The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Morning After

I don’t think there’ll be anyone reading here who doesn’t know that last night, our parliament passed Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill through its first reading. I say “our parliament” quite deliberately: the margin of the vote was two to one, the same proportion by which it’s supported by the New Zealand public. Our elected representatives represented us: all of us. There is no sane and reasonable way to pretend that what happened wasn’t democratic.

I’ve been openly arguing for this for three years. And I think last night was the best demonstration of why it matters. This is beyond the actual legal rights granted. It’s beyond the people who will, once this becomes law, be able to get married and adopt. Some laws transcend their texts. They’re about who we are, and who we want to be, as a country. This is one. I have never seen so many people saying they are proud of their country as I did last night. We are New Zealand: we believe in equality and justice, and we reject pointless cruelty. Go us.

It’s a long way from over yet, of course. I have select committees to submit to (shush) and letters to write thanking MPs – particularly Paul Hutchison and David Clark, who would have made my mother very proud. But this right now? Is time to take a moment and say, Fuck Yeah! We did a Good Thing.

Abortion is a woman’s moral choice, not a crime

I have a column in the Dom Post today, about abortion.

Abortion is a woman’s moral choice, not a crime

Why the level of surveillance? It’s because we don’t trust women to make decisions for themselves. Abortion has been treated as a matter of morality, but instead of allowing the people concerned to make moral decisions, we have insisted that they get opinions from other people first. …

When we deny women the right to make decisions about abortion for themselves, then we deny women’s autonomy. We say that women are not capable of making moral judgments, and that they are not autonomous adults.

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

Danah Boyd on what anti-trafficking advocates can learn from sex workers, and why they should treat them as allies.

The Sydney Morning Herald on the inconsistencies in censorship that mean a film of Fifty Shades of Grey would be banned in Australia.

you could run a credible literature course out of books Australians were once banned from buying. In theory, novels can still go to the Classification Board. In practice, they almost never do, probably because the famous literary anti-censorship cases made rating books seem deeply unpalatable.

Emma’s boyfriend Martin Robbins on masturbation, and the way the media treats sexual desire as shameful.

Fantasies are just fantasies, to be acted out in our imaginations or in safe environments with like-minded, consenting adults. Law-makers and prosecutors have the right to regulate the things we do in public, but their willingness to police and censor the dream worlds of our gloriously kinky imaginations is far more sinister than any Nazi-themed BDSM orgy.

Ms Naughty has made a Periodic Table of Feminist Porn.

From Stacy Coguen at Feminist Philosophers, a fascinating reflection on whether pinkification can be subversive..

Via Blue Milk, a photo shoot of roller derby mothers.

And via Feminist Philosophers, something inspiring to end this week’s post: the Renegade Raging Grannies singing “Legitimate Rape”.

Pop on through to the Renegade Raging Grannies website for the lyrics.

I’m always ready for bed, actually.

No-one is suggesting we should return to the 1950s where you had your full pleated skirt, face and lipstick done before 7.30am as well as having cooked your husband a three course breakfast, but I do think getting dressed and ready for the breakfast shift would be a pleasant thing to do for the family, if not for yourself. Keeping your pyjamas not only out of public view, but firmly in the bedroom would probably be nicer for everyone.

I want to not care about this, I want to say “ohoho, storm in a teacup, oh Gisborne, bless.” But irritatingly, I have Feelings about this issue.

Because, don’t forget ladies, everything you do, you should do for your family. Never mind that you don’t feel like getting dressed/have been vomited on a lot/have not slept at all. Looking nice for your family is your job and don’t you forget it.

Actually, don’t forget, as women, it’s our job to look nice/presentable/fuckable, everywhere we go. The comments on this issue, despite the Herald using a picture of Jeff Bridges, seem to be largely aimed at women. Because it’s women who are slobs, lazy, disgusting, if they haven’t dressed up to go to the supermarket.

When I was in the throes of depression, there were days when getting up and getting dressed seemed like the hardest thing in the world. Where showering was close to impossible. And I am lucky enough that those days were rare. For many people, they aren’t. And throwing your coat on over your pyjamas to walk to the dairy to get milk is completely acceptable.

