Friday, March 31, 2006

I believe Louise Nicholas

The jury has found Brad Shipton, Clint Rickards, and Bob Schollum not guilty of raping Louise Nicholas.


Obviously some members of the jury believed Louise Nicholas, or else the deliberations wouldn't have taken this long. I pay tribute to them, and wish they could have had the evidence that would have convinced the rest.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


The pattern last two days for me has been dominated by making sure I was listening to the radio every hour, on the hour. National radio marks the hour with their six pips, and I listen to the news, I'm waiting for a verdict. I'm not alone; there are other women listening as intently as me. During a meeting today I popped into someone else's office to listen to the one o'clock news - another woman came in "is there a verdict?"

We're reading entrails. I got a text message saying "Jury came out to ask judge as question - good sign i reckon'. I agree and the question they asked was a good one. Each hour the jury's deliberations stretch on (they've spent 8 hours yesterday, and 12 hours today) I wonder if it's a good sign. "At least someone believes Louise Nicholas" I say, "I hope they stay staunch" whoever I happen to be talking to at the moment replies.

We listen and wait and worry because we believe Louise Nicholas.

We believe Louise Nicholas, because we can imagine being her, because we're terrifying of going through what she went through.

She was 18 when she moved to Rotorua, 18 and tiny. They were police officers, strong men, and there were three of them. They came and raped her. They raped her in her house. They drove her to one their houses, and raped her there. She weighed 48 kilos (106 pounds), she had no chance of fighting back agains the three of them and they gang raped her.

She wouldn't have felt safe anywhere, she would have lived in terror. Rotorua is not a big town, she couldn't escape. What was she supposed to do? She was being raped by the police; who was she supposed to go to? She was 18, and new to town, one of them was a friend of her brother, what supported networks was she supposed to use to stop it? Who was she supposed to turn to? What else could she have done?

Now they're saying she didn't act like a rape victim should. The defence lawyers say that the fact that she wore a white muslim dress again, after police officers raped her with a baton while she was wearing it, shows that she wasn't raped. The fact that someone remembered her showing a garter to one of the rapists, shows she wasn't raped.

We listen, wait and hope. Hope for Louise Nicholas to get the guilty verdict she's been fighting for, but not just for Louise Nicholas. For all the other women these men might have raped. All the other women who have been gang raped, from Kaitaia to Bluff.

Also posted on Alas

Monday, March 27, 2006

More on the police rape case

The jury in the Louise Nicholas trial will probably retire tomorrow or the next day. The Crown has complete its summing up, all that is left is for the defence lawyers to spend a day or so calling Louise Nicholas a liar and a slut, and say that she didn't behave in the way someone who has been raped should behave.

I've been really disturbed by the coverage. Five Crown witnesses were supressed, but most media haven't mentioned this fact. But the thing that disturbed me the most was the descriptions of Clint Rickards, assistant police commissioner, and one of the accused rapists. The focus on his appearance, talking about how authorative he was, as if that says something about whether or not he is a rapist (well actually I think it possibly does, but not in his defence). The Dominion Post went even further:

You can't see the weighty pounamu pendant that hangs around his neck. Just the shoulders of his crisp white shirt and the tight knot of his blue-green tie rise out of the dock. There is the occasional glimpse of a silver watch peeking out from beneath a shirt cuff and the jagged tips of the tattoos that adorn his right arm.
I'm scared about the out-come, I will be so upset, so angry, if these men are let off because of their power. But I do hold out hope. The jury convicted in another historical rape trial, where I was convinced they were going to let the off. All it takes is one person that sees that the kind of man who wears his police uniform to court, to show his power and intimidate people, is the kind of man who would use the power and intimidation that comes from being a police officer to get what he wants.

Also posted on Alas

People should be freer than capital

I wanted to write a little bit more about my position on immigration, because I think it's an issue that doesn't receive enough attention.

One commenter on my post wrote:

But I have been surprised that many of the people that are vehemently against corporations outsourcing jobs to India and China have no problem with domestic outsourcing to illegal immigrants driving down wages for many Americans.
This sort of rhetoric on immigration is really dangerous, because it drives a wedge between those with work permits and illegal immigrants, and it's wrong. The reason illegal immigration can drive down wages and conditions has nothing to do with the fact that people come from some country with bornwer skin, in fact it has nothing to do with the immigrants at all, it's because the employers use the power they have over illegal immigrants. If all illegal immigrants were allowed to work legally then their wages and conditions would go up, because they could utilise labour legislation, and it would be easier to organise.

I don't actually care about American jobs any more than New Zealand jobs, or Chinese jobs and Indian jobs. No borders isn't just rhetoric about immigration - it has to be a commitment not to priviledge one group of workers above another.

I also oppose tarriff reduction regimes for different reasons than this commenters. While the arguments about relationships between tarriff changes in the first world and job losses (and not just in the first world, but that's a longer post) are important. The real reason I oppose tarriff reductions is that they give companies more power. The more free companies are to move around, the more they can leverage from different localities to move where they are. Improved transport has meant that manufacturing can reasonably easily be moved from one location to another. This has given manufacturers the power to leverage zones where no labour legislation, or most other forms of legislation, apply to them. It's this power, not the job losses, that I object to.

I don't actually believe that 'no borders' could be achieved under capitalism, neither could women's liberation, but steps in that direction are worth fighting for.

Also posted on Alas

Sunday Protest Blogging: Open Borders Edition

Los Angeles saw one of it's biggest protests ever yesterday when between half a million and a million people marched against anti-immigration laws. The laws would make it a felony to be an illegal immigrant, and calls for walls to be built along the border. I understand they're due to be debated in the Senate on Tuesday.

The mobilisation against this legislation all over America exceeded media expectations (although the organisers seem to have known how important it was to people). I'd like to pay tribute to everyone who atteneded those protests, and particularly those who put in the organising work to make it happen.

I think it's easy to get complacent about this issue in New Zealand, to assume that just because it's difficult for illegal immigrants to get here, immigration is less of an important political issue here. We get the occasional high profile refugee case. The most famouse is Ahmed Zaoui, an Algerian who was detained for a number of years, after he was given refugee status, because the SIS didn't like him. Or when the government sedated a 16 year old girl in order to deport her back to Sri Lanka where she had been repeatedly raped by her family and feared the repercussions (she has since been given refugee status, and is going to Canada). But although dawn raids to get rid of illegal immigrants still happen, more people probably know the band than the practice.

Businesses exploit illegal immigrants, and it is the immigrants who are punished if the businesses are caught. Last year one bakery was caught paying one of their employee's below the minimum wage and not providing him with holidays for 8 years. He was deported, they were fined $2,000. Employers have huge amounts of power over illegal immigrants, and the only way to change that is to say that those workers should be entitled to live here under the same conditions as everyone else.

I think it's fantastic that it is a people's issue in America, although I imagine it's not for good reasons. My sister met a US border guard at a party (he had brought his border guard badge with him to New Zealand, which was probably the first sign of trouble), he said his job was to shoot Mexicans.

In New Zealand at the moment, the only people who talk about immigration, are people who want it restricted, or businesses who want workers. It's obviously different in America, you don't get hundreds of thousands of people on the streets to promote business interests. I think it's really important to draw a line between people who support a more open immigration policy to suit the needs with business, are confused with people who think that immigration policy should suit the needs of people (so there should be no limits on immigraton)From the Guardian:

Bush sides with business leaders who want to let some of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants stay in the country and work for a set period of time. Others, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, say national security concerns should drive immigration reform.
By making immigration a tap that gets turned on and off to suit the labour market, employers can try and drive down wages and conditions by treating workers in other countries as a reserve army of labour.

So all power to the protesters, and I'm sure they'll continue to draw a line between those who put people first, and those who put business first, as well as fighting the racist fucks who put up legislation like that up in the first place.

If you live in America and didn't make those protests you get another chance, there's a national day of action on April 10, you can find out more at the immigrant solidarity network.

