Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Smashing Youth Rates

There was a great protest against youth rates in Wellington today. You can find more about it here

One of the highlights was Renee, a 16 year-old cafe worker who was paid just $6.30 for working as a barista, when people over 18 were getting $12. She later did an interview with Checkpoint and you should listen to it.


Graham Capill got 9 years for sexually assaulting and raping children over a sustained period of time, the CYPS caregiver who sexually assaulted two children in his care got something like two years for the assault and two years for a massive collection of pornography that included children as young as three.

The guy I mentioned in my last post got 12 years.

Now I think jail is pretty useless at doing anything but making people angrier, so I'm not really arguing for tougher sentances. But I can't think of any explanation for that difference that doesn't involve race and class.

What if a woman walks into a shop, is she responsible then?

A Wellington ex-restaurant manager has been jailed for 12 years for raping two young girls, one of whom was a customer, you can read more about it here. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only woman in Wellington who knows who it was, and wasn't that surprise.

I remember last year sometime saying to a friend of mine that I didn't want to go to this particular place because the way the guy hit on me made me feel uncomfortable, he replied 'oh he hits on everyone.'

He'd said exactly the same phrase to me that he said to the girl he raped, and I'm sure to many other women who walked into the shop.

I'm trying to start taking that creepy feeling seriously. I think I need to ask others to do the same. I should have stopped going to that restaurant, I should have talked to other women about the way we felt.

That'll help

The two boys who painted racist slogans all over mosques in July have been sentanced to in jail.

Jail has a great track record for making sure that racist young men turn into fine upstanding citizens, so this should all end well.

(That was my sarcastic voice).

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace: Feminist of the Day

Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace
Mathematician, writer of the first computer program
"No one knows what power lies yet undevelopped in that wiry system of mine."

I have a theory that you could tell a feminist story about any woman's life. It's probably not an original theory, but I can't remember where I might have read it..

That's not to say every woman is a feminist, but that every woman's life is fundamentally shaped by being a woman, partly because of the way reproduction is treated in our society, and partly because of what Simone de Beauvoir would describe as the fact that we are 'other'. If you looked at any woman's life you would see the effect of living at a misogynist society, and I believe you could write a story from that starting point.

I say this because I don't think Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, was a feminist. She was a mathematician and a metaphysicist, she doesn't appear to have had any interest in women, either collectively, or individually. Nothing in her story screams "this is how women suffer", she didn't suffer from endless miscarriage, or illegal abortions, she . But all around the edges there are hints of her life lived as a woman. From a mother who couldn't distinguish between her daughter and herself, to the mysterious health problems that afflicted her, you can see how different her story would have been had she been a man.

Conclusion: Not a feminist, but since she wrote the first ever computer programme, and therefore is one of a long line of people who now bring lots of lovely information to my house whenever I want it, she has my eternal gratitude.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Elsie Clews Parsons: Feminist of the Day?

Elsie Clews Parsons
Sociologist, anthropologist, folklorist

What I love about writing the feminist of the day feature is that I learn about all sorts of people who I didn't even know existed. Elsie Parsons, like Sarah Grimke, was born to a life of priviledge, and like Sarah she seemed to know what to do with that life. Elise Parsons was a feminist and a socialist (she get an extra tick mark because she was against WW1 all the way through) and became a very prominent anthropologist. She was the first woman elected to the American Anthropological Association, but died before she could give her opening address - which was going to condemn the use of anthropology for racist ends. A colleague summed up her academic work:
Her society had encroached on her she studied the science of society the better to fight back against society.
That wasn't all I found out about her. In a book review someone who knows far more about Elsie Parsons than me wrote:
For example, [the author of the book]lauds Parsons for her feminism and for her support of professional women. Yet nowhere is there recognition of the more complex issue-Parsons's feminism and, by her own admission, her prejudice against her "own sex." This was no small matter for Parsons: she ran up against her prejudice against women frequently and she wrote about it in her articles and her books.
I want to read what she wrote about it, but unfortunately it's not that rare. When you live in a misogynist society it's very easy for women to rebel against that by internalising the value system and seeing themselves as the exception, the one subject in a sea of female objects.

Conclusion: I think it's a shame that she didn't like women, her life would have been richer if she had. I kind of admire the fact that she was still a feminist, despite that, but it's still terribly sad.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sarah Grimke: Feminist of Yesterday

Sarah Grimke
Abolitionist, theoretician
"All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks."

Sarah Grimke was the daughter of a slaveholding judge, who saw a slave being whipped when she was five, and responded by trying to run away to somewhere where there were no slaves. She wanted to go to college, but her parents fobid her from studying, so instead she ended up moving North with her sister and becoming one of the first white women to argue the abolitionist cause. She started arguing for women's rights because no-one was taking her seriously as an abolitionist. She was a mediocre speaker, but an important writer, and a loShe lived an incredible life.

Of all the nineteenth century feminists, I find the lives of the American abolitionist women most admirable, but also most unfathomable. They were almost all driven by their religious beliefs, and their view of themselves, their view of women's place in the world, was so very different from mine. And yet the issues they raise sound so familiar, even though so much of their lives were different.

That feminism sounds so different, in another time and place, is no surprise to me. I don't see feminism as providing a solution, or even an explanatory framework, it is simply a way of analysing the world that starts with what women experience. So feminism is going to look different depending on when and where you are. Unfortunately the issues women face don't change that much.

Conclusion: I may not be able to quite understand her, but it's hard to argue with:
I ask no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks, and permit us to stand on the ground which God has designed for us to occupy. All history attests that man has subjected woman to his will used her as a means to promote his selfish gratification, to minister to his sensual pleasures, to be instrumental in promoting his comfort, but never has he desired to elevate her to that rank she was created to fill. He has done all he could to debase and enslave her mind; now he looks triumphantly on the ruin he has wrought, and says, the being he has thus deeply injured is his inferior

I'm Maintaining

One of the regular pleasures of my week is the Sunday Star Times lifestyle magazine. There's ususally at least one article that'll sustain a serious rant, and enough lovely little features to keep you giggling for a good ten minutes, particularly if you have someone to share the experience with.

I'll always have a soft spot for the 'window shopping' feature, the first true pleasure I got from the colour supplement. Each week they take a theme (today it's black clothes vs. white clothes), and show you what you can get, and how much it costs. So you can see that a ridiculously impactical white trench-coat sells for $698, and let your mind be boggled. Window Shopping sometimes has complete outfits, but its best features contain many different examples of one item of clothing. It's going to be hard to beat the scarf issue, where one, extremely skinny scarf that I could have knitted myself (well I couldn't because I'm complete unco, but anyone else could have) was on sale for hundreds of dollars, but I live in hope.

But my appreciation for Sunday deepened when I realised what their term for the what would once have been known as the 'beauty' section. Sunday obviously finds the term 'health' too mundane, too common-place, and so have settled on 'maintenance'.

Ever since I noticed that I've developed a new game called 'what the fuck are you maintaining'. It started with perfume, and I still don't know what you could possibly maintain with perfume, but each week it just gets a little more ridiculous. This week we are being maintained by:
* 10 different kinds of lipstick
* Coloured Mascara
* A range of products that 'amp up the lashes, making them darker, wetter looking and sexier.'
* Pale Shimmer Shadow (no idea what that is)
* Botox
* Laser teeth whitening

This is obviously some new use of the word maintenance that I wasn't previously aware of.


I'm against the death penalty in all cases. Even if there were a crime where I thought the death penalty was fitting (and there isn't), there's no justice system that I'd trust to administer it.

But the death penalty for drug smuggling isn't just wrong morally, and it's very wrong morally, it's also completely useless as a deterrant. The people who make the profit from drugs are just another set of capitalists, they don't care what happens to their transport, they don't care if they face life imprisonment or are executed.

One True Thing

There's been an interesting discussion in a number of American Feminist Blogs about a New York Timesarticle on caring for elderly parents. Or, because it's the New York Times, how rich women are giving up careers to look after elderly parents, because then they get to bash uppity women, and act like everyone has a six figure income, all at the same time.

Things aren't quite as bad in New Zealand as they would be in America, because we do have something resembling a public health system (La Lubu's comments in Jill's blog are just one example of how much worse an insurance based health system is). But the issues in terms of who does the care and how, is just as bad here. Paid caregiving work is treated badly enough; unpaid caregiving work is ignored. The only minimum provision is that you can use your own sick leave for a dependent (but if you had a good employer, you would have a case to make for leave to take your mother to the doctor, but only if you could show that you'd still keep the same level of productivity of someone who didn't take their parents to the doctor).

