Monday, January 31, 2011

Wahine Maori

For a long time Ana at Whenua Fenua Enua Vanua was the only wahine Maori blogging that I knew of. But recently a couple more blogs run by Maori women have started, and I wanted to bring people's attention to them.

Kim from He Hōaka is a friend of mine. This is from the introduction of a post:

Colonisation invented a story of who Māori are: it made Māori a race, and made up a limited set of characteristics for that race. These stereotypes are not controlled by us (Māori), they limit us, and they serve the purposes of ongoing cultural imperialism. They make us uncomfortable in our own skins and on our own land. They are used to blame us for the problems created by colonisation. It is essential that we develop our own answers to the question of what it means to be Māori.
Just a warning Kim's posts tend to be very long - so make sure you have some time to really get into them when you're posting - they're worth it.

Te Whaainga Wahine is more than a blog. It was formed last year:

A national hui of Māori women, Te Whaainga Wāhine have condemned the exclusion of wāhine from national, regional, local and Māori political forums.

The hui made specific reference to the Iwi Leaders Group who do not speak for Māori women.

The hui, the first called in thirty years, has challenged Māori leadership that advance the political agenda of the National-ACT-Maori Party Coalition at the expense of whenua, whānau and hapu wellbeing.

Hui spokesperson Denise Meisster said Te Whaainga Wāhine confirmed Maori women’s political, spiritual and rangatahi leadership to carry current and future generations to 2040.


The hui affirmed Tino Rangatiratanga by 2040 and implemented a specific plan of action to achieve this. Te Whaainga Wāhine will be reconvened in Feb, 2011 in Palmerston North.
There's more about the hui here. Their blog has the press releases they put out, and links and copies of other awesome material from wahine Maori.

For another discussion of Maori bloggers, see Maui St - most of those listed are men.

Does anyone else have any links to share?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Open thread about Egypt and Tunisia

I haven't had time to keep up with everything happening in Egypt and Tunisia. I have just ducked in and out of news sites, and seen so many stories of the incredible strenght of collective revolt (and prison break-out - I do love stories of prison break out). I thought I'd start an open thread where people can contribute plcaes for good sources of news, and interesting links

My contribution is this amazing gallery of images Women of Egypt.

My only comment I can give at this point of ignorance is: know where you stand. I've read a lot of supposedly progressive blogs, particualrly from America, which talk about 'we' and 'us' as if the author's stand with the American government. I know I don't stand with the NZ government, or any government. I stand with people fighting for their liberation.

The promotion of drivel

I heard this on Checkpoint last Thursday, as part of a story about research that had found a correlation between strokes and living close to a road

The author's did find that people with lower incomes tended to live in areas with more traffic noise and we know that socio-economic status is also a predictor for strokes, but they didn't control for that in this study and it could be less about the noise and more about other lifestyle factors

I didn't even have time to get angry about the fact that, poverty is not a fucking lifestyle factor, because I was so horrified that they didn't control for class. What were these researchers doing? And why did such a ridiculous study get international news coverage? Why was 2 minutes 19 seconds of so the lives of Radio NZ listeners wasted with this drivel?

If you're researching people's bodies - no scratch that - if you're researching people and you don't take into account that people have different access to resources, then your research has no meaning and no value. And if it is picked up and promoted and treated as interesting, that's because it's lack of truth makes it a useful ideological tool.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why does no one seem to remember or care that President Zuma of South Africa is a rapist?

I'm not AVAAZ's biggest fan at the best of times. I'm wary of activities that make people feel like they're doing something, without encouraging any sort of collective action that could actually create change.

But AVAAZ's latest campaign is particularly free of analysis and I disagree with it in more ways than I'll be able to articulate in this post. Their petition is directed at President Zuma and says:

We call on you to publicly condemn 'corrective rape', criminalise hate crimes, and ensure immediate enforcement, public education and protection to victims. This terrible practice can only be stopped with leadership from your office and throughout government.

I disagree with the general principle, that the only way misogynistic violence can be stopped is through leadership from the President's office, or that leadership from a President's office can stop misogynistic violence.

I disagree with focusing on 'corrective rape' for many reasons (for those of you who don't know this is a term invented by aid agencies to describe women who are raped by men for being lesbian). It is grotesque to focus on one group of rape survivors and say "Hey this is super duper bad, and different from the other ways people are raped, we need to do something about just this".* (I think I was making a related argument the last time I was writing about President Zuma)

But to me the worst thing about this petition, is that each person who signs this petition, asking President Zuma to do something about one single category of rape, is devaluing the experience of and rendering invisible one woman in particular: the woman he raped.

He raped her in 2005 in his home; they knew each other, it is the . He was found not guilty. But I followed the case and read the misogyny soaked judgement, and I'm as sure that he raped this woman as I am that Clint Rickards is a rapist. Here's what I wrote about the case at the time:
The trial sounds hideous, and familiar. She was put on trial and her sexual history, including other times she had been raped, was put into evidence. When Zuma took the stand he argued that she consented by wearing a knee-length skirt and complaining that she didn't have a boyfriend:

She had never in the past come to my house dressed in a skirt. Including times when I was living in Pretoria. When she came to me in a skirt after those talks I referred to earlier on, well, it told me something.

