Pratfall: PM Down

Was it overdosing on the lead up to  ANZAC that accounted for ponytail excess?  Pathos to bathos?   Every empowered woman appears to have been approached for comment.  Or rushed foward?  Labour’s Annette King was, I thought, rabid and Marilyn Waring not far behind.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed telling people I’m a raving feminist.  I’m seriously averse to dying of boredom at social do’s, hopeless at gossip, small talk.  Unhelpful son (one and the same as helpful one) told me my ponytail views were so wrong I needed re-educating.  I’ve tried this, failed. 

I think touching hair usually means approval.  We pat animals, may pay a price for the presumption.  Hair has featured in social and cultural mores/values since we came down from the trees.  Hair styling (often a form of mutual grooming) has produced fantastical arrangements.  I cannot find anything in gently pulling ponytails without permission that makes it sexually creepy.  By contrast eliminating pubic hair sets off alarm bells.  In an age of rampant child prostitution, Victorian painters omitted it.  A fairly eminent Victorian freaked out completely when he discovered his newlywed wife had some. 

In my time ponytails and the long hair of schoolboys have invited institutional displeasure since Elvis.  Obviously persistent and unwelcome touching of another’s hair, body is not acceptable.   The politics of the waitress are irrelevant but offsider made the excellent point that Key’s presumption may have been even more unbearable if she wasn’t a political fan of his.

It should be no surprise that Key didn’t know when to stop.  His ordinary bloke persona, overly indulged by media, invited a pratfall. I don’t think it was an issue  of entitlement or prerogative.  He wants to be liked.  He clowns.  Clowns can irritate, frighten, go too far.  He did.  (Coulrophobia is the word coined in the 1980s to describe fear of clowns). 

The cafe manager knew of the waitress’s annoyance,  and would have done well to ask if she wanted him to intervene.  She could have asked him to do so.  It was a tricky situation.  The bodyguards were egregiously useless.  The PM apologised with two bottles of wine.  Overanalysing the apology and wine provenance was farcical.  Nothing can compare with humiliation on the world’s stage. 

Bosses and politicians might consider it worthwhile encouraging union membership.  They try to handle such incidents to avoid embarrassment.  The waitress can still make a formal complaint but for her own sake I hope she doesn’t.  Courts are bullyboy arenas even for plaintiffs with good cause.   She could be called as a witness in the case serial litigant Graham McCready is taking to the Human Rights’  Commission.  She has asked him to desist.  He said he will not.  That is his prerogative.  I think his action is incredibly insensitive.   And there is the Dirty Politics Brigade waiting to pounce.  Wrong, it got its foot in the door in the shape of the Herald’s reporter Rachel Glucina.  Apparently her bosses had four tries at explaining their role.

With any luck the furore has died so why am I writing this?  I don’t think  I have betrayed my own principles.  But unhelpful son has delivered the deadliest insult of all:  I am in the Bob Jones camp.  Alongside that silly old sexist, still rated a wit  worthy of column space??   I wonder if old Bob has the faintest comprehension of how his political and literary legacy is exquisitely reflected by internet trolls and middleaged blokes throwing ugly tanties on talkback. 

The only flaw in my arguments is that some men just don’t want to evolve.  But I doubt Key will make the same mistake again. 

P.S  What a relief to read Verity Johnson’s column in The Herald last weekend:  Come on, Pull the Other One, we need a little fun in our lives.  Not every woman’s cup of tea but she is entitled to her opinion and choice of conduct.  Me too. 

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Winston Wooed ‘Em

Well, stap me vitals and knock me down with a feather,  Winston Peters won Northland.   Hooray!   Even if he isn’t a political favourite of mine he certainly wooed and won with his charm offensive,  well honed political skills, cunning.  Mark Whathisname (it appears I and usually helpful son are not the only ones Winstonwhose memory cells baulked in this respect) had been dealt a lousy hand before Winston appeared on the scene and could still come home to spell serious trouble for John Key.

National may now turn to grudge and a little spite.  On second thoughts, a lot of National’s policies seem based on spite, their right to rule is challenged and the undeserving poor and their disagreeable champions must be kept in their place. 

It’s a pity Labour didn’t adopt the gaming approach and swallow Dotcom and Internet Mana before the last election.   It may not have worked.   I managed to spare myself and not see what is generally considered to have been the final nail in Internet Mana’s coffin at Dotcom’s Moment of Truth where his conduct was not helpful.   I’m still not sure why he became so unpalatable, political poison overall.   He was, wrongly it now transpires, allowed into the country because we were so keen to get our hands on his dosh and he certainly spread it around liberally. 