And of course, there’s a class/race issue here – lazy people, who can swan around in their pyjamas during the day must be poor. Therefore, they’re undesirable. To anonymous Herald commenters, at least: “Tacky, lazy – very much like the personalities of those layabouts that can’t be bothered getting dressed like the rest of society.” Oh, and of course, they smell.

But mostly, here’s the thing, Gisborne. IT’S NOT ANY OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS WHAT SOMEONE ELSE IS WEARING. It’s not a matter of it being “nicer for everyone.” It’s not your business. Are these people clothed? Yes. Are they wearing offensive slogans, bedazzled, or God forbid, a really short skirt. It doesn’t seem so. Are they behaving in some way badly other than wearing something “society” has deemed is only “for the bedroom*”? Not as far as any of the reporting I have seen. As has been discussed on this website before, you can’t tell anything about a person by what they are wearing. Not whether they’re a slob, are depressed, can’t buy clothes, need to do washing, or just really like their comfortable flannel jammies. And by judging them, you say more about yourself than you do about them.

* And I bet you can guess my views on where society can go with what else it thinks belongs in the bedroom.


Dear Garth George, I Love You

No, seriously. I was getting really sad about the lack of complete garbage being written about marriage equality. I’d even been to NZConservative, and it’s a bit sad when you can’t rely on Lucia to bring the frothing crazy.

But George has saved me. I love our morally-bankrupt moral guardians. And at least he’s honest:

So, again, why set out after same-sex “marriage”? The answer is it is another step in a decades-long campaign to convince everyone that homosexuals and lesbians are no different from the rest of us and deserve all the rights and privileges known to mankind.

That’s pretty clear, right? “Gay and lesbian” people (the existence of bisexuals being obviously far too confusing for Garth) are different from “us”, and NOT deserving of the same rights. Not just different, but lesser.

Garth trots out the tired, stupid old “marriage is totes for having babies” argument, but even that isn’t sufficiently stupid and restrictive for him. Marriage is for people who want to “have children and to bring them up in a traditional family environment.” It’s not entirely clear what that means, but I’m pretty sure it’s “the 1950s”.

Thing is, that’s clearly not what marriage is for. Sort of accidentally, my children have been raised in a two-parent two-child two-cat household where the man goes out to work and the woman stays home and cooks. And we’re not married. Marriage and breeding are obviously two different things that function independently of each other.

I’m also not entirely sure whether Garth thinks I can have kids. Because I’ve had sex with women, and “by their very nature, homosexuals and lesbians cannot reproduce”. I really would like to see Garth asked the question, “Should bisexuals be allowed to get married?” because I suspect he might apoplexy. Having sex with someone of the same gender is a thing you do. Having a child is a thing you do. Neither is a thing you are. Gay people have kids. Straight people have kids using IVF or surrogacy. If this is your best argument, it’s obviously, simply, clearly wrong.

Garth is honest enough to admit that he “doesn’t understand” male homosexuality. It appears there are rather a lot of other things he also doesn’t understand. For instance, “it is disingenuous to complain about rights being taken away when they have never existed in the first place”. You go tell that to Kate Sheppard, Garth. I want to watch.

Also, if you’re quoting stats on civil unions, and you use a bunch of solid, concrete numbers, and then you say “a fair number of which have since been dissolved”, we can work out that you don’t want to tell us what the number is, and therefore it’s probably approximately “buggery fuck all”. (Also, note the comment where Garth is totally taken to school on the stats, it’s a piece of genius.)

Garth, I’d missed you. I’d assumed you’d been tucked away in a little home somewhere, with a blanket tucked over your knees, writing (or cut-and-pasting) furious little columns which your nurse sincerely swore were being published somewhere, honest. I liked to think of you, in a tiny darkened room, watching educational videos to try to understand male homosexuality, and stroking your Services to Journalism.

Turns out you’re still being published. Who knew?

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

The Guardian on the latest unsuccessful prosecution under Britain’s broken Extreme Pornography Law.

It becomes difficult to imagine, after Simon Walsh’s landmark acquittal on all counts, under what circumstances charges relating to possession of extreme pornography may be brought to the crown court again, but it seems the CPS has a rather prurient interest in bringing other people’s private sex lives to light and persecuting them for it.

