Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Better late than never

A little while back a certain Mr C Trotter (one of my constituents, I should add) took issue with the sweary muscular blogging of staunch advocates for abortion law reform like Queen of Thorns, Boganette and others. 

Trotter has quite some track-record on misrepresenting the political motivations, characters and aims of feminist bloggers, from this site and elsewhere, so I would ask readers to not necessarily consider his assertions as the rock solid Truth, for example this:
"What QoT and a host of other feminist bloggers objected to so strongly ... is the notion that reforming the abortion laws might take second (or even third) place to other political considerations."
I've said it before and I'll say it again:  we can haz multitasking.

Also:  methinks Mr Trotter needs to learn to read sarcasm a bit better, when it comes to his conclusion that the non-existent Feminist Borg has cooked up all this stuff about abortion just to keep John Key as PM.  Actually, those of us who've been saying pro-choice stuff just want what we said we do - a legal framework around abortion which sees it as a health service primarily, and as such gives the pregnant person the power to choose what happens to their own body.  Personally I'd rather like to see Key et all out of Government too.  I'll be trying for both.

And when Trotter uses me as an example of a feminist pro-choicer who has apparently learnt his lesson about not living my values up front for all to see, well that makes me a fair bit sweary myself:*
I’m thinking of a prominent feminist blogger who was recently elected to public office. In her election propaganda she described herself as a “mother” and declared her commitment to building “strong communities”. Nowhere in any of the material distributed to the electors did she inform them that she was an active left-wing trade unionist and a vehement supporter of abortion on demand.

In the deeply conservative part of New Zealand in which she was standing, keeping these facts from the voting public made perfect political sense. Had she been completely honest with the electors they almost certainly would have rejected her.
I have no idea why being a mother, which I am**, and wanting to build strong communities, which I'm pretty keen on, somehow means I was painting myself as anti-abortion.  I wrote election blurbs about my values, with examples relevant to the position I was running for (and elected to) on the Puketapapa Local Board. I talked about good leftie stuff like strong local democracy, retaining public ownership of community assets, and being inclusive.  I spoke of my concerns about the negative impact of pokies and liquor off-licences in our community, and the need for a public voice on their regulation. None of it contrary to my commitments to collectivity or feminism, which have manifested most recently in my former paid work in the union movement as an organiser in the early childhood education sector.

I realise Local Boards are new and unique beasts in NZ's local body history, but surely no one could possibly imagine that we would have any role to play around primary health care, whether that's abortion services or cancer operations?   Certainly I can say that in the six months since I was elected not a single constituent I've talked to has asked my view on abortion, nor during the election campaign. Is the point of political "propaganda" now to list a host of irrelevancies in the hope that voters will elect you as the one they hate the least?  Should I have put in my blurb that I prefer dogs to cats?  Or perhaps that my favourite colour is blue?  Or, to raise an issue close to Chris' heart, that when I was eight I was very pro-Tour***, but when I got older I changed my mind?

I decided last year to pull back from being a public spokesperson on the abortion issue.  Not because it would result in the good residents of Puketapapa calling for me to be thrown out of office post haste, but because I didn't want there to be any confusion about who I represent when I do media work.  Having been elected by my fellow Roskillians I feel an obligation to not muddy the waters by being an official spokesperson on something unrelated to my public role for them.  I did this when I was on the AUSA Exec too - not joining a political party until I'd finished my terms, to avoid confusion.  It might seem like a silly demarcation to some, but it's how I roll.  Maybe sometime in the future I'll work out how to balance these things better, who knows.

So the question remains;  do you, Christopher Trotter, agree with the ultimate goal of reforming our abortion laws to make them pro-choice?  Strip aside the when and even the how; if it was up to you Chris, your vote alone, how would you cast it, today, on the broad principle of abortion on request/demand/whatever as long as the pregnant person gets to choose?

And then let's go from there.  You can mansplain to us about how we should do this all you like.  You can assume you are way way ahead of us with your strategic thinking (you aren't btw).  You can get the history wrong and get pinged at it by one of my favourite Alisons.  You're probably going to have to accept that this isn't a campaign you can lead, although it is one I'd really love you to support. And maybe, just maybe, you could try to do all that in a way that doesn't undermine those seeking a goal you have said you agree with

*Not on here though, because then we get caught in all kinds of Mail Marshall traps which limit access to our wise words.
** From just before I wrote the election blurb until this week coming, mothering has been my main day time job.  I started a part time union job on Monday, and from that point I will be probably be spending marginally more time on the Local Board work than on the mother stuff or the union job.  That's why I put I was a mother, because it was the main thing I was doing with my time.
*** Yes, the 1981 Springbok Tour.  Even though it was long past by then.

Comment direction:  This is not a post about the morality of abortion.  Go here if you want to discuss that.


Boganette said...

Well said Julie.

Oh excuse me, really FUCKING well said.

I wonder if Papa Bear will answer?

Scuba Nurse said...

If I weren't in a quiet hospital room I would be fist pumping and hollering right now.
Wow, what a great post.
I also separate my roles, and my life. My grandmother doesn’t even know I write. My mother has no clue how I work and my partner does not attend my "Monday night ladies night" at the flat.
My job is similar. My opinion on one type of medical care is not discussed as I talk about the type I AM specialised in.
I missed your writing while you were busy, welcome back!

Kevin said...

Chris Trotter is like "the Time Warp" - he takes a jump to the left, and then a step to the rii-iii-iiiiiight.
As such I often find him attacking the people (and causes) he should be supporting, and supporting the people he should be attacking.

These days I automatically assume he's on the wrong side of any debate and hope to be pleasantly surprised. Sadly, he disappoints more than he surprises...

Anonymous said...

Why were you not 100% honest in your campaign literature. Many people would be upset to not be informed what you stood for - and others may have supported you.

Julie said...

Anon, please get a handle.

Abortions have nothing to do with local board politics, why would I mention something irrelevant?

Although you may be interested to know that one of my fellow board members announced at a public meeting last week that he's in favour of selling the airport shares and partial privatisation of council assets. And cuts to service delivery. Doesn't mention any of that in his blurb, yet it _is_ relevant.

Mike C said...

Well said Julie!

You can only put so many words into your campaign blurb, boring people to death with stories about how when sailing you always took the pin end at the start line, or how you much prefered port tack to starboard would not only be irrellivent (OK I cant spell) to the role you're campaigning for, but a waste of yours and the readers time!