Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Oscars and violence against women

Number of nominees for best director who offered their support and friendship to a man after he was arrested for raping a 13 year old girl: 3 (Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Cuarón)

Number of winners who thanked men who have abused women: 1 (Cate Blanchett thanking Woody Allen)

Number of Oscar winners who offered their support and friendship to a man after he was arrested for raping a 13 year old girl: 2 (Alfonso Cuarón, Paolo Sorrentino

Number of nominees for best supporting actor who broke their girlfriend's nose: 1 (Michael Fassbender)

Number of nominees for best supporting actor who  have raped multiple women: 1 (Jared Leto)

Number of nominees for best adapted screenplay who have sexually assaulted their relatives: 2 (Woody AllenDavid O. Russell)

And that's without the men who were rumoured to have been violent towards their partners but I can't find a link (Bradley Cooper), the abusive men who presented (Bill Murray) or the many many men who were more successful in silencing their victims.  Woody Allen's abuse is most well known and his nomination was still applauded.  So many in the industry have answered Dylan Farrow's question: "What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?" with a shrug.

Hollywood is not exceptional - actors and directors are not exceptionally violent, or exceptionally prone to rape apology.  The same level of violence against women has been present in the social circles I have moved in, and the industries I have worked in.  There are generally fewer awards, and sparkly loaned jewellery outside of Hollywood - but the process whereby abusers are supported and accepted, and survivors are silenced and ignored is the same.

I would like less celebration of Woody Allen, Michael Fassbender, Jared Leto, David Russell and Roman Polanski.  I would like the rape apologia of Alfonso Cuarón, Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese and Whoopi Goldberg (another presenter) to matter. But beyond Hollywood I'd like more people to think how not to be Cate Blanchett, how not to applaud abusive men, how not to cover up what they did.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Step by Step

My comrades and fellow writers, both here and around the internet have written really amazing things in response to the Auckland gang rapists, the horrific responses from the police and media, and how rape culture operates.  I have things I want to say, about the police and about what has given me hope, but I don't think I'll write them soon.

But tonight my Mum asked me what she could do - she said that that everyone she was talking to had said 'Things have to change after this'.  And I believe that too, but they'll only change if we make that happen.  I told her I'd send her a list of things that people were doing - this is that list (hyperlinks generally go to facebook pages with more information).


Saturday 16th of November is a national day of action against rape culture, called in response to these events. There are organising meetings tomorrow (Friday 8 November) night in Auckland and Wellington:

The Wellington meeting is 6pm at 19 Tory St.

The Auckland meeting is 6.30pm at the Auckland University Women's Space (which is open to men for the purposes of this meeting).


Protests have already been provisionally organised in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Auckland: Meet

Wellington: Meet 2pm at the Bucket Fountain

Christchurch: Meet 12 pm at Rememberance Bridge

These events have generally been organised by individuals who know each other and want to do something using social media to reach a wider audience. People in other areas could do the same.


Giovanni Tiso listened to Willie Jackson and John Tamihere the day after their interview with Amy and put together a list of their advertisers.

The Mad Butcher
AA Insurance - Responded saying that they're going to pull their advertising
Yellow - Responded saying that they're going to pull their advertising
Rendevous Grand Hotel Auckland
0800 Drive It
Trustees Executors
Royal Oak Mall
Flight Centre
Countdown - responded and refused to pull advertising (there is quite a lively discussion on their facebook page
Reckon Accounts (Quicken)
Puraz Pro-D
The Country Inn
The Home Ideas Centre
The Finance Marshall
CMC Markets
Elite Tailors
Howick Historical Village
Accurate Locksmiths and Security
Waatea Funeral Services
Auckland Drape Company
Safe Kids
Freeview - Responded saying that they're going to pull their advertising
Noel Leeming
Toto's Restaurants
Airbus Express

ANZ - who weren't on that list have also indicated that they're going to pull their advertising.


My friend works for rape crisis Wellington - someone sent them flowers today as an appreciation of the work they do.  As you probably know the services that support rape survivors are under-funded and over-worked.

