Louise Upston: Minister of Girl Power, Post Feminism Backlash and Being a Babe

By   /   December 1, 2014  /   79 Comments

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Following the horrendous mishandling of the Sutton situation, I really thought we had reached peak 1950’s throw back sexism. I was wrong.

50MP169911-16991LouiseUpston

Following the horrendous mishandling of the Sutton situation, I really thought we had reached peak 1950’s throw back sexism. I was wrong. In an environment of wolf whistles, rape culture and work places that advocate visible G-string Friday, we finally have a Minister of Women’s Affairs that will fit right in. Let’s all put our hands together and give Louise Upston a nice, warm, full body hug.

Louise Upston, the Minister for Women’s Affairs, ruined my Sunday morning. Actually she has impacted on my whole day, and as a woman whose affairs she is supposed to represent, I’m feeling pretty ripped off.

I traditionally like to browse Twitter on Sunday morning. It’s how I decide if I should watch my recording of Q & A after spin. A tweet from Michele A ’Çourt directed me to an article posted on Stuff titled ‘Beauty pageants great for women – minister.’ Obviously this wasn’t going to be good.

I had to read it twice as the first time I started to hyperventilate. The second time I just got angry. Then I stated to write this blog, which actually began as just a continuous line of symbolic expletives. In the article Upston talks up the benefits of beauty contests, states she is not a feminist and then concludes by giving a little speech about women getting pay parity through merit, not gender. All three of these positions are problematic for women in general. In the Minster for Women’s Affairs they are untenable, disgraceful, ill-informed and harmful.

The fact that she applauded a beauty pageant, based on the premise that it appears to have promoted confidence is just so Back to the Future bat-crazy-bullshit it is hard to know where to start. It seems that this beauty pageant was a good beauty pageant based solely on the evidence that it didn’t have a swimsuit section. It was a progressive beauty contest. Well I guess that makes it fine then?

I have no problem with women in bikinis. I have no objection to acknowledging beauty, though I doubt my measures are the same as the judges of Miss Tokoroa. I have no complaint with women, or anyone for that matter, getting dressed up and embellishing themselves in any way they choose, whether that be eyelashes, earrings or a vagazzle. I do however have a huge objection to then putting them on a stage and making them compete against other women and judged by a set of arbitrary western standards of beauty. No matter which way you spin it that is what it is. It is objectifying women based on the way they look. No matter how many interested parties, sponsors and others defend it, it is rating women on their appearance. Hence the name. Beauty pageant. If it really was some kind of competition that valued skills, intelligence and talent, it would be a talent show.

The next issue is that Upston doesn’t identify herself as feminist.

‘I’ve never called myself a feminist. I’m not interested in being a flag waver.’

WTF does that even mean? A feminist is someone who fights for the rights and equality of women. Unless Upston has some other definition of feminist, and if she does I would really, really like to hear it. If Upston is not even aware of what it means to be a feminist how can she possibly hope to represent the women of New Zealand and further our causes? Is Upston actually failing to recognise the work of the movement that enabled her to vote and become an MP? If the Minister for Women does not believe in fighting for our rights and equality then what the hell is she doing?

Upston then tries to claim that though she is not a feminist, she wants women to aim higher and do better, not simply by being a woman promoted by gender, but by some kind of system of meritocracy. Good grief can she possibly be that sheltered that she doesn’t realise that equality can’t be attained as long as we are perpetuating a patriarchy? Let’s be honest, if we look at the two issues I’ve raised above, any system of meritocracy would clearly make her unsuitable for her own job. Obviously she isn’t there by merit.

If Upston wasn’t so puffed up with her own privilege she might be able to see that her being in parliament, and being the Minister of Women’s Affairs is in itself a huge privilege that few women still could hope to aspire too. If Upston is blind to why beauty pageants are offensive, the definition of feminism, and the existence of how everything she has said about meritocracy plays into the myth of ever being able to achieve equality in a patriarchy, then what the hell does she have to offer the women of New Zealand? How offensive, in the current context of abuse, rape culture and everyday workplace sexism that the government of the day think that appointing Upston is appropriate.

Just this week we have the sorry Sutton incident where the talk back channels went crazy with men calling and defending their right to call us honey. Men all up in arms at that thought that someone should lose their job for being a bit of lad! Its PC gone mad! Even though the man whose actions they were defending has been found to have acted in a way that was defined as serious misconduct. This is the culture New Zealand women have to negotiate every day.

The government’s response? Appointing a Minister of Women’s Affairs who not only claims she isn’t a feminist but also talks up the process of women competing on a stage as a way to build confidence and that her primary goal is pay parity. Really? I’m not saying pay parity isn’t important but in today’s social context, her message to our young women is that a beauty pageant can give you confidence. The responsibility of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is not just for the rights of middle class white women who want equal pay and confidence. Her responsibility is to all women. How relevant is her spiel on meritocracy to a women forced off Sole Parent Support into a zero hour contract employment opportunity?

I am angry.

It is offensive. It shows absolute lack of respect for the women of Aotearoa. It sends a clear signal from this government that our voices, our issues and the way we are treated is not important. The only way they could have made it clearer was by giving the post to a man, and in all honesty I know male National MP’s that are more familiar with the definition and concerns of feminism than Upston.

If you are a women who thinks a full body hug that verges on frotting is fine and that respond well to be called honey while being patted on the head and being judged on your looks is okay, then you will be okay with Louise Upston; Minister of Girl Power, Post Feminism Backlash and Being a Babe.

If not, then like me, you will be angry.

Only because Bryce Edwards didn’t …Top Ten Tweets

Colonisation @colin_@Colin_R_Gale:
Beauty Pageants because “The confidence that these girls had at the end of it – you literally had to see it to believe it,”

FoxyLustyGrover@FoxyLustyGrover:
“I’m not a Feminist cause I have admitted 2 myself it is a Man’s World & that is how I got here. Problem?”

