I aten’t dead

April 2017: a hell of a month offline, so damned quiet around here. But I’ve managed to do a bit of writing elsewhere, so don’t fret!

Today at The Spinoff: Enough bullshit. After all these years the Pike River families deserve answers

Something you notice about with the Pike crew is how they speak in the abstract. “Our boys.” “Our men.” It’s a natural coping mechanism. No one could survive six years with no closure, no justice, and very little hope, feeling every bit of the grief you’re entitled to when your husband or son goes to work one day and never comes home. Fighting just to get a basic investigation of the crime scene where he died, and accountability from the people whose inaction or negligence or outright greed killed him.

I got involved early with Stand With Pike, by virtue of being the closest millennial to hand when the crew were trying to get the word out about their picket, battling West Coast cellphone drop-outs and Facebook’s clunky Page Manager app. Contrary to the fever-dreams of Matthew Hooton, I’m not paid for it. It’s just the right thing to do. Because it’s so counter to every value I hold, that after six years, no one has been really held to account for letting 29 men die. Anna and Sonya and Dean and the others should not still be fighting for answers and justice. They should never have had to fight for it at all.

And a few weeks back at Overland: In New Zealand, where abortion is still a crime

Today, getting an abortion in New Zealand can involve five separate medical appointments: the initial pregnancy test and referral to an abortion provider (if your doctor provides referrals), two appointments with certifying consultants (if they both approve you), an initial consultation at the abortion clinic, and the procedure itself. …

In the 1970s, the Sisters Overseas Service helped fly women who wanted an abortion to New South Wales. We like to think those days are behind us, but in 2013, a young woman from Wellington was reduced to crowdfunding $7,000 to fly to Melbourne for hers.

How have we let this go on?

Back to the keyboard …

Labour, identity, class and winning

Andrew Little’s speech to conference has had great feedback, topping off a pretty good weekend for the party. I was there when he delivered it, and the response in the hall was thunderous.

A few people who covered the conference have put their own framing onto it. Bryce Edwards declared “Andrew Little is killing Labour’s identity politics”. Martyn Bradbury pronounced “identity politics put on the naughty step for some time out”.

Perhaps we were at different conferences. Believe me, plenty of “identity politics” was discussed, openly, happily and constructively. The reason there’s no headlines about it is the people having those discussions did it away from the spotlight – for obvious reasons.

It’s the same old misunderstanding about identity politics and class politics: that identity isn’t a real thing, but class is an objective, clear determinant of someone’s place in society.

But it’s rubbish. One of the biggest challenges leftwing parties face these days is that pretty much everyone thinks they’re middle-class. People who are poor don’t want to be told they’re powerless victims, and people who are comparatively well-off just want to think of themselves as “ordinary people”.

To shamelessly steal an idea from Pablo Iglesias:

One can have the best analysis, understand the keys to political developments since the sixteenth century, know that historical materialism is the key to understanding social processes. And what are you going to do — scream that to people? “You are workers and you don’t even know it!”

Class can be a core part of who people are, or not important to their lives, just like any other facet of identity. More so, since the right have spent decades eroding class identities with their bootstraps analogies and framing – happily adopted by the left – of “middle” and “ordinary” New Zealanders.

We can’t reject a class analysis. We wouldn’t be the Labour Party without one. But in 2015 it isn’t the be-all and end-all of political thought.

I took two points from what Maryan Street said at conference. We can do more than one thing at a time, and:

Being a “both/and party” instead of an “either/or party” isn’t just about multitasking. It can mean recognising that our issues aren’t distinct.

I’ll go one step further. Not only are class, inequality, wealth and work un-distinct from gender, race, ability and all those pesky “identities” – they are the same thing.

How will Labour eradicate poverty in our country without addressing the fact that women are systemically paid less than men and are over-represented in many of the poorest paid industries? When women are still the primary caregivers of children, expected to put careers on hold for parenting?

How will Labour make sure Kiwis get the care they need when they need it and give our doctors and nurses and health workers the funding they need to do their jobs without looking at the infantilising red tape around abortion, or the utter lack of meaningful support for trans health care?

How do we modernise our education system so our kids are better prepared for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet without mentioning children with special needs or the entrenched disparities for Māori and Pasifika kids?

You won’t get very far changing the fundamental inequalities created by modern capitalism if you don’t understand that those inequalities, and the “identities” you want to kick out of the debate, are the same problem.

Why are women treated as a separate class? So we stay at home and have babies create new economic units, and if we wander accidentally into the workforce, we’re paid less to put downward pressure on all workers’ pay and conditions.

Why are gay or lesbian or trans or genderqueer people treated as separate classes and singled out for abuse? Because they mess up the whole heterosexual family structure which has babies creates new economic units.

Colonialism, and the impact it has on indigenous people of colour, is part and parcel of the capitalist need to constantly grow and consume land and resources.

I oversimplify greatly. But if you believe we can take serious action on poverty, on jobs, on the future of work, or on people’ aspirations for a better life without discussing “identity” politics, you don’t understand capitalism. And you certainly don’t get how to fight it.

Andrew said in his speech:

New Zealanders are sick and tired of a politics that’s defined by cynicism and devoid of ambition.

I’m sick and tired of the cynicism which says “women and minorities, go away, no one wants to hear you whining.” I’m sick and tired of the lack of ambition from so many leftwingers who say we can’t do more than one thing at a time, and we can’t care about anyone who isn’t like us.

