“They like sex.”

People who follow politics and the news are likely aware of Anne Tolley’s eugenicist comments regarding “certain families” – namely, that the government should look into telling them to stop having children. Which is serious bullshit on many, many levels that very smart people have been unpacking for two days on Twitter, but today she doubled down on the offensiveness: when asked why she thinks low income women have children, she replied, “I think they like sex.”

For five words, there’s an awful lot of implication in that sentence, and I’m most certainly missing a lot of it. But for the most obvious, does she think well off women don’t like sex? (This enters into speculation about her sex life which I’m not going to entertain.) Or did she decide it was impolitic to end with, “…and are too stupid to use birth control properly”?

However, the racial aspect of poverty and of which families draw the attention of government agencies adds another angle to that line. I’m sure she wasn’t consciously thinking of this when she gave her answer, but that’s the problem with a lot of stereotypes – you don’t have to be thinking about them to reinforce them. In this case, it’s that of the nubile and passionate Pacific woman which dates back to the early decades of European intrusion into the region.

Google search results: nubile pacific womenTolley could do with looking at actual research into sexual, reproductive and contraceptive habits of low income families. (Not just the women!) Do they use birth control consistently? What kind? If not, why not? Do they have access to good advice and medical care? Is it significant that it would be illegal for them to get an abortion due to contraceptive failure, and the hoops to jump through to access it (multiple doctors signing off that it would be a danger to your physical or mental health) are a lot harder for low income women? Are their pregnancies even unintentional? Are they even having that many children? (Teen and unintended pregnancies have been steadily dropping over the last decade, as have abortions.) Why are they having children? Are they seeking partners to help support themselves and their existing families because their own income is inadequate? Are their partners willing to use birth control? (Reproductive coercion is a recognised part of domestic abuse – getting your partner pregnant to keep them vulnerable. This includes deliberately sabotaging birth control, as well as refusing to use it.) Do they place cultural importance on family? Do they see upwards social mobility as essentially impossible no matter what they do, and decide to focus their efforts on their children instead?

There is a huge amount of nuance in these conversations that makes blanket statements about long-term contraceptive use or even sterilisation not only offensive breaches of human rights (yep – the UN says it’s a human right to decide this sort of thing for yourself) that amount to a form of genocide when applied predominantly to non-dominant ethnic groups, but also just plain stupid. How does she expect to be able to set effective policy if her understanding of the situation is a straight out of the Victorian era idea that poor, mostly brown, women are just having unprotected sex all over the place because they can’t resist the penis?

Collectivism is bad and how to fix it

Also today on the New Zealand Herald is an article entitled Collectivist beliefs ‘may hold back Maori success’ – economists. They’ve done a study (which Leonie Pihama takes down as flawed on multiple levels) that basically looks at the values reported by Maori as opposed to non-Maori and points to them to explain why Maori enterprises don’t make profit hand over fist. Essentially, being collectivist, having strong kinship ties, and believing that success is often due more to luck than hard work all contribute to being Bad At Money.

Some of the language in the article is actually amazing in its unashamedly white supremacist lens. Here’s my favourite part:

Dr MacCulloch said other studies had found that people in poorer countries tended to share the same values as Maori people on issues such as believing that success came more from “luck and connections” than from “hard work”.

He said those beliefs were often understandable because of colonial histories that created very unfair societies in which power was held by a foreign elite.

“That can mean that, because of something that happened in your historical past, you have beliefs that weaken the point in working because I may not end up being rewarded for it,” he said. “It’s a very powerful way of explaining why countries have been trapped [in poverty].”

You heard it here (or there) first, folks. The reason countries that have been ravaged by colonial powers are poor is because the native populations don’t believe in hard work. Not, of course, because they’ve been ravaged by colonial powers or because they still have very unfair societies in which power is held by foreign elites. Fun history lesson: in New Zealand in the middle of the 19th century, the missionaries were a big part of convincing Maori to take up European agricultural systems, particularly growing wheat, and integrating them into the capitalist market through trade. And Maori were great at it. So great that pretty soon, settlers started getting very upset about how much better the Maori were doing, and suddenly the settler government started making laws that just happened to impact on Maori economic activities pretty negatively. And guess what? Maori at the time were even more collectivist than they are now, so I’m pretty sure being collectivist does not actually prevent you from succeeding at capitalism.

