O hai, where ya been?

February 15, 2013

Apologies to anyone who looks here regularly, I’ve been having what’s euphemistically called ‘a holiday’ while I relocate myself & re-load the Master’s thesis project that got canned back in 2010 when VUW closed Gender & Women’s Studies School.

I’m just getting into the joy of new texts, a new library to strip-mine (joy of joys…) and meeting new supervisors, secondary supervisors and struggling with the concept that I know enough history to do an actual history paper at 500-level, as well as my thesis paper.

If anyone remembers, I was planning an herstory of radical feminist activism in Aotearoa/New Zealand, to be conducted by Oral History methods, covering the 1990’s through to oh, about 2010 .. that end date has morphed ‘cos many conditions in the world have changed, & I keep wanting to add more stuff.
I want to write about how globalisation affected activists here, about the 90’s neoliberal reforms, about hip mamas and random trollops, about the lovers and the fighters of the activist world, who happen to belong to us.
Along the way, I’m discovering, I am going to be dealing with some gnarly frameworks like post-structuralism, US and Euro definitions of ‘third wave’ feminism, and how that applies to the NZ experience, and possibly re-hashing some very old feminist arguments about ‘women and the left’, as those who became disillusioned with NZ political paradigms talk to me.

This where you, dear reader, may come in.
You see, many of the people I first envisaged interviewing have fled NZ since 2007, when I began to design this project. Some are more or less important than they used to be, some of us are sadder and wiser activists who jealously guard our privacy. There are many reasons why someone who might have wanted to participate, maybe doesn’t want to any more.

So this is a (very preliminary) callout to my sistas.
If you know someone (or you may even be someone) who was an activist in environmental work, indigenous rights, alternative political groups, outright radical feminist activity, labour organisation, advocacy for low-income workers or unemployed, you may be someone I’d like to talk to. There will of course be an ethics committee process to go through, but I wouldn’t be an anarchist if I wasn’t prepared to subvert that process by getting a little ahead of it, on my own terms.

You can comment here (all comments are moderated by me, so won’t show immediately. If you don’t want your comment published, say so, I’ll just contact you back privately) and let me know what you think of the project, what you might want to contribute or even criticise, and please, pass this around your networks.

FWIW, I operate at a level of ethical constraint higher than the Human Ethics Committees of most universities here in NZ. My protocol is that which is promulgated by NOHANZ, the National Oral History Association of NZ, based in the Oral History Archives in the Turnbull Library, Wellington. That can be viewed here.

Work that I do during this project will ultimately be archived at the Turnbull Library, in the Oral History Centre, unless participants specifically request their recorded contributions to be returned to them. Archived recordings can be set to varying levels of security, including ‘researcher only’, ‘public access’ and many variables in between. Recordings can be made unavailable for 50 years, in order that participants may be safely departed from this planet before their secrets may be examined, if so desired. Lotsa fun to be had there.

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Feministy round-up for 2012

December 30, 2012

I’ve been a bit short on interwebz for a while, so not much posting here has been going on.
Thankfully, there are others who rant more than I do, who’ve been keeping their end up, so I’m gonna chuck a bunch of links atcha.
I’m too hot, it’s mid-summer, and I’m nowhere near a beach, but suffering from limited net-surfing capacity.
Sorry, there are no pictures today!

So, here’s some of the low-lights of this year for me, mostly from the last two months, in no particular order, and some linky-love to people I respect who write far more consistently than I do.

There was an appalling incident of gang-rape in India, reported on desultorily in NZ until it became mega worldwide, when the Herald finally published this. I have no words to describe this tragedy, other than it is appalling that such events happen, and the result is debate about whether laws need to be changed, in the face of huge popular demonstrations by women all over India. The time has come for Indians, whether Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or Christian, to come to an agreement that rape is not the fault of the victim, it is a crime by the rapist.

The Hand Mirror has been fighting fires with logic and reason, notably over the responses to the Sandy Hook mass murders. Autism has become a hot topic, when one would imagine gun control and a review of the ludicrous NRA-sponsored gun laws in the USA should be the concern. More here.

And still with THM, Stargazer had pertinent things to say about the apparent suicide of Jacintha Saldanha in the wake of an Aussie radio DJ’s prank. She also wrote a great post about harrassment women bloggers receive, referencing Anita Sarkeesian’s TED talk.

Not to be seen to be playing favourites, Luddite Journo has also had some good rants, here on consent, and here on Out in the Square. I’m missing Wellington already ….

