The Lady Garden

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Comments Bingo

Once again, my darlings, I’ve read the comments so you don’t have to. The things I do for you. You should all buy me bourbon and bonbons.

Liam Dann, whose columns I normally enjoy, wrote about the NZX requiring gender reporting from listed companies. So far, so…fine. He’s aware that writing about gender issues might “get him in trouble”, so I assume the very middle ground he’s steering is because of that. Though, why he’s mixing up reporting and actually having quotas is beyond me.

Here’s what we know. There are systemic reasons why there are few women in leadership roles in business, that involve undervaluing women’s skills, the impact of child care, and the fact that few women get mentored into senior positions. Little of this is addressed by the column, or in fact requiring disclosure, but it’s a step. I like to blame the fucking patriarchy, but you can choose your own cause. It’s worth mentioning the even tougher time women of colour and GLBT folk have, but that’s a very different column. That will never be published in the Herald.

So I have no beef with Mr Dann, particularly, which makes a nice change for Herald columnists. But the commenters never fail to live up to the lowest common denominator.

First up, Gavin believes “the number of women in the top tier of our business community is an embarrassment.” to whom? What a total non-issue.”  Well, Gavin, to anyone who believes that women deserve equality in all aspects of society, not just in name but in practice. Also, to anyone who wants our business community to be successful.

Lloyd wants “proper equality”:  “Why is there such an unfair gender imbalance in home executives. Let’s set a quota for home Dads and force 50% of home Mums back into the workforce. Fair’s fair.” I agree, Lloyd, let’s do that. And watch childcare in workplaces increase exponentially. Because no woman ever stayed home to look after children because that’s what made financial sense, not because she’s a lazy slapper, right?

BONUS ROUND: What About The Menz AND gender essentialism. Top marks for you, ‘A Dad’: “Perhaps we can also get the gender imbalance fixed for dangerous jobs too. Too many men are dying from mining, the heavy engineering and the armed forces. Yes, a very divisive subject but very important to air because of the many complexities that relate to each gender. We will never be equal as we are physically and psychologically different.”

YouKnowIt’sThe Truth can’t bring himself make an argument, except to say “The phrase “PC gone mad” is often despised by many as it’s so over-used, but I can’t think of a better one in this instance.” IT’S PC GONE MAD! Next, those uppity bitches will want, like, proper healthcare and education. GOD!

Timespider thinks successful people are special snowflakes and we should laud all of them: “When a woman makes it to the top she deserves it if she made it by herself & good on her – we need more women like this”‘ Because no man ever received assistance, mentoring, special education. EVER. They all got there through hard graft and good genes.

In totally missing the point news, along with a good old-fashioned, strawman, please come down Westiman: “Women are given opportunity to obtain skill sets- as you put it-turn the telescope around and ask the same question for men. How many men are nurses and what a kerfuffle that caused. There is a fundamental difference and as soon as you try to smooth the difference out you have total confusion on the roles/skills of both genders- Quotas are not the answer- are women some kind of “Sealord” catch?”

Speaking of strawmen, thanks Gondwana: “Should the All Black panel be adjusted genderly and when was the last Silver Ferns coach a male (I nominate myself to be the first even though I know nothing about netball). Why not leave people to live their own lives if they are good enough and work hard enough and sacrifice enough they’ll get their regardless of their gender.”

Oh, but wait, Gondwana has more: “This government enforced social engineering will be the death of us all. And you’ll notice it only ever goes one way! Women are always portrayed as the poor innocent little victims of male prejudice and never of their own folly and poor choices in life!” government enforced social engineering! We’re getting close to bingo here, folks.

So, that must mean it’s time for a little bit of drive-by misogyny. Wolfman sez “If you want something stuffed up, give it to a woman, plenty of examples of this around the world.”

Oh, also, we women should just be quiet and wait our turn, according to CGD: “I believe in 20-30 years from now there will be many women with the skills and experience to be in executive roles in bigger numbers than there are now. Good things take time!”

Except, that of course, it’s all our own fault, because we suck, and should probably get back in the kitchen. Right, refugee? “Women dominate in the teaching professions. Boys are failing. Badly. No one seems to have any problem with that, but answer this. Why? The London School of Economics knows.”


The War on Women hits New Zealand

There I was, watching Newt Gingrich losing his shit in the Republican primaries, calling women sluts, and wryly smiling about the infamous all-male panel on contraception. I fell in love with Obama all over again. And I was all smugly, well, we women in New Zealand are so lucky, with our relatively easy and cheap access to contraception.

Aren’t we? AREN’T WE? Yeah, well, until the Government comes along and decides that it doesn’t like poor women, and their grubby little oiks, and so it’ll Put A Stop To That.

Now, if you follow me on Twitter, you may know that this has made me very caps-locky, swearingly, rantingly angry. I will try to be slightly more reasoned here, but I can’t promise this post won’t descend into me ANGRILY BANGING MY HEAD AGAINST THE KEYBOARD.

So. Some thoughts.

1. Why is this even a welfare issue?

Yes, all women should have access to safe and cheap contraception. And the way we know how we’re getting safe contraception is by talking about it with our doctors. Not our WINZ case managers. In fact, via Nikki:

In making an informed decision about contraceptive use and choice of method, all
women, including young women, must be provided with full and unbiased information about all of their options, including the expected risks, side effects, benefits and costs. This is provided for under rights six and seven of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumer Rights.” From Women’s Health Action‘s paper on welfare reform

So, why is this coming from welfare? Why is Paula Bennett not involved? (If you think you can stomach listening to her, she is here. TLG is not responsible for any damage to your desk or computer from the repeated head-banging.)

