Bingo time: being a killjoy feminist thought policewoman

A bingo board of responses to a one-word comment I made on The Standard yesterday, criticising someone’s “joke” about a cis woman’s appearance and comparing her to a trans woman.

(It isn’t nearly as pretty as Waitangi Bingo but I’m an amateur.)

misandry bingo

I especially like the Gerry Brownlee reference, since I’m often one of a very few people on that site who does actually say “let’s stop making fat jokes about Gerry Brownlee (or Paula Bennett, another favourite), there’s plenty of valid things to criticise him/her for.” I usually get much the same dismissive crap for my trouble.

The thing is, I’ve been doing this being-a-woman-who-has-opinions-online thing for a while. And I can already tell you that if I posted this bingo board at a site like The Standard, the responses to it would go along much the same lines, only with a few additions like, “But I never said I hated you for being a woman, so my comments can’t be sexist” or “It’s got nothing to do with the fact you’re a woman, it’s about the fact you’re a nagging/shrill/bitchy/catty/oversensitive/overemotional/PMSing cow.”

The state of the nation

I probably don’t have a lot to add to what’s already been said about Andrew Little’s state of the nation speech this morning.

It was sensible and forward-looking – an excellent rejoinder to the “Angry Andy” meme which Cameron Slater has been desperately trying to build.

It was focused on jobs – something which seems like it should be natural to the Labour Party but which (for any of a vast number of reasons which are regularly argued on leftwing blogs) hasn’t got a lot of cut-through in recent years.

There was the acknowledgement of the importance of working with business, and especially small business, to create jobs – but concrete points about job security and particularly the scrapping of zero-hour contracts to make it clear that we’re not working within the rightwing “deregulate them and they will come” model. (Which won’t really come as a surprise to the Farrars or Hootons of the world who were quick to demand that Labour scrap its policy on unfair, never-created-any-actual-jobs 90-day trials.)

The Labour Party – and you could argue the wider NZ left – is at the start of a three-year project to rebuild our movement and win in the 2017 general election. I reckon we’re off to a pretty good start.

Repost: Life isn’t fair. But it should be.

(Originally posted at On The Left.)

I was not an angelic child.

My mother has retconned her memory of my early years since I became an adult, and my grandmother delicately phrases it as “you were a little troubled”. The truth is I was a terror. When I thought something wasn’t fair, you heard about it. And when I was told “well life isn’t fair, Stephanie” it only made things worse. And louder.

These days, I blog.

It may be that Mum and Grandma only have themselves to blame. They raised me with far too strong a sense of justice, which revolted at any suggestion of accepting unfairness as an immutable fact.

Well before I could put it as eloquently as I hope I’m doing now, I knew it wasn’t good enough to say “that’s just the way things are” or “life isn’t fair”. If something was wrong, it was wrong, and importantly, it didn’t have to stay that way.

All the issues which resonate with me today – like workers’ rights, reproductive justice, poverty – are issues of justice and fairness. Because it isn’t just that workers be expected to exchange their labour for inadequate wages, and it isn’t just that people, predominantly women, are denied the right to choose whether they have children or not and under what circumstances, and it isn’t just that children go to school with empty lunchboxes while the CEO of ANZ gets paid $11,000 per day.

Those things simply are not fair. And I didn’t – and I don’t – care if life isn’t fair.

The structure of our society, the relationships we have with other people, and universal experiences we all go through – none of these things are set in stone, however long we’ve lived with them or how ingrained they are in our psyches.

So that was where I started, with a strong sense of justice and a belief that things can and should change.

That only got worse once I figured out the next step: those unfair structures aren’t accidental. The fact that they reinforce the power of the powerful and keep the oppressed oppressed certainly isn’t.

We live in a world designed so the powerful can maintain their power. And this is unjust.

This is the major reason why I’ve always been confused by the inherent conflict some people on the left see between “class politics” and “identity politics” (the second reason is because I think there’s a good case to be made that class itself is an “identity”, especially in the 21st century.) In the frame of justice, in the context of power structures conspiring to keep the majority down so the minority prosper in extravagance, we are all the same in the eyes of the powers that be. The only difference is that some of us are denied the fruits of our labour, and some of us are denied bodily autonomy (and get even less of the fruits of our labour), and many, many of us are kept hungry and desperate and alienated – far too preoccupied with the necessities of life to give a damn about deeper questions of political philosophy.

(There’s also the issue of intersectionality, i.e. the way the different oppressions and power structures of our society combine/multiply/reinforce themselves against many people.)

At the core, the oppressed are united in their oppression. It just takes different forms (and some of those forms are much worse than others.)

