Thursday, 26 March 2015

Undoing rape culture, one sports field at a time

This week we got the chance to see a key plank of rape culture in practice.

Masculinity cultures in men's sports, or rather the dominant men's sports, are without doubt some of the most important ways we learn what it means to be male.  Boys shouldn't "throw like a girl"; you must "toughen up, man up, harden up"; and instead of sports being a contest of skill and athleticism, we are taught to consider them battles, where the toughest of male warriors play on through the pain barrier or they are a "wuss".

So when Australian Rugby superstar David Pocock condemns homophobia he's breaking some masculinity rules and that's a fine thing.  More interestingly though, in this case, is the fact that Mr Pocock broke a key support for rape culture - "what happens on the field stays on the field."

The Sydney Morning Herald says their website comments have been loaded with ugly sentiment: 
"Has sport come to this? I don't agree with comments like that, but neither do I agree with making such an issue of it. Pocock knows the player(s) involved, and he'd be better served having a stern word to them during the game, or after the game. To bring the referee into it is unnecessary, in my view, although I'm sure plenty of the PC crowd will disagree."
Almost immediately, there were people predicting that David Pocock would not captain the Wallabies again.  Pocock was public in his support of Marriage Equality, and recently chained himself to a digger to protest mining in state forests in New South Wales.  He's a man who cares about the world, and isn't afraid to show what he stands for.  This didn't matter to rugby fans or the rugby hierarchy when he wasn't breaking the "what happens on the field stays on the field" rule, because he's a brilliant, brilliant player who wins rugby matches.

Now that he's naming other men's bad behaviour on the field though, he's fair game.  This isn't about the content of the naming - he could have been talking about sexism, racism or homophobia - it's about masculinity and rape culture.

Men consistently overestimate other men's use of and support for gendered violence.  Related to this, men consistently underestimate other men's willingness to stand up to gendered violence, which limits their own willingness to intervene.  Put together, these two planks of what men think masculinity means make it harder for men to stand up to other men when they behave badly.

To end rape culture, that's precisely what we need.  It's not enough, if you're a man who wants to end rape culture, to ensure you actively seek and give consent in your own relationships.  You'll have much better relationships and be a more decent human being, but undermining rape culture means undermining masculinity values which say solidarity with other men is the most important thing.  There are always more men watching than participating in gendered violence.  If those watchers become challengers, gendered violence becomes far more difficult to perpetrate.  "What happens on the field stays on the field" is offensive primarily for the fear it engenders in men challenging other men.

That's why David Pocock should be applauded this week.  He's showing all men that calling out other men's bad behaviour is possible, even in the most sanctified of masculinity shrines, the sports field.  Imagine if other man always did that every time another man made a rape joke; sexually harassed bar staff; groped someone at a gig; put their partner down; threatened or acted out violence towards others for being queer or Black or feminine?  We'd have an end to rape culture before we knew it. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Three Strikes, you're out NZ Police

Trigger warning:  Explicit discussion of incompetent sexual violence investigations underpinned by rape culture.  Please be careful reading.

The IPCA report into the Roast Busters case is so bad the Police have issued a public apology.  It details systemic problems with how sexual violence was investigated throughout the Police hierarchy.  The report itself points out the lack of shift from two previous reviews of Police practice in this area:
It is disturbing that several themes identified as a result of the Authority’s child abuse inquiry (such as deficiencies in investigative practices, file recording, collaboration with CYF, and case supervision) have, again, been highlighted in the Authority’s current investigation.
IPCA identified seven cases involving the same young men that were brought to Police attention between February 2011 and April 2013.  One case involved multiple alleged sexual assaults. 

Deficiencies in Investigative Practices
NZ Police chose to stop investigating these cases when victims did not wish to proceed.  The law is clear on this - victim's co-operation is helpful but not required.  NZ Police failed to:
  • either check whether the named young men were known to Police, or when they did recognise this, failed to consider whether there was a pattern of behaviour which was dangerous to the public.  The IPCA Report calls this "the most significant failing identified in the Authority’s investigation."
  • obtain statements from witnesses
  • attempt to speak to or take statements from all of the young men involved in the incident
  • make any enquiries that might have corroborated or refuted any inconsistencies between accounts
  • adequately consider the evidence in relation to consent issues 
  • secure all available evidence, such as CCTV footage, cellular telephone data, and photographic and video images
  • ensure investigations were completed in a timely way
  • ensure officers interviewing witnesses knew case details

Deficiencies in File Recording
This comes up first in the Background section.  NZ Police told the IPCA that four cases involving the Roast Busters young men had been reported to them.  Upon file review, the IPCA in fact found seven. 

