Thursday, August 03, 2006

Right to choose

A New Zealand Idol contestant has been kicked off the show for being pregnant:

"The decision was not taken lightly but the producers and the network feel that it is the responsible thing to do," a spokeswoman for the show's producers, South Pacific Pictures, said. "NZ Idol can be an intense experience and we do not wish to cause undue stress to Georgina and her unborn child."
This is patently ridiculous. Women have been pregnant and given birth under far more stressful conditions than those required in New Zealand Idol. The idea that the producers of a television show have a better idea what the best conditions for a pregnant woman would be, rather than a woman herself and doctors if necessary, is absurd. I also find the idea that other people should make choices about women do about their lives, just because that woman is pregnant really offensive.

But I actually have another, more fundamental concern, with this attitude. To me the right to choose also includes the ability to choose to continue a pregnancy and give birth to a baby. Anika Moa talks about being put under huge amounts of pressure to abort her pregnancy when she was 19, and just starting out in the industry - a decision she regrets now.

Public life is set up with the assumption that people participating won't have primary responsibility for childcare. This is incredibly anti-woman and extremely restrictive for women who do have children. A huge part of what I'm fighting for, as a feminist, is ending the notion of a 'private sphere' the idea that child-rearing is an individuals (usually a woman's) primary responsiblity, and that you have to choose between that role and any other role that you want to take.


  1. I was practically puking when I read that article in yesterday's paper. How dare those paternalistic idiots decide they know what's best for Georgina? Isn't that shit supposed to be illegal or something? Wankers.

  2. Anonymous10:23 am

    So if she continued and due to the stress of the process of Idol, or hell just by random chance, she had a problem with her pregnancy and lost the baby, would you then be baying for the blood of the producers for putting her through that risk? or would you assume its her call and she took the risk knowingly, yeah personal responsibility is really likely with you lot.

    It would be trial by whiny blog and condemming the evil men who run idol for not protecting her.

    it won;t be the producers, it will be their insurers who have made the call. how bad would it look for the production company and what effect could it have on the show if she lost the baby during the show, or even got ill and had to quit due to the pressure? The liability that the company could be up for is huge.

    The risk on the company is not worth it, considering the money they make off idol.

    Depending how far along she is, will her singing voice be as good? the baby pushes things around to make room, and i know women who have been short of breath alot during pregnancy, singing requires good use of your lungs, so the odds of her doing well anyway could be lower. this could be the best thing for her.

    notice how you completely fail to mention she has been given a 'golden ticket' to the top 18 of a future series of idol if she wants to use it. the only risk to her then is that there will not be another series.

    now she can spend the next year practicing her singing so she is more prepared for the top 18.

    this has nothing to do with policitics, feminism or any other ism, its purely commercial, it makes sense from a liability poitn of view, and she has been compensated in teh best way possible.

    hell she will do better now, as she is almost gauranteed a womens mag cover and article, and all the 15minutes that comes with that. plus she gets to have another article when she gets ready for the next idol, and goes in alread known as a proto celebrity.

    its the choice of any person to take their own risks, same as it is the choice of any company not to allow you to risk them by having you in _THEIR_ competition. its not like idol is a right.

    lighten up.

  3. Mike if it's a commercial decision they should say 'this is a commercial decision' not witter on about the health of

    Al your ranting against a straw feminist is really ridiculous. I have never complained about anyone 'letting' a woman take risks during pregnancy.

  4. Mike: "Sex, which includes pregnancy and childbirth", is the very first item on the Human Rights Act's list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. As for causes of action, the act defines "employer" to include a person for whom work is done by an unpaid worker. She might be covered by this (she's expected to go on the show and sing so they can make money - looks like unpaid work to me), and I'd encourage her to get the HRC to take a look at the case - if only to discourage companies from engaging in such outright discrimination in the future.

  5. I think you will find that the contestants signed away their lives when they singned up for idol & the production company needs the flexibility to be able to do what they want. This is one of the more unpleasent aspects of show biz the industry chews people up and spits them out. Remember that the contestants are wannabe celebs & any celeb will tell you that they are a "brand or a product" unfortunately the down side of being a product is that you get used....but if you make it bit time the rewards can be unbelieavable...but nothing in life is free if you want to make it big it costs you...thats show biz folks....

  6. Bond: almost certainly; but at the same time, you can't contract out of your right not to be discriminated against, no matter what any contract says - and any effort to do so is itself highly dubious.

  7. I agree that you cant contract out of the law or your rights. However the contestants are not employees, they are entering a contest for a prize, they waive any rights to royalties etc in exchange for a chance to make it big, another condition is that the judges decisioin is final and no correspondence is entered into. However this does not make it right to exclude her because she is pregnant, just as its not right for us to judge pop singers & movie stars on ther looks rather that their talent... but it happens...the better looking someone is the more shit they can get away with

  8. It is a bit like you buying a lotto ticket and being told that lotto has just made the ticket void.

    So I think in itself it is unfair and she is due compensation - also pregnancy is not grounds for kicking her out - BUT I also think there must be the potential for them to make the decision on health grounds without compensation because otherwise people with severe diseases could make millions applying to ridiculous game shows and those shows having to reject them and compensate them.

    The bottom line I guess is that a doctor could make that decision but the show shouldn’t.

