White Male Privilege in NZ media

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Y’all know Sir Bob Jones, right? He is that white baby boomer and property tycoon who thinks his racist, sexist opinions are the last word on everything. But I guess in today’s world, millions of dollars buys you the luxury of being completely divorced from reality and not having to give a shit about 99 percent of the world. Last year he even wrote a piece stating that a liveable wage was a “privilege” not a basic human right. After all, being able to afford the necessities of life like food is a luxury of the rich, right? Well, he is at it again. A few weeks back he wrote a piece on #Ponytailgate for the New Zealand Herald, and it was bad. Really bad. This is how he started off his editorial ‘Why I think Ponygate is nonsense’:

News broke that the Prime Minister, presumably exercising a perk of office, had seemingly hurled a coffee-shop waitress to the floor, then not once but twice, and regardless of his accompanying wife’s feelings let alone those of the other patrons, their children, two sensitive pet dogs and a wheel-chaired granny, violently had his way with her. Then emerging triumphantly from under the table wearing her knickers on his head, he’d searched around for fresh victims, before launching salivating and naked into the street in a quest for fresh flesh to commit his vile corruptions on.

Bob’s #Ponytailgate parody might just take the cake for minimising language use. John Key repeatedly pulled the ponytail of a young waitress named Amanda Bailey over the course of several months. Ms Bailey has already laid a sexual harassment complaint and is talking to Unite Union about further actions she might be able to take over the Prime Minister’s unwanted physical contact and harassment. Bob downplayed a very serious event that served to minimise a young woman’s agency and right to bodily autonomy and likely led to her feeling powerless and humiliated. So Bob, a powerful and rich male, decided to heap further humiliation on her as punishment for speaking out.

Obviously John Key did not rape or violently attack Amanda, as Bob pointed out so, no big deal right? It’s not like casual sexism – the daily harassment that women face both at work and on the streets as well as the unwanted touching of their bodies as playthings or objects – helps to create rape culture and fuel a male-centric society that teaches men to hate women and to believe that sex is their entitlement? Apparently we, as women, should be thankful for any male attention we get no matter how degrading, abusive or bullying.

Casual sexism makes women an accessory to male fantasies and desires and robs them of their agency. As Laurie Penny wrote in her book Unspeakable Things: sex, lies and revolution, “Be a good girl. Smile and make people feel comfortable; accept low pay, long hours the occasional grope in the corridor[…]”

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Sir Bob Jones believes what he calls the “media beat-up” over John Key harassing a young, low-paid waitress is no big deal. In his mind, it’s worthy of ridicule and minimisation – but what happened to this waitress is part of a much bigger social problem. Plus it’s important to note that this is not the first time John Key has behaved in sexist ways that contribute to rape culture – this is something that Sir Bob fails to understand.

When news broke that the Roast Busters men had been getting underage girls intoxicated and raping them, Key barely took the matter seriously, saying “these boys just need to grow up”. He said it as if entrenched, engrained, sexist, violent behaviour is something boys just grow out of. As if this behaviour is not part of a cultural construct that we as a society need to disrupt and collectively stand against. John Key is living proof that “boys” don’t just grow out of sexist behaviour, if #Ponytailgate is anything to go by!

Bob’s good mate John Key has gone on to state that his constant yanking on a young woman’s ponytail was not sexist, because he says he would have yanked on a male waiter’s ponytail too.  Thank God we have Pākehā men around to tell us what is and is not sexist, because it is an encoded male right to tell us how to feel about issues that deeply and structurally affect women. That shit never gets old. I find it very hard to believe Key would have called a male’s ponytail “tantalising” as he sidled close enough to wrap his fingers around it and then yank on it.   Don’t you?

It doesn’t matter where anyone falls on the gender expression spectrum, no one has the right to touch another person’s body without their permission. I guess Key missed this human-rights memo?

Oh, and speaking of basic human rights, Bob lambasted what he called the “Children’s Commission and Women’s Affairs” for standing up to Key. I think Bob meant the National Council of Women since Sue McCabe, Chief Executive of this council, wrote a widely shared open letter to John Key in an attempt to raise awareness that Key’s sexist and bullying behaviour was part of a much bigger social problem. But who needs journalistic accuracy when you are as rich as Bob? He wrote:

Come to think of it, having an interest in the classics, I dutifully give my 7-year-old daughter’s ponytail the occasional tug. That incestuous confession should excite diverse madwomen from the Human Rights mob, Children’s Commission and Women’s Affairs, all utterly unnecessary agencies which greatly irritate everyone at the long-suffering taxpayer’s expense.

