Sunday, November 20, 2011

In solidarity with Russel Norman's EA*

Russel Norman's decision to stand down his EA because of the actions of her partner is a feminist issue. I'm going to leave alone why the Greens thought it appropriate to condemn putting stickers on National party billboards (although it doesn't look good for principled left-wing green voters).** But why is his EA even part of the discussion?

Russel Norman decided to go public with the fact that his EA was in a relationship with Jolyon White. He then decided to use the power he has because she works for him to stand her down (I know that he is not her direct employer but Parliamentary Services are pretty responsive to MPs wishes).

From an employment perspective this is creepy enough - she is being stood down because she didn't tell her boss something her partner said months ago and instead made it clear to her partner that she didn't want anything to do with his actions. This is a pretty horrific view of employment and the right bosses have over their employees lives. A view Russel Norman endorsed.

But there is an important gendered to this. Russel Norman's action reinforces a world-view that defines women in relationships with men through their partners' beliefs and actions and therefore denies their autonomy and even existence. People have condemned Julie's writing on the hand mirror and tried to silence her, because of who her partner is. This discriminatory way of treating of women in relationships with men is systemic. Men are not treated this way, and are not defined by the actions of their partners. Russel Norman has endorsed this double standard by the way he has treated his EA.

Although this is far from the only feminist reason not to vote for any party which has Russell Norman at number 2 on its list. This was, after all, his assessment of Clint Rickards:

I don’t see that being involved in consenting group sex is any reason for him not to go back to work. And people use sex aids so using a police baton in a consenting situation doesn’t seem grounds for refusing him his job back.

Something to think about in the polling booth.

* Obviously this construction of her identity is problematic. However, I decided since I didn't think her identity should be public in this way I didn't feel comfortable putting yet another hit into google about who she was.
** I find the idea that political parties should be able to put up their truly inane hoardings in publicly owned space, but it is morally wrong to talk back to those hoardings, no matter what you are saying, a really depressing view of political dialogue.

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