Ding, dong, the Witch is Dead!

December 7, 2016

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OK, so that’s a Thatcher reference, but it seems appropriate this week.

While we’re in this lame duck week in Aotearoa, the week between the announcement of John Key’s resignation as PM, and the election by the National caucus of his successor on Monday 12th December, I just want to put down a few thoughts that have come up over the past two days.

Eight long years.

I graduated PGDipArts in 2008, and envisaged working in gender policy analysis in some Ministry or other, after I got a handle on some health problems that came up when I was finishing my diploma papers. Then National swept into power, and the policy analysts who had been guest lecturers to my Hons-level class were pushed out the doors of MSD Head Office right after Paula Bennett swept in as the new Minister in early 2009.
They both got jobs in Canberra and left the country, their qualifications and expertise appreciated by the Australian administration, at least.

I was suddenly in limbo. I wrote a bit, recovered some of my energy after a diagnosis of low thyroid function, and started a course of appropriate medication. I wrote book reviews, Ministerial complaints about the conduct of WINZ branch staff, blogposts, Select Committee submissions.
I wrote a Master’s thesis proposal, and it was accepted in June 2009. I started work on anethics Committee Research Application, and applied for a round of scholarships. Read more about how that went bad here.
I watched friends graduate the PhD’s that had been underway before GWS was threatened with closure, playing photographer for a friend at the last VUW Graduation Parade involving GWS School in December 2010.

I kept campaigning on Green politics, and writing about social policy issues from a feminist perspective.
Things got worse in Wellington; a transgender friend was so hounded and bullied by bigoted WINZ frontline staff that she took her own life in October 2012. This was just weeks after some successful transphobia-busting actions at Fairfax’s Wellington offices, and glitter-bombing Germain Greer for her transphobic statements at the Writer’s & Readers’ Week event at the Embassy Theatre. Ashley’s funeral was a very sad and angry gathering of her friends from Queer Avengers, who had to listen to family members misgender and dead name our friend, the ultimate in transphobic family behaviour. We walked her coffin across Willis St to the Wilson Funeral Home, and consigned her to eternity.

A helluva lot of Queer and Trans* support work grew from that, especially programs for LGBTI+ youth, but it was a bitter price to pay.

I left Wellington and moved to the Waikato, giving my Master’s thesis another go. Surprisingly, I encountered a bunch of deeply unethical behaviour from one supervisor, who it later became obvious was a fully-paid-up TERF.
My research into radical feminist activism was not an area she was familiar with, neither was my research methodology, oral history interviewing. After a lot of disagreements, and an ethics application that was incorrectly edited by a supervisor who failed to read the 2013 ethics committee guidelines ( freshly revised, which I followed, but had edited back to the ‘old’ way of doing things by my supervisor …), I withdrew my enrolment on medical grounds.
It took filing an academic grievance in 2015 to get my fees fully refunded. There was never any response in writing to the grievance that acknowledged fault, just the full and final refund in May 2016.

I applied for a lot of jobs during those years. Citing my PGDipArts in Gender and Women’s Studie s, as well as my BA in French (effectively, two majors and one Hons), I got rejection after rejection. I keep every one of those responses, because WINZ keep attacking my disability status & my lack of employment. Showing that employers are not interested in hiring disabled feminist policy analysts is necessary, on a regular basis.

I keep doing Green campaigning, and I keep writing Select Commitee submissions and I slowly stop blogging. Because what’s the point?

Eight years of a misogynist caucus under a PM who thinks ponytails are sexy and can’t keep his hands off them, who cut funding to Rape Crisis, Women’s Refuge, Lifeline and a myriad of otherNGO’s doing social work that MSD was denying responsibility for; cuts to Ministry of Women’s Affairs staff & funding (and a nonsensical rebranding); a year-on-year increase in suicide stats for youth; cuts to Studylink availability for school leavers, post-grads and over-55-yo mid-life retrainees; and then the crowning glory of refusal to acknowledge the housing crisis, refusing a Government inquiry so that the Cross-Party Homelessness Inquiry was established by Greens, Labour & Māori Parties. Read the  submissions .

NGO’s and individuals presented in person at five hearings around the country, beginning at Te Puea Marae in Mangere, South Auckland. I attended 3 of the 5, and then the launch of the Report in Wellington.
I’ve never been so miserable in a hearing my life, I wept & left the hall to go and shout angry words in the bathroom, and knitted my rage when I couldn’t keep taking notes.

The articles I researched during a stint of Policy study in 2015 haunt me – I wrote about Housing and found research papers going back to the mid-80’s that predicted selling off State Housing would be a net loss to society, as impoverishment and homelessness would result. I read Cabinet papers from December 2014, heavily redacted for official release, that turned up on the HNZ section of MSD website a week before Budget 2015 was announced. I realised that John Key had spent the entire previous summer lying to media, talking up an expectation that the Salavation Army would buy thousands of HNZ properties, when the real pitch was an overseas buyer to take the infrastructural rebuild off their hands. I was really angry at that deception.

And still John Key ruled the polls.

I felt a hefty sense of Schädenfreud on Monday.
Finally, all the corruption of this Government was being discussed (the institutional child abuse in State care had just become public and Minister Tolley was getting a drubbing in media) and Key spat the dummy on Monday 5th December 2015.

Eight long years.

What do I do now?

#Green2017

I can’t spend much more than this one post on regrets.
The election is ours to win, while National flounder around sorting out their factions and working out if Key’s backers go with him.

It’s time to #ChangeTheGovernment.

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