It’s all okay though, because they reckon we can fix that pesky collectivism right out of them:

Dr MacCulloch suggested that Maori enterprises could change people’s beliefs by giving iwi members individual shares in their companies, as Fonterra had done by setting up a shareholders’ fund alongside the main co-operative.

Enforcing dominant cultural attitudes on a native population that isn’t conforming properly to our own standards… yep, that’s definitely the way to go. Couldn’t possibly go wrong.

Refugees and help that isn’t

In the wake of an absolutely massive refugee crisis centering around the Middle East and Europe (we should all be able to agree that when people are hiding in vehicle engines, drowning at sea and dying in the backs of trucks, they’re not “migrants”) there’s been a lot of talk locally about increasing our quota of refugees, which is currently 750 a year and has been since 1987. We don’t generally hit that total, and the ones we take are usually on a family reunification basis – relatives of refugees who’ve already gotten here. At this point, all of National’s support partners have suggested raising it to 1000, and the hashtag going around Twitter is #DoubletheQuota, which I think would be a good start. (The main problem is that while we have very good services set up, they need more funding (and a bit of time) to be able to scale up effectively, and we know how tight-fisted the government is with funding social services.)

There’s also a push, sparked by the news that 10k households in Iceland have offered to take in refugees, for people to offer up their spare rooms. While this is obviously being done with the best of intentions, I’m very deeply uncomfortable with it as anything more than a symbolic gesture. For starters, it’s attempting to solve the wrong problem. The reason we don’t take more refugees is not that we don’t have enough beds for them. Yes, that might be an issue if we suddenly went from a quota of 750 to accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees right now, and in that case a very strictly temporary arrangement might be plausible, but as it stands it strikes me very much as somewhat equivalent to people who want to go to disaster zones to help, or aid schemes like Toms shoes where for every pair they sell they donate a pair to kids in poverty stricken areas of Africa. Expensive and ultimately counterproductive – foreigners who don’t know the area need to be fed and housed and taught what to do, free shoes are a stop-gap solution that destroys local textile industries, cause unemployment and don’t do anything about the reasons the kids need shoes (cited usually as being unhygienic conditions with walking through sewage, etc, in which case it’s much more effective to install better plumbing).

Think about this: a refugee family arrives in New Zealand, completely disconnected from everything they’ve known before, having been through experiences so traumatic most of us could hardly comprehend them, with almost none of their own belongings, and are moved into somebody’s spare room. The power relationship that results from this would leave them extremely vulnerable – they’re dependent on the goodwill of a stranger who most likely has no experience or training with even the most common of coping mechanisms, they don’t have a space that’s really their own, they won’t have much recourse if their host starts placing conditions on their charity that exploit them such as providing labour in return for board, and their emotional responses to all the trauma and upheaval are unlikely to be understood or catered for. Plus cultural and language differences.

Interestingly, with the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina recently, I just read this article a few days ago about how expectations and realities can clash badly in just this sort of situation.

What might be more useful would be people volunteering to work with refugees through organisations that are already in place, sponsoring families either financially (though this can get kind of murky when the sponsor feels like they have some kind of return ownership) or by helping them adjust to the community. Signing up to help them get places. Spending time with them answering questions. Making them feel welcome. And importantly, speaking out against the racism in our society, especially when it’s leveraged against those already here.

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.

Waitangi Day and Te Wai Pounamu

On six separate days through May and June 1840 Treaty signings were held in the South Island, largely down the east coast. However, Hobson had already declared British sovereignty over Te Wai Pounamu on May 21 on the basis that it was terra nullius, the same justification for the annexing of Australia. Apparently it wasn’t logically inconsistent to claim that and also to seek a Treaty with the inhabitants, or at least, everyone was willing to pretend it wasn’t. (It was much easier to pretend in the south – the land wasn’t as good, which meant a lower population and more movement around territories that the Crown could later claim were wastelands as they didn’t have a permanent settlement.)