ALRANZ blog has been busy chronicling activism in – wait for it – Invercargill, as the local fundies try to shame women and Doctors attending the clinic at Southland Hospital. Just to show that shallow thinking and illogical actions are not merely the province of ill-educated american fundamentalists. I applaud the gutsy women who are picketing in the face of right-to-lifers who can’t see the contradiction in terms between their stance on abortion and their stance on supporting women to have decent lives, with a capacity to feed the children they give birth to. *sigh*
I’d be slapping stupid faces by now, I’m just over the specious arguments …. which is really why it’s a good thing I’m not in Invercargill right now.

Brooklynne opening the panel discussion and welcoming participants

Brooklynne opening the panel discussion and welcoming participants


St Andrews on the Terrace was the venue for an oversubscribed panel discussion (don’t worry, more chairs were poached from another room) on Friday evening, organised by Brooklynne Kennedy with help from many who attended.

The hall filled up very quickly, and after each panelist had spoken about their reasons for being part of the event, a lot of very interesting discussion ensued between panelists and audience members.

The panel comprised Brooklynne Kennedy, Nicole Skews, Joseph Hapgood and Griffin, and covered many aspects of the offense that Germain Greer, currently in Wellington for Writer’s and Readers’ week events, has caused to members of the Trans* community over the years. Feminists of many stripes attended and contributed to the discussion, as well as members of the trans* and intersex communities.

This is not the only event being held around issues of transphobia during the week, so if you missed this panel discussion, do try attending Gender Trouble, a Queer Avengers discussion group, to be held at Anvil House, Wakefield Street this Wednesday from 7pm to 9pm.

There’s a facebook event here, with info like a reading list of links if you’re keen.

Ladies in the House!

November 9, 2011

The Wellington Young Feminists Collective ran a very well-attended candidates forum last night, held in the mezzanine meeting room at Wellington Public Library, titled “Ladies in the House”.

“Come and hear what your candidates are planning to do for local women and ask them the questions that matter… like why there only two female Wellington Central candidates. Or why abortion is still in the Crimes Act. Or why after the 2008 election only 27% of electorate MPs were women.

Women’s issues are everyone’s issues. Let’s make them election issues.”

So, who was there? Candidates invited were:
Paul Foster-Bell (National Party Candidate for Wellington Central)
Jordan Carter (Labour Party List Candidate)
Stephen Whittington (ACT Party Candidate for Wellington Central)
Holly Walker (Green Party Candidate for Hutt South)
Jan Logie (Green Party Candidate for Mana)
Ben Craven (NZ First Candidate for Wellington Central)

and they were ably MC’d by Bryony Skillington.

There were indeed questions put about the Crimes Act, abortion law in general, health policy, domestic violence, how to get more women elected, whether parties would keep the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, poverty in general and child poverty in particular, and since my notes from the hour and a half ran to seven pages, I’m not going to detail all the answers that were given, suffice to say that Ben Craven was clearly well out of his depth, and not any kind of asset to his party affiliation in his ineptitude, which gave a lot of unintentional humour.
Paul Foster-Bell read out his set-piece answers very coherently, but you could see the gloved hand controlling the puppet.
Stephen Whittington, to his credit, gave some very unpopular answers but at least stuck honestly to his own, well-known beliefs. Prolly not gonna help ACT get any more women voters, but then they don’t seem to want a world where women are enfranchised and empowered, so I guess they’ll take as long as they need to come to grips with 21st C realities.
Now to the two women candidates – our own Green party women, Holly Walker and Jan Logie. Both spoke strongly on policy platforms, and gave well-considered answers to questions asked by the audience. Holly handled gender pay gap and child poverty issues, while Jan spoke mostly about gender violence.

Linky roundup: Radio NZ here, Wellington Access Radio here, Jan Logie’s speech here.

Update: Wellingtonista did a far better review of the guts of the forum here, which proves my personal point that I can afford to be lazy every now and then when I know someone else has got my back 😉 Big ups to the Wellingtonista team.

Thanks Toad for being faster on the draw than I am today.

Oh, and Bomber replied too, here.

Cactus Kate:
It was with mounting horror that I read your post today, and realised you had taken phrases out of context, from the comments made by myself and some other solo mothers, some 3 years ago. Nothing any of us (g.bloggers, who as Toad has said, do not represent Green Party policy, but speak for ourselves as individuals, or commenters, many of whom were not green members to my knowledge) said was advocating the kind of responses that you suggested.

I personally have resolved some of my financial issues by shifting the domicile of my teenagers back into their father’s responsibility, due to a major illness I am experiencing. He now acknowledges that child support, while he grumbled about it, is nowhere near as expensive as feeding teenagers 24/7, not to mention living with their tastes in music and clothes. FWIW, he did get taken by IRD and given a good shaking, and had to pay up for telling porkies about his salary and various other assets to IRD. Not that I saw any of it, he owed it to MSD via IRD.