If you have money you can spare you could send it to to those doing support and prevention work.

And if you know someone who you know might have been triggered this week you could check-in on them and send them love.


I'm worried that this is sounding individualist - which is why I opened with the collective organising.  I do believe that we only have the power .  And I've been really heartened by the informal organising I've seen on social media these last few days - talking, supporting each other and taking action (Educate, Agitate, Organise, looks a little bit different when talking about rape culture it's Educate, Support, Agitate, Support , Organise, Support)  But I am going to end on an even more individual note.

It is very easy to condemn rapists you don't know - Matthew Hooten can do it. Condemning rapists in the abstract, or rapist you don't know, isn't actually fighting rape culture.  The question is not what you think of young men you've never met who boast about raping people.  The question is how you react when someone says that your friend, lover, brother, son, daughter or even just acquaintance is a rapist.  I've seen so many people who posture about how much they hate rape, but who snap into denial mode if they've even met the guy (the standard script which appears to be built into rapist apologists is: "that's a very serious allegation - have you gone to the police"). Everyone who attacks rapists in the abstract, but protects and supports the men (and people) they know who have raped someone is doing hard labour to maintain rape culture.

So next time someone tells you about sexual abuse remember what Willie Jackson and John Tamihere said, remember what the police said - and decide to do something different.  Believe them without any 'have you?', 'did you?' 'what were you wearing?', even if it means you need to change your understanding of someone you know, you care about, or you love.


As I suggested at the beginning of this post I do have hope. There are so many of us, who are talking back in awesome, smart, funny, strong, powerful, emotional ways. Thank you - to everyone.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Dear Left, This is a Great and Glorious Day - Don't Fuck it Up

If your celebration of her death you mention any of the following: miners, poll tax, unions, Ireland, milk, faulklands, nuclear weapons, unemployment, education, greenham common, immigration, privatisation, VAT, South Africa, Section 28, GLC, or indeed any political issue at all, then we agree about the appropriate way to celebrate this great and glorious day.

If your celebration of Margaret Thatcher's death communicates nothing about her but her her gender - then you're probably missing the point.

See it's easy.

In solidarity and joy


PS Seriously there are so many better songs than Ding Dong the Witch is Dead - try youtube.

What I'm celebrating

This is a great and glorious day.

Margaret Thatcher was an old woman, who had no more power. Her death will not change anything about politics. I doubt it ever would have, even if Patrick Magee had succeeded history would not have looked much different. As Russian anarchists found out if you kill the Tsar there's always a new Tsar.

In some really fundamental ways there is nothing to celebrate because Thatcher won.  She described 'New Labour' as her greatest victory - and she wasn't wrong.  Neo-liberalism is now the norm, and she died with a Tory government in power doing its bit to take from the poor and give to the rich.

I'm still celebrating. Margaret Thatcher was not just the harbringer of neo-liberalism. Margaret Thatcher wanted to crush all dissent.  Her aim was to destroy all the institutions of resistance in the country she governed.  She thought that there was no society, just atomised individuals who only cared about themselves and she aimed to make it so.

By celebrating her death we prove that she was wrong. Every person who went to  a street party tonight to rejoice at her passing shows that the culture, world-view and resistance that she wanted to crush lives on.  In the week before she died there were protests against the bedroom tax all over Britain.  Thatcher may have died at a time of Tory power, but she also died at a time of resistance.

Thatcher's legacy is real and horrific.  She managed to destroy whole communities with a long and proud history of resistance.  But she didn't destroy that resistance. The struggle for a better world isn't going to be fought and won in the short term.

Woody Guthrie used to tell a story about rabbits on the run from some foxes. They ran and ran through the forest  And when they could run know longer they hid in a log while the foxes barked at either end. "What'll we do?" one rabbit said and the other rabbit replied "We'll stay here til we outnumber 'em"

It's not her death I'm celebrating today. It's our survival.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The left must not tolerate anti-semitism

Last week, Nathan Symington was charged with vandalising Jewish graves with swastikas.  His facebook page confirms that he is a nazi.  The police may be wrong, he may not have vandalised those graves, but there is enough material on his facebook page to condemn his political beliefs.  For the purpose of this post, what matters is that he is a nazi, and that there is a significant chance that he was involved in vadalising those graves.