Also posted on my blog

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Feminist blogging

The thing about blogs is they let peoeple talk about whatever they like. So there are an awful lot of blogs out there about women's experiences. Sometimes I wonder if this could be used for something more. If the barrier between feminist blogging, which is primarily about other women's lives, and blogging on 'women's topics' where feminist women (and non-feminist women) write about their lives, could be broken down. What would it look like if feminists who were writing about body image issues and reproduction, linked more to personal stories on weight-loss blogs and mother blogs (and yes it's scary that those are the two female blogging topics that come to mind) and vice-versa. Because I do think that feminist analysis is stronger the more it links to women's experience, and I think talking about women's experience can be something more, it can be consciouness raising.

This is in response to the great 'false advertising' debate. I've read a lot of posts on this issue. I feel like I understand the issues around the role women's bodies play in a relationship, particularly in middle-class white America, but I think many of those observations would apply outside that specific context (incidentally I've also developed a plan, if I am in a relationship with someone who thinks a change in my appearance is 'false advertising' I will simply tell a couple of my female friends about it, and they will take care of him).

But while I know more, I'm still feeling really ambivilant about the debate, because I'm not sure it's what I'd call feminism. In supposedly feminst blogs and comments women have been attacked for feeling like they owe it to their husbands to keep their weight down. From I Blame the Patriarchy

Regarding said ass: Women of some races naturally have asses like that. Women of some races naturally have hair like that too. But the kid’s white, and both hair and butt look bought to me. Also besides, being as they are both staunch supporters of the patriarchy, I assume she’s read the fine print. As soon as her ass goes south, he’ll have (and probably take) the option to find another, younger butt.
I get it, I really do. I understand the frustration, the desire to get angry at a woman for accepting and perpetuating so much shit. When I read this:
My boyfriend, the man I thought I was going to marry, brok up with me after 4.5 years. Because I gained weight. To be fair, it was a significant gain (about 25 pounds).
I wanted to yell at the woman why the fuck are you being fair to a man who leaves you because you've gained 11 kilos? You should be dancing Numfar's dance of joy that you got out. But I don't think that that helps build anything, except the idea that I think I'm better than her. And I'm not, I have my own issues, and I don't write about them on my blog, except with eight layers of feminist analysis. But does that just make me less honest than her?

Despite these ugly personal attacks, there were real benefits from reading so many different perspectives on one issue. One of the things that really disturbed me, and showed how good the patriarchy (still don't like the term) is at colonising our minds, was that we shouldn't just want to attain beauty standards to catch a mate, we should want them for ourselves. From a comment on I blame the patriarchy
I’ve met women who have “let themselves go” after marriage out of the idea that they already have their man, so they don’t have to try anymore. To them, the idea of putting any kind of effort into themselves was a tool to get a mate, and once they had the mate, they could stop doing those things. I’m not saying that one has to wear make-up, exercise, whatever to be happy, but it disturbs me greatly to think that I should only care about my appearance to trap a man, and once I’ve got him I can just “let myself go.”
A slightly different version of the same thought on Tertia
It doesn’t matter if you are 10, 15 or 50 pounds heavier than you were when you got married; if you take pride in yourself and dress nicely, do your hair, spray some perfume on, wear pretty earrings etc, you will feel nice and you will look nice. And I am sure that is all that most men want. They want us to like ourselves and to be happy. Because they know, the happier we are within ourselves the sexier we will feel, and that can only mean good things for the long suffering husband. A happy wife makes a happy husband.
Unfortunately, I can't really have a conversation here about what these women have said, I'd be attacking them, attacking what they said. Informal, unsure conversations, where you learn stuff together - it's easier to do that in person.

Which is a shame, because the analysis I found most interesting came from blogs that would probably identify more as Mommy blogs than feminist blogs.

Moxie seemed afraid that everyone would hate her when she came to I Blame the Patriarchy, but I thought her analysis was really useful.
I've been thinking about this topic all day. The notion that a woman owes it to her husband or her relationship to keep her body thin (or whatever way the culture decides is beautiful--I'm sure there are women in Africa who feel pressure to stay fat) is part of the truth that when a woman gets married her body no longer belongs to her, but instead is the property of and a symbol of the marital unit.

It's the woman's responsibility to get and stay pregnant. Even if she gets pregnant easily, she's the one who takes the entire physical hit of the pregnancy. Heartburn, acne, sciatica, backache, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, PSD, tendonitis, skin tags, stretch marks, insomnia, swelling. And the labor and delivery is a horror, featuring pain and often cutting or tearing, even when it's relatively easy. Even if a woman loses all the pregnancy weight, her body is never the same. She sacrifices her body for the family unit.
She goes on to explore what happens if a woman can't conceive and how this changes as the baby gets older. It's a really good point, and so much more of what so many other writers say makes more sense when it's put in context.

I've been reading Jody from Raising WEG for a while, I love her analysis and her writing (and freak out at the very thought of triplets).
As Moxie points out far more eloquently than I could, stress and our mental responses to stress affect our eating habits, too. And exercise that comes naturally to single people gets very hard for parents to find. And I'll also point out that I don't believe we are our bodies, and that there's a difference between living well in the body you have, and trying to make your body into something it was, or should be, so that it looks better to other people. It's been my experience that it's not any more work to learn to love your body as it becomes.


Your body isn't your self. Your relationship with food isn't your relationship with your body. There are many ways to be attractive, and they don't remain static over time. And the thinner women in our neighborhood? I'm pretty sure at least two of them are anorexic. Anything is better than an eating disorder.
I'm going to end with my favourite story. The one that makes me think that maybe this sort of conversation is worthwhile. Maybe it will give women strength, and show them that they are not alone. This is Jen Creer from inkstains
The reason I thought this is because my husband clearly thought differently about me when I was thin and then when I had gained weight in my marriage. One year, when we had two small children, he started running and playing tennis and racquetball and lifting weights. He told me finally that he couldn’t sit around and become a fat slob like me. He said, “No man can respect a man with a fat wife. If you don’t lose the weight, I will leave. If you gain more weight, I will leave.”

I will never forget that conversation. We were sitting in the bathroom at two o’clock in the morning. I was sitting on the lid of the toilet, and he was sitting next to the tub. Our sixteen-month son was sitting in the steamy tub, suffering from the croup. Our four-year-old son was asleep in one bedroom, and our three-week old baby was asleep in another.

Yes, that’s right. I was three-weeks postpartum when my husband said those words to me. And the time that he chose to get back into shape? Was when I was pregnant with his third child. I had a total of three C-sections, and I was not even allowed to pick up our middle child, let alone exercise when he sat and said the coldest words I’ve ever heard from someone who was supposed to love me more than anyone.
Ok that's not happy, but her next sentance was:
That was the night I stopped loving him
There's more to the story. Awful horrible stuff that makes me furious, but three years later she did leave him.

I do think bringing together different women's experiences of the same problem can be helpful. I even think this debate is. But without trust, without sisterhood (with all the problems that brings), I'm not sure this is building anything much. I'm worried that it's just making 'feminists' another group of women with special interests and experiences.

Also posted at Alas

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why liberals (or leftists, or socialists or anarchists) don't make better lovers

An anonymous writer fromGQ made a list of the top 10 reasons Republicans were better in bed (David Farrar got quite excited) Ann from Feministing replied with a list of top 10 reasons liberals were better in bed. Here's #5:

5. Foreplay. Liberal men are so intellectually sexy that everything is foreplay. Republicans might get started in the cab after dinner, but the liberal man’s in-depth knowledge of (and vehement opposition to) various state-level abortion restrictions has got me all hot and bothered before we’ve ordered our entrees.
While this made me chuckle (and in a personal sense it's not inaccuarte). I also found some of the comments at Pandagon very amusing

But I kept on coming back to 'but....', I can't accept this argument even as a joke.

I've known left-wing men who couldn't grasp the radical notion that women were people. I've known left-wing men who treated women as objects for their conquest. I've known women who were raped by left-wing men. I've known women who were beaten by their left-wing boyfriends.

I wish that wasn't true. I wish that you could know that once a guy knew how to talk like he thought a woman's body was her own, you could trust him. I wish I could . But unfortunately it's not true, and I think it's foolish and dangerous to pretend that it is.

Also posted on Alas


I have a plan to write a long post about the responses to False Advertising a post in which Morphing into Mama says that she believes that to significantly change your appearance after you get married, for instance by cutting your hair or gaining weight, is false advertising.

