The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

You might be laughing, but I’m scared (here’s that John Banks post)

Cross posted from my place.

Trigger warning for misogyny, sexual violence, homophobia and transphobic slurs.

Firstly, I just want to acknowledge that there have been many amazing blogs, both pre and post-election about the bigoted politics of John Banks and other politicians in Aotearoa. It’s amazing to share learning and outrage with you.

Pre-election, I had a conversation with a male friend about the political right and the feverishly socially conservative values that seem to come along with many (but not all) far right politicians both here and overseas.

I touched on some US Republican gems from the last year, including their attempts to re-define rape to “forcible rape” in order to further narrow the criteria for getting an abortion (and making a victim-blaming and disgusting assertion around what constitutes ‘real rape’ while doing so). I talked about how they tried to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, how they were outraged about improved access to free contraception. I generally ranted and raved.

When we began to discuss some New Zealand examples of bigoted and misogynistic far right politics, my friend said “I just find these guys so ridiculous that it’s funny.” Now, I know that my friend was meaning to emphasise how he dismissed these politicians, but it really stopped me in my tracks. I have certainly laughed at some of the more absurd political moves of the far right (like, y’know, ACT admonishing MMP despite the fact that their party wouldn’t have had seats in Parliament if it weren’t for MMP) but I can’t say these people ever make me laugh.

What I ended up attempting to explain to my friend, was that perhaps he could laugh because as a straight, white, cisgender, middle-class, able-bodied, employed, male – far right politics would not curtail his autonomy in the same way it would for me and many other people.

The idea that there are people in this country that have been elected to positions of power over me that genuinely think I should go to hell (literally and figuratively) for who I am makes me feel sick. What makes me feel not just sick but terrified, is that given the chance these people would enshrine their beliefs in legislation which would actively reshape my life without my consent. And what better chance do you get than to be a Member of Parliament?

People (and there are many) who choose to dismiss and laugh at John Banks being re-elected are well within their rights to do so, I wish I could myself.

But I can’t laugh at someone who says this:

“I challenge you or any other New Zealander to name two other countries that murder more unborn children each year per capita than New Zealand. Everybody listening should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. This is state funded genocide and I am compiling a list of all the doctors in all the hospitals up and down the country that commit these murders every morning of the week and dump these babies either in the waste disposal unit in the hospital or into a ‘kleensac’ and I am going to release their names publicly so that you’ll be able to walk down the street “That’s a killer!” “That one who lives in that house. He’s another murderer!” “She kills babies before they are born!” and I’ll be able to identify the abortionist dash state funded killer because I’m getting the list together and I’m going to release it in Parliament so it can be published in every newspaper in the country.” – From the ALRANZ “From Our Files” series.

Or this:

“A women’s place is in the home…get back to the kitchen sink.”- As cited at the Young Labour Women blog.

Or this:

“If we continue the bankrupt response of just paying young Polynesian, young Maori men in South Auckland, the dole to sit in front of TV, smoke marijuana, watch pornography and plan more drug offending and more burglaries, then we’re going to have them coming through our window” – From No Right Turn

Or this at the 1986 passing of the Homosexual Law Reform:

“This day will be remembered as a sad and sickening day for New Zealand. A very black cloud tonight, and those members who wheel themselves through the doors of the Ayes lobby to vote for legalised sodomy at the age of 16 should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Particularly as the family unit in New Zealand is under siege.”

Or this on the removal of the ban on LGBTI folk in the armed forces (when Banks was Minister of Police):

[I will] “rigorously oppose and move in parliament that opens the door to the police for trans-sexuals, bisexuals and transvestites.”

Oh but it’s okay because years later he said:

“I’m only critical of their unhygienic and un-Christianlike sexual behaviour.”

Above quotes from here.

I also can’t laugh off the fact that one of the biggest human roadblocks to comprehensive sex education in this country is now Associate Minister for Education. His portfolio appointments are exactly why I think it’s remiss to be dismissive of politicians just because people find their stances laughable.

I am well aware that John Banks isn’t the only terrifying bigot in Parliament, and that there are many politicians who share his views. However I think it speaks volumes about how much of an actual tangible threat these people are, that just in the latest change to Parliament we have the following people ‘representing’ us in addition to Banks:

  • Richard Prosser of NZ First who is pro banning the burqa, arming taxi drivers, and anti same sex marriage, prostitution, and pro parental notification of abortion according to his Family First Report Card.
  • Tracey Martin of NZ First who thinks that NZ’s abortion laws should be decided by binding referendum and supports parental notification, adding “What if my sons were about to become Fathers – should I not also be informed”.
  • Denis O’Rourke of NZ First opposes same-sex adoption among other things.

I’ll stop there, because I could list the problematic politics of some of our new MPs all day.

I’m not taking issue with people laughing at John Banks because laughing keeps them from crying, my issue is with people who laugh because they dismiss how much he could actually achieve in Parliament. My issue is that many people don’t have the luxury of dismissing and laughing people like John Banks off. And that group of people is getting bigger and bigger, in fact, as of Tuesday it includes every child in our education system.

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