Nathan Symington had his anti-semitism endorsed and reinforced at at least two left-wing forums.

Today I'm not talking about anti-semitism generally in NZ (which is something I've been writing a post on for ages and I think is super important), but about the way the NZ left tolerates and even reinforces the most vile extreme anti-semitism from unabashed nazis (I really don't want to be talking about that - because I don't want it to be true - but given that it is naming that is better than being silent).


Nathan Symington is facebook friends with Occupy Auckland (Still! Apparently Occupy Auckland isn't that discriminating).  Apparently he also attended some Occupy Auckland events.

That, in itself, is horrendous. 

What is worse is that his nazi beliefs were reinforced at Occupy, and by the Occupy Auckland facebook feed.  Anti-semitic conspiracy theories were repeated at both the Occupy Auckland and Occupy Wellington camps.  There was a serious push-back in Wellington (this post is part of that effort).  But people had to fight really hard to make clear that anti-semitic conspiracy theories weren't welcome, and they didn't necessarily win.


Nathan Symington also attended the Aotearoa is not for sale demonstration.  This is from his facebook page:

Skate board written in chalk 'John Key is the Devil' with a swastika next to it.  At a protest with an 'Aotearoa is not for sale' sign.
He commented "Nationalism is the key"

I think there is a bigger question here, about the way nationalism is used in anti-asset sales material.  Anti-privatisation organisation does not need nationalism.  The decision to extensively use nationalism is a conscious one that the people involved in the Aotearoa is not for sale campaign have made.  I think it was a mistake (and I hope to make a longer post about that one day - but I probably won't). 

I think people who promoted nationalism in the name of oppposing asset sales should think about how easily Nathan Symington fit into the demo.  The person who designed that poster probably never asked "what would a nazi think of this?" - but they probably should have.  If we're using propaganda that reassures nazis of their pre-existing beliefs, and they're happy to march along - then we're doing something wrong.

There were thousands of people in that march.  Which might explain why no-one did anything about the fact that one of them was carrying swastikas.  I've been on a march where we only realised at hte end that nazis had marched with us (they werne't carrying swastikas).  But not marching with nazis; the idea that we have nothing in common with nazis, should be the most basic, fundamental, universally held belief on the left.


Ever since I saw Nathan Symington's facebook I have felt totally disgusted and depressed about the New Zealand left.  That Symington could have felt any support, or reassurance, or validation from his experiences in the left, when (if) he vadalised hte graves - that should never happened.

But even now, even once he's been arrested, it doesn't stop.  Nathan Symington has marked himself as attending this street party against privatisation.  Someone brought this up on the Aotearoa is not for sale facebook page, and asked that he wasn't invited.  Rather than saying "yes not standing with nazis who probably destroyed graves is a priority for us" - those who were running the Aotearoa is not for sale facebook page deleted the thread who brought it up.  Apparently that's how incoherent parts of the left are on anti-semitism - it's a bigger problem to say 'hey lets do something abou the nazis' than for a nazi to attend.

Note: I've edited to clarify that when someone brought this issue up the people running the facebook page deleted it.  The people running the Aotearoa is Not For Sale facebook page (and this event) have consistently deleted posts that try and talk about this, and have not given a clear indication of their position. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

On atheism

On Saturday the 17th February 2001, I realised I had no faith in women's magazines or God. 

I was at the hospital - I wasn't sick - I was visiting my best friend (she'll be known as Betsy for the purposes of this post). I was in the waiting room, and was flicking through a Cosmopolitain with Cameron Diaz on the cover.* I don't think I had ever really believed in Cosmo - but I had got pleasure from reading it. But that day, when as I turned the pages I got angrier and angrier. It wasn't just that I was too young, too fat, too poor, too un-stylish, too un-cordinated, and too apathetic to have that life – none of it was real. There wasn't a word of truth in the scores of glossy pages. 

