Women running for office – underestimate themselves

“The biggest issue for women running for office is low expectations: women underestimate themselves.”

Anne Tolley, MP from New Zealand, speaks about barriers that prevent women from running for office. She was speaking at the 140th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Doha, 6-10 April 2019.

What are the barriers preventing women from getting into parliament?

“I think probably the biggest issue is low expectations. So, women underestimate themselves, and they don’t put themselves forward.

It requires women to put themselves forward and they are a bit more modest than men.”

What can parliaments do to encourage more women to become MPs?

We have been looking at harassment, and some of the issues women face if they want to take up leadership roles. Social media of course makes it extremely difficult. I have colleagues who receive horrendous messages which are racist, sexist, make you quite uncomfortable.

The way some MPs act (mostly men) is poor and at times appalling in parliament and via media, and also the way some people act on social media, must deter many people, especially women, from considering standing for Parliament.

New Zealander of the year – women

NZ Herald has ‘named’ all women as their New Zealander of the year: Our New Zealander of the year is… women

It was the year of #metoo, pay equity, and our Prime Minister becaming a mum. It was the year a female rugby player – at last – gained the sport’s top honour. It was the 125th anniversary of suffrage, a year of celebration. But also a reminder that change does not come without hard work and frustration.

All year, we have watched as New Zealand women have fought for their rights. And fought. And fought.

From campaigning against sexual harassment in the media, to arguing for equal pay through the courts, to addressing our shameful domestic violence record at the United Nations, women stood up and were counted. They raised their voices when others didn’t want to hear. They were empowered in the face of adversity. They persisted despite knowing meaningful change would likely be a long time yet.

That persistence has led us to name women – all women – as our 2018 New Zealanders of the Year.

However, we wanted to acknowledge a year which – though challenging – has been described by many as a beginning.

Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy told us she thought the year was a tipping point, when women decided they’d simply had enough. Jackie Clark, who works with survivors of domestic violence, said it felt like a renaissance of the feminism of the 1970s. The only female chief executive in the NZX50, Chorus head Kate McKenzie, said she thought the year created momentum – and with it an opportunity to keep that momentum going.

New Zealand is still a good place to be a woman, even if all our battles are not yet won. But what women have achieved this year marks 2018 as the beginning of an overhaul which will have a profound impact on future generations. It is a challenge to the future, rather than an answer to the past.

Important change takes time, but 2018 was a good step forward for women in New Zealand.

 

More claims of women ‘crushed’ by Ross

Earlier in the week Jami-Lee Ross tried to claim some moral high ground and denied having harassed or treated women badly.

He also complained about claims and insinuations by Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett that there were many women not pleased with Ross’ behaviour. He said he had been threatened with up to 15 revelations, and promised to release a recording of Bridges ‘threatening’ him.

Newsroom responded with  Jami-Lee Ross: Four women speak out

Over the past year, Newsroom investigations editor Melanie Reid has been looking into the background and behaviour of former National MP Jami-Lee Ross. She has talked to a number of people who have given detailed accounts, recordings and documents of their close working and personal relationships with the controversial politician.

Some felt manipulated and intimidated by the way he goes about his politics and his social interactions. Others felt pressured not to speak out.

Today Newsroom presents, on the condition of anonymity, the stories of four women and the relationships which they now believe saw them variously groomed, used for access to information and power, and abused.

Each saw the MP speak out on Tuesday denying his leaders’ allegations of “harassment”, saying he was raised to respect all women.

A bright young graduate had her self-esteem and mental health crushed over a period of six months working for Jami-Lee Ross in what she says was “death by a thousand cuts”.

Another woman who worked for Ross said he bullied and belittled her, using a string of lies to discredit her work.

Yesterday Ross admitted poor behaviour as a husband (and admitted having two affairs). He also apologised to one one, who had gone public, Katrina Bungard – see National candidate speaks out over harassment by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross

He also supplied the recording of Bridges talking of fifteen women.

Following that from Newsroom – Death by 1000 cuts: Working for Jami-Lee Ross

They were young women starting out in employment and in politics. They had the misfortune to work for an MP called Jami-Lee Ross.

Here two more of the women, interviewed by Newsroom’s Melanie Reid and Cass Mason in their investigation into the former National MP, outline their working hell – and ongoing fears.

Ross tonight apologised to his wife for his behaviour but stopped short of personally apologising to four women whose cases Newsroom reported yesterday.

These further two testimonies back those who have gone before.

They are among a growing list of women who have told their experiences to Newsroom.

So this is six women now. It appears that Bridges was right in talking of a ‘pattern of behaviour’.

Ross has threatened to dish out dirt on all and sundry in Parliament now his real nature has been laid bare – some call this a death by a 1000 cuts type politics.

But it is Ross’ political career that is dying by many cutting revelations.