The discussion on Feministe was the one I found most interesting. Jill said:

I should make it clear that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (it’s one of those things that, I think, is beyond classification as “good” or “bad”). It’s obviously not ideal that one gender is expected to devoting their entire lives to the service of others. But, not to get too cheesy, I think it’s valuable to not lose sight of what really matters in life — and while I hate to see things like caring for family become socially mandated for a group of people by simple virtue of their vagina-possession, the flip side is that it gives women the option of quitting their jobs or taking time off without too many people second-guessing them. I don’t think the same can be said for men. Imagine a 50-year-old man announcing in the boardroom that he’s quitting in order to care full-time for his elderly parents.
Now comenters on her post rightly pointed out that the thing that's stopping more men from giving up their jobs to care for their children isn't a lack of a vagina, but power and priviledge. But it shows how important that we both challenge the sexism that mean it is mostly women who do the work, and challenge the way the work is valued.

It is mostly women who do unpaid caring work looking after elderly parents, and our society would fall apart if we didn't do it. On an individual basis there are lots of different reasons that it's ususally the women who do the work (they live closest, they have more flexible working hours, they earn less and so cutting down the hours they work makes more sense, or because they're women), but on a societal level the reason women do most of the unpaid caring work is because we live in a incredibly sexist society. In fact I'd go further and say one of the reasons we live in a sexist society is because capitalism can't afford to value caring work, and therefore it is incredibly important that it gets done for free.

We need to change the way women's work is valued, as Jill said:
I’m saying that I think caring for others is valuable, important work, and that it’s thoroughly fucked that it’s underpaid and undervalued, but I’m glad I have the option to do it. I’m tired of a system that places what men do as the epitome of achievement, and I’m definitely growing tired of the idea that to be successful, women have to emulate whatever men have traditionally done, because that’s what’s good. I want to live in a world where I can take time off from my job to take care of my parents when they need me — I just want that world to hold men to the same standard, and to value my work as a caregiver as much or more as they value traditional “male” work.

Low-Life Scum

Martin Dunn, who works selling apartments, was very upset that people are building cheap apartment blocks, because they might bring poor people into Auckland city:

"They'll be on the dole" he said "They'll be people who should live in Otahuhu and never be allowed out of Otahuhu."
"The city has been expensive. We have been lucky because the tenancy market has been reasonably sophisticated," he said.

"I don't want to have a whole lot of apartments with bedrooms that you can hardly get a bed into. Who is going to be living in them? It is going to bring a subculture into the city and I am certainly not welcoming that. I resent it.

"If we have a whole lot of sickness beneficiaries and dole bludgers in the city, that is definitely going to change the culture of the CBD."
I agree with him that they shouldn't build tiny shitty apartments, but that's because I don't believe anyone should live in shitty tiny apartments.

I have a longstanding fantasty of leaving a bunch of rich capitalists on a desert island. We could see how much they think their success is a result of their own virtue when there's no-one to exploit but each other.

Sunday Advice Blogging

Today we are returning to the Teen Guide to Homemaking (a 1961 American text book), to look at Boy-Girl Friendships (their phrase). It's a shame that our text books didn't provide us with information about how to be more interesting to the opposite sex, so I'm making up for it now.

Girls Like a Boy Who...
...has good manners. clean and well-groomed
...dresses neatly and appropriately intelligent a good conversationalist considerate good natured clean-minded honest punctual
...has a sense of humour.
...gets along with other people

Boys Like a Girl Who... attractive and well-groomed neat and clean helpful and considerate
...dresses appropriately dependable a good conversationalist a good listener friendly interested in a boy's hobies modest but not shy
...has good manners
...does not talk about other dates.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

What She Said

John Campbell's piece on the Starbucks strike was very good, and justified my on-going love for him (I have sneaking suspicion that this love would be unsustainable if I was home to watch Campbell live on a regular basis, but until I am he remains the person who interviewed Noam Chomsky and John Pilger on National Radio immediately after September 11). But it also showed that it's been a long time since the Minister of Labour had a real job. This was her coment on youth rates (probably slightly paraphrased but not much):

This is just the minimum. If a 17 year old was working at the same level of productivity as a 25 year old, then they'd have a good case to make, with a good employer, to be paid at the same pay-rate
Maria Von Trapp did a really good job of showing what a moronic argument this is - so what she said.

(except the bit about being a Young Labour member - am not now, have never been, and will never be a member of the Labour party).

Friday, November 25, 2005

And GWB plays God...

If you own a copy of Our Dumb Century turn to page 116:

Nixon Steps Up Bombing Raids On New York Times

'This Is a Necessary Escalation to Protect the U.S. Presidency,' Nixon Says

When I first heard that Bush & Blair talked about bombing Al Jazeera, I thought that the Mirror was making something up again. But since they're being threatened with Official Secrets Act, it kind of implies that it was an official secret.

I should be reassured that my enemies are completely fucking incompetent, but they have way too much power for that to make me feel any better.

New Zealand Terrorists

A right-wing blogger supports profiling:

For example, why would the Customs officials ask indepth questions of 16 year old schoolgirls with English sounding names? They aren't the one's committing acts of terrorism. Neither are suited young Pakeha and Maori businessmen carrying laptops and they travel on business. Or Rabbis and Presbyterian clergymen for that matter.
Is anyone going to tell him that the all fatal acts of terrorism in New Zealand in the last 25 years have been carried out against left-wing targets? Or do you think his reaction would be slightly different if profiling was directed against right-wing nutcases?

Which, of course, it won't be. The purpose of profiling is to maintain the power structures in society. The victims don't matter as long as you make rich people feel more safe and poor people feel less safe.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Prostitution as Labour

I was reading a particularly annoying analysis of pornography today, and I couldn't quite put my finger on what was making me angry, until I got to this quote:

Prostitution should not be recognised as a form of labour. Rather it is a form of violence whose root cause is male demand for prostitution and other forms of commercialised sex and is rooted in gender inequality
Why can't it be both?

Of course prostitution, particularly brothel or pimped prostitution, is a form of labour. You're selling your body, ususally in particularly coercive conditions.

I find the idea that men buy women's bodies deeply disturbing. I believe that the commodification of women's bodies effects all women, and knowing there are men who believe that I'm walking around in a commodity is really scary. But this doesn't make prositution any less a form of labour.

I think the problem here is not the analysis of prostitution, most of which I agree wiht, but the lack of analysis about the nature of labour relationships. A lot of labour relationships are coercive and violent; workers die every day because of their jobs, and many more are injured. I have a problem with all form of labour relationships where people are bought and sold. To me, saying prostitution is a form of labour is not saying that prostitution is OK, but saying labour as it stands isn't ok.

Feminist of the Day: What's the Point?

I have a semi-regular feminist of the day feature. I got out of the habit of writing it, and so I'd start again by explaining why I do it.

Margaret Thatcher
First female Prime Minister of Britain
"If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman." runs a nifty feature called Feminist of the Day. You put some code up on your website and each day a feminist pops up, with a quote and a link. I liked this feature, but because I felt that some of the women weren't exactly sisters, I didn't want to simply have the feature without comment, because I couldn't have Margaret Thatcher described as a feminist on my blog. So I thought I'd use the feminist of the day to explore my ideas about feminism, both now and in the past, and rant about anything which came to mind.

For some reason Margaret Thatcher is again Feminist of the Day, so I'll simply link to the two previous times that I have written about her.

Tomorrow's Feminist of the Day is Eleanor Roosevelt, and I've already written about her as well. But unless Saturday's Feminist of the Day is another I'll rant about feminism with a vengance then.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This Is Not What Yes Looks Like

For those of you who didn't understand my point yesterday here is a 'joke' from David Farrer:

Q: Why did the man have sex with a mannequin?

A: He just thought she was British :-)
Is it any surprise that almost 40% of people think a woman is in some way responsible for being raped if she doesn't say no clearly enough? Is it any surprise that people don't listen for 'yes'.

So for those who don't get it, if you're ever unsure about what someone your having sex with wants, then ask, if they don't seem to be into it, then ask. Your vocal chords should continue to work no matter what you're doing with the rest of your body.

Our legal standard is consent, our social standard should be higher than that, it should be active participation. It should be completely unacceptable to have sex someone who is out of it, it should be shameful to have sex with someone who isn't into it, and jokes like the one Farrar made should make no sense (rather than just be not funny).

I find this very frustrating, because ultimately any feminist response to rape comes back to the fact that the culture that condones rape is created and maintained by men. That culture belittles what women have to say, so I really do believe a man would be more effective at refuting these misogynist ideas. But no one does, so I try.