FoxyLustyGrover@FoxyLustyGrover:
I hear they might change her Portfolio to:
“Minister For Women’s Time of the Month & Other Gross Girl Things”

Karen Foreman Brown@serenity22:
apparently Jo Goodhew was Min prior to Upston. Who knew?! Who even knew we still had one?

Jen Jen@Big_Jen:
I can’t think of 1 woman, apart from the 80yr nextdoor who’d agree. (She’s homophobic too)

Steve Grey@realstevegray: The Minister for Womens Affairs wants the name changed to Lady Affairs, as it is ‘cuter, and more fun for men’

Binary Smasher @kiwinerd: NZ’s new Minister for Women is not even a feminist, let alone a womanist.

Andrea Vance @avancenz: A feminist: advocates or supports the rights and equality of women. So I’m thinking Louise Upston might be in the wrong job.

Richard Hills @richardhills777:
she voted against marriage equality too, she clearly doesn’t like any icky labels that help others get equal rights and things.

Kate Davis@kateinthebay:
‘I’m not a feminist because I’m doing okay pandering to the patriarchal bullshit. Problem?’

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79 Comments

  1. Mike@nz says:

    There is of course a simple solution to your alleged objectification of female entrants of talent contests or beauty pageants.

    Let’s push for the enactment of legislation to make it illegal for the organisers to force anyone, male, female or transgender, to enter or otherwise compete in any such competition against their will. It should also be illegal for said organisers to herd an audience in to a venue in order to force them to purchase tickets and be forced, at the point of a gun if the organisers may deem it necessary, to watch said beauty pageant/talent show against their will.

    The enactment of such legislation will ultimately ensure that everybody involved acts of their own free will, and nobody may feel vulnerable, used or objectified. Problem solved.

    • Kate Davis says:

      Mike, sure, women can choose to enter. I support free choice. But to not consider the bigger picture is naieve. I’m not anti women celebrating their bodies. I never used the word exploitation.

      • Mike@nz says:

        Granted that you didn’t use the word “exploitation”, but you did use the word “objectifying” in a context that would suggest an underlying opinion of exploitation.

        No matter what the contest format, the judging criteria or the audience expectations, nobody is forced to enter. If there is no force involved, you may exercise your right to refuse to patronise the event.

        • mpledger says:

          Noone is physically forced to enter adult pageants (one supposes – but who knows what really goes on in some of the more crazy places around the world).

          But you can’t say noone is forced to enter – what about all the mothers (and fathers) who use pressure to get their kids to enter pageants because it will be good for their confidence (really??? tell that to the one who comes last), because it may get them noticed and jump-start an acting/modelling career, because the parents want to bask in the reflected glory, because the parents want the money/prizes.

          • Mike@nz says:

            Are you serious??!!

            Parents “force” their children to do all sorts of things “for their own good”. Entering competitions, playing sport, household chores, cleaning up their room, doing well at school, going to Nanas 80th birthday.

            I had no idea that well meaning parents were such bastards!

            • mpledger says:

              There are obviously some things that parents should require their children to do.

              But, equally as obvious, there are a lot of things that parents should not force their kids to do just because the parents wants it.

        • anjum rahman says:

          we may also exercise our right to criticise the event and point out the ways in which it is harmful. which is what kate did. why the need to talk about banning?

          • Kate Davis says:

            Thanks Anjum, I agree there is no need to ban. They are dying out on their own as people see them as detrimental. An MP encouraging them is the last thing we need.

        • Ovicula says:

          Nice satire, bro. You almost had me believing you could be that stupid.

        • Who Gnu says:

          “Nobody is forced to enter”

          You’re right, Mike. No one is forced to enter.

          But the decisions of some impacts on others and creates a global beauty industry that is highly sexualised . This eventually impacts on young women who, through marketting pressures and peer pressures, are pushed into a more sexualised life-style.

          Everything has consequences, Mike and you can’t silo personal choices without considering social impacts.

  2. John says:

    You can support gender equality and fight to uphold women’s rights without identifying yourself as a feminist.

    My guess is she does not identify as a feminist because the term is often paired with an agenda she does not completely agree with, and doesn’t necessarily want to be associated with.

    • Whast “agenda” would that be?

      • John says:

        I’m not necessarily saying there is some “Feminist agenda” in the same way homophones go on about the “Gay agenda”, so that was probably a bad way to put it.

        What I mean is the term is often connected to ideas that many people don’t agree with, like affirmative action for women, completely abolishing gender roles, gender quotas in parliament etc. which many would argue are not necessary, or actually work against equality.

      • Kate Davis says:

        Well Frank, I’m guessing like John, it’s an agenda for the status quo 🙂 men’s rights! Bahaha. Happy Monday.

    • Heteroglossia says:

      Patriarchy and capitalism is intersectional. We cannot separate one from the other.

      Upston says she is not a feminist. These are exactly the words we want to hear, because it is the truth.

      By not having a feminist being in the position of Minister for Women, the existing power elite are reinforcing and reproducing the mechanisms to keep the current status quo in place.

      The sector of society that Key/National represent, and have vested interests in, have employed Upston to keep the gendered pay gap, the gendered division of labour, the motherhood wage penalty and fatherhood wage premium, the glass ceiling and the old boys’ network in place.

      I believe it’s not compatible to have a feminist being a Minister for Women under a National government. It does not make sense for them ideologically. At least Upston is telling it how it is… and not spewing some window dressing where she pretends she stands for women’s rights and gender equality without doing anything to change this or challenge patriarchy.

