NZ Herald confused over difference between reality and what Bob McCroskie thinks, more at 8

In this article, Herald reporter Heather McCracken informs us that Family First NZ has been deregistered as a charity over its anti-gay beliefs. It says so in the headline, even. It says or implies so in the first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh paragraphs, which is where I stopped counting. Which is interesting and unfortunate, because that’s not actually true. It may have been a factor that was noted, but if that was the only reason it would never have happened – for evidence see the fact that the Salvation Army is still a charity. The real reason is that Family First NZ has never actually done anything charitable. It’s a political organisation. Its sole purpose is to influence politics and political decisions. But strangely, this fact is only alluded to twice, and that’s if you count this incredibly opaque phrase: “that it had held a conference and invited speakers that promoted its viewpoint, and that it invited people to join.” Two paragraphs later the vital part of the Charities Act is mentioned, but isn’t related back to FFNZ in anyway, and is immediately followed by McCroskie’s claim that their main activity is “education and research on families”.

The entire article, in fact, is basically just repeating what Bob McCroskie said. It might as well be a re-written press release. It’s both hugely biased and incredibly misleading, with even the Commission’s notification only being quoted second-hand through McCroskie’s skewed interpretation. Near the end it reports that he has asked whether any pro-gay marriage organisations have been the subject of “similar investigations” despite the fact that there ARE no pro-gay marriage organisations with charitable status. (At least, none which have any sort of pro-gay marriage work as anything even close to their main activity.) I’m not even sure what the point of the last section detailing their finances is, since that has not much at all to do with the reasons for their deregistration, though it does seem to contradict an earlier statement that they rely heavily on volunteer time when it says that their two volunteers work an average of two hours a week, which is interesting.

The hilarious thing is that this morning I saw someone describe the Herald as “our best newspaper”. I really have to question that when they’re publishing such blatantly ridiculous propaganda.

ETA: They’ve now changed the headline, but apparently don’t see that the rest of the article is an uncritical mess as well.

Everyone loves an old white guy

It’s interesting seeing which parts of Wednesday night’s marriage equality proceedings have gotten international attention over the last two days. The waiatanga of Pokarekare Ana is predictable and deserved – as is obvious from my previous post, I thought it was a beautiful moment. But the second part that really went viral was Dr Maurice Williamson’s speech, and I think that deserves a little bit of reflection.

Williamson, who also brought us the recent “people are going to 3d print drugs” line, is a fairly elderly, white, National MP. And yes, his speech was funny and quite nice, and I get the appeal of subverted expectations and the idea of winning over traditional enemies. But to me that isn’t really enough to justify why his speech has gotten so much more attention than some of the others. Clearly humour isn’t necessary to make something go viral – there was nothing funny about Pokarekare Ana (though there was subversion in bringing tikanga off the marae and into Westminster; I suspect you have to have a basic understanding of Māori culture to realise that though, something that a lot of the international audience doesn’t have, and instead saw it as simply an unexpected expression of joy). So why not some of the wonderfully written, emotional speeches of other MPs? I name-checked Te Ururoa Flavell and Mojo Mathers on Twitter and others cited Louisa Wall, Kris Faafoi, Kevin Hague and Tau Henare.

Obviously Te Ururoa’s never would have managed it. Aside from the specifically Māori context in it, it brought attention to the destruction of Māori culture that occurred under colonisation, and which is still occurring (apparently the medical centre closed for practicing “witchcraft” fairly recently was actually using rongoā, for example). We can’t be forcing people to confront that! But any of the other five brought real power to the proceedings in very different ways. In my opinion Mojo, Kevin and Tau would all have been pretty good candidates for virality, depending on whether you’re going for sentiment, stark honesty or political rancour.

The thing about history is that it’s really easy to justify why what did happen is what had to have happened. But that often isn’t the case. There are a lot of historical events that only went the way they did by mere chance and it is frankly fascinating to look at those events and how else they could have played out. So yeah, it’s easy to say “well of course it was Williamson, because it was funny” or “because we like converting people” or “because it was unexpected” – but if it had been someone else, it would be just as easy to say “because we like politicians yelling at each other/he threw out his original speech and that was lols” or “because it showed how far we’ve come/it spoke truth to power” or “because it had some incredible imagery/ffs it’s a Deaf woman talking about her gay* daughter and how awesome is that!” (*note I’m not sure whether her daughter is gay, or bi, or just fell in love with this one particular girl.)