In addition, NZ Police failed to:
  • accurately record names or birth dates of the young people concerned, in particular the perpetrators.  Some cases did not bother to record the young men's names at all; others missed out some young men.
  • submit a final report at all in one case 
  • submit accurate final reports in other cases.  This included failing to mention victims providing evidence, incorrectly stating victims had been in contact with CYF, incorrectly stating that victims had described activities as consensual
  • remove their own biases - one case report included musings from the officer about the "mindset" of the victim which the IPCA describes as "tenuous and unfounded" (we can only guess at which delightful rape myth that might refer to)
  • failure to identify corroborating evidence - on one occasion by three witnesses - which might assist with prosecution

Deficiencies in Collaboration 
NZ Police failed to:
  • refer the young men to CYF, in line with protocols between NZ Police and CYF.  Had they done so, access to offender treatment could have been offered as well as other interventions.  Instead this happened just once, but the young man did not turn up to his appointment.
  • link in with Youth Aid or the schools concerned at all
  • contact the parents of the young men in person.  In just one case, letters were sent to the young men's parents.  The letters didn't reference other cases and did not mention offender treatment, merely informing the parents Police were taking no action on a complaint they'd received.

Deficiencies in Case Supervision
The report identifies one officer as providing inadequate supervision for his cases, including failing to identify the problems named above.

Lack of understanding of the law
The law regarding consent and alcohol in NZ states: "A person does not consent to sexual activity if the activity occurs while he or she is so affected by alcohol or some other drug that he or she cannot consent or refuse to consent to the activity."

I'm going to just quote the report's findings on this one: 
In four of the cases, alcohol was known by investigating officers to have had an influence on the behaviour of the young women involved. In one case, the young woman passed out and awoke to find one of the young men on top of her. In another case, the young woman had no recollection of the incident, and was told a few hours later by one of the young men that “you were roasted and then passed out.” Material on these Police files reveals that the reported level of intoxication and the state of consciousness of the young women due to their alcohol consumption, and how this impacted on their capacity to consent, was an issue that was never adequately followed up by the officers. In some instances, it is apparent from the Authority’s interviews with the officers and from the files that it was not even considered.
The law regarding age of consent in NZ states that someone cannot give consent if they are under 16.  Sometimes this is not prosecuted, generally if both people involved in sexual contact are under 16 and it's not seen in the public interest.

The report concludes that wasn't the case for the Roast Busters incidents, as the levels of intoxication involved, the fact some of the young women were three years younger than the perpetrators, and the fact there were multiple perpetrators involved all indicate there should have been public interest in prosecution.
This is the stuff of nightmares.  It's every bit as bad as we thought, way back in November 2013, when there were street protests and demonstrations and everyone in New Zealand was talking about what consent means and whether "boys will be boys" is an acceptable excuse for rape.  When three independent reports in a row detail the same failings, it's not a few bad apples, it's a rotten system.  Three strikes, you're out NZ Police.

The Police need reform, they need improvements in sexual violence practice to be measured and reported on, they need more training.  They need to take sanctions against officers who treat sexual violence so cavalierly - if they want this to stop being a systemic problem.  Top quality investigation of sexual violence cases need to be a key performance indicator at a District level, so the hierarchy take it seriously.  Until their officers actually understand and implement the law, they should be reporting on their improvements to an impartial group which has the power to hire and fire. 

One final note from me.  This report says that the Police treated victims courteously and were motivated to act in their best interests, based on talking to the Police and reviewing documentation.  The IPCA did not interview one victim, and while I can understand why there may well be no victims who would want to go anywhere near the Police again, this seems like a major oversight.  I have no confidence that this incompetent a Police service is routinely treating victims well.  I have no doubts some individual Police officers will be - and I'm sure this report is heartbreaking for the many NZ Police who want to prosecute sexual offenders appropriately - but the system needs correcting.  Watch this space.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Roast Busters report from IPCA is scathing

Some quick links:

Release from NZ Police - Young women to receive apology for shortcomings...

Herald report - IPCA: Police "let down" Roast Busters alleged victims

The report itself - (links for PDFs in first paragraph on this page at IPCA website)

Quick comment from me:  It appears that the police involved made a major (and to my mind inexplicable) mistake in somehow deciding that rape law only targeted consenting partners (WTF!), and because the law says you can't consent if you are under 16 somehow you also can't be raped?