Welcome to some more scary men versus women division

“A compelling new entrant in the contest for the world’s worst IDP article contest being held by Radio NZ and The Spinoff”

Someone sent me that, with a link to this at RNZ: Welcome to the scary party, young men

By Anna Connell

There might be some truth behind US President Donald Trump’s claim that it’s a “scary time for young men”, but not in the way he thinks.

Mr Trump’s assertion that it’s a “scary time for young men in America” because “you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of” comes as his nominee for the supreme court, Brett Kavanaugh, faces several allegations of sexual misconduct.

It’s nearly impossible to argue Mr Trump is referring to a genuine fear with his comments. Simply put, false accusations of sexual assault are rare – only 2 to 10 percent of sexual assault reports in the US are found to be false, and it is equally rare that false accusations lead to convictions.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations in the US, there are only 52 cases where men convicted of sexual assault were exonerated because it turned out they were falsely accused. Meanwhile, it’s estimated 1 in 6 American women will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Welcome to the scary party, young men – it might be a scary time for you now but, as someone on Twitter said, it’s been a scary millennium for women.

Mr Trump is using abstract fear here, tapping into a vein of anxiety about a disruption to a comfortable, ordered way of life. A way of life where boys could be boys and men could be men. Where women knew their place and a slap on the bum wasn’t ‘unwanted sexual touching’. Where white men held all the power and women weren’t making runs at the White House.

This resonates with his supporters because, in the face of rapid societal change (and that is what we’re experiencing), your options are to embrace the unknown or retreat to the safety of the past.

Please don’t burn my feminist card for saying this, but I have some genuine empathy for this position. In this instance, Mr Trump is somewhat right – it is a scary time to be a young man but not for the reasons he suggests.

The roles men and women play in modern western societies have changed at a rapid pace. Where once men had a sure sense of their identity as the breadwinner and head of the family, women now work and sometimes earn more than men do.

Where sex was just something men did to women, with or without consent, it’s now something women insist on enjoying and being an equal party to. Where once men could largely ignore domestic and child-rearing obligations, they are now expected to play a role at home, or even stay there while women go to work.

Let me be clear, this is all a good thing, a great thing, a necessary thing, and plenty of men are wholly comfortable with it. But that change has happened at a rapid rate and I worry that men don’t know how to talk about it without fear. Those who do talk about it often dwell on the past, reverting to values and mores that are fast fading.

Where and how do young men discuss the now and the future? Where do they find good role models? Where do they learn and talk about sex and consent that isn’t a porn site or a sniggering playground conversation?

A lot of men versus women generalisations here.

Many men are excellent role models. Most men don’t sexually abuse or rape women (or other men).

It’s really hard to be empathetic about all this when women are only just gaining some space to make their fears, rightful anger, and desire for change acknowledged. But somewhere in there, I think we have to make some space to acknowledge that many men are full of fear too. That fear might not be justified and it’s hard for many women, myself included, to see it as anything other than entitlement and privilege, but it is fear nonetheless.

It’s a scary time for young men, not because they might be held accountable for their actions, but because their fear is being weaponised for political gain, encouraged by those who gain the most from division and hate. Acknowledging that might just be the first step in diffusing its power.

There is an issue with the possibility that some men might be “encouraged by those who gain the most from division and hate” – but Connell seems unaware that she is also encouraging gender division and hate.

 

Sexual misconduct issue hampered by generalised attacks

Generalised anti-men attacks are common in social media – as are anti-women attacks for that matter. Sad but inevitable.

However they are more troubling when attacks are via media. Especially when it involves such a serious problems like sexual misconduct and abuse of power.

Catriona MacLennan (Opinion) at The Spinoff – NZ’s failure on sexual misconduct is much, much bigger than any one case

Sexual harassment is still not regarded a serious issue in Aotearoa.

That is what we have learned since 2014, as a pattern of inadequate responses to harassment has played out in the public and media spotlight.

Not a good start – yes, there have been prominent inadequate responses to harassment played out in the media spotlight, but the fact that they have received so much scrutiny suggests that sexual harassment is regarded as a serious issue by many people.

MacLennan goes on the detail a number of issues that have been given serious attention by media.

There are five common threads running through all these cases.

  • Many employers and other organisations do not have proper procedures for dealing with sexual harassment. It is difficult to put this down to anything other than them not considering sexual harassment to be important. I can guarantee that all of the above organisations have robust procedures for dealing with, for example, theft and would know exactly what to do if money disappeared;
  • The immediate response of a majority of organisations is to downplay sexual harassment and assault, minimising and trivialising it. This is because the key concern of those to whom sexual harassment is reported is with protecting the organisation, rather than supporting the victims;
  • Sexual harassment – like rape, domestic violence, the gender pay gap and other issues – is pigeon-holed as a “women’s issue”. This means that women are regarded as being responsible for solving it. Men are the perpetrators, but calling sexual harassment a “women’s issue” gives men a get-out-of-jail-free card. Not a single male lawyer has spoken out about sexual harassment in the legal profession. They have – gutlessly –sat by and left it to women to speak;
  • The role of the media is incredibly important. It seems that it is only when journalists do stories about sexual harassment that employers are forced to deal with it properly;
  • It is the victims who continue to pay the heaviest price. In addition to dealing with the behaviour to which they are subjected, they are forced to weigh up the likely impact on their careers of seeking justice for what they have endured.

