Movies and media

So the last few days there’s been a couple of conversations on Twitter about movies – favourite movies, last time we went to the movies, movies that are out or out soon that are worth watching. Inevitably there’s been a bit of discussion about The Hunger Games, and since Kobo was offering me some discounts I got the first two books for my ereader to see what they were like.

Apparently fandom is freaking out that Rue is black. Also two other characters, but especially Rue. For those who haven’t read the books, Rue is a twelve year old girl, the youngest age that the teenagers forced to participate in the games can be, from an agricultural district where the Peacekeepers are very harsh and often whip people for the slightest infraction. The main character teams up with her during the games until she’s killed, partly because she reminds her of her younger sister Prim who’s also twelve.

In the book, Rue is described as having “dark brown skin”. Wanna see a pic of the actress? She’s pretty cute. My main complaint is that she’s too pale, because that’s clearly not dark brown skin there. I admit I didn’t specifically read her as black, but I did read her as a POC of the darker variety, and when I saw her ethnicity linked to the plantation-esque nature of District 11 it was a rather “oh, duh” moment.

Mind you, the main character is described as having olive skin and dark brown hair, and she’s played by… Jennifer Lawrence! Considering the book makes quite a point of saying there are two different ethnic looks in District 12 where Katniss is from, the middle class townfolk who are paler and blonde and the Seam folk who mostly work in the mines who are darker, it definitely makes me raise an eyebrow to see a blonde girl cast in this role. At the very least they have darkened her hair for the movie but she’s still very, very white when by the text she should be a darker-than-white biracial girl.

The sad thing is, neither the casting nor the really ugly reactions in that very first link are a surprise to me. Some of the tweets are very educational though – you can see people specifically putting “black” and “frail and innocent” in opposing categories, like little black girls can’t possibly be either of those things. That sort of framing demonstrates very clearly why it’s hard for black families to find justice for murdered children, because if Amandla Stenberg is too black for people to sympathise with, too black to be cute, too black to stir people’s protective instincts, so black that there are people who feel furious and betrayed because they cried over a white girl’s death, black enough to be called the n-word and a “little black b—-” for daring to be cast as Rue, is it any surprise that they think the same things about other black kids like Trayvon Martin, Aiyana Jones, Mya Lyons or Alexis Glover? Movies are a wonderful world of escapism where the audience is asked – and able – to connect and relate to aliens, anthropomorphic animals, robots, cars, toy action figures – but only if they’re white.

Responsibility

I’d be a terrible parent, for so many reasons. The one that’s nagging at me right now is that parents can never do anything right. Anything. Most recently it’s a response to this story about a four year old girl who fell off a ferry. See, her dad should have been holding her more securely than just holding her hand, apparently, and being pissed off that there isn’t a ramp between the boat and wharf is rampant nanny-state-ism. (Never mind that, apart from small children, there are disabled people who could seriously use a ramp too. Even some adult able-bodied people would probably be more comfortable with a ramp than a 50cm gap.)

It reminds me of a couple of months ago when a small boy got trapped in a public toilet while it went through the cleaning cycle. He’d entered while his mother was getting his younger sibling out of the stroller, and the cries of the internet backseat parents were enormous. How dare she let him walk ahead of her! He should have been in a twin stroller! She should have been holding his hand! You must never let a child run ahead of you! (All of one metre. Into the toilet.)

Put that aside though. Go to an internet forum and try an experiment – post a story or picture about seeing a parent in a mall with a small child wearing a harness and leash. Sit back and watch the reaction. You see, when your kid has an accident or gets lost, you were never careful enough. But during everyday life, if you take precautions, you’re being too careful. It’s similar to how rape victims and survivors didn’t take enough precautions to prevent it, but women who are wary of men are being way too over-sensitive and practically accusing them all of rape and how dare they. Criticisms of parenting are, after all, largely rooted in misogyny, because parenting is a woman’s job. It’s evident in the comments section of any story about the misdeeds of children and teenagers – where was the mother? What did she do wrong?

Everything, apparently.

