Friday, July 25, 2008

Te Wiki O Te Reo Maori

Maori language week was a while back now. While it was on I wanted to write a post about it. But I struggled with writing anything, since I don't speak Maori and I was worried about tokenism. But I really liked hearing more Te Reo, and had learned stuff through other people's tokenism. I even thought about giving my blog a Maori name, but didn't.*

But I've just realised what I was wanting to say. There was an air of self-congratulation. TV3 had a piece in Maori about Air NZ using more Maori words in their flights, and they might as well had a sign flashing "aren't we awesome" down the bottom, instead of the subtitles.

If you imagine back forty years ago, what happened last Maori language week, would have seemed incredible. But it's not the companies, and media outlets who deserve the back slapping that they're giving themselves. They didn't do this randomly, out of the goodness of their heart, but because of the unbelievably hard work that activists had put into fighting for Te Reo.

It is the work of those activists that should be remembered and celebrated, not just one week a year, but all the time. And the way you remember and celebrate the work of activists, is to carry it on.**

*I couldn't find a word for 'capitalism' in any of the on-line Maori dictionaries. I considered substituting Raupatu, as the necessary precursor for capitalism. But my blog is named after a random Joss Whedon quote, it doesn't make any sense in English (except for the extremely geeky), translating it would be useless. Plus there was the tokenism thing.

** On a complete tangent, which isn't big enough to get a blog post of it's own, but was annoying enough to write about. I went to see the documentary about Tigi Ness in the film festival. It was interesting, and included the famous footage from Dominion Road at the third test in 1981 where everyone stands up and starts throwing stuff at the police. Anyway this younger guy who was talking "they stood up, they fought back so we didn't have to." Which I found immensely frustrating, and completely the wrong way of looking at the history of activism. They stood up, they fought back, and so we have to honour them by continuing the fight.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Victim Blaming

It appears New Zealand is having a victim blaming weekend. I was hoping to write something a little more complex as I got back into the swing of blogging - the limits of an analysis of prejudice maybe, or just more about Joss Whedon. But no

Stuff headlines the article about a double murder in Auckland with Crime of passion at Auckland apartment leaves two dead. The article includes the following quote:

Sources said a 30-year-old Iraqi man walked in on "something he shouldn't" yesterday morning which led to a 2½ hour standoff with police.
I'm not even linking to the article on the inside page, which is describing how Kristin Dunne-Powell behaved before and after having her back broken by Tony Veitch. Guess what? It's not relevant.

Then Ethical Martini (whose ethics appears not to be above a little victim blaming) asks the vital questions, such as was Tony Veitch being blackmailed (nope not linking to that either). Got to love the passive voice, it's easier to hide the fact that you're victim blaming when you don't mention the name.

All this is, of course, sending a message. The same message that the woman who was raped by the English rugby players received. If you are abused by a famous man, do everything you can to keep it quiet, otherwise your every move will be evaluated and dissected, and you will be blamed for the abuse.

Can I make this absolutely clear:

It is never women's fault or responsibility when men abuse them.



Not even if she's drunk.


Not even then.


Dr Horrible's Singalong blog - Act 3 SPOILERS

When I say there are spoilers, I mean it. Go and watch Dr Horrible before you read this post.

I'm still very unsure how to read Dr Horrible's Singalong blog, and the thread at Feministe reveals that there are many ways understanding Dr Horrible's story.

As an origin story I appreciate it; I'd even say it was well done. Not just that there was a lot of the funny clever stuff that I'd expect (the appearance of Bad Horse was pure genius), but showing villains as having origin stories as well as heroes is a cool way of undercutting many of the tropes of an origin story.

I can also appreciate a straight political reading of the story (which is encouraged within the storyas both Penny and Dr Horrible directly discuss how to create change). I don't really mind that the wet liberal who gets sucked in by those in power dies (although not necessarily realistic, as a metaphor it shows the likelihood of that strategy working). I also don't disagree that nihilist, individualists often put their ego before the change they are trying to create and do harm without doing any good. But I don't think any of that says anything particularly substantial, without an alternative (The Chain, Chosen, Graduation, Anne, Prophecy Girl, Jaynestown - Joss does know the alternative).