I’ve always had a liking for pirates and Dotcom was very much associated with piracy albeit the anti-thesis of the usual pirate in fiction and film.   Huge.  Onshore.  Netted in one of the most ludicrous action sequences ever to grace the screen.   Two helicopters, 76 police officers, a dog or so, what a ball!   I’ve since checked out the date of the raid and Skyfall’s release and the raid occurred ten months earlier.   Had our GCSB been downloading rushes of Skyfall?  

Dotcom is no Johny Depp/Jack Sparrow who has to be the bestest pirate of all.  The corporates going for him are much, much bigger pirates than he is?

I haven’t given much thought as to how Winston and New Zealand First will play out in Parliament not least because of his unpredictability.   I don’t like his ‘constituency’.   But I would just love to see him stroll mockingly back into Parliament in pirate gear and a parrot on his shoulder singing “Yo ho ho and a bottle of whisky, with twelve members now perched in the nest, drink and the devil makes an old man frisky, yo ho ho ho and fingers to the rest…”

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Gaming Northland

Oooooh isn’t the Northland bye-election serious fun.   Well that was written before the cruel and contemptible 1080 blackmail threat overshadowed it.   (At this stage I’m prepared to accept, just, National’s handling of this threat.   I hadn’t given any thought to the normal approach, which is not to publicise such threats as that serves the purpose of the blackmailer all too well.)

Labour’s manoevring in Northland is so delicate.   I think I detected a bit of sheepish embarrassment.  Whither  Winston will go if elected is not predictable.   He is rattling National’s cage deliciously.  Their candidate is on a hiding to none in the personality stakes and his grasp of electoral propriety appears non-existent.    I’m not cynical enough to not have been shocked by the brazen audacity of their pork barrel politics.    Bribery is illegal but modern pork barrel  politics are not too far removed from that especially when the impact of government services etc can be considerable in a contemporary context.   Think long outlawed treating on election day, say a tankard or two of ale two centuries ago and today’s and $30-60 million on bridges and more to come?   

Did we hear Mark What’s-his-name (neither I nor helpful son of marvellous memory can ever remember it) say if people didn’t vote for him they might not be built.  Is blackmail contagious?   Did  Key and Joyce salvage the situation and confirm they would be built come what may.   I wasn’t too confident of using the term blackmail even on an obscure blog like this one.  But another hooray henry, this time the National MP for Whangarei, obliged today by telling a Northland woman to shut up until after the election if she wants something done about sealing their dusty road!   ‘POLITICAL BLACKMAIL’ shouted Winston.  You can’t accuse National of a lack of transparency this time round.    Maybe it is going to be a very close race after all.     

I keep thinking of writing a blog about the historical development of democratic process after our predecessors lopped off their monarch’s head in a very revolutionary manner.  Somehow we have drifted back into a divine right of kings approach to power which is now reinforced with a level of spin that would have been the envy of olden day hereditary monarchs who didn’t bother to explain away their conduct.  They relied on more straightforward methods of elimination of overly vociferous critics and rivals.   

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And No Birds Sing

The sedge is beginning to wither, there hasn’t been a puddle for months.  The fishpond, a sunken iron bath, required a top up every two days.  Sedge and Japanase anemones are flowering, both grow close to a concrete path, shallow waterpipe which may keep them cooler.   Wellington’s drought started early, carried on relentlessly.  Some welcome rain at the weekend, nothing like the drenching on the windward side of Mt Victoria.

TuiWhere is my bird life?  Something reminded me of lying in a paddock in childhood  listening to larks.  This memory bought back a small pond Dad had dug out and designated as a swimming pool.  It was not a success in that role, the water was full of clay.  Frogs loved it, the drains and troughs.  I found their nighttime noise quite soothing. 

I’ve lived in the same house in Wellington for nearly fifty years.  Way back, there was a lark in nearby ‘wasteland’ which I so named to counter Joyce’s urban one.   Sadly it has been ‘developed':  large houses, few trees.  There is a medium sized play area but not many children come from that street.  No trees to loll under on the flat.  Bush remains on the steeper hillsides. 