In general, women I know, and know of, on the DPB are now worse off than they were before 2008. Not just because of the change of government, but because of the recession, and a bunch of futures speculation in food crops on the NYSE that led to global food price rises in most of the staple foods. CPI increases over the past 3 years have not been incorporated into benefits. Many more people are relying on Special Benefits to cover basic costs, as the ceiling for base benefit levels has been exceeded by price increases in every cost sector.

It’s not just teenage mums, or young women straight out of uni falling pregnant and going on the DPB. We’ve had this little thing called ‘the Christchurch earthquakes’ happen in NZ, which has changed the playing field for a lot of women. The combined Women’s Refuges of Christchurch have lost half of their available accommodation due to quake damage, and as domestic violence levels have soared in the city, they have been shipping families around the country to Refuges in other provinces where there is capacity available. Approximately 20,000 households have been displaced in Christchurch; a lot of marriages have broken up under the strain of watching the family home (the only asset a lot of working class NZ families ever own, their only retirement capital) turn into a broken pile of crap that the CERA, the insurance corporations and the EQC are now arguing over liabilities for.

Please don’t use my arguments to justify your narrow bigotry and repetition of mother-bashing myths about welfare consumers.
Quite a lot of men who look ‘ok’ in their twenties, a ‘good catch’ in their 30’s, can turn out to be the worst kind of hell to be married to when they start hitting the mothers of their children when the economy turns sour & money troubles begin. For a lot of those mothers, walking away and living the rest of one’s life on less than one is accustomed to is a damn sight more viable than sitting still and being beaten whenever he gets the bills in the mail.

Do not presume to assume that everyone who ends up on the DPB started out with nothing to their name; you’re a lawyer, you’ll have met some of the pond-scum lawyers who advise men how to defraud their ex-partners and children so they can set up with a clean slate (financially) with a new partner and family.

And on behalf of those women who were/are young solo mothers, sterilising young mothers is as brutal a solution as the social welfare policies of the 60’s, when young women who became unmarried mothers were forced to adopt out their babies at barely six weeks old. It certainly solved problems for older, infertile couples who wanted children to adopt, but it did nothing for the mental state of the mothers, or for the children.
By the same token, telling a 25-year-old solo mother that she has just experienced her one chance to have offspring, ‘tough luck he ran out on her & we’re going to neuter her so that she never has a chance to form a stable relationship’, is cruel and lacking in compassion.
For this to be advanced as a serious policy to deal with the welfare budget is disingenuous indeed, given that superannuation is by far the biggest cost in MSD. It will continue to be so until the baby boomer generation have shuffled off, then we’re going to be right back where we started, with a population and skills shortage.

I suggest you learn to think of policy happening in cycles that are longer than the 3 years between elections. Like, say, the eighteen years it takes to bring a baby to young adulthood, with all the attendant feeding, clothing, educating and housing that it requires.
There’s quite a lot of reasonable social policy around that topic, that timeframe – it can be found in the Ministries of Health, Education, Social Development, and even within MED, if you look at the demographic projections closely enough. Not to mention Family Court policy within Ministry of Justice.

Where I do agree with you is that men need to take responsibility; for their offspring, their attitudes, their drinking and their raping. It’s only a problem in a minority of cases, or else we wouldn’t be having this argument, you too would be a survivor of domestic violence.

There are very good reasons why some women don’t want their rapists name on their child’s birth certificate. An abusive man is not someone you want having any legal right to take your child. Don’t believe every sob story an attractive single, apparently childless man tells you after a few drinks, the Courts don’t allow such birth certification easily, and some women have had to go to great lengths to prevent any legal claim on the person of their child.

Family Courts are not biased towards women, if anything more men succeed in Court to gain custody and access provisions that suit them. There is no law in NZ to require a father to spend time with his offspring, something custody negotiations often fail to take into account. What looks good on paper is not necessarily going to happen in practice.

Slutwalk review

June 26, 2011

Ok, so anyone looking would have noticed that I haven’t said anything so far about this global phenomenon. FWIW, the arguments that american feminists have amongst themselves are not my problem, so I’m not gonna recap on that, google it yourself or check out the Handmirror, Julie’s done a reasonable recap here, and so has Luddite Journo.
And in the vein of my ever-increasing updates to this post, here’s Jane Clifton’s take on the story at The Listener, which was published on 2 July, before the marches took place, but will live behind the subscriber firewall until 18 July, 2011. Soz, but I figgured linking it was better than forgetting to go back once the two weeks had elapsed. [Or you could go looking for the print copy, which was still on sale last Thursday, but is prolly all gone back to the distributors by now, despite holding this week’s TV & radio programming details…]
Latest Listener (July 4) has Diana Wichtel’s TV review focussing on Slutwalk reporting in the media, not bad. Not behind the firewall, either.

