Friday, June 20, 2008

Women? Not the winner on the day

I'm don't follow rugby; I'm not an All Black supporter. I understand that there are pressing issues facing those who are, such as the rotation policy (hell I'm impressed that I know what that means). But, right now, there is a more pressing issue. This is the statement that Graham Henry gave about the English Rugby team:*

I don't know what the details are, but I know there's a bit going on. You don't want any sporting team to be going through those situations. You live in that sort of life yourselves – in the international sporting environment. I think you've got a lot of sympathy for people who go through that situation. Certainly you just like to be supportive.
Who is he supporting? What is the situation?

There are two ways to parse his statement. Either he's saying that there's not possibility that the woman was raped, and being accused of rape is part of the international sporting environment. Or he's allowing for the possibility of rape, but he's supporting them anyway.

Neither of those options should be acceptable. That the coach of the All Blacks can say this, and no-one mentions anything except about the match tomorrow night, shows just how far we haven't come. As Anna McM says, rugby culture in our society has a large role in upholding rape culture. The question I have, particularly for those who play or watch rugby, is how do we change that?

Note for the comments: I will be moderating this thread hard. No rape myths, no misogyny, nothing about the woman involved.

*For those who don't know the police adult sexual assault team want to question four England players.

Irony much?

From Winston Peters:

"If you want commitment and drive and ambition to work in a greater collegial or community sense, then you must place your faith in the women of this part of the world, rather than the men who ... spend most of their time parading around like peacocks and do no work when it matters."

Mr Peters said it was not his intention to lecture Pacific Island countries, but New Zealand was entitled to ask "some pretty simple questions like how come all these useless males are running the show".

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Electoral Politics Friday: Why Chris Trotter and the Standard are full of shit

I do have a lot to say about the recent High Court decision on abortion. But I lost my voice (not metaphorically I've had a cold), and I'm trying to recover. So you'll have to wait for my own thoughts. What I have to respond to straight away is the attempt, by smug labour-party men to use this as political point scoring.

Chris Trotter wrote:

So, all of you young, confident women of the 21st century urgently need to pause and reflect upon what is happening – especially all you young, confident women thinking of voting for the National Party.

The Standard quoted this approvingly and added:
A National government would change the direction of this country, away from social reforms to greater conservatism and even regression on social issues. National opposed civil unions, prostitution reform, paid paternal leave, s59, and every other social reform.
Notice the sleight of hand, the ease at which they move away from talking about a women's right to decide whether to go through pregnancy. In order to pretend that the labour government has supported women's right to an abortion, they have to avoid talking about abortion. Because the last substantial changes to our abortion law were passed in 1978, under Muldoon. The reason that Justice Miller can say that there is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions, is that our abortion law was designed to make most abortions illegal. The people who wrote our abortion law, were the sort of people who argue that rape shouldn't be a criteria for abortion, because then women will claim to have been raped in order to get an abortion.

Helen Clark and Phil Goff spoke out about how bad the law we have now is back when it passed, but they haven't done anything about it, since they had the power to.* Sue Bradford, Sue Kedgley, Keith Locke, Ruth Dyson, Margaret Wilson, Marianne Hobbes, Maryann Street - they were prepared to fight this battle in the 1970s, before they got into parliament, they were feminists (or feminist supporters) then. And it's not just those who are in parliament now the numbers have been there for at least the last nine years, others had their chance: Jonathan Hunt, Matt Robeson, Laila Harre, and especially Phillida Bunkle.

Any one of those MPs could have written a private members bill that ended this. 18,000 women every year have the stress of jumping through certifying consultant hoops to get an abortion. First trimester abortions become second trimester abortions, because no-one gives a damn about those women. And now things may get worse, the Abortion Supervisory Committee may tighten the screws on certifying consultants, the hoops may get higher and the. None of this would have happened if any of the MPs who believe that women have a right to choose whether or not to end their pregnancy had acted on their beliefs.

