Thursday, March 27, 2008

Zoom out

Josie Bullock was working as a probation officer in a Maori-focused anti-violence programme. During the poroporoaki, she was asked to follow tikanga and sit behind the men. She refused to do so, and was given a formal warning for unprofessional conduct. She spoke about the incident to the media and was then dismissed.

Her case has come up for another round of media commentary, because the human rights tribunal has just found that she was discriminated against, and the warning was invalid, but offered no compensation.*

The media have quite loved this case, it's got many airings on Nine to Noon. Media and legal commentators get excited as discussing this as a case of conflicting rights, and attempting to cast the rights of Maori (who are invariably men) with the rights of women (who are equally invariably white).

There are other ways we could look at what happened. We could start with the prison system, where the programme was being run. A system that imprisons Maori at a rate far higher than Pakeha. Maori make up an even higher percentage of remand prisoners than they do sentenced prisoners, which shows that Maori are refused bail at a higher rate than Pakeha.

We could look at the women who support the men inside the prison system. We could look at how their work is rendered impossible and invisible. We could look at the effect that imprisonment has on those left outside.

We could look at the ways in which society condones and supports men's power over women, and men's violence against women.

For me, that means my starting point is that I'm fighting for a world without prisons, and without abusive men.

The effect of the media's narrow focus in cases like this, is to imply that there's a scarcity of rights and that if you want your rights you may need to trample over other people's.

It's vital that those of us who want more, those who are fighting for liberation rather than rights, reject this idea. Colonialism and misogyny are interlocking systems. We won't be able to dismantle one while the other remains in tact (and won't be able to dismantle either while capitalism is sitting there).

* This was a cowardly piece of shit ruling from the human rights commission. To state that an unfair warning wasn't the reason for dismissal, but the way someone dealt with the unfair warning was, is bosses nonsense, and shows the limits of legal redress.


  1. Good post - really interesting - thanks

  2. Anonymous3:53 pm

    "For me, that means my starting point is that I'm fighting for a world without prisons, and without abusive men."

    Are you also fighting for a world where maori customs are respected?

  3. Anonymous - I am fighting for a world with indigenous self-determination. In New Zealand that means supporting Tino Rangatiratanga, and Mana Motuhake.

    I don't think I am fighting for a world where customs are respected, because neither respect nor customs are political concepts that are important to me. My belief in self-determination means that I don't get a say on Maori culture and society.

    But I don't think there should be Poroporoaki in prisons at the end of programmes to rehabilitate abusive men. Because I'm about ending prisons and abuse.

  4. Anonymous3:47 pm

    Maia - How will you end the need for prisons? what will happen to serial rapists, and other violent people who are so bad they are jailed indefinitely? What can be done to prevent these form committing violent crime?

  5. What does this have to do with capitalism?