Before I go any further I do have to quote Twisty:

And, lard-jesus no! MIM, who says she “works” to maintain her figure “for myself and my husband,” goes on to suggest that a person’s weight is indicative, not, as a rational person might imagine, of how much she weighs, but of her degree of “self-respect.” Overweight people, MIM asserts, are probably “depressed.” She asks, “can you imagine still maintaining the same level of physical attraction for your mate when he’s depressed?”
There has been a huge response to MiM's post, and it's that collective response that I want to write about. But before I can do that I have to express disbelief at the context in which she reached this particular conclusion:
Recently, in my psychopathology class, I was reminded of this conversation with Husband. My classmates and I were discussing a journal article on bulimia nervosa and speculative reasons were being tossed around as to why the majority of the women sampled were married.

“Maybe married women feel more pressure to be thin for their husbands,” one young, unmarried classmate said.

“Really? Because when I’m in a relationship, I get all comfortable and actually tend to plump up,” said another, very honest young woman to my left.

“Well, first I don’t think it’s fair to say that being married caused these women to be bulimic – especially since being in a relationship can make one conscious about one’s weight just as being single can. When you’re single, you want to be in good shape not just for yourself, but so that you can feel confident about how you look and feel like you can attract a partner. When you’re married – and especially after having kids – you’re conscious about your weight, which may motivate you to watch what you eat and exercise, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop an eating disorder. I am conscious of my weight, so I don’t snack, and I exercise. Personally, I think it would be unfair to Husband if I gained a bunch of weight and did nothing about it.”
She was having a conversation about why eating disorders were more commmon among married women, she thinks about her body, food and exercise within her relationship, and her conclusion is that it wouldn't be fair to her husband to gain weight.

I'm reminded of last year's anti-feminist women's rights co-ordinator at the local university. She wasn't into 'No Diet Day' so she renamed it 'Love your body day'. How do you love your body? By eating fruit and doing yoga.

I don't want to blame her for thinking like this, there's a lot of resources poured into to making women feel like this. It just makes me terribly, terribly, sad and angry.

Also posted at Alas

Monday, March 20, 2006

Radical Youth are my heros

In Auckland, over 500 school students walked out of classes today to protest youth rates. They were going to have a rally but they turned it into a march, and blocked the intersection.

I'm just so impressed at their dedication, organisation, and all round on-to-itness. There was a fantastic interview on Morning Report and some lovely bits from the rally on Checkpoint:

I saw that on the radio they tried to discredit us, they said we were here to get out of school, they said this was truancy. This is not truancy this is activism. No More Youth Rates
Just when I was comparing New Zealand unfavourably to Paris.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Healthy Living

I realised that I hadn't explained myself very well in my Body Shop thread. Or rather I'd paraphrased an argument without actually making that argument.

I hate The Body Shop, have a for very long time. I've never had a use for the dumb soaps and gels and whatever they make (although I did go through a stage when I was 14 of buying them as presents for friends, if I didn't know what else to get them). They're such a huge part of the idea that it's alternative and a moral good to be healthy, and what it means to be healthy is to fit a traditional idea of beautiful that I'd happily watch as every single one of their stores burnt to the ground.
I wanted to explore the link between health and beauty, and the idea that health is a moral good, a little bit more to explain.

The equation of 'beauty' and 'health' is really common and really insidious. The most obvious example is weight, and (despite rather a lot of evidence to the contrary) the conflation of thin and healthy. In circles (usually middle class and slightly politically aware circles) where it's not acceptable to talk about weight loss straight up, generally exactly the same conversations take place, but people are talking about 'health'. If someone is nervous of complimenting a woman for losing weight, they'll talk about 'healthy' she looks.

But it's much more common than that. Most of the examples are just laughable. Beauty sections in magazines are now called 'health' sections. Hair products claim they will promote 'healthy looking hair' (because ensuring that your dead-cells are healthy should be the priority of everyone). The state of your skin is seen as indicative of your overall health. Performing beauty routinues, like moisturising or body scrubbing, are portrayed as part of maintaining your health.

Some are more scary:
The American Cancer Society offers the "Look Good…Feel Better" program, "dedicated to teaching women cancer patients beauty techniques to help restore their appearance and self-image during cancer treatment."

Of course this is bullshit, you can't tell someone's health by looking at them, and a lot of so called health routinues won't increase your longevity, or your quality of life at all.

Now this is partly just a marketing technique, the more women challenge beauty standards, the more useful it is to have different justification for selling exactly the same products. But I think it's become a lot more significant than that, because health is portrayed as a moral good. This particular conflation is a very powerful one for fucking with people's minds, and very useful for ensuring certain sorts of behaviour (mostly buying stuff, but also not challenging the way our society is organised).

The first step to believing being 'healthy' is moral is to show that 'health' is something that is under your control. Now personally, I reject this idea as deeply offensive, as well as being wrong. Wile there are some things that you can do that will promote the length of your life, and increase the ways you can use your body, most of it is just luck. Either it's your genetics, or it's a result of environmental factors you can't control (like poverty, or being exposed to depleted uranium). It's very tempting to believe we can control our body, how long we live, how far it holds out, but most of us won't be able to.

To give a rather silly example of this I have had a number of people tell me about the quality of their teeth, how they don't have fillings, and they each give a different reason for this (they brush every day, or they eat a lot of cheese). Now it seems to me that it's far more likely that fluoridated water, and improvements in detal practice are the reason my generation's teeth are better than our parents.

That's why I think it's wrong, the reason I think it's offensive is it promotes an idea that everyone could get better if only they tried hard enough. It turns illness into a form of personal failing. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a fantastic article about this in relation to the breast cancer industry (and yes unfortunately it is an industry):
My friend introduces me to a knot of other women in survivor gear, breast-cancer victims all, I learn, though of course I would not use the V-word here. "Does anyone else have trouble with the term 'survivor'?' I ask, and, surprisingly, two or three speak up. It could be "unlucky," one tells me; it "tempts fate," says another, shuddering slightly. After all, the cancer can recur at any time, either in the breast or in some more strategic site. No one brings up my own objection to the term, though: that the mindless triumphalism of "survivorhood" denigrates the dead and the dying. Did we who live "fight" harder than those who've died? Can we claim to be "braver," better, people than the dead? And why is there no room in this cult for some gracious acceptance of death, when the time comes, which it surely will, through cancer or some other misfortune?
The idea that 'health' is a result of our individual actions is now dangerously firmly placed. We can beat heart-attacks, breast-cancer, alzheimer's, arthritis, dementia and everything else if we try hard enough.

As well as being awful in it's own right, this idea turns anything that is promoted as improving health as a moral good, even if it doesn't actually improve your longevity or use of your body.

This idea is so insidious that it has often been adopted by the left, where being 'healthy' can be portrayed as not just morally good, but alternative - or even radical. So we end up reinforcing our own version of the mainstream ideology. Constantly things that are supported for political reasons (say veganism) are promoted for their supposed health benefits, as if good politics and good health, automatically go together (I have a much, much, much longer rant about this particular topic, but it'll have to wait for another day).

I started writing this whole post because mythago asked me "why is buying soap kowtowing to patriarchal, capitalistic ideals about beauty?" I want to make it really clear that I don't think the solution to the problems that I raised is to stop eating in a particular way, or buying a particular product, or trying to live in a way that you find nourishes and sustains you.

What I do think is important is we challenge the ideology which equates beauty, health and morality, and promotes health as something we can control. We can stop praising people for being healthy, we can stop telling people they look healthy, we can stop assuming that just because we agree with something politically it'll be good for our bodies, and we can stop using moralistic language to describe food.

And that's why I hate the Body Shop.

Also posted on Alas

Sunday Protest Blogging: Paris

They certainly know how to protest in France. There the government proposes fire-at-will legislation, and 120,000 people take to the streets of Paris, where they occupy buildings. Here we'll be lucky if it gets beyond a few grumpy blog posts. Unfotunately I don't speak French, but if you do the Paris indymedia site looks interesting.

When I said in my post on the body shop that I don't have any time for ethical businesses, it's not because I don't think there's any hope of creating change, but because I think obsessing about your shopping can distract people. It's because I believe if people work together collectively and organise together to challenge existing power structures, then we can be stronger than they are.