      We must make no mistake; we live in an deeply patriarchal society. This is an undisputed fact, when we factor in the mechanisms in play, the cultural scripts we follow and the ideologies that exist within the current public sphere. Someone may counter this with a statistic or a retort along the lines of “It’s much worse in many countries around the world”… but we need to think critically about what is being said, and how our institutions function. These so called “facts” do not speak for themselves, and it is up to those who geniunely stand for gender equality to shed light on them.

      • “This is an undisputed fact”

        Patriarchy, deep or not, is not an undisputed fact. It is a feminist construct to attempt to explain their world view. Facts are statements that can be proven. This is not such a thing. Its simply a way to scapegoat everything and everyone male for the ills of society.

        The reality is that men and women are both at times treated badly by society. They are treated badly for being men or for being women. Men and women are also at times treated with privilege by society. Those privileges too are at times primarily based on gender.

        Yes we should work towards adjusting society so that it is better and fairer for all. We won’t be able to do that by blaming only one gender and correspondingly victimising another gender.

        • Kate Davis says:

          I would argue that. Men have and hold a position of power & privilege in societies world wide. In fact I can’t think of a single society where they don’t. Patriarchy is a fact. To deny it seems ignorant.
          Before you respond let me clarify my statement. Men can vote, are prioritised in education, are paid more, fill roles in power structures and due to this are, & always have been, in a position to exert power over women, by means of laws & socially constructed ideals.
          Patriarchy is prevalent in every dichotomy that assigns men a role of strength & power over women.

          • Your deduction “Patriarchy is a fact” is only valid in a very narrow examination of power. Society has developed over thousands of years, millions of years. The development was influenced by both women and men. To suggest that it developed so that “Men have and hold a position of power & privilege in societies world wide” and by doing that to implicitly suggest that women are powerless and underprivileged seems to ignore many facts. Yes the roles of women and men were different. In some cases this was based on necessity. Necessity that applied or was perceived to have applied at some time in the past. As society developed these things become entrenched. Even when not entrenched there is a lag as society changes.

            At the women’s refuge symposium earlier this year one Māori woman stood and said that in her culture raising children was a gendered activity. (If I could find my notebook I would tell you who and maybe have a direct quote – actually I may have a recording, if I get time I will check later). That is some women, even feminist women, accept that there are different roles in society. It takes time for these to change.

            To suggest that they have evolved for the sole benefit of men at the expense of women is quite frankly pōrangi.

            Let me respond to your specific claims:

            “men can vote” – yes they can and so can women. Men as a gender achieved the vote only a few years before women as a gender. In the millennia of human history and even the hundreds of years of voting a man because he is a man has been able to vote only for a very short time before women could vote because they were women. For men the franchise came at the cost of potentially sacrificing their lives for their country. For women the franchise came free. Who is privileged here?

            “are prioritised in education” – when women graduates out number men graduates at a ratio of about 3:2 I do not think this statement stacks up. If you go to the vet school at Massey University it is relatively hard to find a male student. I believe similar trends in the demographics are found in some other professional degrees like law and medicine. Women and girls are not disadvantaged in education in New Zealand. Similar trends occur in other parts of the world. These imbalances in favour of women are almost never drawn to our attention.

            “are paid more” – I am not sure that this is a sure thing. Certainly in almost all jobs there is not evidence that women are paid less for doing the same job because they are women. There is research that suggests that young professional women are paid more than similar men. Logic makes this claim seem like nonsense. Unless every business man and woman wanted to discriminate then there is a huge opportunity for an astute business owner to make a financial killing by only employing women at lower pay for the same productivity if we can pay women less simply because of their gender. That simply can’t be the case. I know of one example where equal pay is an issue and women are paid the same as men for overtly less work.

            “fill roles in power structures and due to this are, & always have been, in a position to exert power over women, by means of laws & socially constructed ideals” – In our society women have essentially the same opportunity as men to stand for elected office. The reality is that far fewer women do. Women have the majority of power in the electoral system because there are more women than men voters. There are laws that favour women over men. The application of almost every criminal law favours women over men – it only takes a cursory look at prison demographics by gender to appreciate that. Men are often not protected from violent crime in the way that women are especially when that violence is perpetrated by a women – “man up” or the equivalent they are told. Some crime – rape – can only be committed by a man. Even though a woman can commit the equivalent violence and many do.

            “Socially constructed ideals” are constructed by both women and men. This is not the exclusive domain of men. Moreover in those social constructions, women have power over men in many social aspects of life including family life (illustrated by the Māori women at the women’s refuge symposium above as one sort of example), sexuality and other interpersonal relationships.

            We should be trying to make life better for everyone so that we all can lead fulfilling lives. Feminism in particular and a focus on women’s issues in general in my opinion will never achieve that. It simply victimises women and vilifies men. Which is unhelpful to neither.

            • Heteroglossia says:

              “We should be trying to make life better for everyone so that we all can lead fulfilling lives.”

              Wayne, we all need to gain a sense of empathy. For those who have enjoyed the ride on the glass elevator to reach the glass ceiling, we don’t need to give them the tools to make their lives more fulfilling, at the expense of expoiting others, or others not getting this same opportunity.

              We do not live in a world of equal opportunity. I’m sorry but this is the truth. Any counter-claims are pure ideology, and if you dispute my facts then you need to provide me the evidence to prove me wrong. If my claims are unsubstantiated, then I will be happy to be proved wrong. But know this: facts do not speak for themselves. We need to see what is invisible; what lies beneath. And once we see this, we need to critically analyse it.

              We need to realise that women are being hard done by, the poor are being hard done by, the disabled, the sick and other minorities.

              “If you go to the vet school at Massey University it is relatively hard to find a male student.” …we must look at things as a whole, and see how they are connected. Because everything is connected. Yes, perhaps we do need to make generalised statements. And we do so because we notice patterns. Why do some disciplines/industries feature a very high gender imbalance? Well, think about it. This does not happen naturally.. there are things behind this, influenced and connected to external things. It could be down to our institutions, our social structures, our systems, our culture etc.