Of course reality is much more complex. The sad reality is that many people who are staunch activists on one axis of oppression can be pretty terrible on another (misogynist leftwing men, my god, you’re a problem.) And as someone who’s relatively privileged myself – Pākehā, cis, hetero, upper-middle-class, university-educated, currently able-bodied – it’s very easy for me to say “we’re all in this together”. So I’m not saying that. A lot of people have very good reasons not to throw their lot in with activists like me.

What I am saying is this: I’m on the Left because I do believe in justice. I know we can fight for it. I know life will always have its ups and downs. But by god, it should be fair.

Hey Jordan, pick me!

Yesterday Jordan Williams – head of the Taxpayers’ Onion and courageous fighter for the right to call women ugly in private – sent out a tweet which got me all excited:

I’m a helpful kind of woman, and yes, my household’s income is over 120k. I got ready to put my hand up and aid Jordan in his doubtless completely-unbiased quest to help the media tell a balanced story about National’s stellar economic management whatever it was.

Alas, his next tweet dashed my hopes:

Two strikes and I’m out.

There were some amusing, and some serious, responses to Jordan’s request:

https://twitter.com/MeLlamoLlama_/status/509566079342219265

But it made me think. Why the focus on a non-political person or family? I suppose the obvious answer is to ensure there’s no political agenda behind what a person chooses to tell the journalist, but in that case I wouldn’t be asking Jordan “runs to the Backbencher to film Winston Peters drunk” Williams to be finding my candidates.

The other possibility is: because a non-political person might be more likely to take the question at face value. Do I feel better off now than I did 6 years ago? Hell yes I do. Things now, compared to 6 years ago, are going swimmingly.

Of course that might have something to do with the fact that 6 years ago my household wasn’t earning 120k! Not even close! We didn’t own our house. I was still in university typing dictation part-time, he was at the beginning of his career.

Through a very fortunate series of events, including a decent dollop of sheer good luck, we are now very well off, especially for our age group, and depressingly high on the wealth distribution table.

None of that makes me think “gee, the government’s done a great job.” It makes me think: How are people raising their kids on the low wages in this country? How are other people my age ever going to afford to buy their first home?

And how can we survive another three years of National?

 

 

(I think the answer might be Voting Positive because we #LoveNZ.)

Supporting all the colours of the rainbow

[Content note: this post deals with issues around gender, transphobia and gender policing. Stay safe.]

In utter defiance of the Prime Minister’s insistence that the left doesn’t want to have a policy debate, Labour has continued to release policies, and yesterday’s was rainbow-coloured.

But first, let me tell you a story.

A friend of mine is non-binary – they don’t fit into society’s strict categories of “man” or “woman”. (They gave me permission to talk about them in this post but I will not be naming them for reasons that should be obvious after Dirty Politics.)

They deal with a lot of anxiety just in day-to-day life. Every time they meet a new person, they have to have the conversation about their name and the pronouns they use (“they” and “their”, if it weren’t obvious yet), knowing that with most people, at best they’ll get a weird look. A step back from that they’ll get ignored and misgendered, because a total stranger feels entitled to make that decision for them. Or they’ll be abused – verbally, or physically.

My friend is going to be travelling internationally soon, and their only option is to travel on a passport which labels them as an M or an F – the gender they were assigned as a baby. Not a gender which necessarily “matches” the assumptions people make about them based on their name, how they look, how they dress, or what their voice sounds like. And my friend is, in their words, terrified by the very real possibilities of harassment, insult, or violence they might face at every step of the journey where someone in a position of power looks at their passport or pats down their body.

To me, it’s just bizarre to make a person go through all that hassle and anxiety and potential threat just because our paperwork only gives them two tick-boxes to choose between (and generally binds them to a “choice” made long before they had any say in the matter).

And that’s why Labour’s Rainbow Policy is so important. Although it covers a range of strategies to support GLBTI people – increased health funding, reforming our adoption system, addressing youth mental health and strengthening our human rights legislation – of course it’s the “three gender options on a passport” policy which gets all the media coverage.

That may seem minor to people who never have to deal with this kind of structural, ubiquitous prejudice, and undoubtedly it will be slammed as a “distraction” from the “real issues that matter to people” (but let’s consider who we’re defining as “people” when we say that).

But in a way, it is minor. It’s a tick-box on a form. And yet by making a tiny tweak to a bit of paperwork we can take a bit of stress out of people’s lives. We can make it clear that their lives have values, we can reaffirm that all people deserve to live with dignity and respect, we can stand tall as a country which doesn’t keep harming people when the fix is so little trouble to us.

Why would we not do that?

(PS. The Greens also have an impressive sexual identity and orientation policy.)

[Moderation note: any comments which question, challenge or insult any individual’s gender, gender identity, pronoun preference or right to exist will not be published and repeat offenders will be banned for a week.]