God was less sudden, maybe more cliched. The argument against God from the existence of evil was covered in my first year philosophy class. However, that day and the ones that followed I knew something I had never really bothered to think about before - that a sort of lazy agnosticism was not enough. I was opposed to the image of God that I knew, a good and powerful God, because a good and powerful God would not have let this happen. 


I think of myself as a relaxed atheist. A while back following Britain's lead, a group have put billboards up around Wellington "There's probably no God, so Relax and enjoy life." And I don't really understand them. Why bother? Is God that big a deal? Is the idea of God stopping people relaxing and enjoying life? I have never had any bad experiences with organised religion myself (and extremely limited experiences of organised religion at all). So this idea that religion is ruining people's life has little resonance for me. 

I also think it’s important to be careful about the politics of atheism, particularly when you live on colonised land. There are atheists who are perfectly happy with focusing their critical anti-spiritual energy on those with least social power.

And even leaving aside the politics, as a historian I think the ways people have understood and made meaning from the world is incredibly important. I read this article by Douglas Adams when I was quite young, and I have always remembered it.## I don't dismiss the role of religion in the world. Religious and spiritual practices can be a way of storing knowledge, and understanding of the world. I've also studied enough history to know that resistance movements have found strength and solace in organised religion. 

On the smaller scale, I can see that some religious practices can be a useful to some people. I can see the value of meeting with people every week, of marking seasons (albiet in a topsy turvey way down this part of the world), of doing whatever people do in their religious practices (OK I actually don't understand organised religion at all, but this means that I have no problem believing that some of it is useful). 

I can even believe that sometimes spiritual stuff (lack of knowledge again breeds vagueness) is a good survival strategy for people. My aunt is an alcoholic who has found spiritual practice useful for her. I can see that some spiritual rituals can create space that some people need. I also know that the mind is a powerful thing, and beliefs can give us strengths in all sorts of ways (Dr Ben Goldacre is great for that). 

Obviously, I'm aware of the harm that organised religion can do as well: the homophobia, the misogyny and the extortion just for starters. But I don't see any of those as necessary features of organised religions - just common ones. Most of what happens in the name of religion doesn't bother me because it happens in the name of religion - most of what happen in the name of religion happens with other justifications - and it bothers me just as much. 


Someone I used to know has turned towards faith of a sort, and wrote about it here in a zine called "Radicle". This was the passage I couldn’t forget: 

Fortunately, the world is not a generally shitty place. There are amazing people, and forces for good deeper than I can make sense of, that often reward our faith. I want to defend faith, define it and make it less threatening, but the whole point that it cannot be fully explained or logically justified. It requires a leap into the unknown 
I don't know if other readers will catch the bit I object to. The bit where I stop being a relaxed atheist and start being an angry materialist atheist. 

Betsy (now out of hopsital) ran into Tracey - someone we both went to school with. After that awkward chit-chat with someone you don't actually know, Betsy turned to leave. Tracey said "can I pray for you?" Betsy said "Uh sure" to facilitate the leaving process. 

Tracey grabbed Betsy, would not go, and shouted: "Jesus Christ, please show Betsy your love and strength so she can let you into her heart and you can heal her." 

Forces for good that reward our faith. 


In form, Tracey's statement about the non-material forces in the world couldn't be more different from the article in Radicle. It's in a zine that you don't have to read if you don't want to, it's generalised and it even contains a qualifier. Tracey’s statement of faith was a full on assault, directed at an individual that targeted the ways she was already marginalised. 

But in content the statements were disturbingly familiar. Each present a view in the world that contains spiritual forces with some kind of agency. There is a huge difference with "faith is often rewarding" (which I don't disagree with - I would say there is a prima facie case that anything that large numbers of people do on a regular basis is often rewarding in some sense of the world) and "forces for good often reward our faith". In the second, the forces for good are rewarding faith - therefore they're not rewarding not faith.** Like Tracey's God, these forces are selective about what they reward. 

