Jobseeking with WINZ (1)

Last Monday, the first one after my exams finished, I did an online application for the Jobseekers Allowance and made an appointment with WINZ to finish the application for today. My local office is up in Porirua – I only need one bus to get there, and it doesn’t take as long as getting into town does, but in total the round trip is about an hour and a half or two hours and costs about $6. When I got in I was told they couldn’t actually find the online application I’d done, and apparently the reference number was about the only thing I forgot to bring with me, having stupidly assuming that it would be attached to my account since I’d filled it out from the secure logged in section of the WINZ website, so I got to start filling in a paper form while I waited to be seen.

We got about fifteen minutes into the appointment before the worker realised that I hadn’t been on a seminar that they were supposed to have sent me on as a pre-benefit activity, meaning if you haven’t been they can’t give you any money. So she booked me in for one on Monday, as well as two others (a CV one and a work suitability assessment). As well as going back up there four more times (for the seminars and another appointment) I have to email them a copy of my CV so it can be amended (or they can amend it? I’m not quite clear on who’s doing the amending here) to suit different jobs. Which I’m already doing, because I already know how to do a CV, but they’re still going to waste my time making me go to a seminar or workshop or whatever it is.

Incidentally, Studylink last semester got to five weeks before they started actually paying me, so I guess we’ll see if WINZ can match that. On Monday they’ll be at two, and the other two seminars are the following Friday and Monday, so they only have to mess around for two more weeks after that. Hey, maybe I’ll even have a job by then.

Pissed off

I am pissed off. And sad, but mostly pissed off, at a lot of things. Like this about no funding being available for counseling for two little girls who saw police kill their uncle. Or this, the Department of Corrections saying that they aren’t going to respond to an OIA request about the treatment of trans women in prisons because they’d have to look at their files and they don’t think it’s a good enough use of their funding. Or the violence that whiteness is constantly inflicting on everyone else because I don’t even know why, we’re too fucked up to deal with our own crap without shitting on everyone and shooting up churches.

Partly that’s all just sort of sitting there simmering in the back of my mind and coming out in something really trivial though. I’m pissed off that I just sat the last exams of my degree, which has had me studying constantly for like three years, no summers off, just two or weeks here and there between semesters, no matter how sick or unstable or insomniac I get, which is a fucking huge achievement, and I don’t even get to be proud because I’m too busy being terrified that now I have to face the job market and the punitive welfare system and the patronising “how to look for jobs” programs they make you take. It sucks because as hard as studying was and as burned out on it as I’ve been getting I kind of wish it wasn’t over. At least with university, it’s predictable. You put in the work. You study. You do your assignments. And you earn your grades. It’s all based on what you put in, pre-defined standards, they even give you marking schedules showing what they expect of you.

But looking for work? Especially the specific kind of work I need, most particularly part time work? There’s no control in it. You have to scour through everywhere to even find places you might fit and then you do whatever you can to impress someone who at the end of the day has a huge stack of applicants to pick through and you just have to hope they decide, on some arbitrary criteria that centres around looking at a couple of pieces of paper and hopefully talking to you for ten minutes or half an hour, that you’re the best there is. It would be like if you enrolled at university and then had to go through all the papers looking for the two or three that let you actually get an A grade and then once you’d signed up for them you had to beat everyone else because there’s only one, and if you didn’t manage to do that you don’t get your degree and everyone has the gall to act as though it’s your personal failing, because there are plenty of As out there if you want them. And it’s not just how people judge you, there’s also the government watching over your shoulder reminding you that if you don’t submit enough assignments they’ll take away the only money you have to live on.

I don’t even actually know if WINZ will let me only look for part time jobs without a medical exemption. You’re supposed to be available for full time work. I’m fairly close to needing to go to the doctor again anyway so I can get it, but what a hassle.

I don’t know. I’m just finding the world to be a very terrible place at the moment. There are too many people who don’t care about anyone else’s quality of life, or even their lives at all. The mental anguish, the torture, the terror, the lives taken violently through murder and colonialism and poverty and disinterest, they don’t even mean anything to society at large. It makes it hard, sometimes, to find the motivation to keep going.

What next?