18 March

This weekend is the third anniversary of invasion of Iraq. So I hope you spent at least some of it at an anti-war protest (unless you support the occupation, in which case).

The Wellington demonstration was fantastic. The numbers were up on last year. While 250 people doesn't sound like that much (particularly if you live somewhere big), our numbers are up on last year (which ruins a perfectly good theory of mine about the relationship between activists involved in organising a protest and people who turned up, oh well won't stop me using it). There were even people there who I didn't recognise, but what really excited me is that some of those people's didn't just turn up, they had organised to do stuff.

But that's not the main point of this post, because towards the end of the protest someone got arrested and this lead to the usual chain reaction and four more people were arrested (even that isn't the main point of the post, however frustrated I may be about protesters inability to count. If the police outnumber us then they can do whatever they want and the best idea is to get out of their way as soon as possible). What I want to write about is the gendered insults protesters were yelling at the police.

The police were all men, and both male and female protesters were playing up the way they were acting was a sign of failure of their masculinity, some of the comments were actually about the size of people's dicks.

Now feelings were quite high. I'd made 'Louise Nicholas is a Hero' patches and given them out to a bunch of people on the demo. The police were even more violent than usual (and I'm semi-used to police attacking my friends).

But to me that's all the more reason to reject traditional ideas of masculinity (and I think it's just plain stupid to taunt overhyped, specially trained, violent cops about their masculinity).

Also posted on Alas

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Oh no where will I buy my ethical beauty products now?

I hate the body shop, have a for very long time. I've never had a use for the dumb soaps and gels and whatever they make (although I did go through a stage when I was 14 of buying them as presents for friends, if I didn't know what else to get them). They're such a huge part of the idea that it's alternative and a moral good to be healthy, and what it means to be healthy is to fit a traditional idea of beautiful that I'd happily watch as every single one of their stores burnt to the ground. So I was highly amused when I heard that The Body Shop had been bought by L'Oreal, and that Anita Roddick is personally over 100 million pounds richer.

Now the Body Shop is particularly awful, other 'ethical' businesses are built on something slightly more solid than making money on women's insecurities about their bodies. But that doesn't mean that any form of ethical businesses will make any difference to the way our worked works. If it makes you feel any better to buy 'fair-trade' coffee and chocolate then go ahead, it won't harm anyone.

The thing is that consumers who want their products made in a certain way are no threat to capitalism. It doesn't matter whether people want pink products, or products that are slightly less exploitative, if there are enough of them (and they're prepared to pay) they become a market and that need can be met. You're not going to challenge capitalism by buying stuff (or even by not buying stuff). L'Oreal buying the Body Shop is the natural and expected outcome of a project that was always about making money.

Also posted on Alas

Thursday, March 16, 2006

That's 3,999,999 thank you very much

All throughout the city I see signs telling me that our Commonwealth Games team is 4 million strong. So I wanted to register myself as a conscientious objector from nationalism.

Another advertising campaign asks "Where do Gold Medals Come From?" You're supposed to go to Sparc's website to get this answer:

They come from ordinary kiwi kids who are encouraged, supported and then developed to become extraordinary young athletes motivated to spend years in intense training to reach the world stage.
They're wrong the actual steps to getting a gold medal looks more like this:

1. Find an environment with some gold in it.
2. Build a mine, destroy the environment, and save money by leaving out as many safety features as possible.
3. Hire a whole bunch of people to work in the mine, pay as little as possible.
4. Bust unions, anyway you can, try violence.
5. Get a whole bunch of other toxic chemicals and mix them with the gold.
6. This is actually where my knowledge of gold-mining and smithing runs out, but you get the picture.

Right to Work

I haven't been able to find a copy of Pita Sharples speech in support of Wayne Mapp's bill going to the select committee on-line. But I have a copy in my e-mail, and I'd like to talk about it, because it's stupid. Here is an extract:

I come to this House today, desperately aware of the need of people in my constituency, in my electorate, particularly in South Auckland, to be able to walk in the door to a job. However, we are also committed to protecting
Workers' Rights - so that workers' rights are not impinged on, workers are not abused, do not suffer from exploitation.

These are heavy issues, and our caucus has grappled with the challenge inherent. What takes precedence? The Right to Work or the Workers' Rights?


The impact of systemic bias, of institutional racism, the plight of the jobless are still issues of significance for this nation - and we must have the courage and strength to consider options.

We therefore will vote on principle, wanting there to be room for discussion, but also always aware of the juggling act to protect Workers' Rights alongside the Right to Work.
There is no juggling act needed to protect Workers' Rights and the Right to Work. One of workers' rights is the right to work, and the only way to protect that right is actually protecting it. For example, if you tightened the law on fixed-term contracts, that would be protecting the right to work. If you said that people had to be employed directly, and people couldn't use temp companies and sub-contractors, that'd protect the right to work. Even a tiny bill like the Employment Relation Amendment Bill, currently before parliament, would protect the right to work (it would enact the protection parliament already tried to give vulnerable workers, but failed due to general incompetence and a ridiculously conservative appeals court).

This bill does not protect the right to work, it attacks it, because it gives employers the ability to arbitrarily deny workers' right to work within the first 90 days of employment.

Also published at Alas.

Being Wrong

I was quite excited when the Maori party was formed - not in the sense that anything positive would result from it. But I thought any step away from Labour is a good thing right?

Not so much.

It takes quite a lot of effort to be worse than Labour - you have to try with both hands. But last night the Maori party voted to send Wayne Mapp's private members bill to the select committee. This bill would enable an employer to fire an employee for any reason they liked during the first 90 days of employment.

UPDATE: Three Maori party members voted for the bill, one voted against it. The one who voted against it was Hone Harawira.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Like a lot of people I'd been following the Haidl gang rape trial at Pinko Feminist Hellcat (brief summary: three extremely rich young men filmed themselves repeatedly raping a young woman who has passed out. When they were charged with rape they attempt to destroy her even more. They manage to get one hung jury, but then they get convicted. But you should really read everything Sheezlebub says about the case). Those men have just been sentanced to six years in prison.

Today Sheezlebub has the statement Jane Doe (her name is suppressed, not that that stopped the rapists from making sure everyone knew who she was) made to the court. It's awful and harrowing, but it's also the statement of an survivor.

I think Amanda from Pandagon said it best:

They called Jane Doe “trash”, followed her around, smeared her name all over town and otherwise let it be known how most of society feels about women who speak out against sexual assault. Well, I’m going to adamantly disagree.

Jane Doe is a hero.

She got these pigs off the street so they don’t do it to someone else. She put up with a lot for that sliver of a hope that her pursuit of justice would mean something. And something so small, really–to be free. To be able to have friends you can visit. To be able to go to a party, like a man can, without fear of being brutally raped. To be considered human.
She's right, and Louise Nicholas is also a hero.

In our school hall we used to have a quilt which said Me aro koe ki te hä o Hine-ahu-one, which was translated as: Pay Heed to the Dignity of Women. I'd like to pay heed to the dignity to all women who have survived rape and sexual abuse.

Also posted on Alas

Robert Fisk

I went to hear Robert Fisk talk tonight. He was incredible, so articulate, so intelligent, and he talked about the hard bits about the life that he had choosen (and told us not to be sorry for him). I couldn't possibly summarise the talk as the whole. But there are two bits I want to quote, because I really liked them. I've but them in blockquotes, but of course I'm doing it from memory.

Someone asked how he dealt with anger he answered:

I write a column every week and my editor prints it without leaving anything else. I believe in reporting victims not generals. I don't give equal space for those whose arms are blown off and those who are blowing arms off people.
The next question was if anything had changed for the better in the Middle East in the last 30 years:
Things have changed, but they may not be the things you want. The difference is that Arabs aren't afraid anymore. It used to be that when Israel attacked Lebanon everyone fled to Beirut. Now when Israel attacks Lebanon carloads of young men from Beirut get into their cars and head to the border. Now I abhor violence, loathe it, but we have to realise we are living in a violent world. People are fighting back, rather than being afraid.
I have friends who support resistance to imperialism no matter who is doing it and how. I don't share that view, before I could actually support a resistence movement I would have to know how they treated their own people, and what they were trying to do. But I actually don't think that my support matters that much, because the right to self-defence is so fundamental that they'll do it whether or not someone in Wellington agrees with what they're doing or not.