Laurie Penny went on to point out in Unspeakable Things, that “rebellion is always riskier when you are a girl” – after all, “sanity is socially determined”. Labelling women who stand up for human rights, who are unprepared to remain silent when they witness and endure injustice, discrimination, unfairness and yes, casual and structural sexism, as “madwomen” is a polemic argument and is drenched in coded sexism. Women who stand up for their rights and gender equality have been labelled as “mad” and “bad” throughout history.

Many of the Suffragettes were incarcerated, force feed when they went on hunger strikes following the refusal of Suffragettes to be regonised as political prisoners  – all because they demanded that women should have the democratic right to vote. In Victorian England when women “rebelled against Victorian domesticity, [they] risked being declared insane and committed to an asylum. This was usually at her husband’s or father’s request.” This is stated on the United Kingdom’s Science Museum website. And when Gregory Corso – a key member of the beat movement in the 1970s – was asked why there were so few women among what Laurie called “the half-mad, celebrated, drug taking, sexually experimental Beat writers of the 1950s ,” he responded,

There were women, they were there, I knew them, their families put them in institutions, they were given electric shock. In the 50s if you were male you could rebel, but if you were female your families had you locked up.

Sir Bob Jones is a depressing example of just how far we have not come. He may believe that taxpayers do not want to pay for human, children’s, and women’s rights commissions and councils, but what I as a citizen of Aotearoa want more than anything is for my taxes to be spent on organisations and non-profits that hold those in power to account – that protect the disenfranchised, vulnerable, and the marginalised!

In times of economic hardship, I want my taxes to go to those struggling below the poverty line  (a group which is vastly overrepresented by our indigenous people, women and children) and to people who need welfare and a helping hand, not to sending troops to war or on a useless, expensive flag referendum. And perhaps most of all, I’d like my tax money to go towards funding media that is for and by the 99 percent. As Amy Goodman wrote, a media that “lets people speak for themselves”. Because if we can shift the conversation, we can begin to shift perception and that’s how change takes hold – the Occupy Movement is powerful proof of this. Although obviously that’s probably not something either Bob or John want happening.

I am sure Sir Bob Jones and the many other white male pundits such as Mike Hosking (who has also criticised Amanda Bailey for standing up to workplace injustice) would rather women sit down like good girls and do as they are told and never make a fuss about the horrific violence so many women face in this country. I am sure they would all rather we said nothing about unfair gender-based work discrimination and pay gaps, and for us not to call John Key out on his obviously sexist and harassing behaviour – because  speaking out against the powerful committing injustices against the powerless? Well, this is how power is kept in check. But if we, the silent majority, remain silent and do nothing, those who have power get to keep it, and they get to reign uninhibited.

In the words of Meret Oppenhiem, one of the few female Surrealists to make it into the history books, wrote, “Nobody gives you freedom, you have to take it”. And that’s the last thing the powerful want us to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28 COMMENTS

  1. As a white male baby boomer Chloe may I say “Well said!”

    I deplore the attitude displayed by Jones and his ilk.

    • Yeah, I know Jones effectivly only writes what he does to get a reaction and to offend people, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be held to account. How someone who is so racist and so sexist is paid to write for the NZ Herald, blows my mind.

      • I’m not so sure about your view on Bob Jones – many of the Tory establishment would like nothing better that for 99% to shut up and do as they are told.

        • I guess they like to give the appearance of giving people a voice. To be frank, making a comment won’t change the world. It might make you feel a bit better.

            • The who? Oh, you mean that bunch of people camped out on St Paul’s steps during the summer hols (I was in the UK at the time). Hmmm… where are they now?

              What impressed me most was the way that the church welcomed them and supported their protest, despite the fact that they get very large donations from the financial institutions next door. Maybe the real lesson was, find influential friends who can help you make a difference. Even what appears to be the least likely ally will surprise you sometimes.

              • The narrative changed, before the Occupy Movement the idea of the 99% was barely ever reported in the MSM and it got massive wealth inequality in to general debate, also. In America the movement is still going strong and has been buying back bad morgages and regifiting homes back to their owners. They have done simualr with bad private student loans that have gone to debt collectors and the OW movement has bought them up and paid off thousands of students, loans.