But to me the most grotesque idea, in both formulations, is that a God, or spiritual forces, that are so selective in their rewards are good, or loving. The Greek and Roman Gods (as far as I'm familiar with them) with their limited powers, petty feuds, and complete lack of morality - I can actually see them mapping on to the way I understand the world. I can understand appeasing a God, or spiritual forces, that reward faith, but not believing they are good. 


Another friend of mine was thinking about sending her child to Catholic school (she's not Catholic). She was talking about why she didn't mind the religion part of Catholic school: "When I went to school there was Religious Education and it terrified me. The God I learned about there was an angry smiting God, and I was scared he was going to smite me. But this is different - they're all about how God loves you and looks after you." 

And what happens when God doesn't look after him? Horrible things happen, and a belief in a loving caring God in the face of the world we live in is as scary as a smiting one.


On the macro level there are reasons why things happen - why some people get cancer and others don't, and some live in poverty and others don't. As a historian, nothing interests me more than the reasons things happen. 

But on the micro level, that's not how the world works - there is no answer to why. We can talk about all the explanations that explain the prevalence of say meningitis - poverty, exchange of fluids, age-based vulnerability. But we will always reach the limit to our understanding. A point where the only answer is luck. And at that point we will be unable to answer Why me? Why not her? Why not me? Why him?***

At this point, the point of ignorance, and randomness, some people place an interventionist God or other spiritual power. A God who heals those who believe, or forces that reward faith. This allows them to control the uncontrollable and to give meaning to that which is meaningless. 

I understand that urge, and religion is certainly not the only way people in our society try and feel like they can control the uncontrollable. When Rod Donald died a friend said that he found it really scary if Rod Donald, cyclist, Greenie could of a disease that is so often associated with 'lifestyle' then anyone could die - which is, of course, the truth. 

But what I cannot understand is embracing a belief system that creates meaning from randomness by arguing that virtue is rewarded. We live in a bitterly unfair world, to claim that there are mysterious forces, or a God that produces your luck - I cannot understand how anyone who looks at the world with their eyes open can believe that. 


I was ranting about all this at a friend of mine, and she asked if it really mattered (beware I am probably caricaturing her beliefs to make a point of my own).  People say they believe in moral spiritual forces, but surely no-one actually believes that. Betsy’s chronic disease would be cured if she accepted Jesus into her heart. Why bother engaging with people who say things that imply that they do?

But Tracey was not the first person to harass my friend Betsy in that way, and has not been the last.  I’m not going to be harassed by people who believe that my body is a problem that God needs to solve.  I don’t have to deal with more polite people who aren’t rude enough to say that my body is a problem that God can solve, but obviously believe it.   The people who are most likely to suffer at the pointy end of belief – are people who are already facing massive amounts of unluck and calling bullshit is a way of standing in solidarity with them.

But I also think it’s more respectful to respond to people who say things that I believe are damaging and wrong with “I think that’s damaging and wrong” than with “I’m going to ignore that because I don’t believe you mean what you say.”  To me – the second response is patronising.

I don’t assume that religious people hold the sorts of spiritual beliefs I have criticised in this post.  I don’t assume that because someone has some sort of faith they give moral meaning to the luck and unluck that people experience.  But when people say things that imply that some sort of spiritual force could intervene to improve people’s lives if they behaved or believed in a certain way – I think there is a political value in challenging and unpacking the implications of those statements.


This is from a major news service’s**** coverage of the shootings in Aurora during the batman screenings:

[name redacted] told NBC television that when the carnage began she shouted at her friend: "We've got to get out of here." But when they started to move she saw people fall around her as the gunman began silently making his way up the aisle, shooting anyone who was trying to escape ahead of him.

"He shot people trying to go out the exits," she said.

At that moment, [name redacted] stared her own imminent death in the face. The shooter came towards her, saying nothing. The barrel of the gun was pointing directly at her face. "I was just a deer in headlights. I didn't know what to do."

A shot rang out, but it was aimed at the person sitting right behind her. "I have no idea why he didn't shoot me," [named redacted] said.

Later, when she was safe,  [named redacted]  told her mother: "Mom, God saved me. God still loves me."