Take what you like from Andrew’s speech. What I took from it is this.

The experiences I’ve had in my working life have taught me the type of leadership you need if you want to fight and win for progressive causes.

I learnt that it isn’t about making everyone happy or trying to avoid confrontation and disagreement.

Instead it’s about taking a stand because it’s the right thing to do.

Women of #nzpol Twitter: on weight, food and pregnancy

The “Women of #nzpol Twitter roundup” is brought to you in the interests of amplifying women’s voices in the political debate and also because:

sansa misandry

I got the inside running on this one by catching five minutes of Breakfast on One’s interview with John Key:

The rest of the media weren’t far behind.

I just want to note the first sentence of the article Andrea Vance linked to:

More than 60 per cent of pregnant women gain more weight than is recommended, which has implications for a child’s weight later in life.

Not implications for health; implications for weight. We’re so wedded to the notion that being fat automatically means you’re unhealthy that we don’t even need to establish whether or not weight gain in pregnancy leads to health issues. It just must because ew, fatties.

Take it away, Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Dovil/status/655982421607755776

And back to me:

https://twitter.com/MorganHopes/status/655970896092377088

For many, many informed perspectives on what happens when you force fat people to go to the doctor, check out First Do No Harm.

This is a common tune for me, but I’m just going to repeat it: fatness does not equal poor health. Thinness does not equal good health. Correlating certain diseases with fatness does not mean fatness causes those diseases. Considering the incredibly fatphobic society we live in, it’s ludicrous not to consider the effects of stress, deprivation, and societally-applauded yo-yo dieting on the overall health of fat people, even IF fat people were inherently less healthy than thin people, which they’re not.

And when it comes to policing the every waking thought and action of pregnant people – including how much weight they gain during pregnancy – there really aren’t good grounds to be talking about “evidence-based approaches”.

Stop talking about weight. Stop judging people based on their weight. Stop buying into the weightloss industry’s propaganda. Because if you want to know the #1 reason why we’re not having national conversations about food access, living wages, family time, and health awareness? Maybe it’s something to do with the fact we keep saying it’s all fat people’s fault for not being able to put down the doughnuts.

And for god’s sake stop making pregnant people responsible for the welfare of our entire society.

Women of #nzpol Twitter: on forced contraception for beneficiaries

A few months ago I suggested that I should do a woman-only Twitter round-up on topical issues, in the interests of amplifying women’s voices in the political debate and also because:

black widow misandry

So here’s some top tweets on Anne Tolley’s suggestion of coercing encouraging beneficiaries to get sterilised.

https://twitter.com/Dovil/status/648225594820292608

If you see any tweets you think I should include in a women-of-#nzpol roundup, drop me a tweet @bootstheory using the hashtag #blatantmisandry.

Anne Tolley’s next abhorrent idea: forced sterilization of poor people

It’s going to be incredibly difficult not to Godwin the hell out of this one, people.

Appearing on TVOne’s Q+A programme this morning, Social Development minister Anne Tolley would not rule out more actively trying to limit or prevent births to families which have come to the attention of authorities.

“Well, we’ll wait and see what the panel report. I expect that they’ll be saying, ‘We should get much, much faster contraceptive advice in. We should be offering, you know, tubal ligations, all sorts of things and counselling those families’,” she said.

Tubal ligation is not a form of contraception. Tubal ligation is a form of sterilization.

And sure, anybody who wants to make an informed decision to get a tubal ligation should be able to. I know plenty of childfree people who’d run at the chance, after many years of “you’ll want kids when you’re older” concern-trolling from the medical establishment.

But let’s not confuse Anne Tolley’s suggestion with any kind of progressive reproductive healthcare policy. This is simply National applying further bullying to “undesirable” people not to have children. And there are many words for that, and most of them are rightly associated with, shall we say, certain fascist societies.

Let’s remember how this government generally acts towards people on benefits, and ask ourselves if we really believe the “offer” of sterilization or counselling or long-term contraception is actually being made in an open-minded, compassionate way.

Let’s remember that their plan of offer free long-term contraception – which was an expensive failure – wasn’t just targeted at beneficiaries, but at their teenage daughters – and what kind of message that sends about “those kind of people”.

I support reproductive choice. I support the state making options available to people, on their own terms, to control when they have kids and how many kids they have. It’d be great to see a government which actually cared enough about stopping unwanted pregnancies to extend free doctor’s appointments for sexual health to more young people, or ensuring quicker access to abortion services.

But that’s not what we’re getting. We’re getting another dystopic, daddy-state interference in the lives of people who are already pushed to the absolute limits. We’re applying the power of government to threaten people who have incredibly little with even less if they dare to have a family the powers-that-be don’t approve of.

It’s grotesque. And worse, it’s probably not even sincere. Anne Tolley knows this won’t solve any of the problems she says exist in our social welfare system. But it will get great headlines about cracking down on those filthy bludging breeders-for-a-business. And even people on the left won’t be rushing to call it out for what it is: a repugnant attack on basic human rights.

~

Some people want to see the good in everything and think we should focus on the important stuff – better access to contraception – instead of calling out Tolley’s horrific agenda. Unfortunately, the coverage this morning makes it all pretty clear:

The Minister for Social Development wants to find a way of stopping the most at-risk beneficiaries from having more children.

Anne Tolley admitted it was a tricky subject, but said something had to be done about the women who have multiple children taken into care.

Emphasis mine; coercive restrictions on poor women’s reproduction all hers.