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.

(White) men are destroying the left

I can’t count the number of times I’ve read that someone is destroying the left. Almost universally, it’s because they’re criticising someone else’s behaviour. Almost universally, they’re a woman, often Maori or Pasifika though not necessarily, criticising a well-known left wing man for trampling over others. Sometimes it’s rape or abuse apologism. Sometimes it’s sexism, or racism, or transphobia. Sometimes it’s the violation of boundaries of someone in a minority group, the assumption that they’re owed attention and time and hand-holding.

I’ve seen the effects of two incidents in the last week that play into this framework. One friend feeling so disillusioned with the left she felt she could no longer be a part of it after being gaslighted and harassed over a simple request not to make an offensive comparison. Another receiving an incredibly creepy and unwanted contact from someone whose fauxpology she’d criticised in a single tweet earlier in the week. Also this week has been discussion of a protest planned in Auckland in solidarity with #Ferguson which attempted to link events there with democracy protests in Hong Kong as part of some vast global movement, specifically claimed to not be a criticism of police, and is linked to organisations that are known for protecting rapists.

As a slight diversion from the topic, I was studying for my economics paper this morning and reading about production possibilities frontiers, essentially a model representing the trade offs that can be made when you can put your resources into two different outcomes. The example was an economy that produces cars and computers – you can make, say, 2200 computers and 600 cars, or 2000 computers and 700 cars, or you could go to an extreme and produce 1000 cars but no computers at all. The thing is, when you do that the opportunity cost of a car is high. A lot of your autoworkers are actually really good at making computers and not very good at making cars – if you move a few of them into computer production, you’re going to gain a lot more completed computers than you’ll lose completed cars.

This is actually a pretty good analogy for the left. We put so many of our resources into <s>cars</s> men that our opportunity costs in <s>computers</s> really effective, strong, capable women is skyrocketing. Protecting one rapist drives away dozens of women. Defending one guy who doesn’t understand boundaries silences dozens of women who now have to protect themselves against the risk of being stalked in real life for even the slightest criticism.

This system is not rational. It’s not reasonable. It’s not stable or efficient or effective. Instead of policing women’s reactions to bad behaviour, we need to police that behaviour. We need to teach people that if you have to track down someone’s contact information, you probably shouldn’t be using it. If they wanted you to call them they’d give you their phone number and there are very few situations that warrant an exception. The mindset that lets men (and the occasional woman) think they can ignore the boundaries of people who disagree with them is baffling in its arrogance and absolutely not conducive to the long-term success of the left. And particularly when it is a man, there is an existing context in which women have to constantly guard themselves against the possibility that that man is not just an annoyance, but outright dangerous. It’s a context in which calling someone at work to argue about the legitimacy of your apology is in the same category as domestic and intimate partner violence that kills and injures far too many women and girls. Is it the same thing? No. But the men who murder also stalk. When you receive that intrusive phone call, you don’t know how far it might go if you make him angry, and when we put our resources into coddling men who act like this and defending their behaviour we allow them to continue to act in ways that are destructive and harmful to everyone.

Financial assistance for tertiary students

I’ve gotten my final assignment back for the 300-level Policy Research & Evaluation paper I did last semester, and earned another A+ and another teacher telling me to do post-grad if I can afford it without starving. The only way to do that would be to amass enough grants and scholarships to live on until I’m finished, because I can’t live on the amount you can borrow from the living costs component of a student loan.

(If I could do post-grad, I would love to do something looking at Maori youth who are estranged from their immediate family and how that impacts on their connection to Maoritanga/Maori culture, history, etc. All the readings I’ve been doing there’s this constant repeating theme of immediate family being the link to culture, and I can’t help but think about situations where there’s been abuse, familial rejection, toxic environments that people just can’t deal with and stay healthy…)

Financial Assistance for Tertiary Students: A Review

From state housing to social housing

There’s a lot of discussion going on about the announcements that contracts for social housing will be sold to NGOs/community sector organisations. Coincidentally, I just did an essay on this. Or, more specifically, I did an essay on the social housing sector and potential for Maori development, so it doesn’t discuss the Salvation Army so much as groups like Tamaki Trust etc. Still, I thought it might be of some interest.

Update 3/11: I just got the feedback on this essay, I got an A+ (bringing my average for this paper to, well, A+, at least until I sit the exam on Saturday).

Maori housing development

 

 

Who’s to blame for National

After the huge number of advance votes placed in the lead-up to election day, the overall turnout was shockingly low. It’s easy to imagine that this would follow pre-existing trends in favouring the right. National actually got fewer votes than they did last election, despite winning more seats, but the Greens drastically underperformed even in comparison to the landline polls.

People’s response is naturally to blame non-voters. It’s understandable, but incredibly simplistic and I ended up having to quit Twitter yesterday because of how prevalent it was. The thing is, it’s easy for actively political people to see the link between voting and quality of life. It’s much harder when you’re alienated from politics entirely and just trying to make ends meet. The consequences of not voting are entirely abstract, while the consequences of paying for bus fare or using petrol aren’t. Other things that aren’t abstract: trying to find childcare, the risk of illness if you take small children out in that miserable cold rain we had, the cost of a doctor’s visit if they do get sick, the fact that none of you have raincoats, the length of time it takes to dry clothes out when you don’t have a dryer. And while the Greens particularly had some good policy for those really low income families, knowing that is not necessarily widespread. Most people still think of Labour as the real left wing party – and Labour hasn’t exactly been endearing itself to the vulnerable and needy.

That’s not to say that all non-voters are in this situation. Some of them presumably just couldn’t be bothered, or were put off by Dirty Politics, or whatever. But blaming all non-voters for National’s win feels really fucking gross when a huge number of them are struggling to survive and being failed by the rest of society. We (as a group) can’t treat people like shit and then get pissed off at them when they don’t engage in society in the way we’d wish. That’s bullshit. Blame Slater and Collins and Key. Blame the media. Blame Labour. Blame whoever you want, just don’t blame our victims.