Motherhood issues

The Standard has a good post on how well we’re doing in providing for mothers in New Zealand. (note: The Standard is a partisan blog for the Labour movement, so the post is not politically neutral) Steve notes that New Zealand is ranked the 4th best place to be a mother by the report, (Sweden, Noway, and Iceland take out the top three spots in that order, and Niger is worst) and we’re rated as the second best place to be a woman in general. (Sweden beats us again) The report is fascinating reading, and shows that while New Zealand is doing incredibly compared to other countries in key indicators of female welfare, we have a lot of room for improvement, and we should be worried about backsliding in some areas such as female representation.

Worth noting is that in terms of children we fall down all the way to 20th. While New Zealand has a long history of being on the forefront of women’s rights, we haven’t yet afforded the same respect to children, and it shows in more than the recent s59 debate, which largely ignored the issue of children themselves and focused on parents. Continue reading

Emergency contraception: Free in Auckland

TV3 did a small piece tonight in its main news confirming that the Auckland DHB has followed the Waikato in approving a plan to make the morning-after pill available for free from pharmacies. (They get bonus points for cleverly putting “uh oh” on the pills in their image) This is great news for women, as unlike men they cannot just run away from the consequences of pregnancy, and emergency contraception gives them a little more sovereignty over their own body and makes parenthood something more similar to a choice than a fact of life for sexually active women. This also reduces the likelihood that young women will instead resort to abortions, which is better for both their mental and physical health, and is a little less morally gray.

Family First, as always, is taking a conservative christian approach to this issue and objecting on the grounds that emergency contraception encourages promiscuity, which I find rather disappointing. If a girl was looking for convenient ways to have sex without complications, condoms and birth control pills to prevent ovulation would be much higher up the list of convenient aides to pregnancy-free sex, with the big advantage in the case of condoms of also preventing sexually transmitted infections. This also ignores the fact that encouraging teenagers to use contraception is far more effective in preventing them from having sex.

The morning-after pill is called emergency contraception for a reason- it’s really only useful in an emergency. Suggesting that making it available to people for free makes them more likely to have sex is like suggesting fire extinguishers encourage people to commit arson- the fact is that people will make a decision (whether it’s about sex or arson) based on what they believe, think, and feel is right at the time, possibly ignoring one or two of those factors if they’re not making a large impression. If Family First really wants to discourage promiscuity, they should insist on raising the standard of sex education to make teenagers more aware of its consequences, oppose oversexualisation of (young) women in general media, and encourage child-raising to be reserved for loving, stable families.

Gay Rights are Straight Rights

One fact that always seems to be overlooked in the debate over gay rights is that it actually impacts the rights of straight couples, too. Laws that reform the way we view couples to include gay rights- such as our own Civil Unions bill- have generally also extended new rights to straight couples. Not only can a straight couple now receive pretty much the same benefits as marriage without the heteronormal religious overtones, but de facto couples, regardless of sexuality, now have additional rights and protections that they were not afforded before because they are automatically considered equivalent to civil unions after a period of time.

Likewise- laws that protect “family values” tend to do the opposite- They aim to enshrine marriage as gender-specific, when it already is. They overextend themselves to taking away rights and protections from couples that are committed and may even have children, but aren’t married. Or they make adoption harder, don’t allow equal access to adopted kids, prevent co-adoption by unmarried couples, or make things even more difficult for single parents.

The other issue is that they often imply that marriage ought to be universal. Trying to imply that everyone ought to be happily married and popping out kids actually undermines marriage on its own- marriage is hard. It involves a very high level of commitment, compromise, and understanding from both partners. It involves choosing a good partner. In short, we should be encouraging good marriages, but that’s at odds with assuming everyone will get married. Because not everyone is ready for it. Some are, but they’ve not got a good partner. Some will never be ready for marriage. That’s part of why I feel that denying gay marriage is so wrong- when two people really do love each other well enough to spend their lives together, that’s so precious that it deserves celebrating no matter how weird you might find the people involved or the nature of their relationship.

The battle for gay civil rights is far from over in New Zealand, too. Right now there is no way for gay couples to legally adopt children, meaning that they have to resort to artificial insemination to become parents. That’s even ignoring gay marriage.

Personally speaking, I think gay marriage is inevitable, but I think enshrining it in the law is the wrong way to go. It would make far more sense to redefine marriage as a civil union with religious blessing, and then leave the fight over equal rights to the churches and other similar institutions themselves. Because really, most of the opposition seems to be in taking away the decision from religions. I agree they should have to make the decision. And I have confidence that eventually we’ll get them to make the right one, and that doing so will let us open our eyes to the reproductive and social rights we need to extend to everyone, straight or gay, couple or single.

The Elephant in the room

So, we’ve kinda got this big fat animal in the room and nobody has really had the courage to speak up about the fact that it’s there, because hey, we like to think we can ignore elephants and they can just go away.

But it won’t go away. We like to talk about our support of parents- I know I can’t resist cute little kids, and I really do want parents to have the best information and resources we can give them to raise their kids… but not qualifying that with anything is ignoring our elephant again. Global population is nudging seven billion people, with no signs of deceleration. And New Zealand is one of the nations that has quite impressive demands on the world’s resources, not to mention the fact that we’re still committing to trade to develop nations like China, and to lift poor pacific and african nations out of poverty. Continue reading

And the backlash begins…

You’ll excuse me for taking a couple of days off on the weekend- that’s going to be a regular thing, and frankly, five updates a week is more than enough, even though you’ll probably get more 😉 Let’s play some catch-up!

The “Kingmaker” debate on TV7, ignoring its moronic title ringing of sexism and lack of clarity on MMP politics, raises a very interesting issue- the issue of racial backlash, where privileged groups, like Pakeha in New Zealand, feel undervalued because of positive discrimination that is used to urgently relieve the symptoms of racial discrimination. This has deep implications for feminism and politics that advances women’s causes in general- especially as backlash against feminism has already started in New Zealand. Continue reading

You’re not funny, you’re a jerk.

So, you’ve heard something that you think is hilariously funny. Maybe you were introduced to the idea of front-bums, or someone lamented the growing dykocracy in New Zealand. Maybe someone accused the government of being a nanny state, or perhaps you called your mate a girl, or you describe anything unfavourable as being so gay.

Now, I like to laugh as much as the next guy. That’s part of why I can still stand to comment and debate on the internet- because they’re a certain serendipity to extreme stupidity that wraps it around to be funny again. That’s why George W. Bush has been the greatest thing for comedy since the Germans invented Schadenfreude. Continue reading