It feels really, really surreal to nearly be done with my degree. And terrifying, mostly. Right now I have a single 2000 word essay remaining for Politics of Protest and then three exams mid-way through next month, and… that’s it. I would love love love to do post-grad next (I even know what I want to write a thesis on if I can swing it) but right now I am so burned out on studying. I haven’t had a real break from it since I started my degree, because I needed the income from the student allowance over summers.

Unfortunately burned out or not I still need income. Which means that as soon as my exams are done I’m going to have to start looking for work, which is the terrifying bit. I have so much crap stacked up against me in this department:

  • I’ve been variously diagnosed with endemic/major depressive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and social phobia. I’m not sure how many of those are current, but I expect to be medicated basically forever. Which means…
  • There is no way I can jump straight into full time work. None. That would be a recipe for disaster. But…
  • Part time work is ludicrously hard to find, especially if you’re not looking for entry level retail or something. Meanwhile, the budget has just increased work obligations for sole parents – they’re now expected to look for part time work when their youngest child turns three. Where are those jobs? I don’t know, but I’ll be competing with like a million people for them.
  • I really prefer to avoid phones. I hate them with a passion.
  • Since I’ve been focusing on studying, I haven’t worked for the last two years since I moved up here. During that time most of my references have moved on to I don’t know where.
  • Relatedly, I don’t have any references for the time from approximately birth until after #eqnz. That was the year I turned 26. I suspect my CV is just going to say I was studying and working low level retail jobs off and on.

I really don’t know how this is going to work out. All I really want to do is take a break from everything, but that just isn’t going to happen. It’s exams, then dealing with WINZ and job search, then work. That’s it.


From The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce:

“Why?” Sandry demanded, quivering as if she might yet flee him. “Why do you have such a distaste for it, when so many other men do not?”

Ambros cleared his throat. “You judge us all by the actions of a few, Cousin.”

Sandry made a face. “I’m sorry, Ambros,” she apologised, her voice still raspy. “I’m overwrought, I suppose.”

Ealaga sighed. “Really, my dear husband, for a man who is so clever, you can be so shortsighted,” she said with unhappy patience. “What else is she supposed to do, when any unmarried woman of western Namorn must live her life and judge all men by those few who have successfully stolen women away? Each time a man succeeds, we place our daughters and our sisters under new safeguards. We put their lives under new restrictions. We give them new signs that a man in whose company they find themselves might plan to kidnap them. Don’t we teach our women to view all men according to the actions of a few?”

Police show their pride side

For those who aren’t watching Twitter tonight, something has just gone down at Pride in Auckland. This is the first year police have been allowed to march in their uniforms, which some people kind of have an issue with. Queer and trans people do not have a good time in our prison system. Trans women are regularly placed in men’s prisons and they’re often targeted by other prisoners and guards. I’d get into it more, but this post isn’t about that.

What it’s about is three people who went to protest the police presence. One of the three, Emmy, is a Maori trans woman (and a friend of mine, full disclosure. I also know at least one of the other protesters and they are both super solid people). Security and police targeted her when the three jumped a barrier. They broke her arm. A bystander was filming this and was subsequently arrested; when they asked why they were told he was “being a twat”. Then they arrested Emmy too. It took forty five minutes of her screaming in pain from her broken arm before they decided to get her medical attention. As of quarter to nine she’s just arrived at Auckland Hospital with one of her fellow protesters, she’s been given gas but is still in pain.

This is such a fucking joke. Police are allowed to march in Pride like the criminal justice system isn’t fucking toxic to queers of colour every single day. Three people protest – three, this was not exactly a big scary riot – and they go after the Maori trans woman.

To make things even better, @GayNZ’s sole coverage of the event was this:

before carrying on with how pretty and fun everything was. No mention what they were protesting (many of the replies to this tweet seemed to assume they were anti-gay protesters!), no mention that the one detained was a Maori trans woman whose arm was broken.

Like, does everyone even remember that the Hero parade used to be a protest? What is wrong with this picture now where the police are on the inside of the barriers and a trans woman is being beaten up for trying to enter? All queer groups in this country really need to take a hard look at what happened here and think about what they can learn from it and who they should be including in events.

UPDATE 9.30pm: They’re still at the hospital. Emmy’s in a lot of pain and her bone may have snapped. RadioLive has expressed interest in doing a story. Hopefully this gets at least as much publicity as someone vandalising a fucking GayTM, ie a fucking object.