One of the big questions for me is the depiction of Penny, as the only substantial female character (and it didn't pass the Bechedel test). I actually dislike the 'Joss writes strong female characters' idea, because it is so often referring solely to the female characters who are capable of beating someone up. As someone who was always more interested in Willow than Buffy and Kaylee than River, I appreciate his ability to write interesting female characters, more than his tendency to write so-called 'strong' ones. The idea that the most important female characters to depict are those that can beat up the men who are trying to abuse them, comes perilously close to victim blaming. It's very satisfying to watch Buffy killing Angel at the end of Becoming II, but the death of the robot at the end of I Was Made to Love You, is just as true statement about relationships.

So I have no problem with Penny dying, because women do die when men fight over them (this is from the New Zealand news media today, it's being called a 'crime of passion'). I don't even really have a problem that she is so one dimensional, as we see her through Dr Horrible's eyes, and it is clear that she is just an object to him.

The one thing I did object to was the shot of her in the laundromat with frozen yoghurt, presumably waiting for Billy. The idea is that Billy could have got what he wanted if only he was prepared to treat Penny like a person. If he'd talked with her, rather than built a freeze ray, she would have returned his affections. I really dislike that aspect of these sorts of geek stories, because sometimes people don't love you back. As written it plays into Billy's entitlement over Penny.

I do think that Penny's death and Dr Horrible becoming actually evil was the only way the story could end, and I can see the importance of it as a story. To take us in through the eyes of a low-rent villain, and have us believe him that he's actually the hero, until he's not.

But ultimately, it's not a story that interests me that much. A death ray may be a substitute for a rocket-launcher, but this story didn't have any emotional resonance. The only person whose path was real enough to resonate was Dr Horrible. His loneliness in the last shot, and even the hollowness of getting have truth in them, but for me that is undercut because Dr Horrible's feelings for Penny didn't resonate, and must be, on some level, creepy.

Even more fundamentally, I come back to Grace Paley - because this story was lacking both blood and money. Now Joss has always been kind of shaky on the material reality of his stories (which was what made Firefly so strong), but he's always written about family - actual and created. Without blood there is not heart to his story.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My last post on Tony Veitch

I think I'm almost done on Tony Veitch, and the media response. Well I could probably write many more thousands of words about everything that has made me angry, but it's time to start writing about other things (I have a really good post in my head about the truckies, but I'll probably never write it).

But one aspect of this that I don't want to leave uncommented on, is the faux surprise (or maybe it's real surprise, that's even scarier) of the media that TV presenters are abusive in their relationship. The implicit racism, and pig-ignorance about abuse in these statements was made clear by the Sunday Star Times with its description: "the kind of violence you'd associate with Once Were Warriors."

To recap: Intimate abuse happens everywhere, in Porirua and Khadallah, in council flats, mansions and your local activist house; by all ethnicities: Pakeha, Maori, Samoan, Indian, Tongan, Chinese, American, Vietnamese, Somali; by the richest, and the poorest and everyone in between.

Which isn't to say that these other factors don't change the dynamics of intimate abuse - they do. Kristin Dunne-Powell's (who has my full solidarity and support) financial position made it much easier for her to leave and survive. Those looking at stopping intimate abuse need to look at all sorts of factors

But first those who don't think about intimate abuse from one TV commerical to the next, need to acknowledge that it's not limited to the scary other.


And my very last comment (I hope) will be to quote something Tony Veitch said. Demonstrating that he can see the silver lining in breaking his girlfriend's back:

The one bright spot for me out of this, but the only thing that's kept me sane this week is that if everything hadn't happened I would not have learned lessons, I would not have gone to counselling. I would not have sat in front of a counsellor who was explaining ... it's almost like ... I remember coming home some days with revelations and I would learn stuff, and I would not have learned how to have a relationship and I would not have fallen in love and I wouldn't be married now. I would be alone.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog

I'm sure there are people out there who aren't aware that Joss Whedon has written an internet musical alled Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog. I guess it'd be inappropriate to describe these people as living under a rock, since they probably have very fulfilling lives. But I've been very excited about Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog since Joss first started talking about it during the writers strike.*

It was released at on Tuesday, the second part came out today, and the denouement will be available on Saturday.