Also posted at Alas

Men scarce, so women settle for less

That was an actual headline in the Domion Post today. The story goes like this:

Callister said the most significant finding of his research was a 10 per cent increase in the past two decades in highly educated women marrying men with fewer qualifications and, in many cases, lower-paid jobs.

This had happened largely because of a lack of eligible partners of equal educational or economic status, he said.
In many cases women are marrying men with lower paid jobs? They must be truly, truly desperate.

Also posted at Alas.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


A couple of months back there was interesting discussion about sexism and wikipedia I never did get round to replying then, but I was thinking about and so I thought I'd write about it now.

It started when m from scribblepad compared the definition of 'women' with the definition of 'men' on wikipedia and pointed out that the differences were sexist. She got a whole bunch of replies that critised her for attacking open source (I got all this from Feministe which had a nice post on the issue). She responded

I understand there are several people out there who seem to think challenging wikipedia amounts to challenging open source, something that shouldn’t (according to them) be allowed at any cost. one, it isn’t about “wikipedia versus feminism” or “wikipedia the last stand of free source”. nobody can force that kind of trade off, and even if they do, as much as I support free source, damned if ill continue to do so when the project abuses me.
I wasn't at all surprised. I expect wikipedia to be sexist, racist, and supporting the existing class structures. I expect the same of indymedia, and any other 'free' space.

I'll explain what I mean a little more by talking about something that happened to me a few years back. I protest quite often (I have a personal goal of protesting outside every embassy in Wellington). One day I was happily protesting and someone took a photo. It was the best photo of the day, so I became the face of the demo. Someone posted my picture with an article onto an Australian indymedia site. The comments went like this:
1. "The bird in the red has big tits I'd like to suck them"
2. "Fucken Leso give her some fucken meat".
3. Some long diatribe on how we shouldn't objectify women because it distracts us from the class struggle
4. A reasonably long post about how much the writer liked our protest and how he should do something like that where he lived, and then he ended it with "PS they're not that big"
There were no further comments. The original article was hidden, but no-one, including the person who hid it, or the person who forwarded a link to me, made any further comment on the way they were talking about my body.

I was on the fringes of the local indymedia collective at the time, and wrote to the e-mail list talking about this post, and the concerns I had about indymedia in general. A couple of people responded, and the one I remember was from a man who asked why I hadn't posted a response, as that was the whole point of open communication.

So to recap: a photo of me was taken at demo, this led four men to make a series of comments about my body, including rape threats, some of which came from men who were supposed to be comrades. No one spoke a word against it, including people who thought it was wrong. When I raised an objection in a slightly safer space I was told I was the one who was supposed to do something about this.

Our society is sexist and misogynist. What this means is that if we create a supposedly free space for communication it'll replicate the sexist and misogynist patterns found in mainstream society, unless we take conscious action to change those sexist and misogynist patterns. The same is true for all other power structures in our society, they will all be replicated in the free space.

This doesn't necessarily mean that those who want to build a new world need to give up on open communication spaces as a tool (I am writing this on the internet), but that if we're going to use them we need to set up structures to challenge those power systems we're fighting against.

Also posted on Alas

Hear no evil

I kind of wish I wasn't writing a blog right now. I think if I wasn't writing a blog I'd pay less attention to the news media, and I probably would have taken an "I can't cope with knowing this" position on the Louise Nicholas case. As it is I've been reading the papers, and listening to morning report and checkpoint on-line (talking of which, Radio New Zealand's headline for the story is: "Alleged rape victim Louise Nicholas breaks down in court" - fuck off radio New Zealand).

I feel almost invasive writing about it, at this point. They cleared the court while she gave evidence today, but the newspapers are reporting her testimony as if they're enjoying the salacious side of it.

What I'm scared of is the cross-examination. There are three defendants, and each of their lawyers will be able to try and rip her apart, one after another, with 20 people from the media, and the men who raped her watching. I'm sure I'll write more about this in the next few days.

I just wish I could offer some form of support to Louise Nicholas. By giving testimony, even though she's going to be treated like shit, then she may be able to show that even the powerful are not immune.

Also posted on Alas


Tony Blair is coming to New Zealand, but he's staying in Auckland and not coming down to Wellington.

How am I supposed to yell at him?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Representative Charges

Today the trial for Clinton Rickards, Bradley Shipton and Robert Schollum began. They are all police officers (Clint Rickards is now an Assistant Police Commissioner) at the time they raped Louise Nicholas.

Until now the charges they faced had been suppressed:

The three men face a total of 20 charges relating to a period between 1985 and 1986 when the complainant was 18-years-old.

They are accused of indecent assault, rape and unlawful sexual connection and the charges include two counts of indecent assault using a baton.
I expect I'll be blogging a lot about the trial (and its media coverage), over the next three weeks or so.

Right now the only thing I can think to do is to link to Flea's letter to her sons, and ask everyone to please read it, and work for a world where it's not necessary.

Also posted at Alas.

Up Your Productivity

That's the title of a campaign from the Engineers (just for a tiny bit of context they're affiliated to the Labour party and are the most right-wing private sector union). Increases in productivity over and above increases in wages is just increasing the amount the bosses get from the workers' labour.

From the press release:

The EPMU will support employers who develop genuine productivity initiatives.
Because the union's job is to support employers, but only those who are genuinely trying to get more money out of workers.

The nearest I have come to a Marxist conversion came during a discussion about productivity in the union movement. Marxist economics made so much sense right then (which is strange because 90% of the conversations I've had about Marxist economics have been about the fact that they ignore unpaid labour).

Also posted at Alas

Working Mothers

There was an article in today's Sunday Star Times Sunday magazine that was interesting and not completely misogynist. I almost died of shock (for non-New Zealanders Sunday's speciality is that it no longer calls it's 'beauty' section 'beauty' or even 'health', but maintenance. I've no idea what you're supposed to be maintaining with blue eye-shadow).

The article was looking at rates of depression in parents, and particularly among mothers. What I really liked about the article is that it showed how depressing and isolating the work of child rearing can be in our society, and that saying that the work is hard wasn't an attempt to devalue it.

Too often feminists are blamed for devaluing the work of raising children. All they said was that society didn't value the work, and that the way child-rearing was done was extremely isolating and hard.

Unfortuantely it's as true now as it was then. I like a lot of Betty Freidan's analysis in The Feminine Mystique, but disagree with her conclusions. While increased access to childcare, and the opportunity to do paid employment has helped some children, it doesn't solve the problem. Those who stay out of the paid workforce are still isolated, and those who work outside the home are still doing all the unpaid work they would before, only with less time.

Earlier last century children were seen as a duty, now they're seen as a luxury, I think we could do better. I don't often imagine the world that I'm trying create, maybe I don't do it enough. But I do know how raising children would be resourced (and I'm not talking about money, because I think a first step to the world I'm talking about would be ending capitalism).

I believe that all the resources required to raise children should be provided collectively, not individually by the parents. Raising children should be recognised as important work, and whether it's done collectively or individually, it should be seen as a contribution to society as important as any other. At the same time anyone in a parental role should be able to do other work that they enjoy, or are good at, or see as important, and in then their children would be looked after collectively.

This is why I find arguments about staying at home vs. working very frustrating. Neither individual choice is going to make a slightest bit of difference, and it's stupid to fight over the limited resources available when what we actually need to do is smash the whole pie (or something).

Also posted on Alas.

Sunday Protest Blogging: 1981

I wrote about The Tour (it was late, I didn't want to do any research). You can go read it on Alas, because I wrote it for an audience who don't know what the All Blacks are.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Obviously, some hairy-legged feminist.

I always enjoy Ampersand's link threads, but when I see the word 'Buffy' I start making squeals of geeker joy (that's supposed to be a quote from Ted, but it may not be accurate). So I was really interested in Emma's Raping the Slayer, which analyses the portrayal of sexual violence on Buffy. The only thing more fun than watching Buffy is talking about your feminist analysis of Buffy (one day I might write a very long post about my theory on the portrayal of teenage girl's sexuality on Buffy, but you're spared that - for now). I disagreed with some of the smaller points she was making, for instance, I may being over-defensive on behalf of my secret-TV-Boyfriend, but I just don't think this is true:

Joss has always been clear that he resents some feminist analyses of it, and what he sees as an imposition of subtext.