        • Who Gnu says:

          Oh spare me your self-indulgence Wayne. Trying to claim victim politics for your own gender is tragic and minimises the real impact on sexism on women.

      • Kate Davis says:

        Heteroglossia, well put & good point. Of course patriarchy & capitalism intersectional, as is neo liberalism as a whole. I should get you to proof my academic essays! I always miss something.

  3. dave says:

    The old feminist agenda chestnut eh…
    Um has mike@nz actually seen a beauty pageant or was he too busy swilling his beer and scratching his nuts to notice.
    Nice bloggy woggy Kate and some really great points made, Kate Upstone does present herself as a bit of “dick” to be fair but hey I say it again why are we surprised..?

    • Mike@nz says:

      Yes Dave, I have seen a beauty pageant. I have also seen a fashion show, a strip tease and a rural Batchelor of the year contest to name a few. I have also entered various skills based and crowd entertainment oriented competitions. Timaru hosts the very popular family oriented Caroline Bay Carnival each year featuring various beauty pageants. They include miss cutie, princess of the sands, junior miss Caroline bay, miss caroline bay and master Caroline bay. Our family used to regularly attend the bay carnival and in days gone by these contests drew huge crowds. Contestants and audiences alike ranged in age from 3 to 70 years old. Contestants gained confidence in front of a crowd, public speaking skills, the thrill of competing against their peers and the chance to be a celebrity of sorts. Audiences loved the competition format, the entertainment value and the thrill of seeing the next generation of young (and old) male and female competitors gaining confidence and leadership qualities they can carry with them for life.

      In later years, the contest has had the odd patch of cancellations due to low entry numbers, which in itself shows freedom of choice and the lack of any need for any more rules.

      • George Hendry says:

        Thanks Mike@NZ for SUCH a dead giveaway.

        Master Caroline Bay, must be male but could be any age, married or not.

        Miss Cutie (no Master Cutie, it just wouldn’t do, little boys aren’t cute).

        Princess of the Sands ( the same as or yet another separate female category?)

        Junior Miss and Miss, married women need not apply. The ‘family friendly’ side of reinforcing ‘what women are really for’, as if males have no need to look good or develop confidence, which leads to women being roasted and posted with a good chance that the males who do so won’t even end up in court.

        As Minister of Affairs yes, Ms Upston appears excellently qualified. As I will never merit selection for the post, please excuse the sour grapes 🙂

      • Kate Davis says:

        Mike I’m really confused about your preoccupation with the introduction of rules, which along with exploitation, I never mention.

  4. XRAY says:

    I hadn’t really thought about the word “merit” until I read this. And yet inequality of rates of pay for doing the same job happens to all sexes, not just woman.

    Like most things with National we’ve been subtly fed this word over a long period on Newstalk ZB type shows and they way it comes across sounds so reasonable and logical, but it is not. It’s a code word just like “flexibility” although both have the same objectives, to give an excuse for unequal and most importantly lower pay, a fundamental pillar of Nationals economic policy.

    You see I can’t pay you as much as person A because you haven’t worked here as long or you functions are not identical to person B even if the job is exactly the same.

    So Upston waxing lyrical about “merit” is just another way of selling a toxic message of lowering pay even more for no good reason other than to line the pockets of owners of inefficient unproductive businesses especially in the large low paid sector of our economy.

    Yet again more weasel words from a National minister.

    • Heteroglossia says:

      It’s of utter importance to continue the discussion on the point you have raised, and it’s a good point.

      We cannot think about “merit” without thinking about the gender biases and privileges at play at each stage of one’s career. Often it is invisible… but it is very much there. So we need to combat this word “merit” which is an ideological justification for exploiting women. In my mind, I see merit as privilege. For example, it makes complete sense to have a 50/50 gender split in our elected MPs because our parliament is about representing the interests of the people. Women account for around half the people in New Zealand…. so why don’t they have 50% representation in parliament? Well, low and behold, the “merit” argument is immediately slapped on and spewed out. And then nothing changes… we continue to accept patriarchy, and we continue to live its values day-by-day.

      Ideally, we need to invert this. The exception becomes the norm. Julie Bishop justifies how there’s only one woman in Tony Abbott’s cabinet because women are busy being mothers etc etc. When there is a fracas of Nanaia Mahuta bringing her child to parliament because she couldn’t find someone to take care of her child’s needs for a short while… this represents the struggles of mothers and working women. But why must Nanaia be the lone soldier in this? This example highlights how the current system we live in is not helping to provide solutions to the challenges faced by mothers. People blame the mother for having children and further penalise them by not giving them a job because she is “not fully unencumbered by domestic responsibilities”, even though reproduction is essential to society! But at the same time, we are not critiquing the the structures and systems in place, that unfairly blame and penalise women for doing something that should be meaningful to society.

      This is just a small example demonstrating the complexity behind these issues. Which is why we must continue to challenge the infantile, simple and idiotic arguments based around “merit.” And don’t get me started on “ability” and “talent”…

      • Cam says:

        50% representation would be ideal, and the best way to achieve that is to encourage capable women to get into the field of politics and put forward good female candidates. However in the end it still needs to come down to “merit”, there should be no gender quotas in MP’s, people will give their votes to whomever they think best represents them. (In fact sometimes a male candidate might better represent women that a female candidate)

        • mpledger says:

          But while middle class while males hold the role of saying who has “merit” then “others” are always going to have to work twice as hard to look half as good.