Here's a sample from the report, in relation to the lack of consideration of rape charges:
Sexual conduct with a young person under 16 
84. Under section 134 of the Crimes Act 1961, everyone who has a sexual connection with, or does an indecent act on, a young person (under the age of 16 years) has committed an offence and is liable to a term of imprisonment (see paragraph 132). There is no question that these young men were aware that the young women involved in the six cases investigated by CPT staff were under 16 years. As a result of their interaction with Police officers, it is also evident that several of the young men (certainly by the time the investigation into Case 1 had concluded) were aware that they were committing an offence, irrespective of their own ages. 
85. Critically, the offence of ‘sexual conduct with a young person under 16’ did not require Police to determine whether there was consent. They merely had to prove that sexual connection had occurred and that the complainant was under 16 at the time. Clearly, therefore, the evidential threshold for prosecution was met. The only question for the Police was whether it was in the public interest to prosecute.
86. The Authority recognises that it is uncommon for Police to prosecute a young person under section 134 for sexual connection with a person of the same or a similar age. This is because often such cases involve two young people, close together in age, who are engaging in mutually consenting sexual activity, and it is determined by Police that the public interest is not served by prosecution. 
87. It is clear that this general thinking underpinned the approach taken by the officers in these cases. Indeed, Officer D told the Authority that he and Officer C determined that prosecutions under section 134 were “inappropriate” because two of the three young men were under 16 at the time of the offending. He added that section 134 is intended for “consenting parties” and that, if it had been used to bring a prosecution in Case 3, it would have implied that the Police did not believe the victim’s initial account that she was not consenting. 
88. The Authority does not accept the validity of this reasoning, as there were a number of aggravating features in these cases that should have prompted consideration of such a prosecution. In four of these cases the young women were between two and three years younger than the young men involved. They were vulnerable (due to factors such as their level of intoxication); the extent to which they were willing parties was at best equivocal; and they Section 127 of the Act states, “There is no presumption of law that a person is incapable of sexual connection because of his or her age.”  The young men involved in these cases were aged between 14 and 17 years at the time of the incidents. 2424 were subject to sexual acts by more than one young man. The behaviour of the young men was demonstrably unacceptable and required a response. 
89. In our view, the fact that the parties are close together in age, while a relevant factor, is not determinative. Moreover, it is perverse to conclude that a prosecution for sexual violation cannot be brought because there is insufficient evidence to prove lack of consent beyond reasonable doubt, but then to reject a prosecution under section 134 on the basis that it would imply the existence of consent. The reality is that a prosecution under section 134 says nothing about the presence or absence of consent, because it is simply irrelevant to the facts that need to be proved.
90. At the least, officers should have discussed this option with victims and explained the implications to them. They were remiss in failing to do so.

My whole life I've been dressing up

I'm going to try something a little different, and review a TV series. 
Disclaimer: Transparent is about a white upper-class Jewish trans woman, Maura, coming out when her children are adults.  Since I'm atheist and cis, I'm sure my understanding of some things will miss the mark so please jump in for discussion/correction in comments.  Second disclaimer:  I don't watch a whole heap of tv or movies. Sometimes when my very clever friends talk about tv I don't understand them.  So this will be unsophisticated.

Transparent came out last year, winning awards and critical admiration, including from trans activists.  Early on in the show Maura comes out to her eldest daughter Sarah, who asks "Does this mean you're going to be dressing up like a woman?"

There's some reaching out to other trans* folks from Maura that speaks clearly to why we need support groups and retreats and safe places for all trans and gender diverse people.  One of the scenes I found most painful was a summer camp Maura attended years earlier for transfeminine people.  Camp members are describing someone being kicked out of the camp for using hormones.  "This is a camp for men," they heartily agree, "men who like to dress as women!"  Maura is visibly uncomfortable, and it feels like she's finding out that even that space - which she has been experiencing, until then, as joyful and full of wonder - may not be safe.

There are other painful slices of transphobia. Maura enters a women's bathroom with her daughters, who assure her it will be fine, despite her obvious discomfort.  They call her "Dad", which leads to other women in the toilet misgendering Maura and telling her she must leave.  Sarah's rage - which no doubt you'd feel - explodes and worsens the situation and Maura slinks away, finding an empty construction site portaloo she can safely use.  A good reminder to cis allies that the most important way to support someone is to make sure you respect what they want whether you understand why or not, because getting it wrong might well be dangerous.

The show is ostensibly about Maura, but actually we spend just as much time, if not more, watching her painfully self-involved children.  I'm assuming this is supposed to show the whole gamut of reactions to Maura transitioning, but it's hard to read her family's behaviour as having anything to do with her.  They are all complete train-wrecks, and while their indifference to Maura's feelings is horrific at times, it's how they treat everyone.  Sarah and Josh don't care when their mother's partner of many years, who seems to have dementia, disappears.  Josh scares his first girlfriend in the show so much she asks his boss to keep him away from her, though he thinks he's showing her love.  Ali's best friend tells her at one point that Ali's been making her feel awful for years.  I'm not sure the nuances of transphobia are well-served by this, though it's frequently good drama.