The judge, well the judge is a misogynist asshole, who said that she didn't act as rape victims should.
To write to a rapist and to ask him to do something about a particular category of rape victims, while excluding the woman he raped is disgusting. It's also pretty foolish. Even if everyone had access to a computer signed AVAAZ's petition Zuma's not going to suddenly become an opponent of sexual violence and an ally in the fight to create a new world.


I think there is another element of this - an element that is particularly important right now, and that was explained really well over at Not Afraid of Ruins (a new blog written by a super smart and cool friend of mine so you should all go and follow it right now):
Okay, there’s another reason I don’t like the term ‘corrective rape’. It’s a bit like ‘honour killing’. It’s one of those terms that mean ‘a specific type of misogynist homophobic violence that only happens in non-Western societies’. Having special names for kinds of misogynist homophobic violence that only happen in non-Western societies is super handy because it allows us to pretend that the kind of violence that happens There is different from the kind of violence that happens Here. Because That kind of violence is an intrinsic part of Their culture. But violence that happens Here is always an isolated incident committed by individuals. It is something extrinsic to Western culture, which is a culture of respect and equality.

* I think this is related to the effort by the US republicans to restrict federal funding for abortion to those who have been 'forcibly' raped. I'd write more on that but I can't write about the Hyde Amendment without seething with rage at practically everyone. But I think it's more evidence that dividing up rape into categories is not done to support those who have been raped, but to attack them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dear Sandra Coney

I am aware of the debt of gratitude that I owe you. I have read every issue of Broadsheet you edited. Your columns in the Sunday Times were one of my early exposures for feminism. I know that so many of the parts of my life that I hold most dear to me were only possible because the movement you were part of changed the world.

But all this compels me to speak, rather than compelling me to stay silent. This week you used your vote on the Auckland City Councillor to support the re-criminalising of outdoor sex-workers in Manakau.

That is not a feminist action.

From memory (I read your column in the Sunday Star Times during the prostitution law reform debate) you favour 'The Swedish Model' decriminalisation of selling sex and the criminalisation of buying sex. I do not. But I do recognise that it is a feminist position, taken as a result of feminist analysis. However, I cannot take those who promote it seriously as feminists unless they are more passionate about decriminalising sex-workers than they are about criminalising Johns.

Instead you supported legislation that criminalises buying and selling sex - but only for poor people. Only those who live in South Auckland (possibly all of Auckland by the time the bill is done) and can't afford to work indoors need to worry about this legislation.

This bill will impoverish women who get caught, tie them to the stress of the court system, and put them in the power of the New Zealand police.

And that should be enough, for any feminist in this country. We know the power the police have, how they have used it, and how many within the force take 'bros before hos' as a life mantra and cover for their mates. How dare you support giving the police more power over a group of our sisters, for any reason?

The bill hasn't passed yet, you still have time to change your position. You have time to stand in solidarity with street sex workers , rather than with those trying to punish them.

In sisterhood,



For those who want to know the voting break-down went like this:

In support: Len Brown, Cameron Brewer, Sandra Coney, Chris Fletcher, Mike Lee, Des Morrison, Calum Penrose, Noelene Raffills, Sharon Stewart, John Walker, George Wood.
Against: Arthur Anae, Cathy Casey, Michael Goudie, Ann Hartley, Richard Northey, Wayne Walker, Penny Webster.
Absent: Penny Hulse, Jami-Lee Ross.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mantrol and Manghurt?

One of the great traditions of New Zealand advertising is that no portrayal of masculinity can be too over-the-top or too ridiculous to sell beer.

However, recently beer's place as the pinnacle of ridiculous masculinity by some products which are less deeply ingrained in NZ's idea of manhood - such as Yoghurt. Yes the same dairy product that made Sarah Haskins famous:

Ok now we've had that break for the awesomeness that is Sarah Haskins we have to go back to this bizarre new development in New Zealand which is manly yoghurt. What is manly yoghurt, well it's thick, packed with nuts and seeds and comes in flavours such as Apricot Manuka Honey, Mango Coconut Flakes, Lemon Passionfruit, and Apple Blueberry.

So how do you sell the idea that the official food of woman in apricot and manuka honey flavour is manly? Silly question - all you need is to emphasise misogyny, homophobia and the extreme danger of girl germs. This is from their website:

Man. It used to be the best job title in the world.

Man has lost his place in the world and his place in the fridge. There are scarce few products we can call our own. At Mammouth Supply Company, we've decided to do something about this and offer men something for men - non-nonsense, fill-you-up yoghurt, iced cofee and ice cream.
The boxes come with simple instructions about what men do and don't do - they do eat yoghurt but only manly yoghurt, but stay away from all things that might ever have been coded women or gay (although I do recommend reading the packages at the supermarket - they're even more ridiculous than you can imagine).