Breaking News: 1970s Marxist Groups not particularly fond of Western Imperialism

In a step forward for bloggers everywhere Trevor Loudon has written a blistering expose on the wasted life of Keith Locke. This is called, with a wit and originality which is apparent throughout the rest of the piece, Keith Locke-A Wasted Life Part 1 and Keith Locke-A Wasted Life Part 2. I think we should thank him for brining to our attention the scandalous activities Keith Locke was involved in. For instance did you know that Keith Locke was involved with soliarity work in the Phillipines, how dare he support anyone rising up against their rightful dictator, and all around good guy, Marcos? But there's more:

In March [1980] he was elected Secretary at founding meeting of the Wellington Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, which oppossed US backed "aggression" against the Sandinistas. In the next couple of years he praised "peacenik" Owen Wilkes for exposing foreign bases in NZ, was active in the Latin America Committee and in the committee campaigning for an enquiry into the police "home invasion" and shooting of his workmate and Black Power associate, Paul Chase.In October 1983 Locke signed a letter to US President Reagan protesting at the invasion of Grenada. Clearly some aggression was OK and some wasn't.
I mean obviously Keith Locke was wasting his life that's three years and he was only involved in 3 solidarity campaigns, and two local campaigns. Someone wasn't remembering the well known saying "the revolution is a sprint and not a marathon." I'm sure there are other committees he could have joined, other people's struggles he could have supported.

If You Want Higher Wages Let Me Tell You What To Do...

Today's heros are obviously the Starbucks workers who went on strike today. You can find out all about it at, and there's been a tonne of media coverage, including the lovely John Campbell, although I missed the beginning, unfortunately.

The Starbucks CEO wouldn't appear on Campbell Live after throughly embarassing herself on Nine to Noon this morning, I strongly recommend giving it a listen. She was proud that the 'only' had 77% turnover, and talked about their tiny, tiny margins they had on a $5.50 cup of coffee. Linda Clark did a thorough job of making fun of her, and when a scab is making fun of your labour relations policy you know you've got some problems.

One question that Linda Clark asked Matt McCarten is "if they don't like it why don't they just leave?" It's a question that always drives me nuts. As well as being down-right offensive when it comes from someone earning as much as Linda Clark does, that question fundamentally misses the point. Employers aren't God, deciding from on high what workers are to be paid, workers have a right to bargain, and bargain collectively.

Span and No Right Turn, both wrote about it. I'm sure a whole bunch of nutty right-wingers did as well complaining about how workers weren't just putting up with being exploited and this is an affront to capitalism - but I try not to read too many right wing blogs, so I can't report.

Time Runs Out Very Fast

British research shows women's body shapes have changed from hourglass figures in the past 50 years, but the clothing industry has mainly failed to take this into account
I find this very hard to believe, because as far as I can tell the clothing industry never really got the idea that women had breasts in the first place.

I had three purposes in drawing people's attention to this snippet from the Evening Post:

1. Rant about the fact that the clothing industry fails to take into account that not everyone's body is the same shape, and joing the dots to make it clear that this is All Capitalism's Fault.

2. Make fun of the way newspapers report 'research' in such an unquestioning way, without providing the reader with any information to evaluate or understand that research.

3. Beg anyone who knows where I could get a pair of togs which are cup-sized, good for swimming and not astronomically expensive to share that knowledge.

But because I'm getting tired I'm not actually going to do any of those things, just mention that I wanted to.

When you have no argument it always helps to use gendered insults

There has been a rather predictable reaction to Sandra Coney's complaint that a bus service advertisement was sexist.

One commenter on Aaron's blog made it abundantly clear how ridiculous the whole politically correct nonsense is (I know I said I was over it, but the vortex of stupidity keeps pulling me back in):

Dr Wayne Mapp HAS to comment about this PC nonsense. Someone has to be made an example of, and Coney has just volunteered herself.

She needs to be corrected in a very public way to cure NZ of this virulet PC-drivel.
So a regional councillor who is offended by an advertisment, should be made a public example of by an MP for voicing her opinion. Those who go around crying politically correct at every opportunity are clearly those who want to silence debate and discussion from those they disagree with, not the other way around.

Her point: "Advertising shouldn't make jokes at the expense of women. I imagine a lot of women use buses" is one that both confounds and annoys me. Most beer ads, for example might as well be a club-house with "No Girls Allowed" on the front. They either celebrate a particularly limited view of masculinity, or they systematically objectify and belittle women (actually they often do both). No beer company ever sees a gap in the market and aim their beer ads to a gender neutral audience. Are there really more men who would be afraid of getting girl-germs from a beer that was advertised in a gender neutralised way, than women who are put off by an industry that clearly doesn't want their business?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Are you having a good day? Feeling pretty good about the world? If so don't read Amnesty's report on British attitudes towards rape (or my post about it), because it is, as you would expect, really, really depressing.

Amnesty asked 1,000 people about what level of responsibility they believed a woman had for being raped when the woman was in a number of different situations. Here are the results:
8% of people believed that women are wholly responsible for being raped if they are known to have many sexual partners. A full third believed women are at least partially responsible for being raped if they flirt. 17% of women and 22% of men believed women are partially responsible for being raped if they wear sexy or revealing clothing. More than a fifth of people believed that a woman is partially or wholly responsible for being raped if she walks in a dangerous area.

This all makes me feel sick, and unsafe. I find the idea of anyone, but particularly a man, thinks that women are ever even a tiny bit responsible for being raped absolutely terrifying.

But the bit that made me most sad was that if a woman doesn't say no clearly enough 37% of people believed that she was in some way responsible for being raped. Those are the options, you say no, or you don't say no.

Why don't women get to say yes? Why don't men wait until they hear yes? Why would you want to have sex with someone when they didn't actively want to have sex with you?

Monday, November 21, 2005


Post Secret is a pretty amazing web site, that I only found out about a couple of weeks ago. People send in their secrets on one side of a hand designed post-cards, some of the secrets are silly, some hopeful, many are really sad. Each Sunday (Monday New Zealand time) it is updated with a new week's worth of secrets, but there are only ever two weeks at a time.

I think I find these fragments of people's lives so moving because they are fragments - because I start filling in the gaps imaging the lives of the women and men who wrote them.

So many women send postcards about being women, about their bodies, about pregnancy, about children, about their relationships with men. There are very few secrets that are specific to men. Women have all the secrets, all the fear and pain, men have, but then have to carry round an extra stash on top.

I'd hate to see the edge

Ariel Sharon has left the Israeli government to form a new centrist party.

I'm fucking terrified of any political spectrum in which Ariel Sharon is at the centre.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Place to Aruge about the Morality of Abortion

I'm going to post a lot about abortion - I'm very passionate about the issue, I think it's very important.

But what I'm not interested in, is the debate about whether or not abortion is moral. Whenever anyone tries to talk about the reality of abortion someone comes in and says "what about the babies". I used to be interested in those sorts of arguments, I used to be pretty fucking good at them, but I'm no longer have the energy to argue with people who don't believe women can make their own decisions, and have no interest in acutal lived experienced.

I don't want every post I write about abortion to be a place where these debates happen, because they bore me, but I understand that other people want to have this discussion. So my solution is to create a thread where these discussion can happen. If anyone ever posts about the morality of abortion anywhere else I'll cut and paste it here.

My opinion is that the only person who can judge the morality of any abortion is the individual woman involved. I believe it's simple, I believe it is cut and dry, and I don't believe in any time limit. Here and here are some posts by Bitch Ph.D. that I love, and say everything I need to say about the relationship between morality and abortion:

The bottom line about abortion is this. Do you trust women to make their own moral judgments? If you are anti-abortion, then no. You do not. You have an absolute moral position that you don't trust anyone to question, and therefore you think that abortion should be illegal. But the second you start making exceptions for rape or incest, you are indicating that your moral position is not absolute. That moral judgment is involved. And that right there is where I start to get angry and frustrated, because unless you have an absolute position that all human life (arguably, all life period, but that isn't the argument I'm engaging with right now) are equally valuable (in which case, no exceptions for the death penalty, and I expect you to agonize over women who die trying to abort, and I also expect you to work your ass off making this a more just world in which women don't have to choose abortions, but this is also not the argument I'm engaging right now), then there is no ground whatsoever for saying that there should be laws or limitations on abortion other than that you do not trust women. I am completely serious about this.