There's an argument over whether we should be interested or emotionally moved by what's going on in Maura's family anyway.  For many, shifting the focus from the person most vulnerable to structural oppression - Maura - might not be ok.  And it's a story we're more familiar with, right?  How cis people feel about trans* folks.

When I came out as bisexual I sent my mother books by and about queer women for every birthday and Christmas for a decade.  Good books, by Alice Walker and Lisa Alther and Jackie Kay and Sarah Schulman and Joan Barfoot and Marge Piercy....She read them, swapped them with friends.  I thought I was helping my mum see my life.  Years later, she thanked me for sending her books "about how other parents coped with having queer children."  I said I didn't think that's what they'd been about.  She was surprised.  I think, in a way, we were both right.

So while I'm much more interested in seeing Maura and her story being told than I am in another story about cis people, I feel disappointed that so far Transparent, in my opinion, has dodged telling the stories of her children's engagement with a transitioning parent with any depth, simply because they're all such self-involved jerks.

Maura's youngest daughter, Ali, changes her gender presentation quite dramatically during the show.  By the end, she's been wearing masculine clothes for a couple of episodes and has a much more androgenous haircut.  Some reviewers suggests this happens without commentary to juxtaposition how easy it is for women to play with presenting in a masculine way compared with the frequent and difficult reactions Maura gets to her transition.

I find this troubling.  While it's not helpful to play oppression olympics, the idea that there is no cost for women expressing masculinity is very different to my experience.  I've presented in a range of ways across my life, and spent lots of my early twenties looking pretty much like any stereotype of a sporty butch queer women you've ever seen.  During that period I was frequently asked to leave women's toilets, verbally and physically threatened by men, called "it" by men, asked if I was confused by men, told all I needed was a "good fuck" by men.  At one family gathering, the partner of one of my cousins drunkenly asked me "what are you?"  I think he was confused by my shaved head and breasts, they make bogans a little basic in Christchurch.  One of my friends, a beautiful butch, was recently so frightened about a road trip to the States and the violence she might experience there that we spent lots of time pre-planning safe stops, based on their LGBTIQ friendliness.

You get the point.  Maybe Ali's demographic cope much better with androgenous presentations.  But simply pretending there's no issue feels dishonest to me.
I'd be remiss, dear reader, if I didn't comment on The Biphobia.  Again.  Sarah's married life is turned upside down when she meets an ex-lover who's a woman.  So she does what every Bisexual should, and Cheats on her partner.  With the Other Gender.  Oh, and she tries to do it again later, after she's left her husband for the sexy ex, when she's hiding in the laundry with her husband.  Us Bisexuals, can't help with the Cheating.  We're just always wanting all of the genders, all of the time.  In case you're not sure this storyline is actually a thing, just cast your mind back to Orange is the New Black's central bi character, Piper, who um, does exactly the Same Cheating Bisexual Thing.

Actually maybe Sarah's not Bisexual.  It's not like that word is ever mentioned, for goodness sake. Towards Sarah or the other character who has relationships with more than one gender.  Because Biphobia.  Again.

There's been much commentary about the fact that a cis man, Jeffrey Tambor, is playing Maura.  He's wonderful in the role, and clearly an ally, plus I suspect an actor of his calibre may have significantly increased the chances of Transparent being made in the first place.  Some people have suggested it's marginally more acceptable to have a cis man playing a trans woman because Maura is beginning her transition.

This seems like slightly ridiculous transphobia to me.  Are we really saying a trans actress, assigned male at birth, wouldn't be able to pull off playing a trans woman pre-transition?  Whereas a cis man can pull off playing a woman?

We've seen similar arguments recently to justify non-disabled actors playing disabled characters.  As with white actors playing Black characters, all of these casting decisions reveal discrimination - an assumption that people (which people?) will identify more readily with able-bodied people, with white people, with cis people.

If cripping up and blacking up are unacceptable, so is transing up.  Cis people playing trans characters speaks to centring of cis experience even when a trans story is being told, and it needs to stop.  It's great to see a variety of other roles in Transparent are played by trans actors, and a trans woman is joining the writing staff for season two.  On the subject, it's no surprise to me that the central character here is white and middle-class.  I wonder if we'll see any intersectionality in season two, an exploration perhaps of the rates at which trans women, especially trans women of colour, are targetted for lethal violence?