I went on the march after a few of us had voiced some misgivings, but basically the issue is too important not to get involved in, whatever the minor differences of style and analysis we have between our various organisations.

MJ Scannell and Pollyanne Pena did a good job for people who haven’t ever done this before. It’s so long since I was on my first Reclaim the Night organising collective that I have to stretch to remember how much I sucked; thankfully for all concerned, I wasn’t a major part of that group, and lots of people helped me to come up to speed, which is a favour I return practically every time I get involved in running a march. There are lots of things to know how to do, and there are some obstructive bureaucrats who try to stop us every time.

There were great speakers, our own Green Party Candidate standing in Mana electorate, Jan Logie, being one of them. Brooklynne Kennedy, co-convenor of the Young Greens also spoke, and so did Natalie Gousmett who some in green circles may know, speaking for Rape Crisis.
Other speakers represented the Wellington Young Feminists Collective, Young Labour, and the NZ Prostitutes Collective, whose speaker reminded us that it’s eight years since the legislation passed decriminalising prostitution, and that nobody ever ‘deserves to be raped’, whatever their relationship to their rapist, whatever their sexual history, whatever is worn, wherever it is.
There were hundreds of marchers; young, old, men, women, gay, straight, everything in between as well. The recent ‘Queer the Night’ march in Wellington to highlight homophobic violence had a flow-on effect to Slutwalk here, with many young members (and some not-so-young) of the GLBTI community coming out to march against sexual violence crimes.

The main media outlets have focussed on simple things like the word ‘slut’ and ‘skimpy clothing’ images.
If they had honestly reported the speeches, they’d have heard MJ Scannell plead for media to stop using language that blames victims of rape, that implies that the sex was somehow consensual, that says ‘s/he must have asked for it’, that perpetuates the myriad of rape myths that are current in our society.
For those reasons alone, I’m not linking to any ‘mainstream media outlets’ websites – again, you can go google it yourself or search TV3, TVNZ, stuff and nzherald websites using the ‘slutwalk aotearoa’ search term.

Update:
Jan Logie’s excellent speech is online here at her blog.
And also Brooklynne Kennedy’s speech is here.

Now some pictures!

The crowd was thickly spread across the dryer parts of Waitangi Park, the starting point.


MJ Scannell speaking to the crowd in Civic Square


Jan Logie in mid-speech, with hovering press photographer.


Brooklynne Kennedy, bravely challenging the crowd on transphobia and rape issues.


Nicole Skews from the Wellington Young Feminists Collective

And in the ever-increasing updates, here’s a post by

This week’s issue of Salient has a new cartoon by Grant Buist, a former friend of mine. I say former, because this is really going to be the last straw.

You see, the cartoon, which can be found on his blog, has a panel depicting a first-year student in a very short dress, struggling to keep her door shut, on a ‘rubgy player’ – with the caption: she “narrowly avoids impregnation by rugby team during Orientation”.
This cartoon purports to be a 21st century update of Hogath’s famous 18th century series of engravings, “The Rake’s Progress”(background here), and is proposed to run as a serial in this year’s magazine.

Buist has excused himself thus:

Actually, something good that may come out of this would be discussion of the issue I’m highlighting above – many 18-year-old girls get massively shitfaced during Orientation, and are preyed upon. If you look at the crime incident maps distributed by the police (which are sometimes reproduced in Magneto), you can see that many of Wellington’s sexual assaults are committed in dark alleys near Courtenay Place, where hopelessly drunk girls have stumbled while trying to get home. It’s entirely possible, considering how the Orientation issue of Salient is full of advice for first-years, that some girls may read this panel and think “Right. Something to avoid.”

Really, if there’s anyone who should be annoyed, it’s rugby teams.

So, it’s just ‘one more time round the block’ for the tired old argument that ‘girls bring rape on themselves’, and we should police women’s behaviour – not that rapists are criminals, and we should police men’s behaviours.

There’s another good post on the subject here.

If you also find this offensive, please tell the editor of Salient, Sarah Robson, editor@salient.org.nz, as she has already replied to one member of the VUW Women’s Group that she thinks it’s not a big issue. I guess she just doesn’t get the point.

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