Why gender equity matters: #metoonz

Written By: - Date published: 12:02 pm, March 5th, 2018 - 49 comments
Categories: feminism, sexism - Tags: , , , , ,

Journalist Alison Mau wrote on the weekend about stepping up to lead an investigation into workplace sexual harassment in New Zealand in the wake of the international #metoo movement,

There is so much in there. I suggest people wanting to understand what is going on take the time to read the links, and follow the #metoonz hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.

Read the work being done in the Russell McVeigh case and understand it in the much wider context of the misogynistic culture within the NZ legal fraternity, and start making the connections (including between that and why women have such a hard time in our justice system when reporting rape).

Learn what happened with the Morgan Marquis-Boire case and consider why this has been discussed so little in NZ. Think about why Tony Veitch continued to be employed in television. Why a New Zealand Prime Minister was able to promote rape culture, including the government doing nothing about the rape of young teen girls. And so on.

Then stop and listen to what women are saying. If you are unable to make the connections in all of that, then there are things for you to learn about women’s politics. If you do make the connections, then amplify women’s voices and actions, because they have a deeper understanding and they are the ones that know how and what to change.

The thing that’s with me most about Mau’s investigation is the utter imperative of having enough women in positions of power to do something. I’ve had this argument in left wing spaces before, a lot of people, usually men, pushing back against the idea that numbers of women per se are important. It’s not just the anti-solidarity/anti-identity politics crowd, it includes feminist-supportive left wing men who see politics through a white male political lens. So let me state it plainly. Women have been talking about #metoo and rape culture for ever and it is only because women now have enough institutional power that something can be done. Men have been told about these issues for a long time and were simply unwilling to change.

I’m the same age as Alison Mau and like many of our generation I was marching in Reclaim the Night marches in 80s. Women were working on these issues in the decades before us. Much has changed since then, including very heartening things like the term rape culture being mainstream enough that the MSM use it. These are big gains because they signify that the culture is changing. But 30+ years is a long time and there is so much more to be done.  There have been not only the major backlashes against feminism from within the mainstream culture, but the resistance from men within progressive spaces.

Margaret Thatcher or Jenny Shipley are often cited as reasons to not support women into institutional power in numbers, but this misses the crucial points. The reason that Alison Mau was able to stand up and have the organisation she works for not only say yes but support her strongly, is because women are now in those organisations. When Mau describes the support she has from Stuff, I see the generations of women behind and beside her who have worked so hard to change the culture so this could be possible. We remember what it was like when men were largely in charge, and we see what it is like now that women have some power.

To get that kind of support you have to have the numbers, and that means we let all women through the gate across society, not just the ones we politically favour. So please, stop using Thatcher and Shipely as rationales to block women’s politics and access to power.

The other issue here, equally important and intrinsically connected, is why The Standard, the largest progressive political blog in NZ,  is still largely a white male space. We have lost feminist authors here, and those that remain often choose not to write about feminism, or at all. Women commenters often disappear silently when the debates become politically or behaviourally ones that suit men and not women.

There are reasons for that, some of them to do with historical events that I’m not going into here, and some of them just to do with the simple fact that even in 2018 women still have to work so hard just to carve out equitable space because the default is male and/or because there is resistance. It’s exhausting.

I’ve been spending time on Twitter since 2014 and I’ve been around many men there who are not only supportive of feminism at a theoretical, philosophical level, but who actively support women by amplifying them, by holding other men to account, by choosing to not take up space and listen instead. I’ve seen this on TS sometimes too, but the fact that this is still largely the space of white men tells me there is still a resistance to true power sharing and making the changes necessary to include women (and that’s not even getting to who else is being excluded here).

The reason I am talking about this here is two fold. One is that the dynamics that underpin #metoo and rape culture also underpin other aspects of misogyny and sexism, including the domination of space and power by white men.