                Yeah maybe y’all should do your research before you open your mouths. People like Naomi Klein and Chomsky still talk about the occupy movement as a very powerful example of a protest movemnt shifting the narrative and implementing change, In fact in Klein’s book “This Changes Everything” she uses the Occupy movement as a model for the climate change movement when it comes to making long lasting collossal change. #JustSayin

                • Oh and there is nearly always a media blackout when it comes to protest movements that have any power. Or if they do get covered you are told those involved are thugs or hippies, or trouble makers or whatever other shit the MSM spins.

                • No need to be rude. Most of us are left wingers so we’re on your side. You’re getting an easy ride here. Cut your teeth in preparation for real criticism in the outside world. Your opinion will only be respected if you respond with the sort of dignity that Chomsky shows.

      • Actually Chloe I never read him. Nor watch the c*p* on 7 sharp. I would rather read Vera Britten and watch “Testament of Youth”.

      • This type of being held to account:

        The soccer fan who used vulgar language with CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt in a “FHRITP” video has been fired from his high-paying job at crown corporation Hydro One, Toronto Sun reporter Jenny Yuen tweeted Tuesday.

        Unfortunately, we can’t do that with Old Bob.

      • Bob Jones is not paid to write for The Herald. He does it out of vanity and The Herald publishes it for click-bait. Bob Jones in his dotage has to import an Asian “wife” as he can’t get the sort of subservience he wants here – no matter how much money he has.

      • i read the herald and stuff…. but only so i have a handle on the misinformation and outright lies they tell us. as for bob jones, it really is appalling that they allow him a national forum to espouse his horrendous views, same goes for mike hoskings. the way they minimize and downplay issues that really do affect a huge number of newzealanders and their slavish defence of the current regime makes my blood boil, but not as much as when i hear other ordinarily intelligent new zealanders parroting their lines. jeepers

  2. The Occupy Movement – how’s that going at the moment? Haven’t heard much about it lately.

    One way to make a difference is to stop buying stuff. Take your money out of banks that behave unethically. Invest ethically. Become more self sufficient. Set up, contribute to and promote alternative news outlets that are less biased.

    • I’ve just had a thought. In due course we won’t have to stop buying stuff. As wages drop and functional employment (i.e the sort you can afford to live off) falls, the number of consumers fall. It’s already happening. We’ll be back in the great depression where businesses shut down, people starved but the rich carried on as usual.

      • i think what the occupy movement showed before they ran out of steam is how a community of diverse individuals can coalesce, this is the answer i think to the stagnation of the regions, if we can turn our backs on the divisive and de-humanisation of the corparate environment and form sustaianble small scale communities, you know. produce products locally, have diversity of skills at the community level. screw centralisation and growth for growth sake. i guess we need to turn our backs on the pursuit of wealth (monetary) and acknowledge the aspects that should really matter? i don’t know. easier said than done i guess, but possible?

  3. “Sir Bob Jones is a depressing example of just how far we have not come.”

    that line says it all to me.

    even more depressing are the people who believe and follow his hollow words.

    and that’s why I don’t read his rubbish in print.

  4. To be more accurate you want other people’s taxmoney to go to pay for those things as well as yours. If you were interested only in yours then you should request that Government doesn’t spend the money and instead gives it back to you so you can use it to fund those areas you deem important directly.

    • Congratulations, you just described the typical ACT voter mentality. If only it had been intentional, eh?

  5. Not reading the biased Herald and tuning out narrow minded Bob Jones is a good and healthy thing to do. There are far more media outlets and journalists with ethics and integrity worth reading. Why anyone would have Jones on their show or allow him to pontificate his rubbish is beyond me. He puts himself above others, just as Jonkey does, and this only shows how immature and elitist and stupid these kind of white unaware men are.

    Chloe – I agree somewhat about reading both the left and ring media but, I feel, it is more important to hear the truths than to have to wade through the propaganda meant to mislead the people. Isn’t it a waste of time and energy to read a media that we already know is bought and sold by mega-corporations meant to brainwash and manipulate the masses ?

  6. Heartily sick of this use of Baby Boomer as a pejorative and in this case inaccurate. Jones was born in 1939 making him six years too old for the title so a little lazy in the research there Chloe.

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