Let me unpack a bit, because I know this sounds polemical, since I am clearly stating a bottom line. When pro-choice feminists like Wolf, or liberal men, or a lot of women, even, say things like, "I'm pro-choice, but I am uncomfortable with... [third-trimester abortion / sex-selection / women who have multiple abortions / women who have abortions for "convenience" / etc.]" then what you are saying is that your discomfort matters more than an individual woman's ability to assess her own circumstances. That you don't think that women who have abortions think through the very questions that you, sitting there in your easy chair, can come up with. That a woman who is contemplating an invasive, expensive, and uncomfortable medical procedure doesn't think it through first. In short, that your judgment is better than hers.

16 Reasons Green Party Food Policy Sucks

The Green's food policy is here:

1. They're somewhat obsessive about the word healthy when referring to food. I have issues with that.

2. They buy into the moral panic over obesity, mentioning it as something to be avoided three times, without once arguing why.

3. "Prohibit the funding of health services by food companies that sell or promote unhealthy high fat, high sugar food." So they don't object to the privitisation of health services, they just want to moderate it a little bit.

4. Just like they have no problems with businesses on school grounds unless they're selling sugar.

5. To belabour a point they say that they only want food sold at sports functions to meet national guidelines to promote the health of children. But you need different food when you've run a marathon than when you've swum 100m freestyle or done a floor routine gymnastics - well I believe no food is often a pre-requisite for gymnastics, but that's a different matter. The idea that there is one set of healthy food for all people and circumstances is ridiculous.

6. They keep on talking about getting agreed nutritional guidelines - if you follow these sorts of things you know that most of the science is funded by someone, and that most people have an agenda. To think that you can get meaningful, helpful nutritional guidelines - even if people did all need to eat the same things at all times - is naieve at best.

7. They're funding it all by a consumer tax on soft drinks. Consumer taxes suck, consumer taxes are regressive and impact on poor people more than rich people.

8. They want to provide free fruit in schools, and create some kind of cross whatever working party to investigate the feasibility of the possibility of creating a report about implementing a pilot programme to research the advantages of providing free breakfast in schools. The single best things you could do to improve the diet of New Zealand children is provide breakfast and lunch free in schools - and get the government to do it directly, no sub-contracting to spotless - but no they care more about nuritional guidelines.

9. They want a red, orange, and green system to label food - doesn't that sound like a good way of communicating complete nutritional information and making sure people make choices based on knowledge.

10. My old school has instituted a policy banning regular soft drinks, but allowing diet coke and sprite zero.. This isn't, strictly speaking, the Greens fault, but what's the point of having a blog if you can't rant about everything that is making you grumpy.

11. Hospitals wouldn't be allowed to sell or provide high fat or high sugar foods. You know what, sometimes people need high fat or high sugar foods to recover and rebuild their bodies.

12. I still can't get over the fact that they thought soft-drinks in foods were one of the half a dozen most important issues facing New Zealand today. I don't think there should be vending machines in schools, because I don't actually think there should be any profit making businesses in schools, but it probably wouldn't make it into my top 50.

13. Their entire policy is based on the idea that problems with food and diet are individual problems, and if people had more information then it'd all be great. This is bullshit, the problems with our food and diet are created because food is made for profit, not for nutritional value - individual choices aren't going to change that.


15. Of all the bullshit solutions based on privilege, that is by far the most annoying, stupid morons, why did I vote for them.

16. Sorry now I'm coherent again, the green party is obsessed with labelling food, as if it's knowledge that we lack, not choices. It only makes any difference if GE food is labelled if you can afford to choose the GE free.

So to summarise the green party food policy entrenches the reality that nutritious food is a privilege based on your financial situation, it has very little grasp of the scientific research in the area, is full of abstract good and bad things with no meaningful way of creating change, and ignores the concrete ways of that you could improve people's food and diets. I could curl up and die from not surprisedness.

There are a few points there I agree with - particularly in part 1 of their policy, about cleaning up food production, but that's because they take a much more structural approach. They say 'ban battery farming' not 'ensure all battery eggs are suitably labeled'.

I haven't developed my 2011 exit plan - yet

Stofile said that he was sure South Africa's two votes would have gone to New Zealand in the second round.

"New Zealand supported activists like myself in the struggle against apartheid and if it was up to me my vote would go to them," Stofile said.
There's a weird kind of logic going on there. It certainly wasn't the NZRFU which was supporting him in his struggle against apartheid.

I wonder what would have happened if you'd told a HART that one of the effects of their actions would be to help secure the 2011 rugby world cup (I know not everyone who was anti-tour was anti-rugby, but there was a significant anti-rugby element to the anti-tour protests)

Sunday Advice Blogging: AJ Chesswass edition

For the last little bit I have been posting extracts from an American text book called Teen Guide to Homemaking. Now it's NZ's turn, because I also own "Towards Tomorrow: A Guide fo the New Zealand Homemaker", published in 1969. This is a litle more down to earth than the American book, and has less information on how to accessorise to emphasise your figure. But it's just as fantastic. Today I'm sharing the discussion questions from the end of the Responsible Relationships chapter.

3. You have not been able to find employment in your own town and have had to go to another larger centre. Having found yourself in a flat with others wose standards are very different to your own, what should you do?

Get a cleaning roster, but they might be talking about sex, in which case a cleaning roster won't really help (well possibly it'd help if people were having sex in the kitchen).

5. A girl who married at seventeen has had two children by the time she is twenty. She complains that she is tried of being tied to the house, to debts, to children's washing and to dishes. Discuss why she may be feeling this way when she could be loving and enjoying her young family. Suggest what she might do to overcome her loneliness and boredom.

Patriarchy, alienation, capitalism.

Get a copy of Sisterhood is Powerful and find a consciousness raising group.

7. You are a nurse with one year to finish your training. You are friendly with a fine young man who asks you to marry him. Discuss whether you should finish your training fist. Give reasons for your decision.

Ok this one I can't even make fun of, I can just say huh? This was an actual question written in actual text book less than ten years before I was born. The world is a very scary place.

9. Early marriages can be extremely happy and lasting. But it is a quite wrong basis for marriage to consider you are a failure if you haven't a ring on your finger by the time you are twenty? Why? Is it wrong that some girls prefer to continue a career?

Do you hear that, quite wrong to consider yourself a failure if you're not married by twenty. Don't you feel betrayed that none of your school text books informed you of this fact.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Don't Mention the War

David Irving was arrested in Austria for the crime of denying the Holocaust.

I'm trying to figure out the process where you pass a law saying that it's a crime to deny the holocaust.

He was going to travel to New Zealand, but he was not allowed entry, because anyone who has ever been deported from another country needs a special waiver to get into New Zealand and he wasn't granted one. I had no problem with that at all. Or rather I have a problem with our immigration laws, but given that we have these immigration laws then I have no problem with them applying to David Irving just like he was anyone else. But arresting him?

At first I was surprised because I thought Austria was particularly bad at facing up to its anti-semitic past (I may be wrong about that - I've no idea why I think it's true), but actually it makes sense. If you're trying to pretend that something never happened you don't want someone tramping up and down saying in a very loud voice "THIS NEVER HAPPENED". You just ignore it and hope it goes away.

I'm against the state engaging with Holocaust deniers for much the same reasons I'm against the left engaging with neo-nazis. But I think in a country like Austria, putting laws up to deal with a Holocaust denier, paradoxically shows an unwillingness to deal with the reality of the holocaust.

Ha Ha!

I want my writing to reflect my beliefs, and this means I try not to focus on the easy targets (which is why I stopped writing about Wayne Mapp) and I make it my goal to criticise the Labour Government every day.

But sometimes a story is just so beautiful, just so perfect, that I feel compelled to write about it even though I don't have anything to say, and everyone knows about it anyway.

So when ACT's bus got left on a lifestyle block with the keys in the ignition, and two 13 year old girls left the keys in the ignition, I knew that I was going to write about it.

If those girls' families need help for a lawyer, or anything, I'm sure we could start up a fund. But since they're below the age of criminal responsibility it probably isn't necessary.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I know I'd riot to get an individual agreement

The Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, said claims that the new laws would spark Paris-style riots were hysterical. He even suggested that riots would occur if Australia did not embrace the laws.

"It's well known that France still has a very rigid labour market, and it's a consequence of those rigidities and the failure to bring about some flexibility in their labour market that is a major cause of what's occurring in Paris at the present time," Mr Andrews said.
From Stuff

Bits and pieces on abortion

The Abortion Supervisory Committee released its report last week. I was going to comment on it after usual round of press releases condemning women who aren't sufficiently committed to their wombs, but they didn't come.

The abortion rate went down, and I'm always very wary of celebrating that fact. At one of the meet the candidates meeting Sue Kedgley said that she believed that every abortion was a tragedy. I refuse to frame abortion as a necessary evil.