          It’s not like people getting on party lists is done by merit anyway. At least for National, it seems like it’s all about paying the right people and getting WO/Cam to slag off/frighten off the opposition

        • Heteroglossia says:

          It’s true in the sense that I wouldn’t describe Sarah Palin, Condoleezza Rice or Hilary Clinton as feminists. The reasons are for another post.

          However, we won’t get equal gender representation in parliament if we take on the idea that things will happen on its own. I do respect the fact that it seems forced, instead of organic. But I think the outcomes would be beneficial. It is just one of many steps towards genuine gender equality, but it could be a significant step.

          Could a male candidate might better represent women that a female candidate? I am doubtful of this. I am a male student, who has studied quite a lot about feminism. While I inherit the perspectives of feminism, men do not have the lived experiences of being a woman. Because of this, men do not always have the interests of women in terms of their everday thoughts and practices. I think it’s a simple as that, and it’s something that men will always lack.

          • Cam says:

            In general yes I would probably agree most of the time women better represent women’s issues. But in some cases its not hard to imagine a male having more progressive values than a women and fighting harder for gender equality. The blogger seems to agree:

            “I know male National MP’s that are more familiar with the definition and concerns of feminism than Upston.”

            Also a male might better represent the personal interests of a women, unrelated to gender issues, than his female counterpart.

            • Heteroglossia says:

              In regards to this debate, what I view as an important thing for women is gender equality on their terms; not the terms established by men. Women should have the right to define what equality means to them… I have a sense that this is quite different from how men see gender equality for women.

              If people in general agree on this point, then I think that’s a very good and hopeful starting point.

              • Kate Davis says:

                I’m with Heteroglossia on this one. Women should lead the charge on women’s rights. I certainly don’t see pay parity in a patriarchal frame work as equality.

                Nor do I advocate a matriarchy. I am one of those feminists that am keen on a world where I’m not judged on gender roles as determined by thousands of years of oppression.

                • Cam says:

                  But do you agree that a man CAN better represent both women as a whole, and the individual ideals of a women, better than his women counter-part? That was the point I was trying to make and one of the reasons I think parliamentary quotas are a bad idea.

              • Tom says:

                OK. That’s insane. You want equality but insist on the ability to define it in female terms. That doesn’t sound like equality to me.

                Nevertheless, it doesn’t really matter. Hardly anyone cares including most women. How does it feel to be yelling into the wind?

                • Heteroglossia says:

                  Wait, so should the Maori just shut up about Treaty claims and disputes because we should only consider the English interpretation of the Treaty? (Mind you, even the English interpretation has been seriously infringed on by the Crown).

                  I think the only thing that matters in this world is whatever that matters to Tom. Women, ethnic minorities, the poor, the sick etc will surely miss out in Tom’s World.

                  By ignoring and trivialising feminism, we are depoliticising it. We are removing these much-needed discussions from the public and political domain. By not making such demands, by not challenging the ways we do things in this country – we may as well just concede that feminism doesn’t matter.

                  Well, it does matter. It may not matter to Tom, but it matters to around half the world’s population. So please tell me what fight we should be fighting: earning more profits for the 1%, or giving autonomy to 50% of the world’s population?

                  • Tom says:

                    The situations are completely different. You have distinct copies of the Treaty of Waitangi in different languages that say different things. Maori are simply asking people to look at what the copies of the Treaty actually say. They aren’t asking to define it themselves, but for everyone to respect the definitions that were agreed upon.

                    By ignoring and trivialising feminism, we are depoliticising it.

                    People – including most women – ignore and trivialise feminism because it has become arcane and irrelevant and requires everyone to believe in weird theories from the 1970s. By monopolising the conversation with weirdness, contemporary feminists do more to sabotage the position of women in society than their opponents because it just makes people turn off.

                    You know why gay rights is so successful? Because the gay rights movement managed to marginalise their loony theorists and keep front and centre principles that all decent people could agree upon.

  5. Thank You to Kate – “The Women’s Blogger”

    I didn’t think I would ever recover from reading the article about The Minister of False Eyelashes, in the immortal words of Don McLean:

    “and as I watched HER on the stage
    My hands were clenched in fists of rage
    No angel born in Hell
    Could break that Satan’s spell”

    But Your words have Calmed My Nerves even whilst lighting the embers of Anger in My Belly.

    That in 2014 in New Zealand we can have an Anti-Feminist as a representative in Politics, Post Helen Clark, Post Kate Sheppard really is beyond anymore words for Me.

  6. adam says:

    Kate thank you for using the P word. The P word has been missing from the debate for some time, and I’m glad it is slowly making a comeback – this systematic oppression system of both genders, seems to slip from the conscious, if not used. Many men feel with it, they are somehow powerful, without realising they give their power to others, when they engage with it. So again thanks Kate for using the word patriarchy – we should say it every day, just to remind ourselves and our children, some systems we create as humans, are just stupid.

  7. Nehemia Wall says:

    “Just this week we have the sorry Sutton incident where the talk back channels went crazy with men calling and defending their right to call us honey.”

    Actually it wasn’t only men. And when it comes to Sutton, I suspect you are confusing sexism with good old fashioned stupidity.

    • Kate Davis says:

      No. I’m not. It is sexism. To ignore that aspect in 2014 is to refuse to name the behaviour and excuse it.

      • Again my experience is that this is not a one way street.

        My own experience last Thursday was that I was inappropriately called “hun” by a female work mate.

        Whilst there is support at least in the wider community for a women who is so harassed. When a man is harassed there is little or no support. I have been mocked. The incident has been diminished.

        Even within the bureaucracy, Sutton lost his job.

        If you truly want equality, then pressure would be put on women so that they lose their job when they harass.

        I am willing to accept that maybe my perspective is not representative of the actual occurrences of these situations. That perspective though is that it is much more likely for a woman to address a man with inappropriate names than with the genders reversed. My experience is based not only I what has been addressed to me but also what I have heard with female and male colleagues.

