Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The minister for police and upholding rape culture

From the Herald (via No Right Turn):
Police Minister Judith Collins said the actions of looters was akin to "people who rob the dead".*

She expected to see the judiciary throw the book at looters.

"I hope they go to jail for a long time - with a cellmate."

Judith Collins introduced widespread double-bunking; she championed it in the media. When people who had actually done research suggested that it would lead to more prison rape and violence, she shrugged those statements off.

And now she's telling us that, for her, abuse and violence between inmates is a feature of double-bunking, not a bug. She is not explicit, but we live in a culture where threats of rape in prison are common enough that she doesn't need to finish the thought by telling us that the cellmate is large and called Bubba. By signalling that she thinks looters should be subject to rape and violence from their cell mates, she has acknowledged that her policy of introducing cellmates is responsible for increased rape and violence.


One of the most fundamental ideas of rape culture is that sometimes consent doesn't matter. And if you suggest that, about anyone, ever, then you are legitimising it as an area of contention and debate,

So when the Police Minister implies that looters should be raped, the ideas she's promoting about prison are appalling, but they don't just affect prisoners. What she says is part of the same culture that tells us not to drink, to go out at night, to dress that way. It's the same culture that says if we're in a relationship with him, or drunk, or flirted, or were in a war zone, or were asleep, or had sex with other people then our consent doesn't matter. It's the same culture that has been reinforced in every rape case I've ever written about. When someone ignores our consent and violates, it's that same culture which will find a reason, any reason, that we caused it and deserved it.

We can't dismiss comments about prison rape as somehow being different from other comments about rape. Like prison, prison rape is part of society, not removed from it.

* Just as a note - I haven't written anything about the earthquake. I try not to write on my blog without a reason - either because I've got something to say, or because there's something that I think should be heard, otherwise I try to stay silent. My silence should not be read as indifference.


Cactus Kate said...

No she hasn't said that at all and stop spinning like a left wing top. She' introducing double bunking to save costs. it is a statement of fact they will have a cellmate.

I do congratulate you on not politicising the earthquake...unlike some of your less savoury left-wing blogsites.

Maia said...

If someone begins a sentance with 'I hope' then what follows is not a statement of fact, but what they want to happen.

Why would you wish for someone in jail to have a cellmate?

What does it mean in our society to wish that someone in jail has a cellmate?

I'm genuinely curious what possible answer there could be for the first question which is different from the answer to the second question.

And if you claim you can't answer the second question - that suggests a level of cultural illiteracy that I don't believe you have.

Anonymous said...

Why would you wish for someone in jail to have a cellmate?
Ah the inconvenience of having no privacy, of having to listen to them shit and smell it, of having to put up with their habits, of having to compromise about what they watch on tv, of having toworry about being beaten up etc etc.

So, that double bunking, any rapes yet?
You are an idiot

Lindsay Mitchell said...

I think the Minister was inferring some sort of extra punishment being visited upon these particular criminals but I doubt she had rape in mind. Such an implication reflects the widespread sentiment that looting after disaster is a particularly heinous crime (although theft is theft in any context).It was a stupid, but perhaps populist, thing to say if that was what she intended to imply.

A statement about economic expediency? I don't think so.

Boganette said...

Oh please. What a load of shit. Of course she meant rape and/or abuse. Rednecks hate it when you point out that they're rednecks.

It's possible to express anger at the fact that people are looting without turning into a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal with a pitchfork.

Especially when you're meant to be the Corrections Minister.

And yes, double-bunking is about cost. And also, not particularly caring if prisoners are raped and abused while in prison as long as money is saved.

And anon wanting someone to worry about being beaten up is pretty fucked up. I'm pretty concerned if you wish your fellow human beings (and believe it or not prisoners are human beings)to live in fear of attack.

Jack said...

Cactus/Anonymous - I interpreted this as a pretty clear dogwhistle comment about the men being raped in prison. And I don't think this is because I'm left-wing; see, for instance, this thread on kiwiblog (http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2011/02/a_quick_photoshop.html), where it's very clear that the explicitly right-aligned poster and commentators have interpreted this in the same way and are approving of Collins' sentiment.

It is worth noting that Collins herself denies that she meant this. But that's why you use dogwhistle comments: they get the message across implicitly, while you can deny that you made any such explicit comment.

reader said...

Lindsay and Cactus Kate, you're both being disingenous and you both know it. If you want to argue that what Collins said and meant is okay, or that it was said in jest or hyperbole(and that's okay) that's a whole different discussion.