I find this deeply weird. I can guess the origins of these products. Fonterra was sitting round worrying about what to do with all its milk and thought "Men! We need to get men to consume more milk derived products." But does this really resonate? Who could it possibly resonate with? Do people suddenly forget that apricot honey is a body lotion flavour if there's enough homophobia on the packet?

And that's not even the strangest form of masculinity advertising products let me introduce mantrol:

There's also two shorter versions that makes it even clearer that according to some arms of the state New Zealand masculinity is about pakeha well-resourced homo-social leisure time.

I honestly don't understand these ads (but I am sometimes very slow about some aspects of NZ masculinity - I used to often have to have tui billboards explained to me). Is the point supposed to be MANLY THINGS! MANLY THINGS! MANLY THINGS! MANLY THINGS! DRIVING SAFELY IS ALSO MANLY BECAUSE IT'S IN THE AD WITH THESE OTHER MANLY THINGS! STOP KILLING PEOPLE!

I'd understand that. Even if I don't really understand the association between BBQ, cricket, video games, and not killing people, I can see NZTA's point. I'm sure they have many many statistics that show that the demographic they're targetting (I'm guessing it's young pakeha men) are dangerous drivers, and probably they've reached the time when they want address it head on.

But then there's this line: "If we're not in full control of such a manly thing [as driving] then what does this all mean? [and he gestures to many different depictions of homosocial leisure]"

And at that point I stop being amused, or weirded out, or confused, and become angry. That a government agency would spend millions of dollars reinforcing the idea that to be manly is to be in control sickens me. As if that idea wasn't deeply ingrained enough. As if it wasn't understood by so many women who have been at the receiving end of men's control.

That's the problem - each piece may not seem like much. Portrayals of masculinity can seem ridiculous and insignificant - it's just an ad, just a piece of packaging, just a beer company. But each piece normalises an idea of what it means to be a man that is so damaging for men and women and for men who conform to it and for men who don't. And those who want to use it to sell their products seem to be winning over those who want to tear it down.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Being a feminist is a lot like being a bowl of petunias

I was in the middle of reading Gordon Campbell's mostly sensible article about wikileaks, and I came to this paragraph:

In one of the two incidents, the alleged conflict over consent reportedly turns on whether or not (in the midst of what had hitherto been consensual sex) Assange knowingly proceeded after a condom failure had occurred. In the other incident, consent is reportedly not the issue – it is whether the act involved unprotected sex, which is a (minor) offence under Swedish law.

The idea that Sweden has sexual assault laws that would be unrecognisable in the rest of the world has been repeated lots, but it's wrong. Plenty of English language sources have been explaining this for a while now.

There is no longer need for any prevaricating or lack of clarity about what Assange has been accused of. It is three weeks since the Guardian posted a full account of the accusations of sexual assault against Assange. There is no excuse for misrepresenting those accusations.

This is what one woman described:
Her account to police, which Assange disputes, stated that he began stroking her leg as they drank tea, before he pulled off her clothes and snapped a necklace that she was wearing. According to her statement she "tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again". Miss A told police that she didn't want to go any further "but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far", and so she allowed him to undress her.

According to the statement, Miss A then realised he was trying to have unprotected sex with her. She told police that she had tried a number of times to reach for a condom but Assange had stopped her by holding her arms and pinning her legs. The statement records Miss A describing how Assange then released her arms and agreed to use a condom, but she told the police that at some stage Assange had "done something" with the condom that resulted in it becoming ripped, and ejaculated without withdrawing.
That is not an account that "turns on whether or not (in the midst of what had hitherto been consensual sex) Assange knowingly proceeded after a condom failure had occurred."

Gordon Campbell describes the second accusation like this: "consent is reportedly not the issue – it is whether the act involved unprotected sex, which is a (minor) offence under Swedish law." This is how the woman describes it:
The following day, Miss W phoned Assange and arranged to meet him late in the evening, according to her statement. The pair went back to her flat in Enkoping, near Stockholm. Miss W told police that though they started to have sex, Assange had not wanted to wear a condom, and she had moved away because she had not wanted unprotected sex. Assange had then lost interest, she said, and fallen asleep. However, during the night, they had both woken up and had sex at least once when "he agreed unwillingly to use a condom".

Early the next morning, Miss W told police, she had gone to buy breakfast before getting back into bed and falling asleep beside Assange. She had awoken to find him having sex with her, she said, but when she asked whether he was wearing a condom he said no. "According to her statement, she said: 'You better not have HIV' and he answered: 'Of course not,' " but "she couldn't be bothered to tell him one more time because she had been going on about the condom all night. She had never had unprotected sex before."

I really like Gordon Campbell; I think he's written some really important stuff. There aren't enough solid left voices in the New Zealand media.

I hoped, I still hope, that this was a mistake based on ignorance and not paying attention. I left a comment making most of the points I've made here on his post on Scoop. It hasn't been posted yet, although other comments on that article have been.

There are better ways of being the New Zealand Michael Moore or John Pilger than misrepresenting women's descriptions of sexual abuse. Please Gordon Campbell, delete that paragraph and replace it with an accurate one.