        • Kate Davis says:

          Sutton was found to have acted in a way that qualified as serious mis-conduct. One can therefore deduct that he did more than address someone inappropriately.

          Sutton did not lose his job , he resigned after an investigation. He admitted to inappropriate behaviour. Why would you try & make a case to defend this?

          Wayne, you appear to be using this blog as an opportunity to try and hijack and change the discourse. The post is about the Minister endorsing beauty pageants, refuting the role of feminism and failing to support the fight for forwarding women’s rights. This is not a discussion about equality. It is a discussion about the role of the Minister for Women, as perceived by a woman, whom she is supposed to represent.

          I support the idea of equality but not within the current patriarchal paradigm.

          • I have not attempted to hijack anything. I simply tried to answer what you said about equality. I disagreed with your statement “A feminist is someone who fights for the rights and equality of women.” I disagreed as a matter of practice. To disagree I needed to give examples.

            I also did not defend Sutton. I simply tried to note that women in similar situations are treated differently. I am not in a position to defend him. I just commented on the outcome. Yes he resigned but to me it is immaterial how he lost his job. Again I was just stating non-judgementally the fact that he no longer has that job. We all know that in these situations there can be only a subtle distinction between being pushed and jumping.

            The “patriarchal paradigm” is a construct of modern thought. It does not address all aspects of society. The proponents of its existence seem to use it to the exclusion of any other models of behaviour that might explain aspects of society. I find it particularly unhelpful as an overview of society. It does not measure up to my experiences in life, work, society, family and the world in general.

            • The “patriarchal paradigm” is a construct of modern thought.

              No, Wayne, it is quite real.

              The only reason you call it a “construct of modern thought” is because it doesn’t impact on your life (except in your self-victimising).

        • My own experience last Thursday was that I was inappropriately called “hun” by a female work mate. –

          If that was real (and not made up), did you ask her to cease?

          What steps did you take to address this problem?

          You say you were “mocked”?

          Did you take it to your employer?

          A union?

          Anyone?!

          Or are you internalising it; bottling it up, and nursing it as part of your grievances against your perceived injustices wrought by “The Sisterhood” against you?

          And Sutton did not “lose his job” – he was forced to step down. And it was for “serious misconduct” – not for calling someone “hun”.

  8. Alexandra says:

    Anger yes!Louise Upston another example of betrayal towards women,of course.Although not surprising,this is the National party in power,after all, no Germaine Greer’s there.
    Incidentally Germaine was quoted as saying at the Fem08 Conference that what worried her about the future of womens equality and feminism,was womens own misogyny.
    Yes as women,we do have to grapple with a patriarchal society, but the dirty little secret is that its women’s criticism more than men’s that we have to watch out for.This generally may have come from years of conditioning, from generations of women whose choices were limited, and their voices silenced.Also unfortunately we have a very superficial,consumerism society,where we have popular women’s magazines advocating products for keeping or creating youth and beauty.This has caused many vulnerable women, to live a life where they are manipulated, to feel their only value is in what they look like,which in turn can make them think that most other women are their rivals,competing in a beauty contest for prizes of admiration.
    No we can’t depend on the Louise Upston’s of this world,instead we need to support and empower each other as beautiful, spiritual individuals.As equals, not bound by our worth coming from transient youth,beauty,money or career etc.We need to speak out as often as possible,about what annoys us,our own personal truth.
    If it upsets anyone,so what. Our words,our voices,are long overdue!

    • Destructo says:

      Here’s an example common theme within feminist thought that women have no agency.

      People are going to dress to appeal to the opposite sex for reasons that have little to do with having been brainwashed. It’s called the heterosexuality. I wonder if you apply the same standards regarding objectification to how men are commonly presented in women’s magazines for the consumption of their female readership; shirtless with comments about their abs and so on. Sonny Bill Williams and Dan Carter are easy examples. Men are routinely presented as ‘pieces of meat’; it’s ubiquitous and socially acceptable to the point that it rarely if ever gets commented on – and the power dynamic justification is nothing more than a cop-out for this blatant double standard.

  9. Kate you claim

    “A feminist is someone who fights for the rights and equality of women.”

    However there are many people who do not accept that feminism is about equality. That is before I mention that ‘equality of women’ is a nonsense. Equality is a comparative term so you need to be equal to something. Lets presume you meant men. Although I understand how it would be difficult to write that as you probably don’t want women to be equal with men. I mean shorter life spans, less of the health vote, less tertiary education, more workplace deaths, higher rates of suicide – these aren’t likely to be the things that you want equality with.

    If I thought feminism was about equality I would become a feminist in a heart beat. I do not. My experience is almost diametrically opposed to feminism being about equality. My experience is that feminism advocates for privilege, female privilege. My experience is that feminists very often get abusive when I ask for equality. This suggests they are not interested in equality. My experience is that feminism seeks to diminish every issue that affects men adversely compared with women including those noted above.

    The very word “feminism” is female gender centric. It is not a word that engenders the notion of equality.

    The Ministry for Women is female gender centric. You complain that Upston in her role as the Minister does not advocate for women in the way that you would like. The reality, since we are talking about equality, is that there is no equal role of Minister for Men advocating in any way, shape or form for men and the issues that affect them adversely in comparison to women. There are literally hundred’s of governmental and non-governmental organisations advocating for women in modern society. There are, by comparison, few that advocate for men.

    Today I visited the doctor. At the entrance was a list of services offered. Included in the list was “Women’s Health”. There was no corresponding service of “Men’s Health”. This corresponds to the government’s higher level of funding for women’s health issues. As a man this engenders feelings of lower worth to society that just based on my gender my health is less important than that of a woman.

