Thursday, 26 August 2010

It Never Stops

I went to the Fairness at Work rally on Saturday. It was a beautiful day in Wellington, and pretty amazing to see so many people. When I first got there I spent a good ten minutes wandering round. Then I settled down to listen to the Brass Razoo solidarity band play Solidarity Forever in the sun (which is one of my all time favourite things to do).

Despite an awesome beginning, I have some reservations about the Fairness at Work approach, and different reservations about other proposals to fight back against these laws. But rather than throw my hat in the ring for that debate, I'm going to have say something I totally didn't expect to have to say.

One of the undoubted problems of the day was the sound system. You had to really try to hear what was said, and from many parts of civic square you couldn't hear a thing. However, from reports of those who heard some of the speeches, this wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

Michelle A'Court was MCing the demo.* In her very first little spiel thing she said something like this (I didn't hear it myself, I didn't hear anything more than a phrase the entire time, but this is from a friend):

So there are sausages over there. You should eat them, because I don't like skinny people.

This is a bit off topic, but I really don't like skinny people. A friend of mine is friend's with a skinny person, and she introduced us, but I knew right off I didn't want to be friends with her. I mean what would we do all day? Not eat?

So anyway eat the sausages.

Except she went on like this a lot longer than that.

You know, I wanted to go on a protest. I wanted to have my say, stand together with a whole bunch of other people. Meet up with my friends, snark on some banners and leaflets - normal protest things.

I wasn't really prepared to get my angry feminist on. I think you have to try quite hard to bring policing women's bodies into a protest about work rights, but apparently it's possible.

There are different ways I could take this post from here.

I could write about humour - and the massive gulf between humour that laughs at structures of oppression and structures that laughts with them (This is an excellent post on just that divide). To the extent to which there was a joke in what Michelle A'Court said (and I'm dubious) it was ha, ha people's bodies

Or I could write about my school friends who join facebook groups called things like "Curvy women are sexier than skinny women". Policing and judging thin women is not revolutionary, it is not a blow for fat women everywhere. It's all part of hte same project, of making sure no woman can ever feel OK about her body. Acting as if thin people can and should control their bodies (the eat a sandwich, or in this case a sausage roll school of social commentary), upholds the idea that fat people can and should control their bodies.

I could point to this story of a woman who can't afford food because the government benefits are at starvation levels. And point out that skipping meals is not always a fucking choice. Let alone something to judge people on.

But I just don't see why I should have to do any of this. I don't think a work-rights demo should be a feminist mine-field. I think the basic principle shoudl be that everyone is welcome, without any part of their bodies, their minds, their lives, being subject to ridicule or mockery.

* I loved Michelle A'Court when I was a kid. I thought video dispatch was amazing, and that she was fabulous. I have a soft spot for her even today, and have really appreciated some things she's said. She had an excellent rant about tertiary education policy on the panel recently as well. I think that makes me even more frustrated with what passed for 'comedy' at this rally.


Meg said...

Really good post Maia, thanks for your thoughts.

Was at the rally in Auckland and it was great to see such a turnout. Did think it was a wee bit of an anti-climax for those of us who went though...maybe more about looking like a big group for the TV cameras than being loud about our views in public? I can understand why it was organised how it was but would like a march next time so more people who were out and about in Auckland got to see the opposition to National's policies.

That said good on the Unions for the coherent "Fairness at work" message and I look forward to continue to push this message

Julie said...

Spookily, I was thinking about the whole Thin Privilege thing just this morning, before I read your post. I too have a soft spot for Michelle A'Court, particularly when she's on The Panel or 7 Days (both of which feature few left-of-centre women and thus are significantly more interesting to me when Michelle is on). It's disappointing to see her fall into that line, and I guess the way I'm going to make myself feel not so bad about it is to think "well she's still a lot better than Paul Ego". A coping strategy, if you will ;-)