Land sales in the south occurred between 1844 and 1860 (except Stewart Island, which was bought in 1863) with the Crown buying up huge tracts of land at once. The Canterbury block, for example, was eight million hectares for which they paid just two thousand pounds – one third the cost of Stewart Island. Rather than negotiating fairly, agents such as Commissioner Kemp used threats to buy the land from rivals or to use force while promising that one tenth of the land purchased would be set aside as native reserves. This “one-tenth” was reduced to four hectares for each person, generally of poor quality land. When it came to buying Banks Peninsula, the local chiefs refused to sign. The reserves would not be enough even for subsistence. So instead, the Crown simply passed the Canterbury Settlement Act which basically went “Yeah, all this? That’s ours now.” (Again, they still tried to get Kai Tahu to agree to the annexation for another seven years.) Hamilton was the only agent to really express any hesitation over what they were doing, on the basis that two years ago a 12,000ha piece of land in the area had been sold for fifteen thousand pounds, which he was being instructed to pay just two hundred pounds for. Eventually he sold himself the justification that the rest of the land was valueless to Māori, whereas Pākehā settlement would bring benefits of civilisation and trade.

Not that the Māori could do much trade. Kai Tahu and the other Te Wai Pounamu iwi were left basically landless in an area where the big money was in sheep farming, something that doesn’t need as good pasture as the cropping and dairy farming in the north but which needs a lot of it. What reserve lands they did have left were controlled by the land commissioners, who could lease it out for dick all or sell it off at their discretion.

Ultimately the Crown paid just under fifteen thousand pounds for the entirety of the South and Stewart Islands through the use of threats, bullying and outright theft, leaving Māori dispossessed and impoverished while Pākehā settlers got rich on the proceeds of what Mantell had called “an uselessly extensive domain”. European cognitive dissonance had won the day.

A defense of cannibalism

UPDATE: Credit where it’s due, Bomber has now apologised for his follow up post. He’s also left the offending text there with a strike-through, so that it’s still part of historical record if anyone wants to see it but indicates his changed views. I appreciate both actions, thank you.

There’s this meme going around a (small) circle of NZ liberals at the moment that the left eats its young/is on the lookout for traitors/etc. Basically, because a post on The Daily Blog was criticised for consisting almost entirely of a stereotypical caricature of an evil-looking Jewish Santa Claus taken directly (and I mean that literally) from an anti-Semitic website. Apparently it was supposed to be anti-consumerist with the text that was added, but a few people noticed the obvious similarity to anti-Semitic images and pointed it out. Bomber responded by asking for a link to prove the claims. I assume one was provided, but I’ve scrolled back to December 17 in the Gallery and the entire post seems to have been deleted along with the image, so unless people got screen shots no one can actually see what was said. However, Bomber’s newer post says that Russell Brown and Giovanni Tiso started a twitter campaign against him, and both of their timelines are intact, so this can be fact-checked easily.

Russell Brown: The first reference on his timeline to the situation is a reply to Giovanni that simpy says “Holy shit. That’s awful.” For a while after this he watches some sports, then sometime around 6 last night he replies to another brief conversation with the link to the page where the original image is used in context. Two tweets later, he shows Bomber the link and tells him to take the “ghastly anti-semitic” image down. Then nothing for three hours, until he comments that of two options, Bomber acting maliciously or ignorantly, he favours the latter. This is the sum total of Russell’s Twitter discussions on the subject until Bomber’s new post went up.

