” – words applied exclusively to women engaging in political debate. The men who use these terms are under the misapprehension it is February 1817, rather than February 2017.

• Catriona MacLennan is a barrister and former press gallery journalist.

MacLennan is correct about some white males, but she is discriminating against many others.

A white male has just written:  Play the ball not the man

Personally, I’ve pretty much had a gutsful with arguments and ad hominem attacks that treat an opinion as less valid because the person expressing it happens to be… a white male. Yes, folks, run screaming into the hills right now. But, I have read stories, opinion pieces and countless social media posts criticising people’s ideas, where this argument raises its head solely as a means of discrediting someone’s point of view.

My recent experience of this was in relation to an opinion I wrote about Metiria Turei. In my case, criticism it seemed to be based on an assumption that as a white male, I apparently come from a position of privilege and so can’t possibly relate to the plight of someone like Turei. So I was therefore not sufficiently qualified to have an opinion.

This becoming common.

This outlook is not only short-sighted but a potent combination of sexism and racism. And in the case of the latter, not in the way that you might think.

Firstly, on the question of gender, while I can’t speak for everyone, I want to point out the bleeding obvious. There isn’t a secret club (at least not that I am a member of) where all white males get together to plot the downfall and subjugation of anyone who doesn’t resemble us.

Secondly, there is something particularly odious about the suggestion that the colour of your skin disqualifies your right to have an opinion on certain issues in New Zealand. In seeking to defend Turei, for instance, one writer made the point that the white male enjoys among other things “a wide network of social and family connections and support”.

This is in my view a shameful generalisation. At its worst it arguably implies that other ethnicities, largely, do not enjoy such benefits.

Generalisations aren’t new, it just happens that ‘white male’ has become a popular one – and an unpopular one, but mainly amongst white males and they’re dirt now so that doesn’t matter.

Creating a generalised minority as an enemy is a poor way of promoting better rights for other minorities.

‘European’ is the biggest ethnic group on New Zealand, making up about 74% of the population – 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

About half of them will be male, and not all of them will be ‘white’, so white males will be somewhere around a third of the population. That’s still a significant proportion but that proportion will be shrinking.

However within that third there is a very diverse bunch of males. Most of us have never been in positions of power either.