And here’s Stuff’s version of events! “One tweet claimed a transvestite had his arm broken in the incident but this could not be confirmed.” This is not only appalling and offensive, it’s just plain bad journalism. Emmy is not a transvestite and she does not use male pronouns and I have not seen anyone on twitter make this mistake.

10pm: The article has now been corrected after several people contacted the journalist and editor. It now correctly identifies her as a transgender woman, cites multiple people re the broken arm, and has slightly more context on the reason for the protest.

10:30pm: The hospital is being very difficult about pain medication. She is still in huge, huge pain and the staff refuse to give her anything more. They are treating them in quite a hostile manner like they are criminals. On the other hand, Stuff has not only corrected their article but acknowledged the change at the bottom, so credit where due for that.

7am: I’ve just looked through the updates that came in overnight. Here is Justine’s account of what happened. Here is a givealittle to help cover Emmy’s medical and legal costs. X-rays show she is going to need an operation on her arm, it looks like a displaced fracture. Also it now looks like at least two people were prevented from filming. One was grabbed by security who took her phone and threw it on the ground, and the other was the man who was arrested, Nathan Broczek. (If anyone knows how he’s doing, Justine would really like to know!)

11am: Emmy has twittered! She’s still in hospital but it seems she may not need surgery after all. She has a fractured humerus and is still in a lot of pain. Here is what Auckland Pride’s comm person has to say:

Forgetting, of course, that the Hero parade originally wasn’t approved either, and also that protest is still legal (as long as you’re not at sea) and that even if it wasn’t the punishment would probably be a fine, not a fractured humerus. As for “behaving in that manner”, it seems the hostile white cis crowd (some of whom were cheering while Emmy screamed in pain) have been putting out the story that three protesters decided to charge at police, two of them being little tiny people, and one woman claimed she was punched in the chest. Justine says she has video despite the police trying to confiscate it all or break people’s phones.

Design flaws

Assuming I passed all my summer papers, I only have one more semester until I finish my undergrad degree. Which is great, except that because I only have three papers left I don’t count as a full-time student – the EFTS value is 3.75, not the required 4. Luckily this is one of the situations where limited full-time comes in. As long as you’re doing at least half of the full-time course load, you just get the university to sign a form and send it to Studylink and voila, you get treated like a full-time student.

Unfortunately they won’t do this until results from summer school come out. Because if I didn’t pass everything, then I wouldn’t have less than a full-time semester of papers left. The problem is that semester one starts on February 23 and my exams were the 9th and 10th and results just don’t happen that quickly. Further, the allowance is on a week’s lag, so if you’re meant to start getting it the week of the 23rd, you won’t get your first payment until the week after that. Not just the allowance, but also course related costs, which means no textbooks until at least a couple of weeks in.

Before anyone asks, I have money in my savings for exactly this sort of situation and I expect it will be back paid when it finally does go through, but I’m pretty sure the timing for semester two means the same thing happens then and considering students basically live hand to mouth I can’t be the only one affected by this.

Performing identity in the age of Instagram

It’s that time of semester where I start going over all my study materials again in preparation for exams (or in the case of anthropology, a short essay on the idea that “you are what you eat”). Today I’ve been reading about the ways food reproduces different aspects of identity – ethnicity, class, gender. There was a reading about kids eating in school, not just what they ate but how they talked about lunches and their behaviour around sharing. A piece about Punjabi immigrants in the UK revolved around the importance of wedding feasts. Near the end was a discussion about class and dinner parties that talked about display – it’s not enough that we eat a certain way, but that we allow others to see us eating that way.

Which made me think about the commonality of taking “foodporn” photos to share on social media, and how it’s looked upon with derision by some people in the same way that selfies are. It’s partly a generational thing, but partly not, because in the paper about Punjabi weddings there was a lot of discussion about the perception that people were using the extravagance of wedding feasts as a form of competition, showing off to increase their standing in the community. I wonder if this is part of what’s so confronting about selfies and foodporn. When you eat or wear clothing in the company of your social group there’s a form of plausible deniability happening. You are showing off your economic and cultural capital – what you can afford, that you know what’s fashionable, that you have sophisticated tastes – but it’s easy to pretend you’re not. You have to wear clothes, after all. You have to eat. You don’t have to take photos of it and share them online.