The other is that there are many progressive men here on TS, and there will be a general support for #metoonz at the philosophical level. But I’m pointing to the work that needs to be done in our own house around sharing power with women and I’m suggesting that it is on the men here to do that if they want to keep considering themselves progressive.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Details on how to take part in the #metoonz investigation are here,

Moderator note: The primary focus of moderation will be on making this space a good space for women and survivors of sexual assault/harassment to read and take part in. Please bear that in mind both in terms of the content of your comments and behaviour. If you want to comment please make sure you are reasonably informed about the topic, links provided in the post.  Genuine questions are also good. 

49 comments on “Why gender equity matters: #metoonz”

  1. Carolyn_Nth 1

    Thanks, weka. Excellent post.

    I am impressed by the format of Mau’s investigation. It’s providing anonymity to the survivors, plus a support team of excellent researchers to prove or disprove the allegations. Really great to see Paula Penfold on board with it.

    The #metoo social media and individual testaments have been an important part of breaking the status quo. But alone there can be difficulties – the complaints of guys being pronounced guilty without supporting evidence, etc. Though the numbers of people making individual complaints against a specific man tends to be highly indicative.

    Nevertheless, the research evidence has been there for a long time – about the extent of sexual abuse and harassment, but the guys with the status, power and privilege have resisted any changes to counter such abuses.

    It is, above all, an issue about power, and the abuse of it, in what is still a highly patriarchal culture. And abusing women, children and some men in such a bodily way takes it right to where people live, and keeps everyone with less power in chains.

    I’d also like to add, that all the evidence and testimonies show that physical, sexualised abuse is never JUST physical: it also is integrated with emotional and psychological abuse, humiliation, and dis-empowerment.

  2. Johnr 3

    The revelations that have prompted the “me too” movement, although horrendous are hardly surprising, given the way some men talk.

    However, a lot of good men in positions of power and influence are concerned about the pathways they should take in the workplace to make it safe and welcoming for women without using avoidance as a tactic.

    I relate to them what we did at our works. I’m the founder and owner of an engineering works with currently 27 employees. It is a male dominated industry and whilst there have always women in the office, which has a degree of separation, seven years ago we hired two young women apprentices, after a week I realised we had a problem they were almost frightened to interact with some of men.

    So, I sent them both on a two day welding course and we had a works meeting (office staff included) to thrash this out. With a surprising result. Since that time we have big signs in the workshops which say.

    THE MOTHER’S RULE:
    If you wouldn’t say or do it to your mother
    Then DON’T do or say it around here.

    Worked really well, about 20% of the workshop are woman now and I hear the men pulling each other up. Also our customers take heed of the sign too.

    On a personal level it’s not a bad code to live by

    • ianmac 3.1

      That is great Johnr. Doing something practical and fair like that should be a lesson to all employers. Your wife must be very proud of you.

    • Molly 3.2

      Great to see a real-life approach that resulted in success. Worth repeating, especially for those who can’t see how to move forward.

      And a 20% female employment in a predominately male industry is a notable difference. Do you ever discuss with all the workforce about how they perceive their work culture? Are they proud of it, and being a part of such a place of employment?

      • Johnr 3.2.1

        @Molly,
        We’ve never discussed the “culture” of being proud of the firm. More importantly I’m more interested in each person going home at the end of the day, proud of the work they’ve done. To me that’s the biggest driver of job satisfaction. If that happens there is a good chance they’ll want to do it all over again tomorrow.

        To that end I manage by walking around. If you see someone struggling stop off and give them a hand. I think of myself as a coach, a coach is on the same side, part of the team.

        We train virtually all our own staff, at present only three are outside hires. We take two apprentices each year and it makes me proud to say that we have a father son combo and this year we got our first father daughter it’s too early to have a mum, child combo.

        We have very low staff turnover, mostly ex apprentices wanting to do their OE, so we have a big wall of photos they’ve sent us over the years.

        It’s about time for me to hang up my overalls so I’m financing two of my earlier apprentices into buying me out. I think they’ll be the best ones to carry on our traditions

        • Molly 3.2.1.1

          Thanks for the reply John. My son volunteered in an engineering workshop for a charitable organisation, and it wasn’t until he finished there a few months down the track that he spoke about how uncomfortable some of the comments about women made him.