But generally I really liked her analysis, particularly when it came to Spike's attempted rape of Buffy in Seeing Red, and the complete lack of follow-up in season 7. There were two things that most disturbed me about that plot-line, the first was that it was All About Spike. They wrote a rape plot that was all about the rapist and his quest for redemption, to the extent that the attempted rape had almost no affect on Buffy, and certainly none that was important to the plot.

The other was that getting a soul is a plot there is no real world equivalent for. This meant they could weasel out of the real world implications of what they were saying. While they were basically telling the story of a rapist who went away and came back a better person who could earn trust.

I like to believe that people can change, I'm not going to reject the possibility that once you've tried to rape someone there's no chance of you becoming a person who values women's autonomy. I wouldn't necessarily reject a fictional story that tried to talk about that possibility. But no-one who ever tried to rape a friend of mine could be anything but a rapist to me. If Spike had wandered off somewhere else entirely and played out his story of redemption there (preferably somewhere that wasn't on my TV screen), then maybe I could have stomached it. But the idea that you can achieve redemption and forgiveness from the person you tried to rape, is not a story I have any interest in.

That isn't actually what I wanted to talk about. On the comments of Emma's post someone brought up a planned Firefly episode, that I'd wanted to talk about for a while. The original source is here:
[Tim Minear, asked about eps of Firefly they didn’t get to make] hemmed and hawed and said, “Should I tell you this?… Oh well, what’s he going to do, fire me?” The original show was darker and this story was more in keeping with that tone.

It opens with Mal and Inara fighting (as they do). Mal tells her she pretends to be a lady and wants everyone to bow before her and kiss her hand but she’s just a whore. Then the Reavers attack and take Inara. While trying to get her back they learn that she had something that would make anyone who had sex with her die.

When they finally track down and board the ship they find all of the Reavers dead and Inara shaking and traumatized. They take her back to the ship and Zoe guards her room. Mal tries to get in to see her and Zoe tells him he’s the last person Inara needs to see. He pushes past her, kneels before Inara and kisses her hand.
I'd never heard of a plot like that before, so I didn't have a feminist analysis at first, just a general feeling of disgust.

My most immediate feeling of repulsion was definately at the execution of the idea. I have written about the Mal/Inara relationship before, and I'm not a fan, this just underscored all the reasons why. The most basic reason was that he did not respect the work that she did, and that seemed to me a really shitty basis for a relationship. This plotline seems to be about her earning his respect for what she does by using it to do something that he does respect (fighting). That she has to be violated and traumatised to earn his respect is so gross and repulsive, that I imagine I would never be able to watch the show again after seeing that episode. The fact that he ignores her wishes, underscores how little he actually cares about her.

But what I do find interesting is the wider question. What do other feminist think of a piece of flabotinum that means women can kill their rapists through having sex? It's not something I'd ever come accross before (although for all I know it could be a common idea in some genre I'm unfamiliar with). One of the things it reminded me of was the rape condom - but as a fictional device I think it needs to be analysed completely differently. I was particularly uncomfortable that this idea came from two men. When men write about rape, I always wonder why. What are they getting from it? What are they trying to say? But I'm not convinced that a woman could write a feminist story about it either. Because ultimately it's about suffering oppression in order to get revenge.

Also posted on Alas

Louise Nicholas

In 1986 Louise Nicholas was raped by three policeman. She has tried to get justice since, and had been unable to. Finally, almost 20 years later, those were charged.

The trial is currently taking place in Auckland. Most details of the case have been suppressed, so I can't really talk about it (but you can bet I'll have something to say when the verdict comes out).

I just wanted to commend her strength and courage.

This post was also published at Alas

Just in case you thought it was safe to be a woman

Abortion has been in the news again here. Staff at the Waitemata District Health Board refuse to do late second trimester abortions on mental health grounds, so the District Health Board is subsidising women who are going to Australia to have the procedure done there.

Of course there are a number of issues here, first of all that staff can say "I'll do an abortion if there's signs of fetal abnormality, but not under other grounds, because the woman should just suck it up and go through pregnancy." I actually don't think that's compatible with the law, which allows people to refuse to perform abortions on 'moral' grounds. I don't see that sort of judgement as a moral one (of course I think that if you don't want anything to do with abortions you should choose a speciality like geriatric care, if your morals interfere with your job choose a new job).

But it has also really drawn attention to how patchy New Zealand's abortion provision is, among the different District Health Boards (This website has information about access in the different DHBs - although it is funded by the drug company which makes the abortion drugs). Almost all the abortions in the South Island are done in Christchurch (which in a way is a good thing because in Dunedin you have to go to the clinic four times, and in Ashburton you have to wait 1-2 weeks for an appointment). In Taranaki abortions are usually performed under general anesthetic (to give them a greater opportunity to kill the woman involved, I guess).

It doesn't have to be like this, first trimester abortions is the safest procedure that is only done in hospitals. There's no reason why first trimester abortions couldn't be performed in your home.

Finally Family Planning pissed me right off in the interview with National Radio:

I think the whole area of abortion is a sensitive and contentious issue, and as I say the real answer is to say 'why is it occurring?' lets invest in health promotion and prevention to make sure that women don't have unplanned pregnancy.
She went to say that if people are objecting to late stage abortions then it shows that late stage abortions are happening too often, and effort needs to be put into prevention.

She can go complain about women's choices with her fellow Labour Party candidate George Hawkins.

I'm more and more convinced that the rest of us need to do something.

This post was also posted at Alas

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Many Stones Can Build An Arch; Singly None

Audra Williams has a really interesting piece about feminists in their 20s and early 30s on Rabble. I felt a little anxious about writing about it first, because I disagreed with her to the point where I was highly annoyed by what she was saying. But then I re-read it, and I realised that I agreed with her argument.

I'm not doing this to be adorable; this is what it's like in my brain. I have Feminist Insecurity. In fact, if I didn't repeat those first two points to myself, I'd never have the guts to say the third. And it's not just me. So many feminists in their 20s and 30s are like this. We apologize, we disclaim and, worst of all, we don't reach out to other young feminists for fear of being called out as the frauds we feel we are.

One of the ways this isolation manifests itself is that we don't organize in the ways of the generations of feminists before us. We don't join. We're not sure if we should, and we can't seem to navigate the movement as it is.
This is an incredibly important question. What is it that makes feminism an individual enterprise for some people, rather than a collective experience?

Audra presents this problem as a generational one: second-wave feminists organised, third-wave feminists generally do not (I do have a rant about the term third-wave, and what it ignores, but I'll save that for another time). She describes third-wave achievements as follows:
That isn't to say there isn't a great deal of amazing energy and teamwork happening with younger women right now. We have Shameless magazine. We have independent women's businesses like Venus Envy and Peach Berserk. We have menstrual experts like Blood Sisters. We have bands like Pony Da Look, Bontempi and the Maynards. We've got body-positive troupe Big Dance.

While our achievements are not the sort of feminism that older women hope to see, one thing that we've done well is dissect and influence culture. Third wavers might not have an abortion caravan, but we've got record labels. Maybe we don't attend candidate's school, but we're running feminist businesses. We don't hold consciousness-raising sessions, but we stitch and bitch.
This was the bit I was afraid of being overly sarcastic about, because for me those lists don't begin to compare (even leaving aside my opinion of alternative businesses). These individual project don't make a movement.

Having said all this I've spent most of my time as a feminist without belonging to a feminist group. My feminism mainly involves words, writing, ranting, yelling, talking, and other words, but not actions. I try to make my feminism part of my activism, but I don't really know what to do, or who to do it with. I don't believe that women of my age are just lamer than the women who came before and who were able to turn their words into something more.

I think Audra has identified one possible reason, which is that feminism can be set up as a standard that women should attain, rather than a form of analysis. I had an activist friend tell me recently that she didn't know anything about feminism. Which shocked me, but I understood what she was saying, because feminism can be seen as something that happens in a rarefied atmosphere, that comes once you've taken a women's studies class and read the right books.