Women do feel a wide variety of different things about their individual abortions and of course whatever an individual woman fees feel is the reality for that abortion. If a woman feels relieved, then that abortion is a relief, if a woman feels distraught, then that abortion is distressing.

But in a wider context I don't care what the abortion rate is, I don't care if it's high or low. While I believe in some policies that are shown to reduce the abortion rate (eliminating poverty, education about contraceptives, and the development of better contraceptives, for example), I believe in them for their own sakes, and I'd keep on believing in them if they were shown to increase the abortion rate. To me the fact that the abortion rate went down is just that, a fact.

This is an interesting article about the way abortion is shown on American network telvision (via Feministe), or rather the fact that it's not shown:

Real women have had decades of hard-won reproductive freedom in this country, but their televised doppelg do not have the same options. Why aren't our real-world choices reflected in our pop culture landscape? If the networks can show violence against women and teen sex and rape (shows like Law and Order: SVU are propagated entirely on those topics), why can't we see the outcomes of those actions? Abortion is not a dirty word, nor is it simply a political topic. It deserves a place on TV, and not just on C-SPAN.
Now my not-so-secret-TV-boyfriend Joss Whedon has talked about trying to write a script on Roseanne where Jackie got pregnant and had an abortion, and once it got mangled through the various notes she wasn't even allowed to get pregnant. I wonder if Firefly hadn't been cancelled if he'd have gone back there - I would have loved it if he'd portrayed it in a truly matter of fact kind of a way. Although if that happened I'd probably spend even more money on stuff he's created than I already do, so maybe it's all for the best.

What I was curious about is whether it was any different in New Zealand. In particular the portrayal of abortion on Shortland St. Have their been any abortions on Shortland St, how were they portrayed? How about unplanned pregnancies. I wouldn't be surprised if things were no better here than they were in America, but don't watch enough local TV to know for sure.

Finally if you're interested in abortion I recommend reading Abortion Clinic Days, by two women who work in an abortion clinic. What I find so frustrating about the abortion debate is that abortion is part of women's experience, whatever the legal status is, and whatever moral frameworks anyone wants to throw at it. This blog shows that reality is far more important than all the philosophy class pontificating, or church moralising, you've got.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My Body is not a Computer Game

My follow-up to 16 reasons why Gareth Morgan sucks (and it was supposed to be a start, not a complete list) was going to be an equal number of reasons why the Greens 'healthy food' policy sucked.

But I hate the word 'healthy' being applied to food with something approaching a burning passion. I occured to me that if I didn't get my rage at that out of the way first then my post might be quite incoherent. So first I am going to explain why I tend to say "foods aren't unhealthy or healthy, they're nutritious, or lacking in nutrients" on a semi-regular basis.

The language around food and health is pretty common. People don't just call their own food healthy they feel perfectly entitled to comment on the health qualities of what someone else is eating. Sometimes it's intended in a sarcastic manner 'healthy breakfast', if you're eating a chocolate bar, sometimes it's supposed to be a compliment. All this usage suggests that some foods have 'health' and some lack it, and this quality is the same no matter who is eating the food, which is ridiculous. Brazil nuts are very nutritious, but they're not going to be healthy if you're allergic to them, or if you've a high selenium in-take.

The idea of food being 'healthy' reminds me of computer games, where you lose health if you get shot at or land on the spikes, and gain health when you find first aid. But instead I'm supposed to be gaining health by the broccolli I'm eating right now, but I would have lost health for the chocolate I had this morning.

Our bodies don't work like that; they're not simple input/output machines. Any food that has any nutritional value (and apart from diet soda and the like, almost all food has some nutritional value) can improve the health of a particular individual at a particular time.

Just to be 100% clear, I'm not saying that there is no relationship between what we eat and our health. I'm intolerant to milk, I know that certain foods can make me unhealthy, but that doesn't mean that those foods have some mysterious amount of unhealthy that they subtract from my body.

The effect food has on our health is a relationship between the food and the state of our body atthe time that we eat it. Health is not an intrinsic quality in any food.

So I've proved my semantic point, why do I care? Mostly because I think it's a wider reflection of our eating disordered culture. Generally people who talk about food being 'healthy' and 'unhealthy' are people who are self-conscious about calling food 'good' or 'bad', but it sustains exactly the same fucked up attitude towards food.

But more fundamentally because I think that it is part of a wider project to create a commodity called 'health'. This commodity is becoming divorced from the needs of us as people, both in terms of the actual physical bodies we live our lives in and our wider social needs.


The threatened insurgent attacks on the Australian High Commission were non-violent, but impressive. In Wellington we had maybe 200, maybe more. It was the largest cross-union protest since 1998.

The protests in Australia were phenomenal indymedia has a good summary if you want to know more.

I was disappointed that our demonstration wasn't a march. Rallies are ususally deathly boring, you supposed to listen to the mediocre speakers, but I never do, I always go round finding people I want to catch up with (or if I think of a good line using it on about half a dozen different people). In this case particularly mediocre speakers, because not one of them would like the struggle of Australian workers with the struggle New Zealand workers have. None of the scheduled speakers pointed out that the current Employment Relations Act has far more in common with the Employment Contracts Act than it does with Australia's current employment legislation.

The highlight, by far, was Don Franks (a member of the brass razoo solidarity band, who were a welcome break from the speeches). He jumped up and took the opportunity to point out that it's no good just standing in solidarity with Australia, we have to also fight for better conditions here.

The head of the Maritime Union of Australia was in New Zealand, and they're usually quite good, so I was particularly disappointed in his speech. He repeatedly mentioned Australian workers participation in wars as a reason this legislation was unjust.

If someone needed a historical basis for their claim that the proposed Labour laws are unjust (and I don't believe you do) I'd suggest this:

It is we who've done your cooking, done your cleaning, kept your rules
We gave birth to all your children and we taught them in your schools
and this
It is we who ploughed the prairies, built the cities where they trade, Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid;


If you take the political compass test one of the statements is "All authority should be questioned" and you strongly agree, strongly disagree or somewhere in between. I've taken it a couple of times, and each time I strongly agree. If anyone ever asked me why I'd talk about how important it was people use their own critical judgement and have an awareness that their interests, and the interests of those

Now I'll just point them to this case of a McDonald's Manager who imprisoned and strip searched a McDonald's worker because someone at the end of a phone line, who claimed to be a cop, told her to. The Manager then left her fiancee in charge of the worker. The worker proceeded to assault and rape the worker. Ampersand has a reasonably good summary for people who can't handle reading the whole thing.

The segment was about an incident that occurred at a McDonalds in KY. A caller phoned the shift manager, telling her that he was a police officer who needed her help in conducting an investigation of a teen employee, then on-duty, believed to have stolen a purse from a customer. The caller then made a series of instructions over about a three hour period, that led to the girl being strip searched, spanked, and humiliated. Finally, the supervisor is asked to bring her fiancé in to watch the girl, while the supervisor returns to work at the counter. The "police officer" then instructs the fiancé to have a girl perform a sex act on him, which he complies with. The girl is crying throughout this ordeal. At no point does anyone question the authenticity of the call, except for one teen worker who leaves in disgust, saying it's all BS. The security camera in the office, captured the entire assault.
While I believe that fiancee would have raped in any other situation where he was given the opportunity it's entirely possible that the manager was just following orders. If we're taught 'because I said so', then we stop asking 'why', and we must always ask why.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I have theological objections to capitalism

So today's biggest nutcase is Carl van Zijll de Jong. He owns a clothing factory in Christchurch and his employment relationships were on the exploitative and illegal side. The Employment Relations Authority found against him, and he's refusing to pay because God told him not to. But that's not even the nuttiest thing:

Thompson will continue to pursue the money his client is owed. Van Zijll de Jong said he would accept the consequences of his stance, whatever they were.

"What can they ultimately do? They can only take your possessions. They can have my material things. I'm not worried about it," he said. "It's a test to build up my character. You can never be able to build up your character if you don't go through problems."
If they can have his material things why doesn't he give the woman her fucking money - all money is is material things.

This sounds ridiculous but under other circumstances employers can claim "God told me not to" and get away with it. Under New Zealand law authorised agents of a registered trade union can enter a workplace to conduct union meeting, unless that workplae is a small workplace and the employer has an religious objection to unions.

The bretherens claim that they have a religious objection to unions because it interferes with the master servant relationship, which they believe is a Godly institution (and, of course, God made the leaders of the church the masters in this situation). This is ridiculous; the employer's beliefs should have no affect on a worker's rights.

Go listen to Checkpoint on this issue, particularly the second interview which is with Laila Harre (there's a story about how come she's now the secretary of the National Distribution Union - as one union official put it "Democracy has broken out in the union movement").