          This was a group of knowledgeable retired men, who created a hostile environment for a young male and volunteer. I would hate to consider how a female volunteer would have felt.

          Your workshop sounds like a great place to be – and a great place to own.

        • BM 3.2.1.2

          Happy to hear you made it work with your female employees.

          Many businesses that are male-dominated having females on board can be a bit of a nightmare.

          Young guys are trying to score so they’re not focused on the job or the females use their feminine wiles to get the guys to do all their work.

          Can be a bit of a minefield for employers.

          • red-blooded 3.2.1.2.1

            EXCUSE ME? “…females use their feminine wiles to get guys to do all the work” – what century are you living in? “Feminine wiles’ – ‘cos we all know that women are conniving, lazy sluts who are just out to take advantage of poor, hardworking me, don’t we BM? This poor blokes don’t have wiles – just willies, and the sly little minxes lead them about by these appendages, eh?

            I was in a male dominated workforce when I was a teenager, and almost every man I worked with made some kind of sexual advance towards me. Some just made comments, but many rubbed up against me, grabbed me from behind, pushed me into corners…etc. I was 15 and sure as hell wasn’t being wily! Some of these men were in their 40s. (And they didn’t do my work for me, they just sexually harassed me.)

            There were some who refrained, and I’m sure the ones who were harassing me didn’t think they were doing anything wrong, they just felt entitled to make comments about my body or lay hands on me because they could. Some of them were showing off to each other and others were horny or lonely.

            And, BTW, before you say that it was obviously a problem having me, a female, working in that male dominated environment, how about you try opening up your eyes to the fact that it wasn’t me who was causing the problem. I was doing my job. I didn’t violate anyone else’s space or touch them inappropriately. The people who causing the problem were the guys who saw any female in a sexual way, even when she was a child and they were adults.

            Good on John, above, for being proactive about this stuff. More men need to step up and speak to other men about making workplaces safe and welcoming for women.

            • Carolyn_Nth 3.2.1.2.1.1

              Well said, red. Most women have experienced men laying their hands on them, and making sexual comments when young. Growing old is a blessing in that regard.

              But it’s depressing to se it is still happening to young women in the 21st century.

              It is, however, great to see guys like John working for a better way of behaving in the workplace – and beyond.

            • tracey 3.2.1.2.1.2

              Well said. We need to break through some of the myths people tell themselves to justify poor behaviour. We see it in blanket vitriol toward beneficiairies and BM is doing it here. Although I suspect he thinks he was being sympathetic to the issue but lacks total self awareness and the ability to see the world through any other lens than his own.

          • tracey 3.2.1.2.2

            Sadly BM is not alone in thinking he is being equal and aware of the issues when he wrote this…

    • tracey 3.3

      There are many good men out there. BUT and it is a big BUY they need to start speaking up and their family members, colleagues and mates when at work, out, partying, watching agame, etc and call them on their behaviour. At the moment many men and a few women think that only a few women are “hung up” on this issue and that those women need to lighten up, get a sense of humour etc. So, good men, and there are many of you, call each other to account, everywhere you go.

      Russell McVeagh is NOT the only law Firm, they have just been outed.

      The Dean of the Otago Law school sat and watched the nude jelly wrestling in 2012 and saw no problem. If he is still the Dean I expect a resignation very soon.

      Young men learn their behaviour from somewhere. If they think this is ok, it is because their brothers, fathers, unclues, grandfathers, bosses and so on have taught them it is ok by behaving this way. And mothers too have a riole to play in all this and how we bring up our sons.

    • Carolyn_Nth 3.4

      Good positive action johnr.

      I have read research in the past about some of the entrenched misogynist attitudes within engineering – even though in engineering courses they aimed to teach more enlightened attitudes, and they enroll increasing numbers of women, in the workplace little seemed to change.

      I guess it’s workplace specific actions that can help make for real change.

    • tracey 3.5

      This is great. And there are other companies doing this too. It is possible people (mostly men, and a few women) have to want to. Some prefer to be able to behave like dogs.

    • Cinny 3.6

      That’s super awesome Johnr, really impressed with your approach. Well done.