Yesterday’s conference

So, I did end up going to the family group conference yesterday. It started late because of some miscommunication with the police so I talked to the co-ordinator and one of the other victims beforehand – apparently as well as me and the other Chris there was another one earlier in the day over by Riccarton Mall. The other Chris didn’t want to come but did ask how I was doing and gave the co-ordinator some things to say for him. I can’t, obviously, give anything much in the way of details of what was talked about, but generally speaking it was… idk, interesting. She is a lot younger than I’d thought and apparently hasn’t had to face her victims many times before. She ended up admitting all the charges, but I don’t know if they reached an agreement on what her sentence would be – it will be through the drug court most likely, which I approve of because I think drug courts are fantastic, but she wasn’t too keen on the level that everyone else thought was appropriate. I feel bad for her mum – she seems really nice and like she’s trying her best.

I’m going to get a written summary of the meeting in the post in a few days I think. Being in the same room with her was weird – in some ways she just seemed like a sulky kid, but at the same time it was quite intimidating and I don’t blame the other Chris for not turning up since the three of us live in neighbouring suburbs.

One funny thing was that the police rep kept talking about how we were all such good, upstanding citizens, when… he’d never met any of us and actually didn’t have any evidence for that. I mean, I expect there’s the fact that presumably none of us have police records, but apart from that? I guess we just look like such nice people.

From a purely academic point of view it was a pretty good look at the youth justice system too. While it’s certainly nerve-wracking for the victim/s, I think it’s better than a full court trial, and in combination with things like the drug court I think it’s a lot more effective than pushing youth into a system that’s designed for adult offenders. I’m not sure if the family group conference model is in place in other parts of the country but I know the drug court hasn’t gone nationwide due to lack of funding, which is a huge shame because treatment-based models are far superior to punishment-based ones when it comes to crime that has alcohol or drug abuse as a root factor. Since they ultimately save money over the long term in reduced recidivism, it’s really a matter of ideology and electoral popularism that they haven’t gone in – and I think that if politicians changed their tones we could also change what sort of policies were to appeal to the electorate. Unfortunately, the status quo benefits the right enough that that’s unlikely to happen in the immediate future.

Engaging

In about twelve hours I’ll be in the middle of the family group conference. I haven’t gotten anywhere in thinking about anything I want to say or suggest, so I decided to try poking around the internet to see if I could find much written from the victim’s perspective about these things. It was an utter failure – all I could find was official reports, studies, and information about them.

What I did find though was a lot of recommendations for dealing with victims on this page. Interestingly, the only contact I’ve had with anyone has been a follow up call from the police to double check which street it happened on (on the same day – while I was at a twitter meet up, in fact) and, last week, two letters arriving on the same day from CYF informing me that the conference was happening and I was encouraged to come. They provided me with a phone number if I had any questions, and put in a little pamphlet, but that was about it.

For anyone who isn’t aware, I don’t like phones. Kind of hate them actually. Part of it, regarding outgoing calls particularly, is my social phobia – I don’t like unfamiliar situations or things I can’t predict, and outgoing calls to people I’ve never rung before is a huge part of that. (This also covers answering the phone to a much smaller degree – I was able to work in an inbound call centre because I knew what I was doing and what to say to people, but outbound calls remained a part of the job that I really didn’t like much and I preferred to email if they had an address on file.) Part of it is that I think they’re rude – I can’t stand when I’m in the middle of something and then I have to drop everything right now to shut up this shrill, annoying noise and talk to someone. An even smaller part of it is that it’s harder for me to follow a conversation over a phone line when I can’t see the person I’m talking to. All up, it means that providing me with a phone number I can call if I have any questions is a gesture that’s basically pointless. I’m not going to call that thing unless I really need to. If they call me, though, that at least takes the onus off me to make contact, and once I’m on the phone I can deal, especially if they actually ask me questions rather than just expecting me to come up with whatever.

Due to the lack of communication, they have no idea if I have any particular needs. They know I speak English, but beyond that? I mentioned in the 111 call that I’m slightly disabled, but didn’t elaborate, and I have no idea if they have access to that information anyway. No one’s checked on my emotional state since the day of the attack, so they don’t know if I’m feeling vulnerable or angry or traumatised. They don’t even know if I’m turning up.