Clarisse Thorn talks about the balance of affection in relationships, and what happens when it’s out of whack.

I might catch a glimpse of strain in a man I’m involved with, who knows I don’t want more from him than our relationship currently encompasses, and I’ll help him cover it up. I’ll hope that I’m not hurting him “too much,” whatever that means. I’ll know that on some level, he wants to be “found out”: he wants me to say to him, “I can see those looks you’re giving me, I can hear the way your breath is catching, I know how you feel about me, and that’s how I feel too!” But the last part isn’t true, so I don’t say the first part. I try to be so, so gentle, and I fear that I’m being so, so cruel.

Amanda Palmer: Real Feminists Don’t Gaze at Males. Srsly, read this.

An oldy, but a goody. (Though we wish the title was less awful.)

James Deen has made a safe-sex PSA. Just sayin’.

British feminist Cath Elliot on the astonishing numbers of self-defined “feminist” men defending Julian Assange: Assange and feminism’s so called male allies.

And FoTLG Jackie on how she feels about sexual offenders.

What say every Olympic sport was photographed like beach volleyball?

Something pretty – a daffodil, dancing in the last grey days of winter. There is a great sweep of them alongside the road to my (Deb) workplace, and each day as I drive past they make my heart sing a little.



Trigger warning for sexual assault, assholishness, and losing all faith in humanity.

By now, you know all about the “funny” competition winner Hell pizza congratulated on its Facebook pages and its epic non-apology.

Hey everyone, tonight we posted a fan’s confession seeing it in the spirit of a prank between mates. Once we understood that offence had been taken and saw the bad light the post could be seen in we removed it, and we apologise to those offended. Lesson learned.

Because, yes, shoving your genitals in someone’s mouth: a prank between mates.

But, oh dear, people were offended, so we’ve taken it down, so those delicate little flowers stop being upset. Because no one in this country can take a joke. </sarcasm>

Now, that apology doesn’t make me think that Hell even understands why what they posted is offensive, let alone that the company is even remotely contrite. What confirms that for me is the conversation they have let go on. I was drunk, so I Read The Comments. Don’t.

Apparently, I can’t take a joke, I’m “just jealous”, teabagging someone isn’t that bad, and it’s definitely not sexual assault. We all need to lighten up, we all need to stop being so damn PC, it was funny, if someone did that to them they’d just punch them in the face and be done with it.

So far, so sigh-inducingly predictable. Rape culture 101. And were it not Hell, who has history, I’d probably be more surprised and angry. But I’m not. I don’t like their pizzas, so I’m OK. Feel free to boycott them, if it floats your boat. I doubt they give a shit about people like us.

Meanwhile, Habitual Fix has also “apologised” for their horrendous transphobic and body-shaming  Manwiches ad:

Hi everybody, we are very passionate about what we do, which is doing everything we can bring you your fresh food fix every day. We believe this is something that many similar NZ businesses cannot claim and this is why you, the customer, share our passion. But to stand out in a vanilla society that’s currently happy and safely sitting on the fence, we need an opinion, to stand for something and yes, a lot of attitude. Part of that attitude is to be current and very patriotic, that’s why last week we proposed the ‘Gold coin smoothie for Val’ promotion to you.

When did “vanilla” become a bad thing? Vanilla’s a great flavour. And if someone identifies as vanilla in a sexual context – and I am uncertain if that is the connotation they are going for – then that’s actually fine. Great even. You know what’s great? Vanilla added to a hot chocolate made with really dark, bitter, chocolate. Delicious…. Sorry, where was I? Yeah. Vanilla – good. Not a catchphrase for conservatism, for people being to PC, not getting your joke. And, like all sexual preferences and identifications, not something to imply is a bad thing, and you’re a better person because you don’t “sit on the fence”.

Here’s the thing. It actually is possible to stand out in a conservative society, have an opinion, and an attitude even, without BEING A COMPLETE FUCKING DICK WHO DENIGRATES OTHER PEOPLE BASED ON THEIR APPEARANCE. Shocking, I know.

[Update: Hell has offered money to Wellington Rape Crisis. Well. This is an interesting turn of events. If by interesting, we mean extremely problematic.]