So despite all the arguments in favour of Williamson’s speech, I continue to find it not entirely coincidental that the old conservative white guy went viral, when our Parliament has so many incredible speakers from diverse minority backgrounds.

Context context context

You’d not think that marriage equality would trigger a rant about race. Well, I don’t know, some people might, but it’s not really the first thing that most people would leap to. And yet less than 24 hours after the vote we have evidence of how race relations really aren’t universal, brought to you from Helen Razer of Australia. Now there are certainly things to, if not criticise, than at least be aware of regarding marriage equality. It’s not an end point. It’s not the greatest victory in the history of LGBT rights. And there are certainly people who gain more from it than others. But it’s also not the exclusive domain of white cis queerios, “smug honkeys” or not. For starters, the member’s bill was drafted by a Māori. And beyond that you have to take into account the colonial history of New Zealand and the impact of missionaries and British “humanitarians” in reshaping Māori culture and custom. Luckily, if you’re not aware of this history, you can get a (very) brief idea by going to In The House and looking up Te Ururoa Flavell’s speech in favour of the bill, which talks about a fairly well known Māori “myth” (/oral history/pakiwaitara) and the less well known fact that the version in most books completely erases the relationship between two male characters. LGBT rights are not a Western imposition, they’re a restoration of the pre-colonial status quo.

So white non-Kiwis really have no place to be relegating marriage equality to some exclusively white sphere, particularly an exclusively white sphere where anything an indigenous person does is presumed to be blatant pandering to the feelings of white people, rather than an act of self-determination and cultural defiance. The reason the video of everyone in the gallery standing up to waiata went viral is because that’s not done in the Westminster system. There is no “read the votes, then proceed to singing” in the order papers. That’s a Māori cultural tradition, something you see on a marae after the whaikōrero. The hint is in the fact that waiata, the word even the Speaker used, is not English – because what happened was not the hiring of a Polynesian choir for smug honkeys, it was an expression of Māoritanga, an act of rangatiratanga that was both a radical fuck you to the establishment and a highly conservative moment, depending on which lens you view it through.

You see, conservative doesn’t always have to mean bad. There are certain facets of humanity that will remain constant, and falling in love and wanting to commit to each other is one of them (though the form of that commitment will vary based on time and place and the people involved). So what if Māori marriage didn’t take the same form, pre-colonisation, as it did in the Western world? It was still recognisable as marriage, which is why it was so easy to graft European marriage onto it, and why opening that marriage up to couples of the same sex is absolutely not a bad thing for Māori. There are times when it’s right to talk about how marriage and the assumptions that go with it can be damaging, including to Māori. But in my opinion, this isn’t it, and white Australians certainly aren’t the people to do it.

The myth of female gaze

“Secondly, the trend may shift from only sexualising females. Anyone see the new Bond, Skyfall? The first scene with the villain includes a very camp Javier Bardem feeling up an uncomfortable Daniel Craig. Would this scene have EVER been put in Sean Connery’s films all those years ago? Nope. In the changing word today, gay marriage is being legalised, there are homosexual leads – it’s being accepted. Quite frankly, the only reason only females are sexualised in games is because there is a stigma against homosexual male characters! But if games are heading the way of the movies, and with more story-driven gameplay, they most certainly are, then it is not unfathomable to think in the next few years we could see EVERYONE getting sexualised!”
(from a comment on this article)

This paragraph is sort of strange, and it reminds me of an anecdote I read on an author’s blog once. She came across a negative review of her book on a site that expressed distaste at the way the book “promoted homosexuality”. Baffled, because there was no such content in the book, she got in touch with the writer of the comment to discuss his view. The conversation eventually revealed that the concept of the female gaze was so foreign to him that when a male was described in sexual, or even sensual, terms, his automatic assumption was that there was something gay going on. Apparently the writer of this comment suffers from the same problem. You see, even though far more straightwomen than gay men play video games, we can’t possibly have a male character be sexualised unless it’s for the appreciation of gay male gamers. Because it’s more socially acceptable to market to the horniness of gay men than for straight women, or something.*