Honestly, I’m more pissed off about the whole situation now than I was a couple of hours ago before I decided to research the conferences. I’d already thought it was pretty stupid that they’d not really talked to me or anything (I’d have thought, at the very least, someone might call the day before to find out if I was planning to go), but finding information for CYF staff on what they should have done, but haven’t, is a lot more upsetting than the aftermath of the attack has been (though not more upsetting than the attack itself). I’m not sure if I even want to go now – I do want to talk to the girl and hear what she has to say, and I think that me being there would be positive for it as a mechanism of justice, but other than that, no. I don’t feel like the system is really operating to my benefit – it’s like they’ve forgotten that there’s actually a victim(s – I don’t know what’s going on with the other guy who was attacked after me) involved here. I suspect also that my reaction to this is a little bit tied up in a delayed reaction to the attack too. This girl and the guys she was with didn’t really see me as a person, it was completely impersonal, just because I was there, and to be faced with the exact same lack of recognition from the justice system is like a double whammy.

I’m going to sleep on it, anyway, and see how I feel in the morning, whether my community spirit and desire to see this girl turn around before she fucks her life up is enough to counteract my fear of unfamiliar situations and sense of… neglect, or isolation, or betrayal, or whatever this is. Right now, I really don’t know.

The wheels of justice

In reference to this post from 22 Feb about the kids who attacked me – I got a letter from Child Youth and Family today. One of them is having a Family Group Conference next Thursday that I’m encouraged to attend to discuss actions she could take to address the offence (apparently “common assault x2″). There was also a pamphlet about victim support with a bit of information about how they work. I don’t have to go, I could write a letter or I think send someone on my behalf, but obviously they’d like if I did, and I can also bring someone with me.

Mostly I’m sort of trying to figure out what the hell actions I could suggest she take. I don’t know, like, not wander round attacking people out of nowhere?

This also presumably means there’ll probably be at least one more of these, depending if the third guy actually got charged with anything.

Money!

Firstly, I finally received today a response to last Friday’s email to Studylink, telling me that my allowance has now been approved, and they’re very sorry I haven’t received the excellent service they try to provide. It took a couple of hours before my next payment information was available in my account, but it looks like I’ll be getting $230.50 next Tuesday. On the one hand, this is fucking fantastic because seriously I need that money, but on the other hand, unless they’re just showing my weekly entitlement rather than what they’ll actually be paying me, that means it doesn’t include backpay. Given that I’ve had to borrow money to pay bills and put some things on credit, and given that the entire reason I’ve had to wait this long was because of Studylink’s fuck up, if I don’t have $691.50 in my account on Tuesday, I’m gonna be pretty annoyed.

Secondly, benefits and allowances are set to increase for inflation in April. Most of them are going up by 1.77% – that works out to $4.07 for me – but NZ Superannuation and the Veteran’s benefit aren’t tied to inflation, they’re tied to the average net wage, so they go up by 2.65%. This means, pretty obviously, that people on other benefits are still losing ground compared to the average net wage. Meanwhile National is going ahead with reforms aimed at making it more difficult to access financial help and more inconvenient to be receiving it with onerous requirements. And if you want to you can argue that unemployed people deserve it for not trying hard enough to get a job (I’ll side-eye you and silently judge you, but whatever), but other benefits and allowances are all for things like caring for disabled people or orphans, being too sick/injured/disabled to be able to work, people who’ve been evacuated by Civil Defence or rural families affected by natural disasters, the Independent Youth Benefit which has been commented on in the news before which, it cannot be stressed enough, is for teens who are supporting themselves usually because they’ve escaped abusive homes, and people in residential rehabilitation facilities whose benefits don’t cover the fees. These are not exactly things you can change by just being more motivated, and most of them are for circumstances that make it very, very difficult to top up your income from any other source.

So, you know, that extra four dollars is awesome and all, but forgive me if I’m not celebrating. I can’t afford the balloons.