But when you draw a significant portion of your social group from social media and online communities, you don’t have that opportunity to display capital. And I think that is what’s led to this practice of sharing photos, of #kishi on Twitter (and there’s some cultural capital in itself, knowing that reference!), of Pinterest and Instagram. It’s the need to display without the respectable veneer of plausible deniability, and that’s what’s so shocking about it, that people are engaging in expressing their identity without being coy about what they’re doing. They’re saying “this is who I am, and who I am is important” which, especially for young women, is not something they’re supposed to do.

A lot of this has of course been said before, especially with regards to selfies, but it’s interesting to think about in the context of food as well. Because you don’t do it with all your meals, so it becomes a lot more performative. It’s more like the dinner parties where you go to a lot more effort to make the food look good, and appetising, and something that other people will admire and crave. But since you’re not displaying while also feeding other people it has an element of showing off. Now I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and often it’s mitigated by the practice of sharing recipes – someone will say, wow, that looks really good, how do I make it? And that’s replacing the direct sharing of food, now you’re sharing the knowledge instead, which increases your cultural capital but it also increases your friends’ cultural capital because then they can perform that creative act themselves, and improve on it.

Of course, when you have a regional social media group like we do in New Zealand, particularly centered around Wellington and Auckland, you get to combine these two methods. People meet up to get a drink or have friends over for a meal and then even if you don’t post about it yourself, often one of your guests will. And that reflects even better on you, because you get the benefit of the connections in the exclusive group, you get the reciprocity and the knowledge gained from the conversations, but you also get to perform the exclusivity without being seen to perform it. It all just goes back and forth with everyone amplifying each other’s status within the group, whether they’re posting about the food someone else served them, or RTing someone else’s picture of dinner, or discussing recipes or citing other people as inspiration for their own meal. So it’s the same thing that people have always done, just with that element of plausible deniability a little bit thinner.

And… you know, WordPress is sitting here telling me that I’ve just written 750 words on this when my essay is supposed to be 1500 (I know, it’s ridiculously short, especially for 30% of my grade) so I could totally expand that if I wanted to and put it into the proper anthropological language (though I partly have with display and practice and especially capital) except that I’m supposed to be a bit more general I think. This is more “you are what you show others you’re eating”.

An honest conversation

It is no big news that we have a terrible rate of suicide death in New Zealand. It’s even less news that it’s particularly epidemic in vulnerable communities, like among transgender youth. Charlotte Loh’s death is the most recent to have gotten publicity but it’s hardly unusual and none of the causes she cited in her suicide note are a surprise. Lack of parental support (extending to abuse, in her case and in many others), the difficulty in accessing appropriate health care, inadequate understanding and acceptance from institutions such as universities. The situation for trans people and especially trans women (even moreso when they’re not white, again as in Charlotte’s case) is dire in New Zealand. In many cases these deaths aren’t even seen. People are misgendered by their families in death, their identities squashed so that only those who accepted them in life ever remember them properly.

We have legislative restrictions on discussing suicide that are intended to prevent copycat deaths, but these are clearly not working. The idea that talking about the problem will just give people ideas is, frankly, a stupid one. People already have the idea. They are forced to it, bullied towards it day after day after day until they feel they have no other option. They will go to desperate lengths. In the last few days on Manus Island, people who have fled torture and hatred in their homes have been driven to such drastic lengths as drinking cleaning fluids because their situations were so bad. (Please never, ever do this. Even if it succeeds in killing you, it’s a horrific way to die.) I’m not equating the two situations – they’re different issues and both worthy of attention and compassion – my point is that preventing discussion of suicide that is complete, open and honest does nothing to prevent further deaths. In fact it can cause a great deal of harm as people try things that are unlikely to actually kill them but highly likely to cause serious injury and lifelong disability. If we are serious about preventing harm we can’t focus on hiding information, we need to fix causes. It’s not like we don’t know what they are, after all. We’ve been told.

Unfortunately the solutions cost money. It’s easier to just slap a $1000 fine on people who say that Charlotte killed herself before the coroner officially rules it as self-inflicted than it is to properly fund mental health services, trans health services, to educate public institutions on how to treat trans people with dignity and respect, to promote the idea that trans people are people who deserve dignity and respect so that the message might filter through to more families. It’s hard, I know. Some people will never hear that message no matter how loudly we say it and how many people say it with us. But some will. Over time, more will. And if we’re really serious about saving lives we need to commit to that, to actually talking about the problems and the lives lost and our failures. Not to hiding it all away like some shameful family secret. As long as we do that more people like Charlotte will continue to suffer and we will be complicit in their deaths.