    In order to move towards equality we need to first acknowledge that there is inequality, that the inequality is not of universal privilege for one gender or another, that privilege is not only in one direction. Men and women are both advantaged and disadvantaged. Lets address all issues equally and not focus only on the issues of one gender.

    • .

      As a man this engenders feelings of lower worth to society that just based on my gender my health is less important than that of a woman.

      What a load of bollicks! Don’t play the “victim” card, Wayne. It just makes you look pathetic.

      • Do you say the same to women when they speak of their disadvantages?

        Its not a victim card its a reality. GPs are funded more for women than for men. There is more funding generally in the system for women’s health issues than men’s. Lets just try acknowledging the reality.

        Is there some other conclusion one should make when one’s gender is disadvantaged in terms of funding in these ways?

        • TeWhareWhero says:

          One of the main reasons for that Wayne is the biological fact of child bearing and the various health issues associated with it.

          And if you feel that men’s health issues are under funded – then do what women have had to do, fight to improve them but don’t attack those advances that have been won for women.

        • If that “disadvantage” is the only one you can call on, Wayne, then it’s not much of an argument.

          You’ve left out that women generally earn less than men; occupy few seats of decision-making; and is the one gender that has specific laws governing their bodies that men don’t.

          You’ve left out that in a Court of law, in a rape case, a woman’s sexual history can be referred to – but not the man accused of rape (even when he has previous ‘form’).

          If GPs are funded more for women than men, feel free to explain why that is, instead of just making a blanket statement without any context. Let’s have the details and links.

          • Cam says:

            See this is another issue with feminism and maybe a reason she doesn’t call herself one. You can’t have gender equality by only looking at the issues of one side. Sure women have more issues that need to be corrected, but there are men’s issues that are so often scoffed at by feminists, which only serves to turn people against the feminist movement.

            • but there are men’s issues that are so often scoffed at by feminists

              Such as…?

              You can’t have gender equality by only looking at the issues of one side.

              There is merit to that. Unfortunately, Cam, when feminists do raise gender issues relating to men, the responses are not always positive. The term “feminisation of men” is quick to be bandied about. One example is men taking on a domestic role whilst their female partners continue in the paid workforce.

              Feminism can indeed benefit men – but there are strong conservative elements with a knee-jerk hostility to any such progressive moves.

              When David Cunliffe made a comment about men’s relationship with domestic violence, he was (a) inaccurately quoted by the media and critics and (b) generally slammed. Not exactly promoting a male’s role in this area, is it?

              • Kate Davis says:

                I wuv you Frank. One day when we have nothing better to do how about we do a shared project. I will write a blog about material feminism & let you handle the comments. It will be a hoot!

    • “My experience is that feminism advocates for privilege, female privilege.”

      Can you give us examples, Wayne?

      Because that’s a mighty big allegation to make.

      What privilege are you talking about?

      Today I visited the doctor. At the entrance was a list of services offered. Included in the list was “Women’s Health”.

      Wayne – don’t you think that has a lot more to do with the fact women have medical requirements that are considerably different to yours? For example, that they can carry a foetus, and you can’t?

      But even so, why don’t you do something about it?

      Did you go ask your doctor why there isn’t a corresponding “Men’s Health” list of services?

      I suspect you did not. Why? Because everything I’ve read from you is about trying to paint yourself as a victim. You don’t have this; you aren’t allowed that; women get privileges, and you don’t.

      But one thing you haven’t done is outline any course of action.

      All we’ve heard is whinging from you.

      • The privilege of demanding equal representation in vocations that they perceive as desirable but not equal representation in the dirtiest, most dangerous occupations.

        The privilege of protection from and society addressing the issues of DV toward women when the similarly frequent DV by women against men is diminished and ignored. Recall David Cunliffe’s speech which you referenced earlier where he portrayed DV as “overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women and children”. This is simply a lie, maybe deliberate. It is the feminist ideology.

        The privilege of hundreds of support agencies for women.

        The privilege of better health care.

        The privilege of more women graduating from university.

        If you open your eyes, take a step back and look objectively you will see many many examples.

        Not sure your reading comprehension is that great. “The reality is that men and women are both at times treated badly by society.” This is one example of a statement that is not just about victim status. If you look harder, and perhaps I should have, there are others. I am not thinking of myself as a victim, nor men more generally, nor women. I am trying to acknowledge that every demographic is sometimes treated poorly. That is our world is not efficient. There are things we can do to improve the lot of both women and men. My thesis isn’t that men are hard done by compared with women nor that women are hard done by compared to men but that both men and women are both sometimes advantaged and sometimes disadvantaged by society.

        Further I don’t believe it is necessarily even possible to determine who is most disadvantaged and it may be different from person to person. Who is to judge whether the woman with nine children who desires to be a parliamentarian but is disadvantaged by societies norms is more or less disadvantaged than the man who wants to spend more time with his family but those same norms demand he spend his working life providing for his family. (Although Marama Fox does an amazing job despite the norms).

        If all you have heard is whinging then I do not think you have read anything very well. Take off your blinkers step back and see the balance that I am trying to bring to the argument.

        • Wayne, your so-called “examples” are merely expressions of your own bizarre world-view and misogynism. You present no facts or statistics to back up your claims.

          Prejudice (for that is what you’re spouting) is not a sufficient reason to take your assertions seriously.

          And my reading comprehension is just fine. Thanks for asking.

          • No they are not.

            I have hundreds of times heard feminists complain about lack of representation in parliament and as ceos etc but not so much as forestry workers, rubbish collectors and the like. Show me some data if you think I am wrong.

            Look up the NZ census data you will find that university graduates are close to 60% female that is there are around three women in NZ with degrees for every two men.

            These are hard facts. I am writing a comment to a post and responding to your question for examples. I am not writing a substantive article. If I was invited I would be happy to write a substantial article with references.