Imagine if this were true.  Imagine if there was a God who had some power in that movie theatre, and he saved the lives of the people he loved. 

I was hesitant about commenting on this. The woman was speaking immediately after surviving horrific trauma. I have thought terrible things, under far less pressure.  This woman was dealing with her situation as best she could.  I don't want to draw attention to her as an individual who made those statements.

Religious beliefs that connect luck with morality are so normalised in our society that even their most horrific expressions stand without comment.


Turns out I am not a relaxed atheist, just a protected one. When people who win awards, reality shows, or sporting events thank God, I just find it amusing, because I don’t think winning awards, reality shows or sporting events really matters. And in my everyday life I very rarely run into people thanking God, or attributing their luck to any spiritual force that is rewarding their faith. But I don't think you can call yourself a relaxed athiest if you're OK as long as religion stays well away from spiritual explanations that involve virtue.

I am in fact, passionate about materialism,***** and think there's huge power and strength in understanding what we can about the world. I think it's even more important to accept the randomness of the universe; not to project meaning onto the unknown, but to acknowledge the role that luck and unluck play in our lives. 


I was taking a 10 year old for a walk with his dog. 

“Are you religious?” Later he would ask me who I voted for, he was obviously thinking about things a lot. 

“I’m an athiest.” 

“So’s Mum. Mum and Grandma had big argument over religion. Mum asked Grandma what she believed and Grandma said when she’d been little she had been really poor and had no school bag and everyone teased her. So she prayed for a new school bag. And then the next day someone from her church gave her one, so God listened to her prayers. And then Mum said that what about all the other children? why doesn’t God answer their prayers?” 

“Yeah, that’s what I would have said” 

Then we throw another stick for the dog. Apparently that’s all the questions for today. 


* There were two magazines with Cameron Diaz on the cover on the ward that month. Both had the same picture, but her top was a different colour. This was long before features exposing photoshop were common-place and seeing those two photos side by side with a different colour was disconcerting in a world that didn't feel particularly safe or stable. 

** I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again, understanding the difference between the active and the passive voice is a fundamental prerequistite for useful political thinking.

*** Somewhere around here Schroedinger's Cat and Quantum Physics comes in. 

**** I have not included the name of the person being quoted, or the site the quote is from (although google will verify my sources).   As I said, my point is not about her, but that such views are seen as normal.

***** I can't read that sentence without hearing 'passionate about materialism' in David Mitchell's voice - but it is true.

## I had a quote from the article here.  I've removed it as someone pointed out (and I agree) that the I used it was racist in exactly the kind of way I was trying to problematise and avoid.

Friday, May 25, 2012

What can they do to you? Whatever they want*

Image of the four defendants in court.

You don't need to have been following the trial, or even have heard the verdict, to be able to guess which of the people in this picture were sentenced to two years six months in jail and which were sentenced to 9 months home detention.  Pakeha fears about Maori have been projected onto accused throughout the whole case. I've no reason to disbelieve that Andre, who commented on Public Address, is not who he says he is:
I was excluded from the jury for the trial along with two other jurors after being empanelled. I gave them all a rant prior to departing and am relieved they didn’t find them guilty on the main charge. They were overwhelmingly middle class white women that I left on the panel, some of whom had already told us that Tame Iti scared them etc. One of the jurors asked to be excluded because she was convinced he was guilty by how he looked. She was refused her request to leave and heard the case. Another guy asked to be excluded because he thought the whole exercise was a waste of taxpayer money and resources and he was excluded. How does that work? 


One way of communicating my range and anger over the sentences is to talk about how manifestly unjust they are on the court's own terms.  This man who beat and pretended to hang his children, received a sentence of two years 8 months.

As others have pointed out Rodney Hansen, the judge sentenced them as if the charge of being part of an organised criminal group (which the jury could not decide upon) had been proved.  He included the defendant's political views as aggravating factors stating: "Some of the participants held extreme anarchist views."  He blamed the defendants for the actions of the police - stating that they had done harm by creating divisions within Tuhoe.