On a note that may be related only by virtue of also being discussed in that article in the comments, I’m not really sure that “offensive” is the right word to describe my feelings about the prevalence of sexual assault in not just video games, but pop culture in general as well. As a mostly female-perceived person it definitely makes me uncomfortable. As a writer and a reader it’s sometimes just plain boring. It’s a lazy shorthand to show or prove that a character is evil. Rape is bad = only bad people rape = this character is bad, so he should try to rape someone. But there are plenty of other, and often better, ways to show that. Hell, you can have a “bad” character who refuses to sully himself by touching a member of some outside group in that manner (for characters in cults or racial gangs, etc) – it’s still misogynistic, but on a different level to the casual assumption that if there’s a bad guy around, women gonna get raped. It’s individualised misogyny, the idea of this character that an “outsider” woman has the ability to dirty him – not an idea shared by everyone playing the game or watching the movie. Or you could have a character more into psychological shit who prefers to leave his captives waiting and imagining what might happen to them. Or maybe, harming the captives just isn’t part of the plan. They’re there for a reason – ransom, to prevent them from taking action against the villains, to coerce them into performing some particular task, etc – and pointless violence against them risks retaliatory violence on a larger scale from their allies which the villains have decided is better to avoid.

And that’s just in games that take place in a semi-realistic world where, yes, rape and sexual assault are pretty much endemic. In games in other genres, though, they don’t have to be. You’re making up a world with, I don’t know, magic and dinosaurs and different political systems, but it’s just too much work to imagine a different dynamic between the sexes than the one you were brought up with? Yeah, I’m calling bullshit on the idea that it’s “just realism” there, bud. That’s not realism, that’s laziness and the inability to think about the world from a point of view that isn’t mired in rape culture and male dominance.

*Note: I’m not explicitly including bisexual peeps since they’re, in the minds of people who think the treatment of women in video games is universally regarded as sexual, already catered for in some way.

John Key fire your PR guy

I got home from work today in time to catch Gay Red Top-gate for a while before Kate Wilkinson’s resignation hit the news, before John Key had given his statement. And oddly enough it’s this that has struck me as showing how he’s not even bothering to come up with decent excuses anymore, because I saw it immediately.

You see, this is one of those few situations where you could half-plausibly claim the “bright and cheerful” defense. A red top like the one shown on the Stuff article is a colour that could reasonably be described by that definition of the word. And you can even use that meaning of the word in a derogatory fashion to imply that a more sombre/professional hue would be more appropriate. A hell of a lot of people would, quite rightly, never believe him, but he could even play to the “them homosexuals even stealing our demn language!” crowd (for all that that’s, linguistically and historically, the opposite of what happened).

But instead of using a line that occurred to me in about five seconds flat – and which I actually half-expected him to use – he just blamed his son, admitting to the entire country that casual homophobia is so acceptable in his home that, far from trying to stamp it out, he picks the language up from his teenager. It’s a little baffling when you consider that he won the last election largely through the force of his media presence and by virtue of simply out-personalitying Phil Goff. But he certainly seems to be racking up the hits these days* and for all that I joked about how he probably hasn’t been told about Wilkinson yet and won’t remember it next week, he was presumably aware that the news was about to hit the online outlets. Now, the repercussions of her resignation, those should be interesting…

(And just so you know, I’m wearing a gay red top right now.)

* Personally I’m not too fussed about batshit-gate aside from the questionability of slagging off another public figure like that (as Prime Minister you should ALWAYS be aware that you’re in public unless you’re at home strictly with family), and don’t think the word choice is much to comment on aside from the obvious making of jokes – it’s a rare person who hasn’t mixed their metaphors, Spoonerised or simply misspoke at least once in their lives.

Open Letter to Su’a William Sio

Dear Mr Sio,

You don’t know me and I’m not a constituent of yours, so I guess you’d be within rights to simply dismiss anything I have to say as irrelevant. Maybe it is, I don’t know.

I’m not going to castigate you for attending an anti-gay rally, or demand your opinion on the homophobic, mis-spelled signs some people were holding, or question what you thought was positive about the part of the rally that didn’t involve them at all. I’m curious about something else.

You’re Pasifika, as are many of the people you represent; quite a few more of them are Māori. Together these two groups represent a variety of cultures with a long, rich history. Most of that history has been pretty inclusive when it comes to LGBT folk, whether fa’afafine, takatāpui or something else.

Until white colonisation.

Colonisation brought Christianity, which was introduced to the people of the Pacific Islands and Aotearoa often by force. Many scholars regard the Treaty of Waitangi as promising to respect freedom of religion, however missionaries pushed their beliefs onto tangata whenua regardless, and the passage of two generations saw the white now-majority of New Zealand passing the Suppression of Tohunga Act that finally outlawed traditional Māori religion. The Pacific peoples cannot have been treated any better. Fast forward to 2006, a hundred years after the Suppression of Tohunga Act, and over three quarters of Pacific Islanders identified themselves as Christian (largely Catholic, followed by Presbytarians and then Methodists) in the census, far more than the average for the population as a whole – the second largest “religious” group was those with no religion at 13%.

