Monday, 18 May 2009

This strange business of Christine Rankin

Last night's edition of Sunday featured an interview with Christine Rankin, who was defending the latest allegations put to her about her personal life. It turns out that Rankin married her current husband 71 days after his previous wife committed suicide, following some years of depression.

The previous wife's family believe that Rankin and her husband were having an affair while he was still with his previous wife. Ranking utterly denies this, but the previous wife also had her suspicions: she left suicide notes both for her husband and Rankin. Whatever was going on between Rankin and the man she is now married to, it seems his previous wife knew there was some affection towards them, and was unhappy with this.

Normally, I don't care at all about the marital lives of public figures. But I have to admit that I'm now uneasy about Christine Rankin. It's not actually Rankin's marriage as such that I feel uncomfortable about, but the fact that her actions may have contributed to the harm of a vulnerable person - and that Rankin may have known this harm could ensue.

Relationships are a tricky business, and outsiders can be quick to judge without really knowing what's going on. I'm not saying that a person who's unhappy in a marriage shouldn't leave, because the person he's married to has a mental illness. But I do think that all people involved in such a situation have an ethical responsibility to try to prevent harm to a vulnerable person. I guess we'll never know whether Rankin tried to carry out this ethical responsibility or not.

Lastly, I found Rankin's rather vitriolic insistence that 'the left' was causing trouble for her a bit strange. She's meeting with criticism from all over the political spectrum at the moment - and the left is typically more tolerant of non-traditional marital and family arrangements than the right (or at least parts of the right). Whatever the case, though, the Families Commission is supposed to be non-partisan. Rankin's comment gives me concerns about her ability to put aside politics and act impartially as a public servant.


Lindsay said...

"...the Families Commission is supposed to be non-partisan."

It isn't though. I'm not beating a drum for Rankin but her appointment, along with Bruce Pilbrow, would supposedly bring some balance to the table.

It would have been better if National had just abolished it.

A Nonny Moose said...

Aside from the pay equity team being disbanded, I'm concerned there's something else being shoved through parliament that this is a smoke screen too.

Paranoid, much?

ms poinsettia said...

I also think Rankin can't have it both ways. She's complaining about unfair criticisms about her personal life yet she felt no qualms about critquing the repeal of s.59 by saying that Helen Clark had no children and therefore shouldn't be telling parents what to do.

Anonymous said...
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Anna said...

You don't think the avoidable death of a person is ethically troubling, Anon? If you want evidence, you could have a look at the large amount of reporting on this issue over the last 24 hours, including the statements made by the deceased woman's family. Or you could just sod off and troll somewhere else.

Anonymous said...
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stargazer said...

anon, we will delete comments at our discretion, seeing as this is our blog. if you're unhappy with the deletion, you always have the option of staying away from this blog. any further comments on moderation by you will also be deleted.

Anonymous said...

I must admit I am a bit surprised by this. I know you didn't actually make this post, Anna, but a few days ago this blog was saying that Rankin's marital status was a "stupid non-reason" that only "sexist idiot(s)" would care about. Now apparently it's not? I'm not sure that any new allegations have surfaced since May 12th to cause this change of opinion which seems to be an almost complete about face. Certainly the suicide of her current husband's previous wife was known on May 12th.

stargazer said...

anon, it's certainly a difficult issue. we are dealing with a person who has been vocally and publicly judgemental for any number of years about the way others raise their families. which again, doesn't mean we should consider her marital status, and anna says clearly in the post:

It's not actually Rankin's marriage as such that I feel uncomfortable about, but the fact that her actions may have contributed to the harm of a vulnerable person - and that Rankin may have known this harm could ensue.

so that's a different issue really, and personally i'm not sure that i'd take that into consideration either, but it's certainly something valid to be raised.

and i concur particularly with your last paragraph anna. laila harre talked about it this morning on nini-to-noon, where rankin is blaming the left, but it is actually friends and family of ms mcauley and the not-at-all-left peter dunne who have been most vocal about this.