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Ideology Behind Our Maternity Policy

Over the last week or so there has been a lot of media attention directed at New Zealand's provision of Maternity care. There has been some criticism of midwives, and comments pointing out how few doctors are now available to do maternity care.

David Farrar wrote a post about the current midwife situation and he filed it under political correctness. The problem is the dominant ideology in the provision of maternity care isn't 'political correctness' (whatever the fuck that means), but neo-liberal economics.

In the mid-1990s the National Government introduced a new payment scheme for childbirth. Under this scheme each woman had to nominate a Lead Maternity Carer and there was a fixed sum available for each birth (there was more money for more complicated pregnancies). If the Lead Maternity Carer wanted to work with another professional, than this professionl's fees had to be paid out of the fixed sum available for the birth.

My sister was born at home in the late 1980s, before this system came in. My Mum had a midwife present all the time, and her doctor was there for a much shorter period of time (I don't know how they divied up the pre and post natal care). The doctor also ran a weekday practice, and my sister was born at 2.30 in the morning - so I'm not quite sure how GPs who did maternity care balanced all that out then.

This explains why most GPs no longer do maternity care. If a similar situation was going to happen now the doctor would have to pay for the midwife out of the fixed sum of money available for the birth. The new system meant that it was no longer worth it for GPs to do maternity care. They weren't driven out by anything but cost saving economics.

Government subsidies at a fixed price is part of the neo-liberal plan for our health system (and other areas of public services as well). On one level it is simply a cost-saving plan, as it fixes the costs the government will be liable per birth. But it also part of a larger trend towards commodification and privatisation of the health service. Firstly this plan created a gap, care by a doctor during maternity that could be filled by private health providers. Secondly a fixed price, rather than meeting the costs, the state began the process of turning maternity care into a commodity, as opposed to a service.

It is true that the change in the funding structure happend at the same time as the status of midwives changed, but that wasn't a necessary connection.

16 reasons Gareth Morgan sucks...

...and why all neo-liberal economists should be kept well away from our health system (I know it's too late).

In yesterday's Dominion Post Gareth Morgan explained how the government could use rational incentives to lower the cost of a public health service. For example, he suggested that anyone whose Body Mass Index was below a certain level should get a tax break. Here are some of the, many reasons that's a bad idea:

1. It's racist, Maori and Pacific Islanders tend to have a higher BMI.
2. Poor people also tend to have a higher BMI.
3. It's basically offering a tax cut to the rich and white.
4. Although it's 'common knowledge' that overweight people have more health problems, the scientific evidence for this knowledge is pretty thin on the ground, and even where there may be correlation that doesn't prove causation. If he doesn't pay the slightest bit of interest to the scientific evidence for his claims then we really shouldn't pay any attention to his proposals
5. He's basically arguing that there isn't enough incentive for people to live a lifestyle that lessens the risk of ill-health, because when they get sick they don't face huge medical costs - I would think not being in pain would be a good beginning incentive.
6. He implies that what we really need is a more privatised health system, but that governments are too cowardly to do it - because a privatised health system works so well in the United States.
7. He calls his approach the carrot rather than the stick, but it is still based on paying more tax if you're over a certain weight, which sounds pretty stick like to me.
8. There is no evidence that bodyfat is an independant risk factor for ill-health (independent of activity, diet, poverty etc.). If you were actually going to address so-called 'lifestyle' issues you could start by asking what would increase activity and nutritious food.
9. I don't think it's tax, although if they wanted to take the GST off food that'd be a start.
10. If the government wanted to ensure that people were more active more there are a number of things they could do: provide free exercise facilities, offer free public transport, and most importantly legislate for a shorter working week (I actually like the tone of the Push Play campaign, but it doesn't address any of the structural reasons people don't exercise, starting with the fact that exercise has become a commodity).
11. If the government wanted to ensure that people ate nutritious food then they could start by eliminating poverty - actually that'd probably be enough.
12. Having a low BMI is as strongly linked to health problems as having a high one (ie not very), should we tax those with a lower BMI as well?
13. In the last paragraph he makes his aim clear - the introduction of user pays throughout the health system. Which is fine for him, because he's a user who could pay.
14. "All adults at least are either taxpayers or benefit recipients" - you pay tax on your benefit - all beneficiaries are tax-payers.
15. He wants people to take 'responsibility' for their health, as if these are individual choices made completely separately from the social context we live in.
16. For example poverty is quite a big indicator of an increase in health problems (although whether that means higher health costs depends on whether poor people have equal access to our health system), does he really believe it is poor people's responsibility that they are poor?

Like Howard Morrison's comments about Rosita Vai, Gareth Morgan's fat tax shows that the current anti-fat hysteria is actually just another way of attacking the poor and brown.

In 1649 to St George's Hill...

Amanda has an excellent post on why glorifying the middle ages is more than a bit creepy:

I will say that teaching kids the "virtues" of knighthood is a wicked past time, no matter how you slice it. That's basically like teaching kids the virtues of vampirism. Teaching kids the virtues of being in the mob would be more morally sound, because while the mob runs a protection racket just like the lords of feudal times, they don't lower themselves to telling everyone they were appointed by god and that their criminality is actually holy. That's got to count for something.
I think challenging idealised views of the past is really important, both because I value history, but also because I think the past is usually idealised in an attempt to say something about the present. The only past that can be useful to the present is the past that actually happened.

But my favourite bit was one of the comments who said:
I've always harbored a fantasy of getting a bunch of friends together to go to the Renaissance Faire in the character of Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers. We'd take our rude farming tools and start cultivating a reclaimed "commons" in front of the leather mug booth.
Now I want someone to do Rennaisance Faire in New Zealand, or some similar event, I would be so into being a digger.

He Obviously Watches Fox News

Bill McCormick is the new US ambassador to New Zealand. He owns a bunch of restaurants, and he also donated to the campaigns of both Bush Senior and Bush Junior. Which explains more about his appointment to ambassador than his grasp on current affairs:

The restaurant tycoon appointed by George W. Bush brushed aside the fact that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq since the invasion began and yesterday declared of Saddam Hussein: "Every intelligence network knew this fellow had weapons of mass destruction."
No, no they didn't. You also don't just magic away weapons of mass destruction.

Although I always thought there was a sort of catch 22 situation with those unfound weapons:

1. If America thought Iraq actually had weapons of mass destruction then they wouldn't have invaded, because then Iraq would have used those weapons (see Korea, North).

2. If America didn't think Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction then they would have planted some to justify invading the country.

So when they didn't find any weapons of mass destruction I thought America must have really thought those WMD existed, but if they thought they existed then why did they invade?

Belated Saturday Advice Blogging: Accessories Edition

It's time to revive my advice blogging, because the glory of 1950s and 1960s advice is not something I should keep to myself. Now next week I will find something amusing from Towards Tomorrow: A Guide for the New Zealand Homemaker which was published in 1969 and is fantastic. But first New Zealand school text books no longer teach girls how to accessorise to best emphasise their figures. The American 'Teen Guide to Homemaking' rectifies this, and I thought it was important information to share.

Selecting Accessories If You Are Average Size

  • Choose accessories you like and with which you feel comfortable
  • Avoid wearing too many accessories at the same time. If you are wearing a hat, glasses, earrings, necklace, a dress with special trimmings, fancy bag, gloves, bracelet and dressy shoes, you are probably overdressed, especially if the acccessories contrast in color.
  • Choose accessories that are in good taste, suited to the occasion and suited to you.
If I wore a hat, glasses, earrings, necklace, a dress with special trimmings, fancy bag, gloves, bracelet, and dressy shoes then I'd be exhaused. Even if I didn't have to figure out what matched and what contrasted. Apart from that poor average sized girls get no advice except - 'don't be too flashy, you're not that exciting, but you can wear something if you like it.'

Selecting Accessories If You Are Tall and Thin
  • Choose contrasting accessories, rather than those that match your basic dress or suit.
  • Choose bold, striking jewelry
  • Choose wide belts in contrast to your outfit.
  • Choose big hats or "different," unusual ones.
  • Choose full skirts and bulky sweaters.
  • If you wish, wear low heels, but remember that high heels will add to your charm and poise
See how we get short-changed in education today; I never got told how to add to my charm and poise, who knew shoes were the answer? I'm glad I'm not tall and thin - it seems like a lot of work to find all this striking unusual contrasting stuff.

