Wednesday, 23 September 2009

what about working class women?

excellent post by elsewoman in response to mr trotter's request that the labour party get "back to its male working class, er, roots". i remember listening to him last week on radio nz, raving about the "testosterone" visible at the labour party conference. i was there for almost all of the conference, and seemed to have missed it.

he talks about reconnecting with "the dream of thousands of young and idealistic working class men", but i can't see how those dreams would be any different to the dreams of women. and why only the young - do the rest of us not have the capacity to dream; to wish for and work towards better things?

in all the analysis that i've seen on labour's election wins and losses, they've done best when they've captured the women's vote, and when they lost in 2008, it was the loss of the women's vote that was crucial. i can't remember where it was, but i'm also pretty sure i've seen research to say that women are more likely to vote for parties of the left than men are. given all of that, i'd say it's just as important, if not more so, to reconnect with issues that are important to women.

but further, what i really don't get is the fact that women in leadership can't be seen to be protecting the interests of men as well. record levels of low unemployment, strong savings, paid parental leave, interest-free student loans, low government debt, working for families, pay equity, investment in early childhood education etc etc etc ie all the major policies of a party with a female leader have been just as beneficial to men as to women. most have benefitted men directly, some indirectly as men are part of families who benefit.

in the end, there was only one thing that was different at this conference which could possibly account for mr trotter's view. it was that, instead of a female leader and a male deputy leader, there was a male leader and female deputy leader who gave the main speeches at conference. if that somehow makes a difference to how he views the labour party, then it seems to me that mr trotter has taken a very shallow look.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chris has gone nuts. (Pun intended.)

Tui said...

Can't we kick him out?

Also, I have to say, of all the young idealistic men in the Labour party I know, most of them are upper or middle class and probably 90% of them are gay - not that this implies a lack of testosterone, but I do wonder how Chris feels about that...

Sanctuary said...

Stargazer, Chris Trotter would, I guess, see in you a shining example of the sort of identity politics that dominates the Labour Party these days. So the response to your post would be "Well, you would say that, wouldn't you?"

Tui - if, as you contend, 90% of the men in labour are middle class and above and/or gay, what does that inform about the ability of the so-called working class to articulate, understand and represent the views of working class, heterosexual men out there? So far the post and the comments are pretty much a QED of the point Chris Trotter is making.

Sanctuary said...

*...working class party to articulate...

Anonymous said...

The Labour Party doesn't need enemies when it has friends like Chris Trotter. This isn't the first time Chris has made appalling statements, if he truly wants to help Labour he would do best to remain silent. As for testosterone, didn't think that word and Phil Goff belonged on the same page, let alone book.

stargazer said...

yes, that would be chris' response, and has no merit. why do working class men deserve representation (or more representation, cos unlike tui i know plenty of "red-blooded" hetero union guys in labour), while maori, pacific islanders, women, etc don't? when he and you are singling out "working class, heterosexual men, you are indulging in identity politics. you just think that the group you identify are somehow more important than any other group. neither you have provided any proof that your group has been badly served by the 5th labour government, nor have you proved that they are under-represented.

Tui said...

@sanctuary:

1. I didn't say all of the men in the Labour party, I said the young idealistic men in the LP who I know. I would never generalise this to the majority of the LP.

2. Chris specifically brought up his pleasure at seeing all these young idealistic men at the conference where, again, a lot of the guys in YL I know were. I was trying to point out that perhaps what Chris perceived as a working-class male testosterone-full environment was more of a misperception. Additionally, it was to make a point that there are many extremely energised young activists in Labour that do not fit Chris Trotter's perfect ideals and are nevertheless doing great work.

3. If Chris had just said that he wanted the party to get back to its working-class roots, that would be one thing. But he didn't say that; he denigrated the participation of women of all classes in the LP. That is a ridiculous thing to say, at least partly because, as Anjum suggests, women have always been part of Labour's roots.

4. Young activists do spend a lot of time thinking about the demographics of the people participating in their party, and I know several sectors of YL that are interested in working to appeal to all classes, with a focus on working youth - young political activism has recently been focussed around universities, and I know that many youth branches are concerned with extending that to the rest of the population, out of that insular environment. So not everything Chris is saying is nonsense - just the sexist stuff, which is most of it.

stargazer said...

oops, that should read "neither you nor chris have proved..."

and thanks for the clarification tui.

Hugh said...

Tui - activism focused around universities is all well and good, but I think Chris would say that Labour should be trying to represent the people who for various reasons can't/don't go to university.

stargazer said...

hugh, where's the proof that they don't? there were plenty of reps from the young worker's resource centre at conference, for example.

Tui said...

@Hugh - exactly, and that is why I said:

"young political activism has recently been focussed around universities, and I know that many youth branches are concerned with extending that to the rest of the population, out of that insular environment. So not everything Chris is saying is nonsense - just the sexist stuff, which is most of it."

Sorry if that wasn't clear.

Hugh said...

Stargazer, plenty of women's group reps at the National conference. Does that mean all your criticisms about National ignoring women are unproven?

@ Tui: Quite right, my bad.

stargazer said...

in which case, hugh, you'd have to prove that labour policies were detrimental to young workers, or that the interests of this group were not reflected in policy. not so. the labour-led changed the law to ensure young workers got paid the same rate as adult workers (although this may have been a green party initiative). raising the minimum wage, time and half for working on public holidays, and the modern apprenticeship scheme (now binned) are other policies the benefitted this group. just to name a few.

Hugh said...

You know Stargazer, I don't expect you to actually get up and quit the Labour party, or even to agree with criticisms of the party from outside of it, particularly when they come from members of other parties like Trotter. But having said that, I don't think what Labour has done for the working class is that cut and dried.

Yes, everything you've outlined above was positive. But conversely, we had steadily rising university fees, the outlawing of party pills, the near impossibility of home ownership for first time home owners, the continuing lack of a capital gains tax, increasing immigration restrictions, and of course the steadily rising cost of basic household food items.

Like I say, I'm not expecting you to disavow Labour, but I don't think the idea that Labour doesn't represent the working class can really be waved away by pointing out the end of youth rates, welcome as that was.

stargazer said...

i never said that labour had done everything possible or everything perfectly. but we were talking about representation, both in terms of people and policy. mr trotter's point that labour needs to grow some balls indicates that he thinks the group he identifies with hasn't been represented in the labour party, presumably because some women held some key positions. i've seen no proof of that.

i could counter a lot of your other issues as well, but you're getting off topic.

Hugh said...

Well then allow me to apologise for getting off topic, and I'll leave it at that.

stargazer said...

the reason i say it's off topic is because none of the issues you name relate specifically to men, and this post responds to the notion that working class men haven't been represented in the labour party.

in terms of the issues themselves, i'll respond to them on my own blog when i get the time.

Hugh said...

Stargazer - no, they don't. For the record, I disagree with the idea that the Labour party is specifically alienated from working class men, but not from the idea that it's alienated from the working class in general.

stargazer said...

i'd agree that there needs to be reconnection with the working class in general. the election results tell us that. but it would seem from the analysis i've seen that the disconnection happened more around social issues than the sort of things you mention. but as i say, i'll take that discussion back to my blog.

in terms of the future, i just don't think the successful strategy is to be all testosterone-fuelled. that won't be good for the party nor good for the country, really. and i get sick of the idea that it's a zero-sum game ie that if women gain something positive then men have lost something. that's not the way it works - almost always, they both end up being better off.