Anna said...

Yes, I'm sure you're right Anon - it's just the allegations weren't known by a fair chunk of the public, including me.

I don't think there's an about-face going on (although I should point out the the bloggers at THM, like feminists generally, are under no obligation to agree, and quite often don't!).

My concern isn't with how many times Rankin has been married, to whom, or under what circumstances. I just feel really concerned by the fact that she seems to have known that she may not have acted when she had reason to suspect that harm to a person was immanent. Whether her relationship choices had a bearing on that harm is less important to me.

If I thought someone was about to go into a diabetic coma and didn't have any insulin, I'd try to help them - most people would. Likewise, I'd try to help (and have tried to help, many times) if I thought someone was at the risk of an episode of mental ill-health.

It's possible that Rankin did try to help, and I certainly hope she did. I'm not suggesting that she and her husband shouldn't have had a relationship or anything like that, but I do think that if you know someone's at risk you should try to do something - not walking away is a hugely important ethical value (to me anyway), no matter what the 'problem' is.

Anonymous said...

I know THM bloggers don't always agree Anna, but I would have expected that if another blogger said something you disagreed with, you'd pipe up rather than just wait and make a contradictory post later.

But it seems I (and only I) simply misinterpreted Julie's statement about Rankin's romantic life not being an issue as more absolute than it actually is.

It seems to me though that whatever responsibility Rankin might have for McCauley's pain, the husband's responsibility is much greater. Not that he is up for a family commission appointment, admittedly, but it's still interesting to me that the man has, as usual, escaped any blame for the suffering of the women in his life.

Anna said...

I don't agree with what the other bloggers have said, Anon (and I don't feel that I have to respond to everything I disagree with anyway).

I think it's quite compatible to say that who Christine Rankin marries is not a public concern, but her ethical conduct towards another vulnerable person is. I'd make exactly the same point if Rankin had failed to act to help any other person at risk - ie if she'd driven past a car accident without stopping to help.

And I don't think her ethical responsibility is any greater or less because of her husband's actions. Every person has a responsibility to behave ethically.

Anna said...

And I should add that the matter I commented on came to light after the other bloggers had posted. I couldn't really comment on it until I knew about it.

Anonymous said...

I agree that his responsibility doesn't necessarily lessen her responsibility. But (and this is presuming they had an affair, which I accept isn't proven) if he had made the decision to be faithful to his wife, Rankin would not have had to make this decision at all - and his wife might still be alive. It was only by making the decision to be unfaithful that he started this whole sorry chain of events.

Anonymous said...

And yet you all seem to feel it is justified to talk about her background, even alluding to the sunday tabloid beatup about the woman committing suicide.

How can she do her job fairly if she is getting it from all angles. Do you now want her to even start this part time job?

stargazer said...

"getting from all angles" is mostly as a result of her past performance at WINZ and her actions and statements while working for a charitable trust. many people just dont' agree with what she stands for and don't see her as an appropriate person for that position. they are legitimate concerns, and parts of her background that are absolutely relevant to determine her (lack of) suitability for the job.

incidentally, you say "the sunday tabloid beatup about the woman committing suicide." does this mean you don't think it was a suicide? or that the friends of the ms mcauley should not have voiced their concerns? just want to clarify your position.

Anonymous said...

No, I mean that if you don't believe that a persons past actions should be forgiven then who would we have left working in this industry?

I'm sure it was suicide, but the story was a beat up. Since then we have read more about the "whys" and "hows" and it doesn't take a genius to understand that the ex wife had some issues.

stargazer said...

i'm sorry anon, but i haven't yet been to a job interview or conducted one where past experience is irrelevant. if you perform badly at a job and lose it, any potential employers will take that into account. they'll talk to both professional and personal referees to get an idea about your past and your personality. there's no reason why the same shouldn't happen in this case.