Selecting Accessories If You Are Tall and Plump
  • Choose accessories that are large in scale - large bags, hats, and belts that do not contrast with the basic jewlry
  • Choose plain but unusual jewlrey
  • Wear sweaters that fit well but are not tight.
  • Wear skirts that flare moderately, and never wear tight-fitting ones
. So the basic idea is try and hide your body, without making yourself any more hideous by wearing bulky clothes. I love the idea that if you have a big bag people won't figure out you're fat, because you'll be all in scale.

Free Trade and Tonga

The recent strike in Tonga was a testament to exactly how much power collective action can have. But unfortunately it's not all hugs and puppies after that. SNAP has a very important article about New Zealand sponsoring Tonga's entry to the WTO. Current WTO negotiations aren't just about cars and milk powder, but are focusing on services, including government services (which can only become free trade if they're commodified and privatised). All the gains the Tongan workers have won could disappear if their jobs were privatised.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Armistice Day

World War One ended 87 years ago today. The only way to honour the dead would have been to make sure it never happened again. Instead those who send more soldiers to more wars wear poppies, and erect tombs to unknown soldiers.

Last year Vincent O'Sullivan was comissioned to write a poem about World War One here's the first verse:

The figure at the paddock’s edge,
The shadow in the football team,
The memory beside the hedge,
The notes behind a song that seem
Another song, a different dream –
The past we harvest that was yours,
The present that you gave for ours.
Which is a compelling argument against state funding of the arts if ever I saw one.

It perpetuates the greatest, and most dangerous, myth of World War One: that there was any purpose to that four year long blood-bath.

The boys who were sent to war didn't make a sacrifice, which implies they died for something. They were sacrificed.

As Crazy as the Sun

Until I went to Britain I thought that Steve Bell was exaggerating in his drawings of Tony Blair. Then I saw him on television a bit and realised that Tony Blair actually took the word maniacal to a whole new level.

Well the thought that someone might possibly disagree with the word of God obviously brings out the worst in him:

Not In His Name

This was the front page of the Sun after the British Anti-Terrorism legislation was defeated. The man pictured is John Tulloch, and he was seriously injured in the July Tube bombings. His views are slightly different from the Sun's:

This is using my image to push through draconian and utterly unnecessary terrorism legislation. Its incredibly ironic that the Sun's rhetoric is as the voice of the people yet they don't actually ask the people involved, the victims, what they think. If you want to use my image, the words coming out of my mouth would be, 'Not in my name, Tony'. I haven't read anything or seen anything in the past few months to convince me these laws are necessary.
But what do his opinions matter, it's only his photo.

From Lenin's Tomb (that's a blog called Lenin's Tomb - not his actual tomb).

Bits and Pieces

No Feminist of the day today as I've already written about Abigail Adams in my special First Lady bonanza a few weeks back.

The South Auckland man I wrote about a week ago was awarded $10,000. Now the police officers will know that kicking people in the balls is not considered reasonable force. I can see how these things might need to be cleared up - if you're a group of thugs.

As well as seeing Serenity I saw the trailers for Narnia and King Kong last night. I'm vaguely hoping that King Kong fails because the way Peter Jackson acts like employment laws are for other people makes me angry. But I'm terribly excited about The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (Andrew Adamson probably has exactly the same attitude, but I haven't heard about it yet). It looks fantastic, and I didn't find a significant change from the book in the trailer (this is actually quite significant, I was more than a little obsessed with these books as a small girl, and it wouldn't take much for me to say "what's wrong with this movie, they're not supposed to be eating bacon in this scene, they're supposed to be eating Fish").

If I had children I'd feel quite uncomfortable about them reading the Narnia books by themselves. They're sexist, racist, and the religious subtext rapidly becomes text. But I loved them as a child, and can't wait to go see the movie (I'm not even going to try and find a random young person to use an excuse to go).

You can't take the sky from me

If you didn't know what the subject of this post was going to be from the title then you are probably too cool to read my blog.

Serenity opened today and so I went to see it; I'm a Joss Whedon fangirl (I know it's shocking that a feminist blogger could possibly be into something like that - but there you go).

I was a little bit anxious before I went into it. I wanted it to be good, but I wasn't sure it was going to be. I was never a huge fan of Firefly - I liked the concept, but the execution was often a bit rocky. I loved some of the characters & relationships (Kaylee, Wash & Zoe, Simon & River, Jayne), and hated some others (Book, Mal & Inara, Simon & Kaylee).

Well I should never have doubted Joss - it fucking rocked. You should go see it now. I don't care if you haven't seen Firefly, go see it anyway. It looks fantastic, the dialogue is great in a very Jossian way, the plot is compelling, the characters are all as interesting, or more so than they were in the series, and the acting is amazing.

There is something about being a Joss Whedon fan that makes you kind of evangelical. I'm not sure why, but I'm sorry if it's scaring you.

That's the general review, I do have some specific comments. I was quite heavily spoiled for the movie (I'm really bad at not being spoiled - I considered myself unspoiled for the final episode of Buffy when I knew who died, and all about the magic scythe power-sharing thing), but if you like being surprised (a feeling I don't really understand), then read no further.

I think the real strength of the movie was the richness that comes from having 9 core characters. It meant there was always so much going on, because they had the ability to show different reactions and different views.

I think it was Kaylee that made this most clear. About twenty minutes in I started to get worried that they were under using Kaylee, particularly as I knew she didn't play a huge role in the plot. But she does get used, because her viewpoint is always there, for every event (Jewel Saitie was excellent).

I thought both the new characters were awful. The movie needed some plot devices, but the way you hide the fact that people are plot devices is you make them into normal people - you should try to avoid using them to make philosophical points.

They made me like Kaylee and Simon! I always found that relationship annoying, because the only reason I could see that Kaylee was so into Simon was because he was male. Which is fine - her options were rather limited and she's well into sex, but then why did it take so long, and why should I care? But because he gave a reason why he hadn't seemed that into Kaylee, and because there was the great Joss undercut it worked for me.

I think I've come a little bit used to Joss's writing though. During the fight with The Operative at Inara's, I kept on thinking to myself "why isn't Inara doing anything?" "Come on Joss you have to get Inara to save the day in this scene" "see she could have clobbered him right then". I knew what Joss would do with the scene, and he kept on holding out and not doing it. I wonder if he was playing with us.

What is it with sci-fi geeks and fan shafts? Really having the climactic scene in a fan shaft was completely unnecessary, in fact it was stupid.

I came home and I wanted to rewatch the pilot and found I've lost my first Firefly DVD (I know I said I wasn't that big a fan, but I'm really into Joss's commentaries, and would buy most things if they came with a Joss commentary. Joss's commentary on Innocence is the all time greatest commentary in the (somewhat short) history of DVDs). I'm really worried by this because my flat is tidy, which means it may be actually lost, rather than just under something. I'm going to turn the place upside down tomorrow to find it. I have to lend it to people to persuade them to go to the movie.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Amedlia Bloomer: Feminist of the Day?

Amelia Jenks Bloomer
Activist for change in women's clothing
"It will not do to say that it is out of woman's sphere to assist in making laws, for if that were so, then it should be also out of her sphere to submit to them."

We have another Quaker and another 19th Century American Feminist. This one is most famous for having an item of clothing named after her, which is pretty cool even if it was a particularly ugly one. She continued to wear the alternative even thoughother feminists had given it up, because it got them laughed at too much.

Dress reform was obviously a very worthwhile cause - particularly if you like breathing and therefore prefer not to wear corsets. I sit here in jeans, a t-shirt and a cardigan and it's fantastic. The amount of clothing I'm wearing cannot be measured in pounds and my body is not bound in place by any of my clothes (well possibly my bra - but it doesn't restrict my ability to move in any way - in fact the opposite). But I also wonder about working class women's clothing - I know they wouldn't have worn corsets (because they required you to be dressed by someone else), but those clothes were heavy. How did women sew, work on farms, and care for children under that much fabric?

It's a combination of economic, technological, and social changes that mean we don't wear those clothes now. The T-shirt I'm wearing has some post-war stretchy stuff in it (which is why it is probably tight enough to send AJ Chesswass into a frenzy - but I think the slogan on it would upset in more, as it asserts women's independance) and it was made in China. But the social changes came about partly because women (and men) chose to fight the restrictions on women's clothing.

Conclusion: If she's just 1000th of the reason that I can now wear jeans then she has my eternal gratitude.

Couple of links

One is a Guardian article from my friend Suse. A western journalist managed to find some people who were rioting, and then let them speak for themselves - I know it's shocking.

Sylla summed it up. "We burn because it's the only way to make ourselves heard, because it's solidarity with the rest of the non-citizens in this country, with this whole underclass. Because it feels good to do something with your rage," he said.