These reservations aside, Transparent is a good watch.  The writing is tight, the acting superb.  Much as I might dislike Maura's children, watching them behave badly is a bit like watching an election result you're not happy about - it's hard to look away.  Gender and sexuality themes are everywhere.  Seeing a multiplicity of transfeminine and one transmasculine (to date) characters is a treat.  Maura may not be able to tell every transfeminine story - who could? - but she normalises a particular kind of trans experience for a mainstream audience.  We need more stories which do that, if we want to end transphobia.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Why are we still here? Commonwealth feminists speak out

Recently I was asked to contribute to "Why are we still here?", a Commonwealth Writers blog about feminism for International Women's Day on 8 March.

My post went up on the day itself, with a new one going up every day since. Seven more will go up over the next week, including:

Maori academic Ella Henry on indigenous women’s rights, and the need for women to re-politicise their personal lives.

15 March: You can read Ella's post here.

Right now you can read:

- Poet and playwright Sitawa Namwalie on the incremental fight against deep-rooted gender equality in Kenya

Urvashi Butalia, founder of India’s Zubaan Books, on the changing landscape of feminist publishing and its relevance today

- Writer and academic Martine Delvaux on the importance of feminist writing in countering the erasure of women in Canada

- Film activist Marian Evans on the deficit of complex female protagonists in New Zealand’s film industry.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

2015 Pro-Chioce Gathering in Wellington

The 2015 pro-choice gathering is going to be awesome. A chance to talk abortion politics, meet awesome people, make plans and probably even protest.

When: Saturday and Sunday, 21 and 22 March 2015, from 9.00am -4.30pm

Where: PSA House, 11 Aurora Terrace, Wellington
Marama Davidson is the keynote speaker - and there are lots of awesome sessions planned (and room for more if there are things people are particularly keen to see or offer. As well as talking about abortion politics there'll be some crafting and protesting.

For more information go to ALRANZ's blog or the facebook event page.

Come along! Invite your friends!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

markers of cultural identity

various things in my life have been keeping me busy these days, so that i'm finding little energy to write.  but i've had a bit of time to read about the whole patricia arquette oscar speech thing and intersectionality, which reminded me about another issue related to race.

i don't watch many TV programmes, but favourite ones tend to be legal dramas.  from "LA law" to "ally mcbeal" to "the practice" to "the good wife" (not so much "boston legal", unfortunately).  so i was definitely interested in the new series "how to get away with murder".  i've watched the 3 episodes that have aired, and i really like it.  i love the centering of black people, the strong character development of them, i the central character in both her toughness and vulnerability.  in much the same way as i love the character of kalinda sharma in "the good wife".

the only thing that bothers me with the show is, on the face of it, pretty trivial.  it's that the hair of the black women on the show is invariably straight.  i'd have to go back through the 3 episodes to confirm, but it seems to me that there wasn't any major black woman on the show with the tight curls that many african women have.  i've looked at images of viola davis, and it seems to me that is her natural hair style.

the thing is that it isn't just this one show.  it's a thing with most movies, tv shows, music videos, most of popular culture.  it's a thing that has been written about a lot in america, and here's just one article.  it's a thing that's rooted in american history, where blackness has historically been considered bad, unworthy and the expression of blackness disdained.  it's about a history where black women have had straightening products pushed on them for decades, with the notion that having straight hair makes them more acceptable (reminds me of the whitening cream marketed so strongly in many asian countries).

this is not about viola davis and her individual choice - she gets to present herself how she pleases, as does any black woman.  i certainly don't think of any one of them as sell-outs for choosing to have straight hair.  it's more about a show that is going past so many stereotypes but still adhering to this one.  it's about how a natural marker of identity (and yes, i know that not all african women have natural curly hair) is erased from popular culture - unless it's a period drama.

we have a parallel here in nz, with maori.  the way that moko are treated in every day kiwi life is quite similar.  they're considered unacceptable for employment; they are often viewed as something scary or suspicious; they are rarely seen on our tv screens or in our newspapers.  they seem to me to be an aspect of cultural identity that has been sidelined instead of celebrated.  i can't speak for maori in general, or any maori person specifically, so apologies if i have this wrong.  but could it be that a lot more of them would choose to have one if there wasn't this erasure and negativity surrounding the practice?

i guess these issues are of importance to me because i wear one of aspect of my identity so very visibly, and by choice.  i pay consequences for that choice, of course.  daring to have a marker of identity that is so different from the majority can be seen as an affront, a challenge to the status quo.  hence there can be pushback.  so be it, i find that's not enough to stop me.

but i do know that it shouldn't be so.  i shouldn't be getting push-back.  neither should anyone else, simply for making an overt display of who they are.  or for sporting a marker of cultural identity.  that's why i want this show to be braver, stronger, more challenging of stereotypes than it already is.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

It's raining racism and transphobia on my Pride parade

Content warning: this is about racist, transphobic violence and has been put together from a number of sources online available at time of writing.