This is no country for women

Cross posted from Tangerina-land

Today one of Wellington’s most vital and underappreciated services, Wellington Rape Crisis, announced that they will be reducing their service by a day per week. They simply cannot keep up with the demand for their services without adequate funding, and they are uncertain of their future due to operating under a $55,000 deficit.

Wellington Rape Crisis is 35 years old, and was started as part of the international Rape Crisis movement. It continues to be politically revolutionary in that the organisational values explicitly state that women are at the centre of their practice*, and a feminist analysis of rape and sexual abuse underpins all their work. Not only do they provide frontline services, but they advocate politically for women’s rights to autonomy and self-determination over their own bodies. If this seems like nothing special, or if you’re of the opinion that we’ve already achieved these things, then you might want to do some serious reading.

Let’s be clear about these “vital” services. All too often, WRC staff are the difference between life and death for their clients, both metaphorically and literally. WRC provides clients with tools and support to work through trauma, and helps provide survivor’s loved ones with the strength and knowledge to confidently stand by them. Staff can help with housing issues, medical referrals, access to funding for study or training, childcare and much more. The organisation recognises that rape and sexual abuse affects every part of a person’s life, and works holistically within this.

Unbelievably, despite the huge amount of resources that sexual violence response requires, WRC still allocates funds and energy into preventing rape and sexual abuse in the first instance. WRC, along with other agencies, makes up the Wellington Sexual Abuse network, which provides education and campaigns which helps to combat sexual violence. The organisation is committed to not just being an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, despite this being the service which gets the most funding from the Government.

However, no matter how vital an organisation is, if the climate in which it operates doesn’t value or support the work it does – it will die. Our Government has created a hostile environment for many community not-for-profit agencies. I want to be clear in stating that WRC is not the only agency in this dire situation. We live under an administration that feels competition is a good thing, not just in the private sector, but in community service provision.

While excellence in service should always be strived for, the way to achieve this is not to pit tiny, often volunteer-run organisations against each other for laughable sums of money. Money that they have to annually re-apply for at great expense of their already stretched resources. Money that makes organisations scared to speak out against Government initiatives for fear of being reprimanded through the loss of their funding.

This Government believes that the answer to everything is the private sector, and that corporate/community partnerships are the way of the future. But while the term “survivor of rape” still makes people shut their eyes and block their ears, Wellington Rape Crisis has no chance of being the next glossy recipient of the Vodafone Annual Feel Good Backpat Fest 2012.

I am sick to death of people desperately trying to rally 11th hour awareness for services people like to have, but rarely want to think about. Just last year Auckland’s only 24-hour crisis line for people who have experienced sexual violence was almost shut down due to a lack of funding. It was saved literally the day the service was due to be cut off, by ACC finally bowing to public pressure.

When previous governments are prepared to form a Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence, yet no one is willing to implement their recommendations, it becomes a question of priority. One in four women in New Zealand will experience sexual assault. One in four. That’s a quarter of all of the women you know. If that isn’t a crisis, I’m not sure what is.

But, of course, our Government would much rather invest billions of dollars in a sports tournament, or millions into private schools, or tax cuts for the top tier of New Zealanders. Regardless of whether you broadly see value in these investments, a specialist organisation shutting its doors on Wellington’s most vulnerable women – even for just a day less per week – is unacceptable. It is undoubtedly the start of a slippery slope for all community services the Government doesn’t see as a priority.

This shouldn’t be about National politics. This should be about recognising, like WRC does, that rape is a crisis. If I’m going to be glib (which I am) I might also point out that investing in the prevention and treatment of sexual assault enables more women to be productive little cogs in our economic wheel. It’s a safe, reciprocal investment.

But it shouldn’t be about that. It’s about the fact that we live in a society which teaches women to consider themselves lucky to not be survivors of sexual violence. We live in a society where women are most likely to be raped by someone they know and trust, in their own home, yet they are made to feel like the aesthetic and transport options they choose every day make them responsible for any assault which may befall them.

We live in a society in which every single woman who you have ever known or even walked past has a script for protecting herself. She knows which neighbours keep the lights on for the longest, which shoes she can run easily in, and how to slot her keys between her fingers to use as a weapon if she needs to.