Despite this Chris Trotter and The Standard are still trying to use abortion law as a reason to vote Labour. If we're not good, if we don't do what they want, things will get worse. But if Chris Trotter or The Standard really cared about women's control of their bodies, they would have said something before now. They would have spoken up for the hundreds of women each week who go through the certifying consultant process. They weren't prepared to fight for something better than the bad system that we've got now. Chris Trotter doesn't even care about abortion enough to get his fact rights, arguing that 1978 was the year women won the right to safe legal abortion in New Zealand - in 1978 there were 100 women a week who had to fly to Australia to get safe legal abortions.

* Twenty years ago, when she was Minsiter of Health, Helen Clark proposed a bill that would allow all doctors to be certifying consultants. She gave up pretty quickly and hasn't tried anything since.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Her words...

One of the women that Brad Shipton raped was interviewed on Nine to Noon yesterday about the parole board report.

It's an incredible interview, well worth listening to. She reminded me of the worst sentence of the parole board report, which I didn't write about yesterday:

He is said to be low risk of sexual offending and if he were to sexually reoffend, it is likely that this would involve a sexual assault on an adult woman in the context of a brief sexual liaison.
I can't make that statement make any sense, and yet it's still unbelievably offensive and ignorant.

The legal process has taken a huge toll on this woman, but what is most clear from the interview is the wisdom that she has from experience, and the strength of her analysis of rape.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Brad Shipton is a rapist

I find it hard to write about the parole report on Brad Shipton, or the media's coverage over the last few days.

"Should Brad Shipton be in jail?" "Do I want Brad Shipton to be in jail?" "Am I glad that he's going to remain in jail?" I can't answer those questions, haven't been able to months now. I keep on meaning to explore my ambivalance here, but I don't.

On top of that, I'm deeply suspicious of Brad Shipton's attitude towards the parole board. The way he treated women shows him to be a deeply manipulative person, who cares nothing about anyone else's feelings and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Bob Schollum was denied bail, at least in part, because the parole board decided that a rapist who claimed that rape was consensual, was a danger to rape again. To see Brad Shipton's contrition in front of the parole board as anything other than a cynical ploy to try and get released, requires far more faith in Brad Shipton's integrity than is warranted on the evidence.

But I still want to talk about the parole board decision (which is available in full here and worth reading, because the Sunday Star Times article on it bore almost no relationship to the report), because it reveals quite a bit about judicial thinking about rape.

Some of it is really good. The most quoted part of the report says:

He said he was sorry for what the victim went through and later went further and said that he had ruined her life. He acknowledged he should not have put her in that position and he should not have taken his colleague Mr Schollum along with him. He acknowledged that she was possibly intimidated by them. He confirmed that he did not ask the complainant if it was okay to have sex with her or for more than one person to have sex with her, and that wearing the police uniform was despicable. He said looking back on his whole life, which he has reflected on since being in prison, has been full of disgraceful, disgusting behaviour.

In the Board’s unanimous opinion, what he described of the event was, in our view, one of rape.
I think they have laid this out very clearly; that even in his own version of events, it is clear that not only did she not consent, but that there were so many factors that made it impossible for her to give meaningful consent anyway.

While I was impressed with the parole board's analysis, I think the analysis of the psychologist was deeply problematic:
Suffice to say that that report outlines the details of the offence and Mr Shipton’s infidelities and involvement in group sex. At the time of writing the report, the psychologist was told by Mr Shipton that he denied the offence and that he had not accepted the jury decision. He thought his behaviour was immoral and unacceptable but not illegal. He told the psychologist that he had a bad jury and biased Judge and that he was very bitter and angry following the Court decision. He was able to identify risks in the future such as a situation of indulging in promiscuous behaviour and not being faithful to his partner would be risky for him.
To me, what is so worrying about this, is that the psychologist appears to have accepted Brad Shipton's rationalisation that the problem was infidelity and group sex, and not lack of consent. But Brad Shipton clearly can't identify consent, so he's as much risk to a partner, as he is if he's having sex with other people. In fact, when asked in the dock, how he knew that the woman he raped consented he replied "the same way you know with your wife." That a psychologist report doesn't just not challenge, but goes along with, a moral view that condemns group sex and unfaithfulness, rather than centreing on consent, shows the very limited understanding our justice system has about rape.*

The report also indicates that Brad Shipton wasn't eligible for intervention programmes. I don't see prison as a way of eliminating rape, but it is clear that they're not even trying.

*Lets all curl up and die of not surprisedness