Giovanni Tiso:  Two days ago, James Robb links to the original post asking if anyone else sees the anti-Semitic caricature. There’s a conversation where several people express disgust, which Gio joins after several tweets stating he has no idea who posted it and thinks it’s appalling. He then proceeds to eat some Roses chocolates and possibly fudge (the rat bastard, I love Roses and fudge!). Yesterday, he tweets a link to the original post to note that 16 hours after it was pointed out to them (from memory by James Robb), the “horrid anti-Semitic caricature” is still there. He then discusses the historical context of the imagery over a few tweets with interested parties before notifying his followers that Bomber is standing by the image and wants to be shown proof that it’s anti-Semitic. This is where Russell’s tweet to the original image, embedded in original context, enters. “Holy shit!” Gio tweets. Following this is more discussion of the maliciousness vs ignorance debate, which Gio also believes is the latter, as do others that he retweets. Sometime after 7 last night he says, independent of other conversation, “When the best case scenario is that you’re an incredibly ignorant person, it may be time to re-evaluate where you’re at.” In following tweets he continues to debate maliciousness vs ignorance until possibly his harshest two tweets:

“Followed by this from Bradbury, which I can’t RT because he blocked me: @punkscience the right look for converts, the left look for traitors”
“Any similarities with Willie and JT and with every other entitled male fuck-up who paints self as victim is purely coincidental.”

So. This twitter attack consists of: Russell finding an image to be awful, asking Bomber to take it down, and later giving him the benefit of the doubt in assuming he honestly didn’t know; and Giovanni finding the image to be appalling, noting that nothing has been done after 16 hours, discussing the history of anti-Semitic imagery,  being shocked at the page it was originally from, and agreeing with Russell that Bomber probably didn’t do it on purpose. Then he says that ignorance is probably something people should strive to not be, and compares Bomber’s positioning of himself as victim of a targeted witch hunt to Willie and JT doing the same thing.

I don’t know about anyone else, but that doesn’t seem like much of an attack. They both think he didn’t know how bad the image was, but both are distressed by the image and ask him to take it down. Giovanni talks with a few other people about anti-Semitic imagery in general, and criticises the tendency of men who screw up to paint themselves as victims.

In response, this is what Bomber had to say:

“I was surprised with the venom of their twitter attacks as the meme was an anti-capitalism Christmas satire, and certainly wasn’t an anti-Semitism statement. What was most amusing was the total lack of a benefit of the doubt and just the defamatory assertion by Tiso and Brown that I and this blog are supposedly anti-Semitic. When Tiso was called racist for his attack on two Maori broadcasters by Donna Awatere Huata, I gave Tiso the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t a double standards racist and when Russell Brown managed to con Maori TV into taking his shit circle jerk TV show, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that it would be more than an aging hipster interviewing his small circle of chums to pat each other on the back for their own sense of magnificence.

I won’t be providing that benefit of doubt from now on, I relish the weekly opportunity to review Brown’s new show on Maori TV and question how and why Maori TV should be propping up a middle class white fog horn like Brown for his unique brand of pretentious wank, and Tiso’s sanctimonious whining has worn through any patience I once had with him.

Insinuating people are anti-Semites is a tactic trick of the IDF, despite Tiso and Browns assertions, I am not an anti-Semite and this blog isn’t anti-Semitic, the image selected by the TDB reposter was an anti-Capitalism piece of satire. It was removed to stop any offense being taken and to end any opportunity by Tiso and Brown to denigrate this blog any more than they usually do.”

Apparently, when people point out that an image posted on your site is a hateful caricature of a historically oppressed minority, the appropriate response is to talk up your own benevolence, accuse one of them of “conning” a tv station into airing a “shit circle jerk TV show”, call him an “aging hipster”, pledge yourself to harshly criticise said show every single week, and compare those who were upset by the image to the IDF.

(Full disclosure, I made a reply to one of the few comments on that post which has not made it through moderation. Hardly a surprise, as at time of writing only four comments have and they’re all indignantly on his side.)

Really, who here is actually running an attack campaign? Maybe it’s not that the left eats its young. Maybe it’s just that the left places higher importance on pointing out when allies perform acts which undermine the values that they supposedly share. After reading Bomber’s response to Russell and Giovanni, I certainly see very little value in his contributions to any system of beliefs, values and priorities that I would want to join. I don’t care if people agree with me on everything. I do care how they respond to criticism. And on that score, Bomber seriously bombed.

The political is personal

I haven’t posted anything about the death of Nelson Mandela, because there is nothing I could possibly say that is worth hearing from me. I marked the occasion on Twitter with the simple, “Kua hinga te totara nui.” Later I posted a wry, “Nelson Mandela was the Nelson Mandela of our times” in response to white Westerners comparing Mandela to all their personal white heroes.

I’ve read around a bit. It seems that the right thinks that the left is politicising his death by criticising the make up of the delegation sent to the memorial. I’ve seen the response that the right politicised it when Key was advised not to take John Minto.

I disagree. Nelson Mandela’s death was politicised long before he died. It may even have been done before he was born. It was politicised when the lives of certain parts of the population became not their own, but something to legislate and control and use to froth up electoral sentiment. Feminism has “the personal is political” to recognise this exact phenomenon, because women’s bodies are political – how they dress, what medication they take, what jobs they can have, and the looming spectre of *whispers* abortion. People with disabilities are political too, because so many of them require dependent income, so that politicians and managerial staff and policy analysts are justified in debating who should be working or not working, what is classed as a disability rather than “poor choices”, how much aid people should have, whether it’s money or goods, how much oversight there should be in how it’s spent. There are probably people who think I might not really be doing the proper thing in drawing a student loan. Since I left high school I’ve had three periods of studying (dropped out, failed out, current) and three periods of working (dropped out, failed out, contract ended in February) in between the looooooong periods of not being able to do anything. Should that track record count against me? There’s a “what’s fair” debate, and there’s also a “what’s best public policy?” debate. I didn’t create either of them. Those debates existed long before I came along, with my disabilities, my trans*ness, my annoyingly female body and reproductive system.

Nelson Mandela’s death is political because his life was political. His body was political. His image was so political that it was banned for quarter of a century. The people who made him political are not those engaged in “identity politics”, they are those that created the need for identity politics in the first place through stifling legislation attempting to control the lives of any group that might one day threaten their power – Native Americans, black slaves, women, anyone who does not belong. Their expressions of emotion, of wants and desires that cannot be understood by the white male elite, are over-medicalised – drapetomania, hysteria, homosexuality and transvestism as mental disorders, “shamanism” as psychotic illness, and in medicalising them they assume a paternal over-interest codified into law.

This isn’t a minor quibble. Straight white men, for the most part, simply do not understand what it’s like to know that any discussion of the circumstances of your life can be shut down with “Now, let’s not get political.” I’m sorry, was I talking about electoral candidate selection? Was I citing Question Time? No! I was talking about how people with disabilities need enough to live on and the fact that the recommended course of treatment in biomedicine for GID is vastly out of reach for most people affected by it. The fact that these things rely on political interest to fix is not my problem, it’s yours.

Dressing with self-respect

Recently, #FastTailedGirls trended on Twitter. It’s a hashtag that was started by Mikki Kendall for black women to talk about their experiences with being hyper-sexualised at a young age. I saw tweets about girls as young as four years old being labeled “fast” for wanting to play with their male peers, for dressing up in sundresses and hats, or hitting puberty early. And because black women can’t have their own space respected there were of course trolls, slut-shamers and victim-blamers.

(I was going to put a picture of an adorable little girl wearing a hat here, but got frustrated trying to find a non-watermarked picture of a pre-teen when “girl” is assumed to refer to all women.)

One of them tweeted, about an hour ago: “@yvethepoet How do those laws have anything to do with allowing children to dress like they don’t respect themselves?” (To clarify, he was addressing it to @yvethepoet, who was contributing to the hashtag. Additionally the tweet he was replying to didn’t say anything about laws, so I’m going to assume he means age of consent legislation or something similar.) And good lord that tweet raises so many issues but is so, so typical of the responses women get talking about this shit that I really want to address it.

1. Age of consent laws don’t have anything to do with how children dress because clothing isn’t consent.
2. Though he later mentioned “young women”, he is definitely referring to children here. Presumably pre-teens. A child wearing “provocative” clothing, a child wearing heels and make up, a child wearing a bikini, does not look sexy. Not to me, not to most adults. Children learn about the world through play. They dress up, they play pretend, they role play, they copy what they see. An eleven year old experimenting with her clothing in imitation of how adults dress is not making some kind of comment on her sexual availability. Ideally an eleven year old doesn’t even know what that means, though sadly many (particularly black girls and other girls of colour such as natives) have been forcibly introduced to their sexuality way, way too young. Even a fifteen year old who hit puberty early and has a lot of curves is still clearly a young girl on interaction. There are very, very few fifteen year olds who are actually so magically mature that you can’t tell them apart from an adult. And while the age of consent here in New Zealand is 16, in much of America where the people contributing to #FastTailedGirls live it’s 18, so a fifteen year old girl is not “only” a few months away from being “legal”.
3. How exactly does one indicate through their clothing that they don’t respect themselves? I actually addressed this point on Twitter and never got a reply. By asking this he’s assuming that his assumptions about the meaning of dress are universally true. Some people think that a woman who doesn’t cover her hair must have no self-respect. I could think that anyone who’d wear a onesie in public doesn’t have any self-respect. The motivations behind how we dress are incredibly complex, very culturally specific, and entirely subjective. Often people will object to clothing on one woman that is a completely normal thing to wear. For example, one woman on the hashtag talked about being told to wear trousers instead of shorts as a child because her mother’s boyfriend was coming to the house. Obviously, that’s bullshit. A young girl wearing shorts is not some sultry temptress. She’s a young girl wearing shorts. I’m wearing shorts right fucking now and I don’t think they’re particularly sexy. Another woman talked about a teacher chiding her for showing too much cleavage wearing a tank top. Women who have large cleavage often complain about trying to find clothes that properly cover them up, because sometimes it’s just not possible. You can’t wear a turtleneck in hot weather (the American South in summer…) and sometimes a turtleneck actually draws more attention to the breasts by outlining them and not having a neckline directly above them to distract the eye. Ultimately what people are actually objecting to is these girls and women having a certain type of post-puberty onset body, and that’s not something that girls and women can control.
4. Following on from that, what does the assumed self-respect or lackthereof of young girls even have to do with rape? I mean, obviously, it does because a) rapists are predatory and deliberately target vulnerable girls and women who often have poor self-esteem and b) being sexually objectified and hypersexualised erodes self-esteem and self-respect, but the guys who are making this argument don’t fall in line with that reasoning. They don’t talk about rape as a deliberately predatory act and they don’t worry about the self-esteem of girls who are being constantly judged according to their perceived sexuality. They think “confidence” is a codeword for “dressing slutty” and victims call rape on themselves by being too sexy. And in that case, shouldn’t the opposite be true, that girls who don’t respect themselves are less attractive? Unless, I guess, you think low self-esteem and lack of self-respect are sexy, that they make an eleven year old girl desirable, and that the exaggerated play-acted “flirting” of pre-teens, in the few cases where it existed in the first place (which it usually doesn’t, most girls did not invite the attention, not that any level of flirting implies consent anyway and especially in a fucking child) is somehow attractive rather than clumsy and immature.

This huge focus on clothing is ridiculous. Clothing is not the be all and end all of attractiveness. It might influence it in some ways, but not enough to make someone who you wouldn’t ordinarily be attracted to suddenly become someone you’re going to chase after, past the point of just eyeing them up, past the point of approaching them, past the point of flirting, past the point of asking them out, someone you’re actively trying to have sex with even if their first response isn’t “yeah, let’s do it!” Likewise, someone who’s attractive in and of themselves isn’t suddenly unattractive because they’re wearing more clothes. So how, how, how can what a child is wearing be a relevant factor? People who aggressively pursue children do it because of social values and conditioning that tells them it’s okay and they won’t face consequences. In some (but not all or even most) cases they do it because they’re pedophiles or ephebophiles, who are attracted specifically and exclusively to that age group, and also because social values and conditioning tell them they won’t face consequences. But the idea that there’s something that black girls in particular are wearing that accounts for the way they’re sexualised and shamed defies all logic and common sense.