      Having a visual reminder (the sign) sounds like it has worked a treat. BRILLIANT.

      Any female spouses/partners etc of your employees must be thrilled at the ‘mothers rules’ sign and the lack of tits out calendars that used to be common place in any workshop.

      Agree with Tracey that it is learned behaviour, thats why am loving Johns story so much 🙂 And the best thing, the engineering staff will be teaching their friends what’s acceptable and so on.

      On a business note… more work will come to you as a result, no one wants to go into a workshop where the men perv and treat a women like a sex object. So it makes excellent business sense to have an inclusive workplace such as yours.

      Good stuff Johnr… virtual high five and all that 🙂

  3. Ad 4

    For TS, a weekly post on MeToo activity and news would be a useful conversation structure.

    • tracey 4.1

      Do you mean a weekly list of instances when men have treated women well or when they haven’t?

    • weka 4.2

      we don’t have enough women here to do that Ad. The changes that need to happen at TS are deeper.

  4. red-blooded 5

    Great post, Weka. I think Mau deserves respect and thanks for taking on this mantle.

    BTW, have people seen the appalling cartoon by Nisbet in today’s Press? There’s quite a discussion of it occurring on Twitter today. Four witches riding broomsticks, declaring that they’re on a witch-hunt for men and labelled “gossip”, “innuendo”, “rumour” and “heresay”.

    • Carolyn_Nth 5.1

      I’ve seen some of the comments.

      Spinoff has an article about it.

      https://thespinoff.co.nz/media/05-03-2018/about-that-awful-witch-cartoon/

      As many pointed out, a “witch hunt” usually refers to a hunt for “witches” not by them, and the original context was men hunting for women who stepped outside of patriarchal norms.

      So Nisbet’s cartoon shows everything that’s wrong with the dominance of misogynist and/or patriarchal attitudes.

    • Cinny 5.2

      Far out is nisbet trying justify his own behaviour? Pointing the finger like he’s something to hide lol.

      That’s freaking shocking that cartoon.

    • I’ll skip the whole “So, were the inner fears that prompted this outpouring from the id the result of actions in the artist’s past?” issue, and restrict myself to pointing out the unintentional comedy of him drawing “heresay” all over it, instead of “hearsay.”

      • red-blooded 5.3.1

        Yeah – that’s been noticed by others and commented on, too.

        The misogyny is depressing and infuriating, but not entirely surprising. Heaven forbid women should speak out and, in doing so, risk offending some men!

        I did like one comment on Twitter that said something like, “Well at least those broomsticks are good for clearing out the trash”.

      • tracey 5.3.2

        Leaving aside the numbe rof victims of sexual assaults whose attackers get off cos of heresay about their sex lives, rumours about their sex lies, their choose of clothing…

        make a cartoon about how our Justice System supports the culture of sexual assault.

        Simple change. Make the onus of proving consent on the party who is claiming it as a defence. Just as if you plead self defence you need to prove it oryou are guilty of murder not manslaughter. Who cares how hard it is to get consent and prove it. Cellphones make it easier to make it unequivocal. What about if you challenge that a victim was drunk and cannot be believed, we counter with, if she was drunka s you claim, he was incapable of giving consent.

        Simple changes, we have changed evidence rules before so why not this?

        Because some men will be outraged.

        • Psycho Milt 5.3.2.1

          Will be? DPF’s way ahead of you. I submit the following Kiwiblog post from May last year: Labour’s policy remains guilty unless you can prove you are innocent, in which his outrage is a mere taster for the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the comments thread.

          In that post, he also wrote “If Labour becomes Government, then people accused of rape … will have to prove … they had consent…” Yeah, as if, pal. Would be nice, but is anyone expecting to see that anytime soon?

          I do always wonder about those cases in which the defendant claims that it was consensual sex. If the person who supposedly gave the consent has laid a fucking rape complaint, forchrissakes, with all the personal humiliation involved in that, the claim of consensual sex has a pretty major hurdle to get over, I would have thought. And yet everyone in the courtroom acts like the hurdle just isn’t there. Something needs doing about it alright, wailing and gnashing of male teeth regardless.