I think this is bullshit, I think all you need to do to be a feminist is to listen to other women and stand beside them. You take that step, and everything else you need will follow. I'm not devaluing analysis, I think it's vital, but feminism isn't dependent on doing the reading.

I think possibly another reason is that I don't think we've got any idea how to fight patriarchy (for lack of a better term), because it's so pervasive. There are days when I go to the supermarket and I just want to grab every single magazine and rip it into to tiny pieces stomp on them, because almost every page of almost every magazine devalues women. I hear stories about how women are relegated to the kitchen during a particular campaign, and I despair that 30 years of calling sexist men out has got us precisely nowhere. I hear the pay gap is getting wider and I know so many employers who promote men to the jobs that pay higher over women time and time again. I see how raising children is treated as some kind of weird hobby, where it's fine if you want to do it, but don't ask the rest of us to support you.

I'm all over the place here - we've got too much theory, and not enough. But I think what I basically want to say is that feminism needs to start with women's lives and move to collective action, and through that I'm hoping we'll learn how to fight.

In the end I think that might have been what Audra was saying too:
Oh, I bet you are now all so excited to join and build NAC! But don't forget, you can't join NAC [A Canadian coalition of feminist groups]. After the last day of meetings wound down, I was whining to longtime feminist activist Lee Lakeman about this very thing: “So now I have to go win over some Nova Scotia women's group if I can find it in order to get the right to come here and try to win NAC over?” Lee looked at me like I was perhaps a moron and said, “Why don't you start your own group?”

As soon as she said “Why don’t you start your own group?” I started to hear “!!!!!!!!” “!!!!!!!!” “!!!!!!!” in my head, because WHAT. A. GREAT. IDEA.

Here is the deal. You need 10 people and a feminist mandate. Make sure you formally exist six weeks before the AGM (which is happening in May). You also have to have a recommendation by an existing member group. But really, contact me, we'll find a way.

The idea of starting a group is fairly terrifying, because if we're going to start groups we have to go on the record with stances, and we have to collaborate and lead and follow. But we have those skills, I know we do. It's just a question of applying them in a new way. What issue infuriates you the most? How do you think it can best be addressed? What have you been wishing someone else would do? Assemble a team and get on it.
This post was also posted at Alas

But it's murder just the same

Yesterday, Robert James McGowan died when the mine he was working at flooded work yesterday. It was a private mine on the West Coast of New Zealand that employed just 6 people.

This sort of thing is always called an accident, but deaths at work don't have to happen. They happen because it's cheaper to do things the more dangerous way, and because employers don't provide proper equipment and training. There is a really interesting analysis of the situation in America (where 21 people have died in mine accidents so far this year) on the world socialist website.

Anti-capitalism is a large part of my politics (I own a t-shirt that says "it's all capitalism's fault"), but I don't understand how anyone can stand the values that make mining companies decide they don't need a particular safety procedure.

This post was also posted on Alas

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"How would he like it if I went round claiming that he gave me his full backing when I sent the tsunami last year?"

I'm a big fan of Steve Bell's cartoons, have been long before I could understand them (my parents had If cartoon books when I was a kid). But it wasn't until recently that I realised that the crazy look Tony Blair always has on his face wasn't hyperbole, but just good drawing. In case there was any doubt Tony Blair has recently used God as back-up in his decision to invade Iraq. I would try to comment on this, but Terry Jones has already done so, and he was a Python, so chances are he's funnier than me:

A source says Gabriel has spent days trying to dissuade the Almighty from loosing a plague of toads upon the Blair family. Gabriel reminded God that Cherie and the children had nothing to do with Tony's decisions. God's response, it is reliably reported, was: "Blair says the Iraqis are lucky to have got bombed, so how can he complain if his family gets a few toads in the bath?"
PS speaking of plagues of frogs go check out the Brick Testament - because a plague of frogs in lego is an experience not to be missed.

An uplifting tale of women's rights being trampled

In 1977 New Zealand passed abortion legislation that was described as the most repressive in the Western world and, apart from a couple of minor modifications in 1978, it hasn't been changed since. If a woman wants to have an abortion in New Zealand she must get two certifying consultants (these are registered doctors who are selected on the basis that their views aren't in conflict with current abortion law) to agree that she meets the following criteria:

That the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger (not being danger normally attendant upon childbirth) to the life, or to the physical or mental health, of the woman or girl . . .; or

(aa)That there is a substantial risk that the child, if born, would be so physically or mentally abnormal as to be seriously handicapped; or

(b)That the pregnancy is the result of sexual intercourse between—

(i)A parent and child; or
(ii)A brother and sister, whether of the whole blood or of the half blood; or
(iii)A grandparent and grandchild; or

(c)That the pregnancy is the result of sexual intercourse that constitutes an offence against section 131(1) of this Act[this means a dependent family member]; or

(d)That the woman or girl is severely subnormal within the meaning of section 138(2) of this Act.
If I discovered that I was pregnant tomorrow I would go to my doctor (this would be free because maternity care in New Zealand is free) who would refer me to the euphemistically named Level J Unit in the Wellington Public hospital. I would have to make two appointments (neither of which would cost me anything) where I'd have to talk to a whole lot of people, and at the end of the second appointment I could have by abortion by suction (which I'd choose, but because I live in Wellington I also have the option of medical abortion). The abortion would be safe, on demand and free (the three things I want all abortions to be).

The point of this post is that despite the hideous laws we have in New Zealand I have better abortion access than most American women. I think that talking about the New Zealand abortion situation is all I have to offer women in South Dakota, and the rest of the States. I know most abortion activists in America know far more about this than I do, but this is a tale which begins with laws being tightened and ends with access being loosened - I thought it might sound like good news.

Reading about comparative abortion law makes it clear that there is often very little relationship between abortion law and abortion practice, except for occasional ceremonial public fight. New Zealand is the positive example of that, the United States is the negative.

New Zealand women didn't have a legal right to abortion before the law change, but from 1974 if you could get up to Auckland in your first trimester then Auckland Medical Aid Centre would probably give you one, basically they were ignoring the law. They were raided by the cops, and faced prosecution, but the juries wouldn't convict the abortion doctor. There were several attempts to change the law and close the clinic but they failed due to general incompentence.

Before the law change there were also some underground networks, people who knew how to do menstrual extraction (which is a skill well worth learning, particularly because you don't have to wait for someone to need an abortion to practice it) and doctors and who were performing abortions of dubious legality.

Immediately after the law was passed you could not get a legal abortion in New Zealand (although there were probably some D&C operations that had the purpose of ending a pregnancy). Instead if a woman was going to get an abortion she had to fly to Australia. This cost $500 then, which would be $2,652.14 now (that's $1,736.89 US). This was made reasonably seamless by SOS (Save Our Sisters) groups, that would do all the organising required to get someone to Australia, and do some subsidising of travel. There were complications: one of the big abortion clinics in Australia started subsidising the SOS groups to try and increase their business.

The best estimate anyone can do actually shows the number of abortions New Zealand women had over this period going up after the law change, it's just they were all happening in Australia. Then slowly more abortions were allowed, and the boundaries began to be pushed. Now 98% of abortions are done under the grounds that the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger (not being danger normally attendant upon childbirth) to the mental health of the woman or girl.

Exciting Blogging News

For the next week or so I will be guest blogging over at Alas a blog, great thanks to Ampersand for asking me. Alas was the first political blog I read regularly, which makes it particularly cool.

Everything I post on Alas will also be posted here. There'll probably be a New Zealand specific few posts that'll just be posted here, if I decided there was an urgent need to comment on David Benson Pope (don't worry I won't), or needed to mock Wayne Mapp some more (I'm not making any promises). So people who read here won't notice any difference, but you should go and check Alas out, and join in the comment threads over there.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

But if she's a slut then surely the state has some right to her body?

I'm sorry Sunday protest blogging hasn't been, my Sundays have been sucking beyond the telling of it recently, which leaves little room fo blogging. I will have an exciting blogging development tomorrow (well it's exciting if you're me, otherwise I don't promise anything). But right now I just have time to write a quick post about George Hawkins and sharing the hate I have for Gordon Copeland around:

The Manurewa MP and former minister plans to draft a private member's bill to get the state more involved in providing advice on contraception and sterilisation to women who seek more than one abortion, he told Newstalk ZB yesterday.
The asshole can come back when he's got a 100% effective, reversible, side-effect free form of contraception (when I will tell him to fuck off, because it's none of his business whether women want to use it or not).