And nobody wants to talk about it. Well, that’s fine. Don’t get your hands dirty thinking about things which make you uncomfortable, that’s your choice. It’s a shit choice, but it’s yours to make. It’s not a choice that one in four New Zealand women have, however.

And for those women, thankfully there are agencies who don’t have their hands over their ears. But for how much longer? When a 35 year old organisation which is relevant to a quarter of all New Zealand women is slowly starting to close its doors…we are in crisis mode. This is no country for women.

I am despondent at the thought that months from now, if WRC has to close for another day, and another day and then maybe forever, that Wellington women will have to call for help from around the country like Auckland Sexual Abuse Help did. Are we doomed to repeat these last minute tearful pleas in which the public has to briefly acknowledge how vital these services are, every time the Government quietly suffocates one to death?

This is no country for women.

If you want to help. Please, please do. Though it needs to be said we should not have to self-fund a service as vital as this.

*Wellington Rape Crisis provides services to anyone who identifies as female. Their skills and physical space are designed solely for women and children, recognising that women are overwhelmingly and disproportionately affected by sexual violence. However, Wellington Rape Crisis works to refer male survivors of sexual violence to services that cater for them, and provides assistance to male support people of women who have experienced sexual violence.

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week:

Maggie Mayhem talks about being on a panel with Gail Dines, and how she was (unsurprisingly) treated.

Annanonymous has a great post on why she’s no fan of marriage but she loves marriage equality.

Tigtog has the best eggcorn ever, for this week anyway.

And that’s about it (slow week in the garden) except for the utterly excellent 51st Down Under Feminists Carnival, put together by Ju Transcendancing. It’s a great compilation of posts.

Nothing pretty…. I’m (Deb) out of them for this week. 😦 Next week will be a better week. Next week will be a better week. Next week will be a better week….

On Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand

Cross posted
I was a young student at university when Fran Wilde’s Homosexual Law Reform Bill was introduced to the House in 1985. Back then, over quarter of a century ago, it caused an uproar. And back then, as now, groups sprang up in support of the bill. I recall one group in particular: HUG, or Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays.

I was puzzled by HUG. Why did one need to assert one’s heterosexuality in order to support decriminalising consenting homosexual sex between men aged 16 or over? I thought that a person who was truly unafraid of gay men wouldn’t need to run up a banner to declare themselves straight.

I see the matter a little differently now. Perhaps it’s just the passage of time, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Perhaps it’s because I have come to realise just how malleable sexuality can be. Perhaps it’s because I have been happily ensconced in a monogamous relationship with a man for so long now that I am very secure in own identity as a straight woman. Perhaps it’s because New Zealand society as a whole is much more accepting of difference. To me, there is no great import to declaring my sexuality. It just is, and that’s all there is to it.

But of course, I am free to say that, without consequence, because my sexuality is accepted, and acknowledged, and even valorised by our society. What I see now is the great need for people like me, straight, accepted, acknowledged, valorised, to stand up and say that it is important to work to create the same possibilities for all people in our society. Not just say it quietly in the privacy of our homes, but OUT LOUD, in public. There are no consequences for me declaring my sexuality: there can be enormous consequences for the boy in Stratford, the woman in Hokitika, the lad in his first job labouring on a farm, the girl sitting in the pews every Sunday listening to homophobia because her parents make her go to church. We need to shout, as loud as we can, that there is a massive amount of support for gay and lesbian New Zealanders, to have exactly the same rights and privileges as New Zealanders who are straight. A huge number of people who are straight support marriage equality, and support people who are lesbian and gay, just because. And that’s all there is to it.

That’s why I’m part of Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s part of the shouting and clamouring and agitating for change.

In a perfect world, I’d be looking for really extensive change to our marriage laws, so that they worked for bisexual and polyamorous people too. But I’m not about to let the perfect defeat the good. While my longterm ideal is for people to be able to form households and homes and marriages in whatever configuration they like, with the support of the state, I will at least support and work for this particular change, that people who are gay or lesbian can enjoy the same rights as people who are straight. It’s a start.

If you’re on Facebook, you might like to like Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand.