Imagine, if you will…

I’d like you to imagine for a while a dystopian world in which interbreeding between Maori and Pakeha is forbidden- by social convention and stigma perhaps, maybe expressly by law, maybe not- it’s not entirely important. And then imagine to yourself that it happens anyway, and that many children grow up having to pretend to be exactly the same as their mother, to hide their real skin tones, not to embrace their own culture, language, and genes. They would have no opportunity to find a halfway point between Maori and Pakeha culture, because in such a society, the very idea of deliberately trying to compromise between the two would be representative of that forbidden “sin” which we don’t acknowledge.

Perhaps some of them get stuck with the “wrong” community. They may be raised as a race with whom they cannot identify and do not empathise. So they wait until they’re independent… and then establish themselves a new identity, maintaining the opposite deception.

Now, I’d like you to imagine that now and then, the veil slips. Sometimes people who had parents from different sides are discovered- usually during their most intimate moments with someone they trust and perhaps even love. What’s likely to happen in such a society, where we find someone who has to pretend to be something they’re not in order to be accepted, in order to survive? Well, acceptance is possible, but it will be difficult, especially as it would essentially involve living a lie, or coming out as a counter-cultural advocate for their loved ones. Rejection is likely- most people don’t want to handle shades of grey in societies that deny them. With rejection social stigmatisation and abandonment, then prejudice, are likely to follow.

But there’s an even greater risk for women- panic. The man has been deceived, he has fallen for someone he’s not supposed to, his very identity- whether as Maori or Pakeha- has been undermined. Somehow- the person he was attracted to, perhaps loved, has been replaced with someone she wasn’t before, someone completely different, who he cannot relate to, who disgusts him, who embarasses him and robs him of those parts of his manhood that correspond with his racial identity. In such a case of panic, what’s the worst he can do? Kill her. And in such a society, it will happen- because there is no mental preparation for a world with nuances, no shades of grey, no possibility that who you are depends on what your brain is, not what your body is. They’re not the subtle differences from the norm. They’re not unique things to love. They’re abberant disturbances, freak mutations to be destroyed. And he has just made love to one. How can he redeem himself from such a sin? Perhaps he can’t. But he can destroy all the evidence. He can kill her in panic.

And because society as a whole wants to disappear the people who challenge their orthodox categories, he’s likely to be let off despite the suspicious circumstances if he lands up in court. It’s likely that the flimsiest excuses will convince a prejudicial jury to acquit. It’s likely a killer will not have to face justice, even when there is overwhelming evidence of their crime.

In such a society, these people who are both brown and white would face enormous difficulties. They would be rejected by both groups. And their enthusiastic attempts to approach one norm or the other would sometimes distance them from people who might try to deconstruct the artificial barriers of delineated race.

How is this world different from ours? Well, in our imaginary world, we had a slightly more disturbing version of apartheid that divided us into discrete categories of race. In our actual world, the discrete categories we cling to are of gender and sex, and trying to cross them- or find a middle between them- is at best difficult, as Georgina Beyer is experiencing having been out of work since quitting as an MP. At worst, it’s deadly.

Asses in Advertising

So, I had intended earlier to write quickly about Boobs on Bikes, but got distracted from it by a lot of other news and responsibilities. Now that they’ve got their ruling, (and are apparently coming to Wellington later) it seems like a good time to comment.

The judgement allowing the “parade” to go ahead is both good and bad. Bad because it encourages women essentially sell their bodies for public viewing. Good because it establishes that if there are enough of us, we can potentially define the standard of decency for ourselves despite minority reports.

The problem in my mind with this event has always been that it involves paying women to exhibit themselves, and that it is doing so to advertise “adult entertainment”, which is a silly euphemism for pornography. I have no problem with anyone choosing of their own will, without inducement, to go naked or semi-naked, even if it shocks the “decent” community of prudes and the sexually repressive. But I do have a problem with the idea that people’s bodies are for sale- especially so in the case of women, who have traditionally been objectified in this fashion much more than men. I don’t see why we shouldn’t attack Steve Crowe’s “right” to pay people to do this rather than the right of people to go topless, which is perfectly lawful in New Zealand, regardless of whether you happen to be male or female.

And to anyone having doubts that this event is sexist: If you see any topless men riding on motorbikes, I’ll be very surprised.


So, just so you all know, some kind Green Party organiser has gone ahead and added me to G.Blog at my request. I’m probably going to concentrate on contributing to G.Blog ahead of Still Truckin’ as election season comes up. Part of that is that I feel that the Greens are one of the best ways to get more and better women in Parliament. That doesn’t mean I won’t post here, but it does mean that like recently- it will be sporadic rather than semi-regular.

It’ll probably also help to have somewhere else to write publicly about something slightly different for a while, too, as I’ve been feeling a little burnt out recently. 🙂

On a lighter note…

Did you know that New Zealand has a population per capita of 1?


Why “Slut” is still sexist

So, I’ve been annoying my brother recently by challenging his usage of the word “slut”. (And no, that doesn’t mean I think my brother’s sexist, hold on for a second!)

Interesting, he’s actually using the word in a gender-neutral way, (ie. he’s also calling men sluts, and applying it to other habits than sexuality) which almost makes it seem okay to me. I’ve thought about this a bit since I last discussed it with him and I think I’ve hit on what’s bothering me, despite the obvious reaction of “calling men names is not the way to fix the fact that women are called names.”

The problem is that when we use the word “slut” to describe men, even if we’re using it as a term meaning they’re not appropriately careful with who they do the deed with, we’re still not using it consistently with how the word is used in regards to women.

When we “reclaim”1 the word slut to use it against men, it tends to get used to criticise a habit. But when we use the word slut to describe a woman, it’s almost always understood as a dismissal of what she’s saying, what she’s doing, or even of her worth to the speaker as a person. There is no such undertone for men- if men have “bad” sexual habits, that’s mostly viewed as some private failing. (Unless you’re a politician and you get caught at it)

When women have “bad” sexual habits, (much like when they have “bad” appearances) it becomes a standard by which we can judge their entire character and use to denigrate or dismiss them as we wish. The problem is not so much the word as the power we as a society have granted to the idea behind it- and this is something I’ll discuss more as we go along- that it carries with it the connotation that all women are either virgins or whores2, and as a slut, you fall into the latter category, and can thus be mistreated.

1 Really, I don’t think turning around a sexist insult counts as reclaiming a word, so much as turning the patriarchy back on itself. While perhaps useful as an object lesson for men particularly hypocritical about their own sexual habits, I don’t really want to see this happening on a wider scale.
2 This is why “Your mother” jokes are so powerful- motherhood is a positive female image, (thus making us view our mothers as if they’re virgins) but it clashes with our view of women who have sex* as whores- creating cognitive dissonance and challenging our expectations about society. Yeah, humour can be deep sometimes.
* Yeah, okay, I know it’s possible to be a mother without having had sex- but it’s vanishingly unlikely, as most mothers who are artificially inseminated, or who are do-it-yourself-non-sexually-impregnated are still likely to have had sex beforehand, whether with a man or a woman. The point is that motherhood, one of the coolest things in our society, is a result of women who have sex. Therefore, women having sex can be a positive and beautiful thing beyond just the self-gratification involved.

A note to aspiring journalists

Sex Scandal: A controversy around sex that is consensual or at least contractual- such as a politician having an affair or seeing a prostitute.

Sex Charges: Either some hitherto unknown form of electricity, or what happens when bondage goes very, very wrong.

Sexual Assault: When that slightly suspicious lady who cloned her dog is found to have raped a man, (whether Mormon or not) where foreign objects are inserted into body cavities without consent, or any case of rape allegations.

Sexual Abuse: When said rape involves elements of power abuse, (like say, affairs with the boss gone wrong…) pedophilia, etc…

Please get them straight before we have already distressing stories complicated by your often rape-apologist choice of words.

I’ll spare “alleged” if it’s a matter that’s to go to court or if said person is protesting their innocence despite a lack of criminal charges being pressed, but that should be 101-level stuff anyway.


Apologies for being absent for a while- my new computer has problems of its own, but sadly I have as of yet been unable to entirely fix them. Nothing that interferes with blogging, but as it’s supposed to be a gaming computer, that’s not exactly entirely comforting for me.

In addition to this, I’ve been up to a lot of things in real life that have sucked away at time- hence why I’ve been commenting but not writing for the last few days. Partly as well, it’s because I’ve been contemplating a semi-hiatus on this blog as the election looms in order to do some political writing. Whatever happens, I’ll probably still be around in some capacity for the months to come- I’ve just revised my own writing goals downwards a bit, and won’t be posting five times a week any more. 😉

edit: Incidentally, I had a letter to the editor published in today’s Dompost. See if you can figure out which one it is.

We’re not that different.

As an issue close to my heart, Gender Essentialism is something I’ve had plenty of time to think about, and it’s one of the most notable areas in which women’s rights and men’s rights converge.

Gender Essentialism is that assumption that being male or female necessarily implies certain qualities- the most common example is that being male gives you an affinity for the colour blue, and female an affinity for the colour pink.1 Now, while that sounds relatively unobnoxious when you think of factoids such as innate hormone differences and differences in brain and body shape between the sexes, gender essentialism doesn’t necessitate a “different but equal” arrangement in any way, which can lead to some irritating assumptions.

The worst of these consequences come about from the fact that assumptions of gender essentialism creep. While it strikes me as true that women and men generally have some slightly different inclinations before socialisation is taken into account, it’s hard to acknowledge that fact in casual conversation without it being conflated with the idea that men and women are different to the point of practically being two species and that all our socialised ideas about men and women are legitimate, and all women should be mothers that stay at home caring for babies and that feminist careerism is destroying the fabric of our society. Or something.

But to make clear the real failing of gender essentialism, we should look at the physical differences between the sexes that informs the opinion of essentialists. One fact is that, on average, women are shorter than men, given similar contributing factors like quality and type of diet. For example, in 1993, the average height of women in New Zealand was estimated at 165cm, while the average height of men was estimated at 177cm. This gives us an average deviation in height between the sexes of about 12cm, which would seem relatively significant.

However, we haven’t yet put that in perspective. Let’s take a group- say, 19-yearolds, who are likely to have a distribution of height relatively close to the normal amount for adults. Now let’s compare some of the outliers of that group- say, the 15th and 85th percentiles. Relatively tall and short people, but not extremely so. Among US men aged 19, there was a 15.6cm difference in height2. Among women, there was a 15.1cm difference in height3. Notice that even when we’re not taking the real extremes into account, the between a tall person and a short person is much more significant than the difference between a man and a woman.

What consequences should this then have for the argument that social behaviour is influenced by the physical difference between the sexes? Simply this: Even if we accept the conclusion that women might on average have, say, hormones balances that make them less prone to aggression4– it’s still very likely that a very badly annoyed woman is going to be much more pissed off than a man who’s made a very sexist comment. 😉

1 The Hand Mirror had either an article or a link to an article a while ago (That I’m not going to dig to find.) that commented that this trend actually underwent a reversal relatively recently, and that historically pink was regarded as a more virile, masculine colour, while blue was considered passive and feminine. Strange how fashions changed.
2 168.4cm vs 184cm.
3 155.4cm vs 170.5cm.
4 This is a very tame example as far as gender essentialism goes. Far more often it’s used to argue for traditional gender roles of passive supportive woman and active breadwinner man.