          • tracey 5.3.2.1.1

            Bravo PM

            We can make a big dent. Overnight. If an attacker wants to plead she consented. Burden on him/her. Efectively he/she has to prove they didnt but

            Short skirt
            Walk alone at night
            Had some drinks
            Had some drugs
            Laughed with the accuser at a bar
            Didnt scream
            Didnt fight back
            Isnt a virgin
            Is a child so makes things up

            All amount to consent in the eyes of many of our juries

            Many of our issues and cost can be resolved if the attacker proves they had consent.

            • Psycho Milt 5.3.2.1.1.1

              Many years ago on the long-defunct right-wing blog Sir Humphrey’s, I complained about the courts allowing defence lawyers to get away with waving those kind of red herrings at juries to try and prejudice them against the victim, and no less a personage than Graeme Edgeler wrote in to tell me it was important that a defence lawyer be able to present anything that might have led their client to the conclusion that the victim was offering consent. At which point the issue became not so much what the courts allow but what the fuckwit defendant and the fuckwit jurors must imagine the word “consent” to mean. That discussion sure made me at least think about what consent means, although I suspect I might have been in the minority. Can’t say there’s much sign of progress in the intervening 12 years.

              I really hope DPF’s unlikely claim about Labour policy in this respect come to pass, although I won’t hold my breath.

    • tracey 5.4

      This is what happens when some men are asked to share and to treat women with respect. Imagine if we were suggesting they actually lose stuff?

      This is men trying to make sure they get to keep things as they are, comfy for them, dominant for them, a world that reflects them. And remember an editor approved it.

  5. AsleepWhileWalking 6

    I was on RNZ when i came across a link to a blog for lawyers to share their stories.

    https://www.zoelawton.com/metoo-blog.html

    One of the comments …”I was alone with the Judge in the courtroom. He mentioned that his next trial involved a male who alleged he had been raped by another man. He had a good laugh about that, and said “how long do you think that trial is going to go on before I abort it?”.

    [Breach of natural justice]

    And from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12004487

    “In his reserved decision, released to the Herald on Sunday, the judge said the women’s versions of events displayed a “coincidence [that] seems surprising to me”.

    “I am also mindful of the potential motive to fabricate evidence in this trial. That is, to lie,” he said.”

    [Because its much more likely for two WOMEN to lie in court than for a sexual predictor to have an M.O. that repeats for each victim]

    Our incredibly low conviction rate for sex crimes has everything to do with the sexism in the legal community. Everything.

    If I had to pick a favorite unjust trial its a toss up between the case where an author of children’s stories was found by the judge to have likely made up the rape story, or the more recent case of a woman dragged backwards into an alley by a stranger for “consental” sex.

    Everything about rape cases is stacked against the victim who is on trial to a far greater extent than the alleged perpetrator and I have come to believe that is by design of a legal community that shits on the face of society with the attitude you would expect from a frat party.

    Time to grow up.

    • NicT7 6.1

      That male-on-male rape case on Zoe Lawton’s website has haunted me for days (as has the complete police mismanagement of other assaults on men as seen here:
      http://survivor.org.nz/resources-for-survivors/press-tv/). We women think we have it bad not having our assault story believed; men have the added humiliation of perceived emasculation and almost no-one to turn to for comfort.

      Something is awfully wrong with our legal system, and I think the lack of humanity goes beyond sexism. The odds are stacked against the victim before she/he even enters the courtroom. A well known barrister in Auckland promises on his website that he has a ‘foolproof strategy for defending domestic assault charges’. How is it even legal to advertise that, considering our appalling domestic violence rates?

      • tracey 6.1.1

        Humiliation is humiliation. Being thought a slut, drunk or whatever is as humiliating. It is not a competition. ALL victims of sexual violence are humiliated and lives ruined. Women and men.