Douches gonna douche

I don’t actually know all the details of this story. What I do know goes like this:

Boganette, who doesn’t use her real name on Twitter and has a locked account, warned her followers that Ben Rachinger is known for doxing women he disagrees with. This is based not only on evidence but on his own words where he brags about doxing women.

One of her followers went and told Ben what she’d said and he responded by doxing her. (Quick correction: it sounds like he didn’t actually dox her, but the fact that one of her followers told him what she had said justifiably unnerved her considering his history.) Yesterday Boganette deleted her Twitter account. She has one young kid and another one the way. Her account is already locked, so there’s not much more she can do.

A lot of people got pretty pissed off, because Boganette is awesome and shouldn’t have to leave social media because some douche can’t stand women revealing what a douche he is. During the discussion I made a tweet that basically said (I can’t recall the exact wording) “Ben Rachinger doxes people, he’s not a nice person.” and “I probably shouldn’t say #comeatmebruh but w/e. #comeatmebruh”

So apparently he did. Come at me, I mean. I got a DM today saying that Ben claims to have contacted my employer about what I said about him on Twitter. Several other people were also included in this, and a couple other women have deactivated their accounts.

Now, bear in mind, I don’t actually have an employer, and neither does at least one of the other people he claims to have gone after. I don’t know whether he’s just lying about it to look tough or whether he identified the wrong people and spoke to their bosses, and frankly it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that I made a factual statement that is nothing more than what he himself has said about what he’s done and he responded by attempting to scare me into compliance or retreat or something, I don’t know what.

This isn’t a problem with one person, either. Ben has talked many times about his activities and his followers have enabled him and joined in on bullying his victims. Others have sat by and watched under the guise of “not taking sides”.

Protip: tracking down someone’s identity over the internet and publicising their personal info or using it to contact their employers because you don’t like them standing up to you is not an okay move. Even if you’ve done it in the past. Even if your mate does it. Even if you look up to someone e-famous who does it. The good news is people aren’t black or white, which means that admitting that someone has done something bad doesn’t mean they’re 100% bad and you can’t be friends with them. It does mean that you should probably tell them it’s not cool though. It also means there is literally so such thing as not taking sides, because doxing is objectively wrong. You can’t be like “Oh well this guy is making threats that are scaring people into leaving Twitter so he won’t get them fired or have dangerous people track down their houses, but how can you really say who’s in the wrong here?

Now, to be real, the cops are not going to care that some guy on the internet said he rang people’s bosses. But legally it’s still at the very least a grey area with regards to harassment laws. I can’t be bothered tracking down exact legislation, so I won’t say definitively that it’s illegal, but it’s definitively shitty, and you shouldn’t do it, you shouldn’t encourage your friends to do it, and you shouldn’t ignore it.

Plans for the future

So in somewhat exciting news, I may be able to afford to do post-grad after all. This involves, essentially, a private grant to cover part of my living costs (the rest taken from the living costs portion of the student loan) which would increase my income to a little bit more than it is now.

Given that I hadn’t really been expecting to be able to do post-grad this leaves me with a lot of questions to answer.

  • Do I want to continue straight into post-grad?
  • Do I want to do a particular project I’m interested in regarding those who are cut off from immediate whanau and how this affects their sense of “Maoriness”?
  • Can I justify that as a social policy post-grad?
  • Is the fact that it will be quite heavy on interpersonal communication and interviews going to cause me problems and stress?
  • Am I likely to be able to come up with an alternative topic that interests me as much but doesn’t involve so much interpersonal communication?
  • If I do this, should I continue where I live now, or move?
  • Should I go to Palmerston North to be closer to the uni’s resources and my supervisor?
  • Should I try to live alone, either in halls, in a share house, or a tiny tiny flat?
  • Should I stay in Wellington but maybe move closer in to the city and the Wellington Massey campus?
  • Can I get through another X years of studying without a break, without flipping out?
That’s quite a lot of questions I don’t really have answers for.