            I doubt you even know what misogyny means. The word means woman hater from the Greek μισέω (miseo) meaning hate and γυνή (gyne) meaning woman. I am not a woman hater. I defy you to find one statement in anything I write that shows any hatred towards women. I am pro-women. I am egalitarian – pro-equality of men, women, black, white, Jew, Arab, gay, straight, transgender. No one deserves to be treated less well than another because of any demographic they happen to belong to.

            I am anti-feminist. This is based on my experience of the overwhelming majority of feminists who show no interest in equality, who get abusive when one advocates for equality. For example on this site The Daily Blog I have been told to FO and FU – even the women’s refuge acknowledge that nothing you do means you deserve abuse. The site administrators, presumably feminists and or sympathisers refused to address the abuse. I know there are probably non-feminists who abuse feminists for simply putting out their opinion. My experience ranges from this blog, to friends, and friends of friends, to politicians and many random twitter feminists. You say something they don’t agree with and their first port of call is to become abusive, to play the man not the ball. To be fair I have had some more reasonable dialogues including with this particular article’s author Kate. But not enough to convince me other than feminism is at its heart a hate movement. A hate movement that has made insidious inroads into government and society to the detriment of women and men and their equality.

            If your reading comprehension is fine then why do you write “everything I’ve read from you is about trying to paint yourself as a victim”. When just reading the comments on this blog you will see that I acknowledge advantages and disadvantages of both women and men and I believe that both need to be address. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I just think that the prevailing feminist political ideology is destructive. I give examples of abuse not to become a victim but to illustrate the hateful nature of many of those that accept this ideology.

            If your comprehension is fine then either you have not read very much of what I wrote or you could do with a good course in logic.

            • And yet, Wayne, despite your bizarre view of the world, despite all your claims of grievances; women still earn less than men… Women still occupy fewer places in political office or the Boardroom…

              And you still can’t provide hard data to back up your fantasies. Demanding that I “Show [you] some data if you think I am wrong” is bizarre to say the least.

              • You asked for examples. I gave them to you. You then demand more.

                Yes it is bizarre.

                Can you not do your own research?

                • I didn’t ask for examples. I asked for stats and facts. Opinion is easy.

                  As for “doing my own research” – yes, of course I could. But it’s your assertions and it’s not unreasonable to expect something to back them up. Otherwise you’re ‘lobbing’ all these half-arsed assertions all over the place and expecting others to take them seriously?! I think not.

                  • “You asked for examples. I gave them to you. You then demand more.”

                    “I didn’t ask for examples. I asked for stats and facts.”

                    But previously I quote:

                    “Can you give us examples, Wayne?”

                    Now you are simply lying. I mean it must be a lie since you claimed your reading comprehension was not lacking.

              • Destructo says:

                “And yet, Wayne, despite your bizarre view of the world, despite all your claims of grievances; women still earn less than men… Women still occupy fewer places in political office or the Boardroom – See more at”

                The pay gap argument has been widely debunked; women as a group choose lower paying careers and take time off to have children. Not men’s fault. Women may earn less on average, but the majority of the discretionary spending in done by women.

                Women are outperforming boys in school and tertiary education, receive a greater portion of the gender based health spending and live longer. They can choose to follow or ignore whatever beauty standards they wish and have relationships with whoever. Meanwhile men account for 90% of occupational fatalities and 75% of suicides.

                The evidence for an all pervasive structural level patriarchy is basically a few old-boys networks, male CEOs, a lack of gender quotas and special privileges deemed to be rights.

  10. Tom says:

    Comical stuff. I too think that beauty pageants are moronic and exploitative. However, most women, like most people, are moronic and willing to be exploited. 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight are the most appalling and morally backward pieces of trash, yet loved by women the world over.

    If your political programme requires people to wise up and stop being stupid and moronic, then it’s doomed to fail. That’s why feminism and marxism are a waste of time – they want to make stupid, thoughtless people somehow not be stupid and thoughtless. It should be evident by now that this is never going to happen. Louise Upston may be a crypto-fascistic nincompoop, but there are more people who agree her than not. It’s just our lot in life to be governed by dickheads.

    • TeWhareWhero says:

      What a depressing world you live in Tom.

      • Tom says:

        Unfortunately, it’s the real one. Best to ignore people like Upston. She’s a nut.

        • Kate Davis says:

          No Tom, we can’t ignore her, we need to call her on it. I do not believe most people are moronic.

          In regard to Fifty Shades…most women I know that read it ( myself included) thought the narrative was terrible, but some of the sex scenes were super hot. That makes a statement about something that could spawn another blog at another time!
          🙂

  11. Save NZ says:

    Great article. Let’s face it, a lot of people men and women don’t understand feminism or post structuralism. But just like putting Susan Devoy as Human Rights and Katherine Rich on health promotion agency board, Judith Collins (ex) minister of Justice, David Seymore as minister of Education/reform – nobody should be surprised at the irony. In Louise Upston’s case not being a feminist for woman’s affairs is probably a requirement – you don’t want a minister who might actually want to get something improved for woman do you?

  12. Alexandra says:

    Poor Wayne!
    What does your mother say,about the wonderful extra privileges we enjoy as women, that you feel you are missing out on?
    Prehaps she is too busy,making your bed and cleaning up your breakfast dishes. I suspect that Burrows is not really your surname,it’s more likely to be Kerr 🙂

    • Andrea says:

      Where’s the moderator when you need one?!

      • Kate Davis says:

        Andrea, I feel so sorry for anyone responsible for moderating! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t! Actually this is about what I expected. The anti feminist sentiment is primarily from men. Funny that.

  13. Rob says:

    These fellas posting comments here. They know it’s 2014, right? It’s like the last 40 years never happened.