I'm enjoying it so far. The acting is superb - Nathan Fillion is particularly funny as Captain Hammer the cheesy uphimself hero nemesis of Dr Evil. The dialogue is very clever, and the songs are fun. The superhero as villain and villain as character we empathise with isn't particularly original, but it's well done. I particularly like that Captain Hammer is a corporate whore who is in with the mayor.

But Joss can do better. Penny, Felicia Day's character, is shown entirely through Dr Horrible's eyes. While we're supposed to sympathise him, he is pretty much a textbook nice guy. And it has yet to pass the Bechdel test (in fact there has only been one woman on screen so far). So far the characters don't resonate in any but the most superficial way, because they have no depth. And we all know that the importance of resonance, and rocket launchers.** I'm hoping that the lack of both of these will be compensated for by the last part.

In the meantime watch Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog, but also read Sugarshock, which is stronger short-silly-Joss.

* It was so dreamy when Joss Whedon my favourite writer who I've loved for a decade, became Joss Whedon a militant union activist.

** That's from Joss Whedon's audio commentary on innocence (since I'm not sure that this post can get any geekier I won't worry about revealing that I have an audio commentary pretty much memorised)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


As a feminist either you can believe that there is the possibility that violent men can change, or you move to lesbian-feminist commune. I am sometimes uncertain about which option is more unlikely to work. But I've never liked communes so I remain an optimist.

I was going to write a long post on redemption, how it was possible, and why it didn't look like Tony Veitch. But Vic Tamati was on nine-to-noon this morning and demonstrated that in a way I never could.

I disagree very strongly with stargazer - who talks about accountability in terms of a conviction. There are many men convicted of assaulting their partner, or children, who just keep doing it. In this case a conviction would almost certainly lead to a jail term. I may have only seen the corridors and visiting rooms, but jail won't make anyone less abusive. By rendering abusive men powerless it perpetuates the ideas of power and control that feed abuse. External forces, like the court system, are not what's going to create change(although they do at times at as catalysts). What Vic Tamati did, and Tony Veitch didn't do, was talk about what he did without excuses, learn about abusive relationships, and work to help other men who are being abusive.

update I've edited the post because I misrepresented Stargazer's views.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dear 'The Standard'

You do not write about women very often. You have hardly a post about equal pay, reproduction or violence against women. When it was revealed that Tony Veitch, the only thing you had to say was "John Key sucks". However limited your analysis, you must acknowledge that Labour is not the cure to violence against women, and National is not the cause.

If don't have anything to say about violence against women, then that's ok. We each have a different focus, and no-one can write about everything. But if you have nothing to say, then stay silent. Please stop using women's actual lives and pain to score obscure points.

Tony Veitch

"I will talk to an employment expert about Tony Veitch's employment situation"
"So media expert, what implications does this have for TVNZ?"

Tony Veitch broke his ex-partner's back. The most important issues here aren't about employment or media, but abuse. Kristin Dunne-Powell, was always treated as tangential to the story, but quickly Tony Veitch's abuse also became invisible. The process stories analysing who would do what soon overtook anything substantive.

So I feel the need to talk about some basic facts about abusive relationships:

  1. Abuse and violence within relationships tends to escalate.
  2. Abuse isn't about losing control of yourself, but about gaining power and control over your partner.
  3. After a relationship has broken up is the most dangerous time for women in abusive relationship.

The English Rugby Football Union

I've been sick, and there's been so much horrific stuff happening, that every time I've wanted to write I've felt outrage paralysis. So I'm going to go a couple of quick updates on the worst aspects (then I hope to get to a long post of outrage at the Maori party, and less outraged post about the possibilities of redemption, and how it doesn't look like Tony Veitch or Derek Fox).

My first object of outrage is the English Rugby Football Union:

It is up to women who have been raped to use the coping strategies that are best for them at the time. The decision to make a statement, or not make a statement, needs to be based on what she needs. To force women into a particular path is to revictimise her, by giving her no control over her reaction to being raped.

That an official representative of the English rugby team would see fit to comment on how a rape survivor deals with her assault shows that it's not just a team with four players that are rapists, but an institution that upholds rape culture.

No-one is saying this. Even the women's refuge spokesperson on Checkpoint, just talked about the fact that the English rugby players hadn't co-operated with the police when they were in the country, which equates the rapists and the women they raped.