Equality and sameness

My Mana Māori exam is in three days, so obviously I’m studying hard. This morning I’m looking at the topics on indigeneity, which I clearly had some feelings about when I covered it the first time, because there’s double or triple underlines under phrases like “rigid liberal pluralism” and “indigenising the constitution”. Several times my papers have touched on the monocultural assumptions of liberal equality – the idea that everyone is equal, individual rights are all-important, etc. But it’s not something that we’ve really addressed on a major level, so in the meantime it sort of sits in my brain, mulling. This is as much me still thinking it out as actually writing about it, and obviously if you want proper legitimate discussion you should go to indigenous leaders or scholars.

Common knowledge says that the idea of separate indigenous rights is incompatible with equality. We’re supposed to all have the same individual rights, meaning that collective rights are inherently unequal – but the truth is, we’re not all equal. We see it in outrageous judge comments where criminals are let off lightly because they “make people laugh” or are role models. Rich fraudsters who steal billions are treated better than poor people who steal a hundred dollars. The justice system contains strong bias against non-white and particularly Māori or Pacific Island defendants. Then there’s citizenship vs residency vs being here on a work or study visa vs no visa at all. You can hold dual citizenship in the UK, so being part of two different groups is obviously okay, and it’s much harder for Kiwis to get Australian citizenship than anyone else, so treatment based on nationality is okay too. People in Europe are both citizens of their own country and the European Union, and you can be both Welsh and British. And what about people with disabilities? They’re far more likely than those without to be abused or murdered by people who are supposed to be caring for them, who are often given sympathy because it must have been SO DIFFICULT, SUCH A BURDEN. At least in the US (I haven’t seen stats for New Zealand) they’re also more likely to be killed by the police because they have no training on how different disabilities affect people’s behaviour and one person’s struggling to understand is another person’s aggressive and uncooperative. There have been schemes where companies can hire people with disabilities and pay them less than minimum wage. The State is still trying to win the argument over whether family members should be paid to care for disabled dependants the same way non-family members are. Welfare beneficiaries are subject to massive state surveillance, as are their children and partners, with everyone feeling justified to spy on them and judge their every purchase while MPs can charge outrageous things to expenses and get away with it. Tax dodging is treated differently than getting a few extra dollars on your benefit by withholding information, even though it’s essentially the same act – just one, you need to already have a lot of money to pull it off, and the other is usually motivated by desperation. We have unions who work for the betterment of all their members, and religious groups that you can be born into. We are not the same.

So, how is it such a stretch to say that people can be recognised as members of different groups? How is it so very different to be a citizen of New Zealand and also Tūhoe and also te ao Māori, and have that taken into account, than to be a citizen of New Zealand and also part of the financial elite (who often retain social privilege even if they lose their money)? The former would obviously be codified, rather than having the subtle unwritten superiority of the latter – but it’s not superiority that would be codified, either. It’s just difference. In some cases it would likely be detrimental, because you would be held to account not only under New Zealand’s laws but under the tikanga and ture of your iwi or hapū.

So what’s the problem? Is it simply threatening to people that others might be part of a group that they’re not? Fear of missing out? Is it that if we admit that individual equality isn’t the be all and end all, that groups have different rights and responsibilities as well, that we might have to admit some other of our cultural assumptions could be wrong as well? Or that the “rights” we’ve given Māori in exchange for their land and resources and sense of cultural self-worth actually aren’t that great a gift after all, making us inequivocably the Bad Guys?

I suspect it’s part of all of those, as well as the blindness that comes with your own culture being unquestionably dominant. White New Zealanders can’t “see” that that culture is everywhere and thus can’t challenge it or interpret it. Culture is relative, but white culture is “common sense”, it’s “fact”, it’s “natural”, it’s “default”, and anything else is a mixture of superstition and quaint tradition.

ETA: Just after I posted this I switched to Twitter and saw a link on disabilities and the justice system. Most prison inmates have brain injuries.