  6. ropata 7

    Murdoch’s cartoon captures the movement well, I reckon.
    (Al Nisbet, not so much…)

    The terrible thing is the ordinariness of it. I’d like so much to not have to warn my daughter about this stuff.#MeTooNZ #MeToo my @SundayStarTimes @NZStuff #cartoon @Alisonmau #sexualharassment #predation pic.twitter.com/7uaYjafvCl— Sharon Murdoch (@domesticanimal) March 3, 2018

  7. CHCOff 8

    I am not a fan of feminism, but medium and large sized corporate management structures should be required to be 50 50, simple as that.

    • red-blooded 8.1

      So what is it about feminism that makes you “not a fan”? What do you understand feminism to be, CHCOff?

      Do you think women and men have the same human rights? Do you regard it as unjust for women to expect to be respected equally and given equal opportunities and choices as men? ‘Cos that’s the heart of feminism.

      Do you think women and girls already have true equality? If not, should we just have to keep putting up with it? ‘Cos that’s what you’re saying if you’re saying that you’re not a fan of feminism.

      • CHCOff 8.1.1

        At heart, the vast majority of women are not militant globalist communists.

        [neither are the vast majority of feminists. Don’t go there – weka]

        • red-blooded 8.1.1.1

          Go away and do some research into feminism, CHCOff. It’s painfully obvious you know nothing about what it means to be a feminist.

          • tracey 8.1.1.1.1

            It is painfully obvious, like a few men, CHCOff wants to be able to determine what we are entitled to and what we are not.

        • Matthew Whitehead 8.1.1.2

          You have some serious reading to do, buddy. Most of what women want isn’t directly related to economic politics in the left-right sense, (although pay equity sort of touches on it, a little) it’s mostly about social policy and valuing women as equals to men, but with their own distinct needs and wants.

          • weka 8.1.1.2.1

            that’s interesting, hadn’t thought about it that way. I would go further and say that underlying that is a different set of values that would produce a different economics were women to have the power to create that/make those changes.

    • tracey 8.2

      If you think “medium and large sized corporate management structures should be required to be 50 50, simple as that” you are espousing feminist philosophy.

      In my experience “militant globalist communists” and militant globalist capitalists tend to be mostly men.

    • Stuart Munro 8.3

      I doubt that’s particularly practical. Korea has an interesting law along those lines however: when the makeup of a profession exceeds 75% of one sex the government may intervene, boosting the salaries of the underrepresented group by 20%. Employers generally act so as not to fall foul of this, notably in secondary teaching, which is well paid and respected there in a way that many other jobs are not. As with most successful laws its existence discourages the extremes of behavior more often than it penalizes them.

  8. These men that treat ladys like sex objects need there ass kicked some one close had a long time in a bad situation the ____head tryed to blame her. Good on you Alison Mau for getting Metoonz going.
    I won,t say what I did when I found out Kia Kaha Ladys Ka Kite ano

  9. stargazer 10

    great post weka, and good commentary on this blog as well. as someone who has written here, and is now starting to think about getting back into blogging, i know i really struggled. some of it is not being able to moderate while i’m at work, some of it is around the harshness of the comments which could be relentless and difficult to counter. i think i’ve forgotten my password anyway, but would love to have some offline discussions about how we can get our voice back on this site, in a way that is sustainable and manageable.

    • weka 10.1

      I am so glad to hear that stargazer, both the feedback and that you are looking to write again. Yes, let’s talk. Is it ok for me to email you (with the email you use to comment)? Or I can DM you.

    • tracey 10.2

      Welcome to that conversation stargazer. A few women authors (all?) have the same issues.

  10. stargazer 11

    yup, that email is perfectly fine, would love to hear from you 🙂

  11. Tricledrown 12

    Pay equity for Women would reduce the power imbalance in the work place .
    Women are short changed with wage theft.
    It would be good for our economy if all women were given an equal opportunity and wage.
    Men’s mindset have to change the Macho Alpha Male attitude prevalent in NZ needs to change.
    Our child abuse rates suicide rates are the highest in the world

  12. Robert Dobbs 13

    I found it really strange that the only people reporting on Morgan Marquis-Boire were American journalists. There has been nothing in the mainstream NZ press aside from a Vice article — zip, nada. absolute zero.

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