The first two and last two points are fair.

But I question a number of assertions in the middle bullet point.

Sexual harassment is pigeon-holed as a “women’s issue”.

Perhaps in the past, but increasingly less so. It is becoming widely accepted that men need to take responsibility for inappropriate attitudes and behaviour.

This means that women are regarded as being responsible for solving it.

Who thinks that? Male journalists have been very involved in spotlighting issues. Male Labour Party officials were responsible for dealing with Labour current issues. They admit stuffing up, but Jacinda Ardern hasn’t been particularly prominent in resolving things either.

Men are the perpetrators, but calling sexual harassment a “women’s issue” gives men a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Only some men (a small minority) are ‘the perpetrators’.

How many men call sexual harassment a “women’s issue”? I haven’t seen it. This is generalised men bashing, which doesn’t help the issue.

Not a single male lawyer has spoken out about sexual harassment in the legal profession. They have – gutlessly –sat by and left it to women to speak;

That’s just patently untrue. Newsroom:  All six law schools cut ties with Russell McVeagh

Auckland’s Dean of Law, Professor Andrew Stockley, told staff and students today that students “invited to an event or employed in any capacity should expect appropriate and professional behaviour at all times, and that the school would not accept any student being subjected to inappropriate behaviour, pressure, or sexual harassment”.

Victoria University of Wellington’s Law Students’ Society (VUWLSS) also said it was ending its relationship with the firm over the way it handled the misconduct and assault complaints. VUWLSS President Fletcher Boswell wrote on Facebook:

“The assaults should have been reported as an official complaint to the Law Society immediately after they occurred. Russell McVeagh have confirmed that this was not done at the time, and that this still has not been done. From our understanding, this is a breach of what the firm is legally and ethically obliged to do”.

Law Faculty Dean Professor Charles Rickett said the law school withdrew because of concerns over the behaviour of some Russell McVeagh staff.

“On balance, we believe it is suitable to be cautious about the safety and wellbeing of our students and to wait until the outcome of the external review before deciding how to proceed.”

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford confirmed the university had been in discussions with NZLSA about covering any incurred costs.

“Victoria awaits the outcome of the external review of Russell McVeagh and the firm’s response to the review before deciding whether to resume activities with the firm. We believe it is in the best interests of our students and staff to await the external review of Russell McVeagh’s workplace culture and – perhaps more importantly – the firm’s response to the review.”

Waikato University’s Dean of Law, Associate Professor Wayne Rumbles, told Newsroom the university will not be hosting Russell McVeagh on campus, “nor will it be engaging with the firm for student recruitment, at this stage. The University will also be paying for its team to take part in the Client Interviewing competitions this year, rather than accepting sponsorship from Russell McVeagh. While investigations are carried out, our priority remains the well-being of our students and graduates.”

Back to MacLennan :

As a result of the latest stories, there will be reviews and new procedures.

But, fundamentally, nothing will change.

I think that things are noticeably changing.

That is because the root cause of sexual harassment is power.

In our society, it is middle-class, Pākehā males who hold power.

In their heart of hearts, they view women as inferior. They are used to women in their lives deferring to them.

This is generalised ‘middle-class, Pākehā male’ bashing. It is also sexist and racist. And I’m sure that it is false and unfair on many men.

Until we not only tackle but actually solve the power imbalance, Pākehā males will continue to believe that women’s bodies are theirs for the taking – whether it is in the workplace or elsewhere.

I’m quite disgusted by this. Attacking a wide group for the offences of some is wrong, and it ignores the fact that perpertrators are also outside the group that MacClennan is attacking.

This broad brush single colour attack won’t help solve the real serious issues.

Sure, men in general should do more to oppose sexual harassment and attacks, they need to speak up more, and stand up more for decency.

Women also need to do more. Some are, and that’s a good thing.

Some men have been and are doing more too. More need to be encouraged to do more. Tarring them with a generalised brush won’t help with that.

Making this an all men versus women issue is one of the worst approaches to dealing with the real problems that need resolved and that’s what MacLennan is doing here.

I think that fortunately most women don’t share these ‘all men are bad’ attitudes.

There are things that women can do, and there are things that men can and should do, to combat the sexual harassment and violence issues.

Most importantly, good men and women need to work together to improve our society, not see each other as inferior or as enemies.