I don't think we've got much to worry about - apparently Labour MPs have to get caucus consent to put a private members bill in the ballot, so I doubt it'll get in. I don't generally use the word 'trust' when talking about a Labour government, but if I was going to trust this current government on any one issue, it would be maintaining abortion rights and access at their current level (if they had any principles at all it'd be a hell of a lot better by now).

But I do find it interesting that there has been a definate increase in the attacks against abortion recently, although they don't have a chance in hell of passing. None of these attacks come straight out and attempt to ban abortion (or even enforce the law), or even seem to have much to do with the New Zealand legal environment around abortion (ever law proposed has been tried by one state or another in an effort to get around Roe vs. Wade). They seem to be trying to build a base.

I'm thinking now would be the time to start counter-organising.

Shut Up George Clooney

So I half watched the Oscars last night, despite the fact that I had seen just three films with any nominations at all. I was mainly hoping Michelle Williams would win Best Supporting Actress (I've loved her ever since she loved Dick), which she didn't, but that's not what I'm going to blog about. This was George Clooney:

We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. We were the ones who talked about AIDS when it was being whispered. We talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I'm proud to be part of this Academy. I'm proud to be part of this community. I'm proud to be out of touch
This is a pretty annoying speech who ever gives it, quite frankly. For me, politics isn't actually about feeling smug about how I'm much better than the great unwashed, but about building and organising so you're not . Being alternative and radical isn't actually my goal, because I think that it's only through collective action that we're going to end capitalism, not through being rich and famous.

But it's particularly annoying from George Clooney, who was nominated for Good Night and Good Luck, a movie whose message (McCarthyism is bad when the people involved aren't communists) was so radical that Joe Liberman would have supported it. Yes Three Kings was actually a good political movie, but that's one on a rather long CV. I'd think that not noticing that women have relationships with each other is a little out of touch, and I'd also be damned surprised if more than 5% of the movies George Clooney has been in would pass the Mo' Movie Measure.

The Hollywood he praises is the voice of rich, it's racist, misogynist, homophobic, for a start, and the fact that it occasionally nominates 'issue' films doesn't make that any less true.

Oh and if we're going to talk about specifics it wasn't Hollywood that was talking about civil rights when it wasn't popular. It was normal people who gave enough of a shit to try and fight back. Some of them died, and when Hollywood got round to making a movie about that - a ground breaking 25 years later, it was about as accurate as you'd expect.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I could almost forgive her for scabbing

On her final broadcast Linda Clark finished:

And then, as the minutes turned to seconds: "I'll never have to interview Sue Kedgley again. It just gets better and better."

Saturday, March 04, 2006


I'm getting a little anxious that I haven't received my census form yet. I'm enough of a historian to think it's really important to leave my part of the record. I'd encourage everyone to tick the 'yes I will let my form be kept'. It's such a loss that historians don't have acces to forms from earlier periods.

The whole ethnicity question is beginning to bother me though. The people who want to write "New Zealander" are bugging the shit out of me. Ethnicity and nationality are different. Maori, Samoan, Chinese, Vietnames, Thai, Tongan, Fijian, even dumb Palangi are all New Zealanders. As Tze Ming points out - it's hardly a coincidence that the e-mail has only been circulated among White people.

But it's made me think about the whole question and I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Given a choice I'd choose Pakeha, but that isn't a tick box option, you have to write it in, and that makes me a little uncomfortable. I wasn't even born in New Zealand. But by insisting on the term Pakeha over New Zealand European it seems to me to be claiming some sort of indigenous status for myself. Why should I get to do that when a fifth generation Chinese person wouldn't be able to?

Yes I'm over-thinking this - so I think I'll just tick the New Zealand European box.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Body Parts

A friend of mine has a six month baby (he's ginormous, and terribly grown up now). She was having a reunion with her ante-natal class, and there were a lot of babies there (that tends to happen with ante-natal classes). One of the woman was looking at her daughter and said "She's got my thighs, she'll have to be careful."

This girl was six months old. Her thighs can't walk, can't run, can't ride a bike, can't climb a tree, can't get out of bed, can't jump, can't skip, can't hop, can't dance. I hope that little girl learns to do all those things with her thighs. But I can't even hope that she won't learn to hate those thighs, despite their strength and usefulness.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

More on the pro-women line

I found the discussion on my post about blaming women vs. blaming patriarchy interesting. But thought the issues got a little muddied, because the post I was responding to was talking about the sex industry. I really don't understand how anyone could hold women within the sex industry responsible for their own objectification. That makes no sense to me, so I would start responding to people, and wanting to rant in eight different directions at once.

But there's a really interesting post at Feministe about Indian women aborting female fetuses, which I think will make it easier to explore the issues. From the Daily Telegraph (I know, but it might be true even so):

The gender ratio of babies has fallen to fewer than 600 girls for every 1,000 boys in the Punjab, a predominantly Sikh region, partly because for the equivalent of £10 even poor farmers can afford a scan to determine the sex of a foetus. Worldwide, 1,050 female babies are born for every 1,000 boys.
I don't think any feminist reaction to this involves blaming women for the decision to terminate the fetuses, or trying to restrict their ability to have an abortion. Because that many women are not abortin female fetuses on a whim, or because they're misogynist. There are structural reason that they're doing it, and ultimately they're making rational choices.

I don't think anyone should say to any woman: 'those reservations you have about having a girl-child, don't worry it'll all be hugs and puppies'. Because each woman knows her life better than I do. If we want to change the choices women make then we have to change the conditions under which they make those choices.

Someone I like

It should come to the surprise of no regular reader of this blog that I was geeky enough to buy a DVD of Joss Whedon talking about writing for an hour. I thought I'd share my favourite bit with everyone, as one of the many reasons why I'm really into Joss Whedon (besides you know Buffy, Firefly, some of Angel, the DVD commentaries, and particularly the last five minutes of Becoming II, oh and all of Innocence, and Kaylee).

He was talking about writing for Roseanne, which he worked on for a season, and it was his first television job. His first script was going to open with Jackie really, really drunk, and Roseanne coming round, and not knowing that the reason that Jackie was drunk was because she'd had an abortion. Joss gets all excited about writing about the real feminist issues, and talking about things that matter to people, and writes the first draft. Then the notes from network come back: "make it a miscarriage, it works just the same, it's totally the same thing." Joss describes that as his first job and his first heartbreak.

Someone I don't like

I've been meaning to blog on Gordon Copeland's private members bill that is in the ballot. From No Right Turn:

Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Informed Consent) Amendment Bill (Gordon Copeland): I have little information on this, but according to Mr Copeland it "introduces Counselling into the process before a woman makes a final decision to request an abortion". Mr Copeland did not provide a copy of the bill (and the Clerk's Office will generally not provide the "fair copy" MPs are required to submit in case their bill is drawn), so exactly what such "counselling" will entail will have to be left to the imagination.
Idiot/Savant is right that the question is whether this will be to introduce compulsory counselling - as the statement from Gordon Copeland suggests, or involve pictures of enlarged fetuses, and scare-mongering lies that the wages of sin is death, as the title implies (to anyone who knows anti-abortionist tactics). I think it's probably the second, because my understanding is that compulsory counselling is policy at many of the clinics anyway.

What is interesting to me is that there seems to be an increase in abortion related legislation, and what the purpose could be. The parliamentarians advancing laws seem to be copying crappy American laws states put through in the hope that they're going to get around Roe vs Wade (or whatever the actual standard is now, I can't remember). Which to me seems that they're not that interested in limiting abortions, and more interested in trying to build up a base, and sending signals, while not pissing anyone off too much.

There are areas of the current law that you could play around with that would actually restrict access, we've got an awful law, it's not hard. They'd have as much chance of passing as the law changes people are suggesting (ie none), so why not put them forward?

Finance Minister Michael Cullen:

State sector chief executives need to be aware we expect that dividend to emerge starting from this year and that one of the implications of that will be careful management of labour costs
Isn't it a good thing that the state sector unions put so much time and energy into getting labour re-elected promoting the importance of health and education?