The logic of the judge's sentencing was grotesque.  Justice was far from blind - it saw and was terrified of who these people were and sentenced them accordingly.


The sentence is unjust when understood inside the system of justice that colonisation brought.  But to focus on that is to ignore the larger injustice.

An art work - tuhoe never signed the fucking treaty is repeatedly scribbled in different colours on a map of New Zealand

Justice Hansen is not the first judge to exert his authority over Tuhoe people as a way of trying maintain the crown's sovereignty over Tuhoe land, unfortunately it's unlikely that he'll be the last.  He was very willing to describe the actions he'd decided people had undertaken as 'a frightening prospect undermining our democratic institutions and anathema to society'.  He talked of 'we' and 'our' and 'society' singular.  He ignored the many actions of the crown that had undermined Maori democratic institutions and that were an anathema to Maori societies.What right do Pakeha from Auckland have to talk of 'we' and 'our' when it comes to Tuhoe land?  They can't even claim the right of Kawanatanga.


Protests have been organised around the country over the next couple of days.  Come along if you can - thinking that this is wrong is meaningless without action.

PALMERSTON NORTHFriday, 25th May 2012, 1pm, Palmerston North District Court. Bring placards, banners, chants and friends.

Friday, 25th May 2012, 12pm, Wellington High Court. Bring placards, banners, chants and friends.

AUCKLAND Saturday, 26th May 2012, 2pm, Mt Eden Prison.

DUNEDIN Saturday 26th May 2012, 2pm, Dunedin District Court House.

CHRISTCHURCH Saturday 26th May 2012, 4pm, Christchurch Police Station.

* I found some comfort in Marge Piercy's The Low Road tonight - not for the first time.

** I've seen a lot of people express this idea in a way that implies that Rangi and Tame are more Maori than Emily. Sometimes this is because of lack of knowledge, but it is wrong.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Good Idea - Bad Idea

Good Idea

Yesterday, the Southern DHB announced that it was going to start providing an abortion service in Invercargill.  Previously people from Southland who needed an abortion have had to travel to Christchurch (pre-earthquake) and Dunedin (since February 2011) to get them.* (Here's ALRANZ's supportive press release.)

One of the many things that is wrong with our current abortion law is that it makes centralised services necessary - which means women who don't live in the main centres have to expend extra money and time in order to get an abortion.  It's great (but not enough) that things have got a little better for Southland women.

Bad Idea

Yesterday, LifeChoice Victoria, LifeChoice Canterbury and Pro-Life Auckland launched a Right to Know campaign (there are not enough sarcastic quote marks in the world to properly communicate just imagine two sets for pretty much every word).  They distributed leaflets that lied about abortion in all the major lectures theatres at at least two (and probably three universities).**  You can read the full text on their website.  Campus Feminist Collective in Auckland have started planning their response

My favourite quote demonstrates the hideous double-speak of incrementalism: "Women should be trusted with all of the available facts, and then allowed the freedom and space to make a properly informed decision."  By 'facts' they mean 'inaccurate bullshit we like' and by 'freedom and space to make a properly informed decision' they mean 'make all women wait longer than they need to get an abortion through a cooling off period.'

The reason that this double-speak has any chance of working (and I hope it doesn't work - the person I was sitting next to thought the leaflets were prochoice - because they hadn't read the leaflet only looked at hte headings) is because the politics of abortion aren't particularly clear in this country.  Even people who are reasonably pro-choice can buy into a discourse which portrays abortion as the ethically murky thing that we shouldn't talk about, if that's the only discourse abortion they ever hear.  We need to be the ones that champion the ability of pregnant people to make their own decisions - so that everyone will see this for the patronising claptrap that it is.

* Talking of which does anyone know what the current situation is for people who need abortions from the West Coast?  They used to have to travel to Christchurch, but that clinic was damaged in the earthquake - do they now have to travel to Dunedin or Nelson?

** They're well-funded - these were glossy properly printed leaflets that were three to an 3 page - and they would have had thousands of them to do all those lecture theatres.