I know you’re one of those three quarters of Pacific Islander Christians. I assume you know your history. I just want to know, does it bother you? How do you feel about the colonisation process? Do you think your ancestors were wrong to accept gender variant and same sex attracted people for so very long? Do you think they went to hell for it?

I don’t mean to denigrate your religion, but I admit it’s hard to understand this. Christianity is very new to Pacific Island culture; it was brought to the area by white men who treated Pasifika badly and whose practices led to widespread poverty, crime, child abuse, and loss of mana. Now you are using that Christianity to discriminate against a group of people who had always been accepted by Pacific Islanders before. How do you justify that? How can you possibly be sure that that’s right? How do you explain your actions to those who are both LGBT and Pasifika?

I would just really like to know. I hope you can tell me.

Peace,

Chris

What a quack up!

I’ve been quiet for a while, but I promise this was worth the wait.

Ancient Behaviour

I’m not going to mock Jasmin, because she’s 14 and she’s homeschooled (presumably in the too-Christian-for-secular-school way), and this being the internet I’m sure plenty of other people will be mocking her far more than she deserves. I will mock her parents though, because I’m willing to bet they a) encouraged her and b) checked over this letter before she sent it, and I can’t even count the factual errors in this. Like Rome not being the Stone Age, the fact that ducks are known for being one of the many species that engage in homosexual behaviour (there’s even a well-known scientific paper on necrophiliac homosexual sex between drakes, because lol scientists), the many things Romans engaged in that are still considered to be incredibly sophisticated and civilised… and if same-sex marriage isn’t “nesting” in pairs, what is it?

Presumably it’s meant to be absurdist in the idea that the top of the evolutionary ladder is naturally held by the most heterosexual/monogamous species, so I’ll leave that alone except to note that if monogamy were the deciding factor we wouldn’t be the winners there anyway, even if you pretend that cheating doesn’t exist.

Mostly, though, this is probably the most charming anti-gay diatribe I’ve ever read. It has everything. I might be less amused if it was written by an adult, but then again maybe not – it would still be just as ludicrous, and adults have had longer to re-consider this kind of indoctrination, so less excuse than a homeschooled teenager.

I hope Jasmin does expand her horizons, one day. I feel a wee bit bad for her.

So that happened

For the benefit of those Kiwis who’ve been under a rock – last night Valerie Adams was awarded the gold medal in shot put after the Belarusian woman failed a drugs test. Immediately Twitter erupted into a massive seething ball of fury. That in and of itself was a little bit scary, but not as scary as what this anger showed about people.

I think anger is a bit like alcohol in that it tears your judgement apart. The things you say in anger might well not be things you’d normally say, but they are things you might normally think. They don’t magically come out of thin air. So when people are completely, utterly furious, and what they come up with to express that incredible rage is this:

“You fucking bitch, you cheating cow, you have a penis!”

Then you are not a person that I am safe around. No matter how you justify it once you’ve calmed down, you just showed that when you were reaching for a really vile insult, you thought the best one was “your genitals don’t match your gender presentation.” Whether you tweeted it yourself or retweeted someone else saying it, you are now a danger to me. I’m only glad that none of the people I unfollowed were ones I felt particularly close to.

Interesting

Out of curiosity I’m looking at the guidelines from the Ministry of Health on “Gender Reassignment Health Services for Trans People Within New Zealand” and in the introduction of the pdf is this:

““Trans” will often not be the term an individual person uses to describe their gender identity, for example, male-to-female (MtF) may identity as whakawahine, transsexual, fa’afafine, fakaleiti, transgender, akava’ine or simply as female. Similarly, female-to-male (FtM) trans people may identity as tangata ira tane, transsexual, transgender, genderqueer or male.” (emphasis mine)

Aside from being somewhat pleasantly surprised that they actually include genderqueer, I’m a little confused. Do they think there are no bio-male genderqueer people? How bizarre!

(Before this they note that “Simply put, a person with gender variance (sometimes referred to as gender dysphoria) identifies as a gender that is different from their phenotype.” which would at least seem to cover non-binary folks…)

For the curious, the info page is here.