  9. Anonymous4:14 am

    Maia, just a general question for you (and thanks for starting this discussion - I got here from NRT):

    First, the Law. There's just the general point that discrimination etc. only kicks in among the qualified. If something that's on the discrimination shit-list is *a genuine occupational qualification* for your job then you aren't even in the pool of people who can be discriminated against for a prohibited reason. (No "contracting out" required!) This point is buried right at the beginning of S 22 of the HRA and gets picked up in a little more detail in S 27 for some other purposes ("authenticity").

    As I understand it this is the (sort of) point that allows you anywhere in the world to fire actresses from leading parts, toss olympic gymnasts off teams, bounce people off Space Shuttles, and so on (not-being-seriously-pregnant is a qualification and getting pregnant is then treated like getting injured/mutilated!). If it came to a court tussle... I think _Idol_ should be able to get off on this point - I don't know the case law but my general sense is that entertainment industries are given simply tons of leeway on this front....

    Now, Maia, my actual question/line of questioning: At least some of your remarks about paternalism, rights-to-choose-to-keep-baby etc. would seem to be quite general... they would apply *even in cases* when not-being-seriously-pregnant was a genuine occupational qualification (just as being female is in some of the cases described). Do you deny that there are/can/should be such cases? Does thinking about the other person who'll be able to take your place and do the job better than you (so if you stay on someone else doesn't get their more realistic shot at Olympic glory etc.) help at all? Isn't bumping you to next year's shuttle/show a pretty decent resolution (al's point)?

    BTW, I checked the Aussie Netball decision (thanks Trouble) and, the netball association there didn't try a "genuine occupational qualification" line and instead asserted its exemption from anti-discrimination law on the grounds of its status as a voluntary association (so general freedom of assembly stuff basically). This was a *Bad move* given that the plaintiff apparently wasn't a member of the association, so the whole exemption case then boiled down to the Netball Assoc. trying to get the court to agree that the voluntary association exemption also extends to non-members of the association! (Comedy defence lawyering?) The court understandably didn't have a bar of that garbage and took a particularly dim view of the suggestion that it should be expected to invent a new category of non-members who are "de facto members" of the association..... So the player won the case handily.

  10. I think there would be very few situations where 'pregnancy' would be a genuine disqualification, because women experience pregnancy so differently. I think a woman is the only person who can make a judgement about potential health risks.

    There may be situations, like extreme morning sickness, where the actual side-effects of a particular pregnancy would be genuine disqualifications if they would leave someone unable to do the job. Although obviously most of those situations would be leave situations, rather than firing (NZ Idol would be an exception to that, because by the time you had recovered the show would be over).

  11. Anonymous10:19 am

    I think a woman is the only person who can make a judgement about potential health risks.

    So no male doctor could ever decide this simply by not being a woman? i thought i had heard your stupidest comment already but this has to be a new number 1!

    there are people out there way more qualified than me or you to determine the health risks or not, regardless of the persons sex (yay equality).

    Grow up, they made a commercial decision that they have the right to make, have given her compensation (that they have no obligation to offer), thats the end of it.

    trying to make some feminist issue out of nothing is very very sad.

  12. Al you missed my point - the pregnant woman is the only person who can make a decision - I don't think a female doctor is any more qualified than a male doctor to make a decision about acceptable health risks for someone else.

    I actually would have much less of a problem with this if they'd been honest about it being a commercial decision and not dressed it up as a health concern.

  13. Maia,
    in your eyes, would "but she wanted to do it" be sufficient defence for NZIdol if they caused a mother to miscarry their baby? (let's say by requiring contestants to perform some stunt).

    Sounds a bit like cigarette companies.

  14. Genius - I've already said several times that I think it's up to the pregnant woman to decide about acceptable risks.

    I think you're displaying your complete ignorance about how pregnancy works. Things that are dangerous for pregnant women are generally dangerous for people (with a few exceptions, most of which have to do with food and drugs - which are presumbly not part of the idol exceptions).

  15. Anonymous9:55 am

    Wow! I hadn't heard about this -- are you kidding me!? Was any legal action taken? You so can't do that -- you're right -- totally up to the person whether she wants to stay or not. Could be dangerous though -- you know, all those "impressionable" teens who watch the show may look up to her and go right out and get pregnant themselves. Haha. Ridiculous!

  16. Bottom line people - the producers can do what they want - It is their show they own it. When you sign on for a show like this you agree to do, or be, what the producers want.

    With Idol the producers want a popstar who can sell CDs for the next year, until the '07 series.

    There are two issues here, 1) A woman cannot usually be sacked for being pregnant, although it under some circumstances it could be a legitmate reason not to employ a job applicant. 2) This is a TV programme, the producers will have a script of how the show runs & hopefully the winner will go on to sell lots of CDs & play at lots of concerts and make everyone lots of money before the next show in 2007. Unfortunately a pregnent winner will not be able to do all of this, It would be very hard for an established artist to work through a pregnancy and the first few months of looking after a new born baby while recording a CD or several CDs promoting the CD, touring, concerts, etc.

    Think of this show as a form of job selection, and the winner gets the job of being a pop star for the next 12 months.

    The shows producers have done her a favour, if there is another show next year she will go directly into the final 18 or 20 contestants with a chance of going all the way. The other option would have been to simply eliminate her before the final ten contestants.

    The producers are going to select the person who can best do the job over the next 12 months. Just imagine in the next idol flops like the previous two there might not be another NZ idol...we may be forced to watch another crappy reality programme or even worse...we may be forced to watch quality drama!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Anonymous11:31 pm

    So narrow minded you could balance theirs brains on a razor.