After a silent period children have returned to our nearby street, I missed their happy playing.  They use the play area.  I confess I did not miss the unhappy playing of children whose family broke up following unemployment summarily inflicted on them by 1980s Rogernomics.  Our two empty sections run down into bush and are more beautiful each year, the flowering and fruit trees and natives now  well sheltered.  Up top it is heaven to sit under the silver birch on a hot day.  It sheds early, comes into leaf late and is no barrier to winter wamth.  Exposure to wind has made its trunk resemble that of an Ent.   Trees can’t be sacred in urban environments.  I’m outraged when Councils say some monster must stay although it’s shading, gutter filling, drain blocking, branch dropping on neighbours and the unhappy owner.   Or when they  prevent owners thinning bush so they and children can walk through or play in it.    I’m ambivalent about the 500 year old kauri on private land in Auckland.  Yes, it will be sad to lose it.  The current owners didn’t plant it.  We’ve planted at least seven kauris.  They are distinctive in the sapling stage and hold their shape well once on their way.   Unless some loaded greenie buys the lot they will probably go.  Recently I was firmly given a rimu and totara.  We already have some, I made it clear I couldn’t accommodate them.  They’ve taken off and I’m the miscreant who will soon do for them.  Neighbours need sun.    

Spring storms destroyed bird nests two years running.  A blackbird I called Peter (but assumed was more than one blackbird) once sang hugely most of the day from the  from the top of the big kauri.   A neice phoned from Turkey, was it him she could hear singing?  Indeed it was.  He has gone now and apart from a bit of chattering there is an eerie silence.  Tuis visit but are unusually quiet.   I miss the raucous gurgler who woke me at daybreak. 

There are not many cats now.   Fat monarch caterpillars vanished in a period of high wind, four butterflies have emerged from shelter close to the ground.  A small frog has reappeared.  Two big ones haven’t.  No sign of skinks.   A fat skink and frog faced off year after year on a sundrenched piece of wood.  Hedgehogs no longer brawl noisily at midnight outside the bedroom window.    

On the upside there hasn’t been a fire on the peninsula opposite for years.  Bush is regenerating.  Hereabouts opossums have vanished, wasps are rare.  Putting aside plane noise there is a velvet silence most nights.  Rats and mice remain.  BUT WHY NO BIRDSONG?  Climate change, big storms, drier summers, less nectar, fewer insects and trees?   Is it compounded by bigger houses, manicured lawns, boxed vegetable gardens, herbicide, insecticide use?         

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Festive Fun, and Fury

Several things annoyed me over the festive season.  Bad weather before Christmas,  disappearance of two frogs, no tadpoles for sale.   More contact with whanau, friends should have offset these minor matters.  We’re older, frailer, ?wiser.  I thought this would make armchair politics more fun.   Silly me.  Our political views have become more divergent (along with the array of parties on offer) but follow the trend of the upwardly mobile moving right,  most of their offspring even more so.

Keep_Left_AgingThe comfort of rule seems to have rendered them less well informed, more dour socially.  The accretion of wealth seems, once again (or would it be more accurate to say ‘as ever’) mystically linked to a right to rule that equally mystically results in righteous rule.  This saves a lot of intellectual effort. 

Offsider was easily persuaded to forsake roast for a sandwich and a whanau do two hours plus away.   Bad  Christmas vibes linger from my childhood:  exhausted mother in hot kitchen, post-war stringency, hayfever.  Offsider’s whanau was more sensible, convivial and took turns at bring a plate, alcohol.  Even so tears, marital spats, kitchen fatigue were  regular features.  Roast lamb (which nowadays seems to mean a tough old ewe nourished on Australian drought plains) is a goner, but the blame for the whole fandango I unreservedly lay on women.  My sister took her brood off camping from the outset, it was years before they cottoned on to Christmas excess.  It should be expunged from history.  Not the history of  Christianity per se.  It underpinned a lot of our laws, customs and male supremacist culture. 

At gatherings I did attend I convivially raised the election assuming it would still be  topic of great interest and entertainment, and revealed I had voted Internet Mana.    Before I could ask National voters how they accommodated the pong revealed by Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics in the Prime Minister’s office the spittle erupted.  The target:  Laila Harré. The best exemplars of this self-blind rectitude were women, real-life heirs to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who I had thought of as something of a caricature.  C de B is the aunt of hero Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, and is utterly opposed to his marrying the heroine Elizabeth, his social inferior of no breeding.  She tells her this without restraint or manners.  I got an what amounted to an ill-informed dressing down.  Elizabeth not only stood her ground, she bested her attacker.  Not so me.  I was horrified rather than mortified. 