Because why? Because poor women are bad and evil and shouldn’t be costing the taxpayer more than they already are! God. Why are they even pretending this is about contraception? It’s about pretending to save money and stopping poor people from having more babies. Because I don’t know if you got the memo? But poor people are bad.

Will WINZ staff be educated in contraception, and advising people on how to get it and what they might need? Will it be explained what an IUD id, and how it works, and what the benefits and side effects might be?

Let’s be clear. If we actually want to do this, to increase access to contraception – especially for young people – then it should be universal, available to any gender, and not based on income.

2. Oh, but come on, aren’t you laydeez overreacting? “Being able to access” is not the same as “have to use”.

Well, first of all, we’re not talking about condoms here, sunshine, we’re talking about long-term IUDs and hormonal implants. So, this has long-lasting effects for the women who choose to “access” it. Five years is a long time, particularly in a woman’s reproductive life.

Secondly, if you don’t think WINZ staff would ever pressure someone into doing something like this, then you’ve never been on a benefit. WINZ staff are required to push policies like this. If you don’t think WINZ staff intimidate and coerce their clients, you are remarkably naive.

And thirdly? What’s to stop them, in a year, turning around and saying – you didn’t take the opportunity for the contraception, so we’re docking your benefit. Oh, you got pregnant while you were still on a benefit, so we’re going to punish you by making you go back to work early. OH WAIT. THEY ALREADY DID THIS.

Being on a benefit isn’t a measure of how clever or moral someone is, and this policy is fucking patronising. Nor, given the fact it will be aimed at women and their children, is it hereditary.

3. Um, there’s this other person involved? I think he’s called Dad.

(Big sloppy kiss to whoever can tell me where I stole that line from.)

Why is this being aimed at women? Why are free vasectomies not being handed out? Or giant bowls of condoms on the front desk at every WINZ branch?

Is it really appropriate for a government to target young women for long-term contraception? If the Government really wants to address these issues, why is it not putting money into much more comprehensive sex education, better, cheaper and easier access to healthcare, and many, many more employment options? Or is that just not punitive enough?

This is only scratching the surface – have at it in the comments. And Deborah has a great post at her place.


Quickie: What the Fucking Fuck edition

Seriously, NZ Herald? This is what passes for election coverage?

I was going to write a whole screed here, rant and rage and encourage people to write to you or boycott you or something. But actually, seriously, I give the fuck up.

Excuse my language, but Go Fuck Yourself.

It must be quite hard for [men], too, to tell the difference between the women who went on a “SlutWalk” in Newcastle on Saturday morning, wearing very, very short skirts and very, very low tops and very, very high heels, and the ones who went to drink a lot of alcohol in nightclubs in Newcastle on Saturday night, and maybe have sex with a stranger. The ones during the day were, it’s true, waving signs saying things like “My Clothes Aren’t My Consent” and “It Doesn’t Matter What I Wear or Where I Go… No Means No”. The ones during the evening weren’t.

Oh Look! The independent found a feminist who is anti-SlutWalk. Isn’t that nice for them. One who doesn’t think that women should wear short skirts, low tops, or high heels. Or if they do, they should acknowledge that they are “sexually available”. That society at large (by which, I presume, she means men and Right-Thinking Women like her) will believe them to be stupid sluts who are up for it and couldn’t possibly want to be a doctor or a lawyer politician. Because bare legs precludes brain power, you see.

There’s so much in this column that I could complain about, so much wrong with it. But let’s just start with the massive fucking logic fail.

Women, largely Western women, said that they didn’t want to be defined by their value in the sexual market place. They didn’t want to be defined by the size of their breasts, or the shape of their bottoms, or the length of their legs. So they started wearing clothes – often rather ugly clothes – that made them look more like men.

OhMIGOD, REALLY? Women didn’t want to be judged by their appearance? They didn’t want to be assumed to be sexually available based on their clothes? They didn’t want comments on the size of their breasts or shape of their ass? I can understand that. So, WHY THE FUCK did you write 1500-odd words DOING EXACTLY THAT? It works both ways. You can’t complain that “men” judge “women” (God, those evil judgy lesbians get off easy), when you yourself vomited slutshaming all over a newspaper.

Of course, we get the standard “of course men should know that clothes don’t equal consent”. But by wearing your miniskirts, you are making it so hard for the poor loves. They can’t be expected to treat you like a human being when distracted by your magical cleavage.

And wanting to look nice some of the time, but slob about other times, completely undermines my argument.

They said that they didn’t dress this way to please men, but to please themselves, although when they were sitting at home, they didn’t dress like this. When they were sitting at home, they wore tracksuit bottoms and trainers.

I don’t know how many times I can say this. I dress FOR ME. Do I know people are looking at my tits? Of course. I might actually enjoy that! (And of course I said people. Not. Just. Men) And sometimes, when I am fucking around at home, yes, I wear trackies. But mainly because I don’t want to spill gin on my dresses.

And isn’t this a delight?

…little girls dress like their mothers, and if their mothers dress like sluts, or even like “sluts”, then they’re quite likely to be as confused on the subject of sexual equality as the mothers who briefly saw a flicker of progress, and then watched it fade.

Isn’t that some lovely “HEY SLUTS, stop being such bad mothers” dogwhistling. You’re fucking up your daughters with your very, very short skirts, and very, very low tops, and very, very high heels.

Look, lady, I am really sorry what you see as your battle to be taken seriously “faded”. Some of us think that a short skirt doesn’t actually preclude that, and shouldn’t. That what you are wearing doesn’t actually matter. We know that clothes send messages, but think that people are intelligent enough to know they are making massive gender, class, and cultural assumptions when they do that, and should be able to recognise that. The difference is, those of us over on this side of the fence think that you should be allowed to wear whatever the hell you like, and that you should grant us the same courtesy.