Last night during the Pride parade in Auckland a Māori trans woman had her arm broken as she protested against New Zealand Police and Corrections staff taking part.  Other protestors say the security staff targetted her for violence, while cis Pākehā protestors were treated more gently.

You should not have your arm broken when you are protesting.  It's unclear yet whether her arm was broken by the Police or by security staff.  It's also unclear why there was a long delay in seeking medical attention despite numerous reports she was screaming.

We can thank social media for alerting us to how serious this is, because mainstream media coverage to date has been woefully incomplete.  In fact, it almost looks like the Police comms team went straight (pun intended) to work.  The NZ Herald tells us "Proud Police march Pride parade":

The Police press release/NZ Herald article explains that many Police participating were not "gay" (hint: NZ Police, neither are most LGBTIQ folks), they just wanted to show they "value diversity."  Then right at the end:
The only disruption to the parade was a vocal group of three who protested the police contingent.

Protester Tim Lamusse said police had a history of targeting queer communities, "particularly in the 60s, 70s and 80s, they would turn up to gay clubs, make everyone come outside and shame them in front of everybody".

The protest was poorly received by the crowd, which responded with calls of "you're ruining the parade!".

Lamusse said police never apologised for their past prejudices and "they continue to beat up queer kids".
One of the protesters was arrested and later treated by St John staff for injuries she suffered during the arrest.
Both RadioNZ and Stuff at least lead their Pride coverage with the assault, but details at this point are scarce.  Stuff have also apologised for an earlier version of the article describing the woman injured as a "transvestite".

Let's just imagine, for one moment, the quantity and depth of coverage there would be if the Pride parade had involved property damage to a known homophobic bar. Investigative reporting might not be missing in action for that kind of assault.

But that's not the most disappointing part, for me at least.  Because the response from the queer* community has included event organisers saying how "well-handled" the incident was.  Unless, I guess, you're the Māori trans woman in hospital this morning, having your bones reset.

GayNZ has a small story, including a request for more information from those there.  But they also have a much more detailed editorial lauding Pride for being bigger, better and more mainstream than ever before.  Police are praised for the "massive symbolism" of taking part.

How about the "massive symbolism" of racist, transphobic state-sanctioned violence?  How about the "massive symbolism" of people filming the assault also being arrested, or having their phones destroyed?  How about the "massive symbolism" of a uniformed mob allowing an assault in front of them and not intervening to keep a member of the public safe?  

If you're not sure why NZ Police and Corrections staff have a difficult relationship with the queer* community, do some reading.  The Trans Inquiry in 2008 led by the Human Rights Commission detailed transpeople being subjected to violence, harassment, misgendering and exposure to unsafe environments by NZ Police and prison staff, abuse which continues to be an issue.

I have personal knowledge of queer* people trying to report same-sex sexual assault to the Police and being told there was no crime, or worse.  NZ Police do not always take the harassment and violence queer* people experience on the street seriously, even when that violence is lethal.  And the much vaunted Diversity Liasion Officers are certainly a step in the right direction - except when I tried to report some homophobic and biphobic violent threats I'd received a couple of years ago, Wellington Police Station didn't know what DLOs were, and couldn't tell me who I should be talking to.  

Marginalised people do not trust the Police, for good reasons.  In the Trans Inquiry, trans people reported regular Police harassment; Pacific peoples are twice as likely to be tasered as
Pākehā, Māori between the two.

So if you're a trans person of colour, it probably doesn't make you feel proud to see NZ Police "valuing diversity", it probably makes you feel scared.  "Massive symbolism" is empty if it's a lie.

You can support the woman lying in hospital today here.   

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The 81st Down Under Feminist Carnival

It's a pleasure to host the 81st (!!) Down Under Feminist Carnival at The Hand Mirror this month.  Thanks to all those who sent in submissions, I really appreciate your efforts and it made it a lot easier to put this together.

Sex and Relationships
on the challenge of bisexual identity, reconciling one's own masculinity, grindr racism and off soy chips at schoolforbirds
The strategic penis by an anonymous guest poster
Our silver wedding anniversary by Deborah
Monogamy's police by Jennifer Wilson

Race and Racism
Was #IllRideWithYou worth it?  by Tara Ashford
We must not lose faith in humanity by Yassmin
A Tour of Issues of Appropriation and Racism in Melbourne's Restaurants by Stephanie
I call myself an Australian by Sam Connor
intersectional is more than a three-letter country by Stephanie
miss universe australia and asking permission by Stephanie
Australia: a country of vengeful malcontents by Jennifer Wilson
The Aussie Long Weekend: what awaits by Yassmin
On the subject of David Rankin and his latest outburst by tildebhooks
White. WHITE. White by clarencegirl

Pop Culture and the Media
Media Circus: #JeSuisCharlie Edition by tigtog
Australians remember Captain America by Liz
Media Circus: Gratuitous Knighthood Edition by tigtog
Using social media mindfully and for social good is not graffiti  by Carly Findlay
TV: Catching Up on Women Friendly Media by Scarlett Harris
The Choice to Be a Total Diva by Scarlett Harris

Violence Against Women (content warning on these posts, take care)
Standing Up For Leelah by tigtog
Family Violence. Where's the Minister for Women by Jennifer Wilson
Rape: It's Never About Alcohol by Kate Galloway

Writing and Related Bits
January Update by acbuchanan
What I'm Reading - Andie Fox
Ancillary Conversation by Liz (contains spoilers for Ann Leckie's books)
Dhungur'-yun-nha: a short poem and comment on stuff by Evelyn Enduatta
Page 1 of 365 by Yassmin
2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge Review - Peony by Eileen Chong by Jo Tamar
2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge Review - Too Flash by Melissa Lucashenko by Jo Tamar
2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge Review - MumShirl: an autobiography with the assistance of Bobbi Sykes by Jo Tamar
2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge Review - Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth by Jo Tamar
Minister for Women by Penni Russon

Bodies and reproductive rights
On fat in 2014: The year that was by Cat Pause
You've been targeted: suppporting the AMA and RACGP supporting us by Team Oyeniyi
The Educated Eater by SleepyDumpling
The Realities of Fat Activism by SleepyDumpling
Is this the final taboo for women in sports? by Lucia Osborne-Crowley

Miscellaneous and General Feminism
Cardinal Raymond Burke blames "radical feminists" for paedophile priests by Clementine Ford
Not New At All by SleepyDumpling
ecologically responsible beach hang outs by Stephanie
Swimming into trouble by Chally
People at least as deserving of knighthoods as Prince Philip by Liz
The Credlin thing by Jennifer Wilson
When your heroes let you down is it time to wave goodbye? by Scarlett Harris
Why Julia Gillard's experience is putting some women off politics by Juliette Saly
Internet freedom and the EFF's anti-harassment statement by a guest poster at Geek Feminism

GAYTMs, diversity and respect

"Diversity" is a problematic concept.  I use it sometimes because it's a shorthand way of saying I don't think the most powerful or visible are the best or even the only.

But it doesn't work in lots of ways. Because implicit in the idea of "diversity" is plurality sure, but there's no way of marking the fact that the different positions are valued differently in existing power relations.  So I can say I love the diversity of the suburb I live in - which is true - but that doesn't allow me to note that queer young people in New Zealand have significant housing problems due to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.  Or that our state housing is woefully inadequate for families which do not fit the Pākehā middle-class nuclear ideal.  Or that my suburb is land stolen under colonisation.

Diversity maybe works least well around capitalism.  Those interested in justice don't really want diversity of incomes do we?  We want equity.  We want an end to greed.  We want social and material arrangements that make sure everyone has enough to eat, a warm place to live and the capacity to thrive.

These philosophical issues are part of the irony of the GAYTM debate, part of ANZ's marketing in Australia last year, introduced just this week in Aotearoa to time with major queer festivals in Auckland and Wellington.

GAYTMs "celebrate diversity and inclusion for New Zealand's rainbow community."

ANZ's chief financial officer, Antonia Watson, the executive sponsor of the bank's Pride Network, said it aimed to encourage staff to be themselves at work.
However, she said the move also made good business sense for the bank, "given the make-up of our staff and customers".

The language is fabulous, the GAYTMs are pretty and profits from non-ANZ cards will go queerly to underresourced queer community organisations.  And as part of this burst of publicity for ANZ, they have been awarded the Rainbow Tick.
“We believe that celebrating a diverse New Zealand is not only the right thing to do but also makes good business sense given the make-up of our staff and customers,” says ANZ Chief Financial Officer Antonia Watson, who is also the ANZ Pride Network’s executive sponsor.
“The GAYTMs represent values that are important to all of us: respect, inclusion, equality and acceptance.”
The Rainbow Tick gives organisations queer mana - they are officially inclusive and treat us as well, you know, staff and customers.

Except I'm not sure I want to be treated like one of ANZ's staff.  Well, not all of them anyway.  Last year ANZ was super lucrative, making a $1.7 billion profit so the New Zealand chief executive could give himself a 15% pay rise up to $4.7 million.

Celebrating a diverse New Zealand for ANZ didn't extend to offering their staff 15% pay rises.  In fact, staff began striking from late last year, culminating in national action on Christmas Eve, because they could not get a 5% rise across the line, nor could they get ANZ to agree that having 20% of staff prepared to work without set starting and finishing times or set days of work was adequate.

Despite their commitment to diversity, ANZ needs all new staff to be prepared to have their working hours change month by month.  Hard for parents, caregivers, people with study, voluntary work, sports, music or any other kind of commitments really.

The hypocrisy of ANZ's pinkwashing - and make no mistake, this is inspired marketing - allows their behaviour with their real staff to be minimised.  From The Financial Brand:
Key Insight: This is what smart, savvy brand builders do. ANZ has transformed the otherwise mundane activity of withdrawing money into a branded experience that has helped the bank generate huge amounts of name awareness.
But the chief concern for me is that when the queer community lines up behind GAYTMs, when we offer these kinds of workplaces a Rainbow Tick, we are saying that shiny things for queer people are more important than worker's rights.

Like these are different things.

Queer people's rights are workers rights.  You cannot be a good employer for queer people just by talking about respect and diversity.  You have to also offer working conditions that are acceptable for all workers, because queer people need to know what time their day starts and ends too.  We need to know we will have enough money to feed ourselves and our loved ones, even if we're not a chief executive.

You can contact Rainbow Tick here if you want to let them know this pinkwashing doesn't work for you.  Or even better, you can support workers rights at ANZ by telling ANZ here.  First Union are updating where negotiations for ANZ staff are at regularly here.

Friday, 6 February 2015

The Mainstream Media Paepae

It's Waitangi Day, Aotearoa.  Time for Pākehā to reflect on what it means to live on colonised land, where promises were made but not kept and the consequences are discrimination, disadvantage and disrespect for Māori.

Unless of course you're the Race Relations commissioner, who's bored with the political shenanigans and couldn't care less. 

There will be Opinion Pieces.  There will be White People Saying Stuff about those rude people at Waitangi and remember when they wouldn't let Helen Clark talk and do none of them have jobs, anyway?

The lack of knowledge of our colonial history will be on full display.  Many New Zealanders actually believe individual weaknesses of Māori explain any problems we have now, protestors are just divisive and that it would be lovely if we would just play rugby, drink and sing together.

It's this lack of knowledge which makes for some very strange public spokespeople emerging.  Leaving Ms Devoy aside, the person who's grabbed the most airtime this year hasn't been a kuia with lots of mana like Naida Glavish, or a lawyer who's been working on resolving Te Tiriti claims for decades like Annette Sykes, or even the chair of the United Nations working group on the rights of indigenous peoples, like Moana Jackson.  

Nope, it's a white dude who doesn't like cats

It's not the substance of Mr Morgan's comments on Te Tiriti I'm interested in here - other people have already done that well - it's the media constructed attention he's getting.   Like other rich white men his age (cough Bob Jones), Mr Morgan is enjoying a media platform amplifying his voice in ways he does not deserve. 

Check this out - Orewa, 2015, showdown between Old Rich White Men Talking About Race.  In the blue corner, we have Brash Man.  In the corner he bought for himself, we have Mr Morgan.  Nineteen people come to listen to them, all, it sounds like, from the same demographic.  Nineteen.  I can get that many people to come listen to me talk about who's going to win the cricket world cup if I offer to cook dinner.  And none of my friends like cricket.

But look at the fine print in this article.  It says there are "almost the same number of media representatives".

That's the shame.  When the media could be covering incredible orators with vast knowledge like Moana Jackson and Annette Sykes, when they could be asking young Māori what Te Tiriti means to them, when they could be approaching Pākehā historians like Anne Salmond or James Belich to educate us, to expand our views, to move us on, they are trailing around after a bloke who doesn't like cats.

No disrespect Mr Morgan, but check your privilege here.  I don't actually like the things you are saying - I think they are cloaked in dangerous, racist discourses like one law for all and Treaty industry - but as importantly, I don't like the fact you are taking advantage of your privilege to influence public debate on a topic you are ill-qualified to comment.  Perhaps you could use your influence to help ensure we hear the voices of people who have dedicated their lives to understanding Te Tiriti and colonisation?

That's who I would like to listen to and learn from today. Tino rangatiratanga peeps, hope Waitangi Day opens new learnings for you.