 If my moral compass is shaky where the hell is theirs? 

Failure

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Rereading de Beauvoir 8: History, Ch. 4

Rereading de Beauvoir 7: Part Two, History. Chapter 4 (107-127): God the Father Edition

This chapter opens with the shift to Christianity and, yes, another litany of quotes from the men who would rule over us. A brief selection:

St. Paul: “Neither was man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
Tertullian: “Woman! You are the devil’s gateway. … It is your fault that God’s Son had to die.”
St. Ambrose: “Adam was led to sin by Eve and not Eve by Adam. It is right and just that he whom she led into sin, she shall receive as master.”
St. John Chrysosotom: “Of all the wild animals, none can be found as harmful as woman.”
St. Thomas: “It is a constant that woman is destined to live under the authority of man and has no authority of her own.”

IMG_0358You get the picture. SdB juxtaposes the burgeoning Christian laws with Germanic traditions in barbarian-occupied territories, which despite the modern-day connotations of the word “barbarian” were certainly not as “barbaric” for women as a lot of the Christian laws (but, yeah, still pretty barbaric). She describes this world as “midway between matrilineal filiation clans and patriarchal gens”.

Next up in this uplifting romp through the Top 1000 Ways of Oppressing Women: feudalism. From woman’s perspective, this period was marked by confusion because of a conflict “between sovereign and property law between public and private rights” (109).As a result “woman is both put down and raised up by this system” (109-110). She has no private or political rights, but there’s an uptick (for some) with the arrival of female succession (only, of course, in the event of no male heirs, and still, of course, she requires a male guardian).

Things deteriorate, however, as woman becomes finally categorised as a kind of property, and as such a slave, who is to be traded in marriage in order to secure land.

“This warlike civilisation has only scorn for women. The Knight is not interested in women: his horse is a treasure of much higher value to him.” (111)

Idle thoughts pop into my mind at this point about the tasteless historical distortion of all those ghastly TV series epics set in imaginary feudal times. Is it a good thing that they feel obligated to not depict anything close to reality with respect to women – or anything else for that matter – or is it a bad thing in that it helps blind us to the truth of our history? And I should point out that these idle thoughts are based on seeing only the promos for said epics, and on fast-forward, since I haven’t actually watched any. The heaving décolletage and cast of 21st-Century looking models are enough for me, even at 2x speed.

Continue reading

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Rereading de Beauvoir 7: History, Ch. 3

Part Two, History. Chapter 3 (93): How do they loathe us, let me count the ways:

By now, woman has been “dethroned by the advent of private property” (93) – keeping in mind that according to SdB she was never really on a throne to begin with – and inheritance is starting to kick in with a vengeance (where you might translate ‘inheritance’ as ‘man seeking immortality through his property’). It is property, SdB writes, that “was more important to him than life itself.” (93) Uh, “was”? Isn’t that still at the root of so much of our destruction of, well, everything on earth? As a result of his wanting to live forever through his property, man “strips woman of all her rights to hold and transmit” it, and so her children cannot “belong to her” but to him. (93)

Because she owns nothing, woman is not raised to the dignity of a person; she herself is part of man’s patrimony, first her father’s and then her husband’s. (93)

For women, this chapter (and this account is No. 6 in the series re-reading Simone de Beauvoir) a sorry tale encompassing not just the major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) but the Greeks and Romans. SdB includes some of the highlights of Greek and Roman commentary on women including these delights (cartoon version of same is immediately below:

Hesiod: He who confides in a woman confides in a thief.
Aristotle: The slave is entirely deprived of the freedom to deliberate; woman does have it but she is weak and powerless.
Hipponax: There are but two days in life when your wife brings you joy: her wedding day and her funeral
Pericles: The best woman is she of whom men speak the least
Menander: There are many monsters on the earth and in the sea, but the greatest is still woman. Woman is a pain that never goes away.

Greeks_on_WomanAs my partner pointed out, however, we only have this commentary because of the monks who decided to copy it all down, in lieu of photocopiers. It’s probably obvious why they might not have wanted to copy down what women were saying about men. I have a few ideas, though:

Greek_women

So, anyway, back to SdB: Reading this chapter, one has to admire the myriad nifty laws and customs and religious tenets men came up with to convince woman of her inferiority, and enshrine it in law, practice, habit. It starts to look as though, aside from preparing for and fighting wars, this is the thing they’ve put most time and energy into. Continue reading

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