"The guys whose cars get torched, they understand. OK, sometimes they do. We have to do this. Our parents, they should understand. They did nothing, they suffered in silence. We don't have a choice. We're sinking in shit, and France is standing on our heads. One way or another we're heading for prison. It might as well be for actually doing something."
The other is from Ampersand, written by an American who had lived France for 10 years. He gives the economic background over the last fifty years or so:

If France's population of immigrant origin -- mostly Arab, some black -- is today quite large (more than 10% of the total population), it is because there was a government and industrial policy during the post-World War II boom years of reconstruction and economic expansion which the French call "les trentes glorieuses" -- the 30 glorious years -- to recruit from France's foreign colonies laborers and factory and menial workers for jobs which there were no Frenchmen to fill. These immigrant workers, primarily from North Africa, were desperately needed to allow the French economy to expand due to the shortage of male manpower caused by two World Wars, which killed many Frenchmen, and slashed the native French birth-rates too.

Moreover, these immigrant workers (especially Moroccans, particularly favored in the auto industry) were favored by industrial employers as passive and unlikely to strike (in sharp contrast to the highly political Continental French working class and its militant, largely Communist-led unions) and cheaper to hire. In some industries, for this reason, literacy was a disqualification -- because an Arab worker who could read could educate himself about politics and become more susceptible to organization into a union.
Unfortunately I don't speak French but this looks good, if you do.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Anne Frank: Feminist of the Day:

Anne Frank
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."

It has been years since I read Anne Frank's diary. I cried, of course, but I think some of its power came not just its exoticness, but from its familiarity. She writes about growing up, and the relationships with her family, just in very unusual circumstances.

Unfortunately I only ever had the first version, the one that had been published by her father (I think her sexuality was the area that was most heavily edited). She'd recognised her diary as a worthwhile piece of writing while she was still in hiding and started re-writing it. You can get copies that compare what she'd originally wrote, with the bits that were rewritten.

Now it may look like I'm contradicting what I said yesterday, but I'd classify Anne Frank as a feminist. Now she didn't identify as a feminist, and unfortuantely her life didn't leave her many opportunities to join together with other women to improve their lives.

But I believe that women telling the truth about themselves is a vital part of feminism. Which is why I think women who write honestly about their lives are always performing a feminist act even if they don't see it that way.

Conclusion: I've no idea who she would have been, but her diary tells her life as it was, and to me that's feminist.

Reading Comprehension

To see a hilarious tale of much stupidity start with Random Contributionz and this post:

Apparently Australians face a major terror threat and intelligence suggests the 15th of November may be a significant date. Authorities have taken certain steps and apparently will encounter fierce resistance from what are reported to be insurgent nationals. More...

In New Zealand, it is understood that the Australian Consulate-General in Auckland and the High Commission in Wellington will be under threat as well on this day. NZ Police have been warned and are taking this threat seriously, with police presence expected to be high around these places in the period around the 15th.
If you didn't know that August 15 was the Australian National Day of Action against the new Industrial Relation Laws and that New Zealand had organised solidarity demos outside the High Commission and Consolute General then Mellie helpfully provided links so you'd have the necessary context to understand the post.

David Farrar linked to the story with the following comment:
Random Contributionz blogs that 15 November is the date when Australia may face a significant terrorist attack. The Australian High Commission in Wellington is listed as one place under threat.

As the next door neighbour of the High Commission, I will be rather pleased if there is no attack. However on a totally selfish front it does partially block my view :-)
I'm not sure whether David Farrar was trying to be funny, or whether he is such a moron that he'd believe anything written about a terrorist attack on any blog. Some of his commenters, on the other hand, clearly don't have the sense God gave a turnip.

The New Zealand Herald showed all the scepticism and intelligent that you'd expect from mainstream media:

NZ's terrorist alert remained low yesterday - below Australia's medium risk warning - despite the arrests across the Tasman.

However, an anonymous internet claim that there is a threat to the Australian High Commission in Wellington next Tuesday is not being dismissed, although its authenticity can not be judged.
You should always be suspicious of people who write in the passive tense. I can judge the authenticity of the threat on Random Contributionz blog. I would suggest that this isn't a particularly rare skill, but facts seem to be suggesting otherwise.

Now if that wasn't enough a mainstream Melbourne newspaper joined in on the fun:

A claim of an anonymous "threat" against Australian diplomatic posts in Wellington and Auckland this month appears to be linked to protests against Australia's new industrial relations reforms.
I hope when I use my sarcastic voice I get international news coverage.

Edited to add the Herald stuff

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Marie Curie: Feminist of Yesterday?

I was having too many computer problems to post last night, but since I've already written about Denise Levertov I thought I'd write about Marie Curie today.

Marie Curie
Two Nobel Prizes in the area of physics and chemistry, 15 gold medals,
"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained."

Marie Curie didn't identify as a feminist, she never organised as a feminist. She focused her life on chemistry, and poisoning herself. She was a brilliant chemist, won the Nobel Prize twice, I'm not disputing any of that. I just don't think that makes her a feminist.

Feminism is a necessary prerequisite for individual women to 'achieve', but that achievement is an effect, not the goal, of the feminist struggle. To quote Barbara Ehrenreich in a slightly:
Feminism is not a particular lifestyle, defined by having your own job and checking account, for example. It is a moral stance and one that has always valued the stay-at-home mothers just as much as the corporate strivers.
There's nothing wrong with being a Nobel-prize winning chemist, but its no more feminist than looking after your children.

Conclusion: Nothing against her, but not a feminist.

Two more thoughts about riots

Modern rioting appears to be a gendered phenomena (if I recall my early modern history right, women participated in the bread and grain riots). It does make me wonder, where are the sisters of the rioters? They're living the same lives, suffering from the same racism, and poverty, while being paid less, and doing more unpaid work (although I think also more likely to have paid employment). Is it the exhaustion of the double shift? Is it the responsibilities women have? Or is not safe for women to go out, even to burn cars?

David Farrar imagined the reaction would have been different if the riots happened in America, I thought I'd oblige by comparing my reaction to the riots in Paris to some hypothetical riots in America.

I imagine there would be several dozen commentators all saying that this shows how deeply flawed, repressive and racist the US is.
The riots show how deeply flawed, repressive and racist France is.

Have I missed anything? Oh yes, don't forget how it would all be Bush's fault again.
I wouldn't think the riots were Bush's fault (anymore than I think they're Chirac's fault). Capitalism isn't individual leaders 'fault'. But I am convinced that Bush would act like a complete fuckwit, and make things worse for all involved, probably in some kind of incompetent way.

Paris Burning

I've been meaning to write about the riots in France for nearly a week, but I keep putting it off. Writing comes more easily when I'm able to mock with righteous indignation than when anger is combined with uncertainty.

My anger is for those with power in France. From the cops who chased those two young boys, to Chirac. Racism and poverty created these riots, but state violence is the only solution they've got.

I'm impressed with the ability of angry young men to organise themselves (and not at all surprised that they're using cellphones, the revolution may not be televised, but it'll probably be texted).

There's a lot of rage. Through this burning, they're saying, 'I exist; I'm here'.
That's the reason for my uncertainty. Whether it's burning cars in poor areas, or setting fire to a bus, the targets are all wrong. I understand their anger, but unless that anger is directed towards those with power, then it can only ever proclaim the existance of someone with a molotov cocktail.

Monday, November 07, 2005

From the courts

I spent a lot of time listening to National Radio today (my car only has an AM radio and I was driving most of the day), so I'm all up on the latest court reports and two of the cases are worth following.

The first was a Hamilton woman who is charged with poisoning her husband with 50 sleeping pills 17 years ago. She appears to admit to the act: "the accused told police Mr Roycroft used to beat her and her children, and she just snapped."

I don't know what defence she will be using, but this case could, again, demonstrate the sexist nature of the New Zealand legal system. The difference between murder and manslaughter is premeditation. This means that if you're stronger than the person you're killed you're much more likely to get convicted for manslaughter rather than murder (because you can kill them without using a weapon). There was a case about 15 years ago (unfortunately I can't remember the woman's name, but I'm sure somebody else will) where a woman was convicted for murdering her husband, when her defence was that she was generally afraid for her life. At about the same time a man got convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter, because he was angry that his female partner had hidden his drugs.

The other case was a man who is suing four South Auckland cops. When they arrested him they assaulted him so severely that he lost his testicle. He was later charged with some bullshit disorderly/obstruction charge, and also resisting arrested. He was convicted for the first charge but not the second.

Unfortuantely even if he succeeds (and he better win), this will be treated as 'a few bad apples', not as a systematic culture of abuse and power, let alone as the violence necessary to maintain our current political and economic system.