Today’s SocPol history snapshot

From the start of chapter five, Generous Years, of M. McClure’s A Civilised Community: A History of Social Security in New Zealand 1898-1998 (Auckland University Press, 1998).

For decades the Social Security Department had grappled with anomalies within the social security system and debated the advantages of selective or universal benefits, but there had been little questioning of the system’s rationale. The Department took this opportunity to rethink the philosophical bias of social security. Its papers written for the Royal Commission cited overseas critiques of the complacency of Western affluent societies, and the tendency of the wealthy to assume that poorer members of their community received a share in the general wealth. Overseas studies showed that this sharing was not inevitable, and that wealth did not ‘trickle down’ to everyone in the community. They argued that although capitalism was thriving, the market system was not guarantor of fair wages, and that the poorest had little bargaining strength. These studies reaffirmed the state’s role in the redistribution of national wealth. US reformers were afraid that the technological era of the twentieth century might revert to the values of the nineteenth century and licence the unchecked appetites of the powerful. In England the social critic T.H. Marshall was arguing that ‘the Affluent Society encourages the cruder forms of acquisitiveness’, and calling for ‘strong counteracting forces’ to prevent disaster.

The time period referred to in this paragraph is the very early 1970s, the very start of McClure’s “generous years”.

A sense of deja vu

I’m working through my readings for Social Policy and came across the following excerpt that I thought was interesting:

As in the 1890s and the 1930s, the opposition was organisationally weak and bereft of policy. With an electoral mandate that was conveniently vague, Labour began a dramatic programme of economic reform based on the premise that the Muldoon government’s economic management had brought the country to the brink of collapse. The delivery of social objectives would have to wait. ‘Pain before gain’ was to be a recurrent theme. Economic and social policy were separated and the former given priority, while a Royal Commission reporting in 1988 focused on social policy objectives. Labour’s neo-liberal colours were not immediately obvious.

Remember before the election when people were comparing John Key’s business degree with Phil Goff’s arts one? Personally, I’d rather have a Prime Minister with an education in history, social policy or sociology than in business. Government isn’t about profit. It’s about people.

But what was he wearing?

The Dominion Post featured two articles on the Stuff website today about overnight assaults, both of which occurred at 2.30 am to an individual walking alone. (Click on the images to magnify them.)

 I don’t think I need to take a copy of any of the 59 comments on the first article. If you’ve read one comment section about a woman being attacked while walking at night, you’ve read them all. As you can see I also haven’t voted in the poll, so I have no idea what the general public thinks on that question and suspect I don’t care to.

If you’re wondering, I did ask where the poll was for the male victim – and what he was wearing at the time.

(Interestingly in this case, too, the woman’s brother was across the road, so she wasn’t entirely alone. The article doesn’t say but presumably he’d either walked her part way or she’d only just left somewhere.)

 

 

‘Let Women Die’ passes Arizona Senate

The US has a shockingly high maternal death rate for the Western world, and Arizona wants to make it worse. The Senate has passed a bill allowing anti-choice doctors to simply not tell women if they detect a problem during pre-natal check-ups, because it might lead to them choosing to abort – and they’ll be immune from malpractice lawsuits. This includes not only foetuses likely to develop disabilities, but things like ectopic pregnancies which are extremely high-risk for the woman and have only a very small chance of being viable anyway.

Even disregarding the possibility of death, this means that even women who would choose to keep their child will not be given the time to prepare for the difficulties of raising a child with disabilities – emotionally, practically, financially, etc. Everything will be thrown at them after birth, a time which is already stressful and hectic and emotional and includes the possibility of post-partum depression (or worse, though happily rarer, psychosis). While you can certainly argue – with validity – that anyone carrying a pregnancy to term should be willing to accept the possibility of disabilities affecting their child, foreknowledge should absolutely not be taken away when parents could otherwise have the opportunity to use the time before birth to set up support systems in advance, or even to decide that they’re not at a place where they can raise that child at all. Disabled children and adults have an incredibly high risk of abuse at the hands of caregivers. We should do everything we can to reduce that, even if it means some of those children are never born – especially if the alternative also increases risk of injury or death to their mothers.