Excellent piece Maia. Completely agree. Sad and sometimes wearisome that we have to keep plugging away at this issue.

Hugh said...

It's possible to express anger at the fact that people are looting without turning into a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal with a pitchfork.

If it is possible, Boganette, I've yet to see it. It's really sad the way people are focusing, even obsessing over these looters. I guess there's a need for a "villain" in every tragedy. Personally I have nothing but sympathy for the poor guys.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Maia and Reader. When I read what the Minister had said, I shock my head in disbelief. The Minister is meant to be a Minister of the Crown. People have been booted out of office for less. She has to go.

Guess the trouble is that most in the National Party/Act (or those that lean towards that policitical end of the spectrum, including some who have put comments on this blog), wouldn't actually see a problem with what she said.

Even if you take an extremely generous interpretation of her statement, that the other person would simply beat up the person in jail, the Minister (a) encouraging physical violence, (b) condoning phsycial violence and(c) accepting that such violence does occur with double bunking.


David Grice aka Gravey said...

Agree with Maia et al. If this was just a case of the loss of privacy, there would be no need to add "with a cellmate" because under the system she set up, that would be a given.

It was an extra push. But I understand the anger. I understand people feeling so angry about what some people have done that their emotions wish harm to the looters and scammers.

But we are all supposed to be grown-ups. We know when these things happen, we don't really wish harm to others. And as Minister for Justice, she above all people should be careful what she says.

Hugh - I have seen the type of response Boganette says is possible many times. Unfortunately, we hear of the knuckle-draggers far too often. After all, **we** are capable of looking at the issue rationally, aren't we?

Feeling angry is fine. The type of comment she has made is not. Then trying to weasel out of it is even worse.

Hugh said...

Personally Dave it's less about looking at it rationally than looking at it sympathetically.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was grossly unprofessional, and a fabulous example of how rape - especially prison rape - can exist so easily in our culture as a joke, not a serious horror.

Anonymous said...


What a load of codswallop, to say , that, Judith Collins endorses what the original poster "quoted". Doubling up in cells makes perfect sense at a time like this. Talk about Looney tunes !

Boganette said...

"Doubling up in cells makes perfect sense at a time like this." - Why?

LudditeJourno said...

Yuck - entirely with you Maia, on your reading of this issue. And when you listen to what male survivors say - that institutional settings are massively over-represented when it comes to sexual violence against men, this is sickening beyond doubt.

Another example of right wing responses to crimes against property outwaying crimes against person. Blech.

Anonymous said...

Maia likes to twist everything into meaning somebody advocates rape. It's her USP. Collins never meant it at all but yet Maia needed to say it as she hasn't hit her "rape" accusation quota for the week.

Boganette said...

Anon - I, and a lot of other people who comment on here, and a lot of people on other blogs - all agree with Maia on this one.

And really? That's your argument? Maia "sees rape everywhere"? That is really pathetic trolling. I expect better. Go back to the drawing board and try to get something original OK? You're playing with the big kids now, so try harder.

Honestly, I remember the days when trolls actually put a couple of seconds into their insults. Trolls these days....no respect for the craft. Sometimes I wonder if they've just printed off bingo cards and are ticking off squares. Next we're going to have "Why are you so angry?"

V said...

The question that needs to be asked is "Have there been so many looters that there are not enough single cells available?"
The answer to that is quite clearly 'no' - there have only been a handful of looters - not enough to strain the prison system by any stretch of the imagination.

So what is being said by the minister is this:
"I think that looters in Chch deserve EXTRA punishment (whether it be rape or simply having no privacy from another person) on top of whatever the Justice system dishes out to them for their crime. I endorse vigilante-styled justice and punishments for things which I PERSONALLY think are worthy of it."

So yeah, let's just ignore the justice system when we're a bit angry about something. Because if you're angry, other people don't deserve to be treated equally.

Anonymous said...

"I hope they go to jail for a long time - with a cellmate" sure sounds like a veiled (and probably not entirely thought out) rape threat to me. In that 'severe punishment' context, I don't know why else she would say that she hoped they had a cellmate. It's really bad if the Minister for Police is making statements that could so easily be read as rape wishes. The issue of prisoners being raped by cellmates is one that isn't taken seriously in our society (I usually hear it mentioned in the context of a 'they deserve it' joke).

I've been horrified at the animosity & full-on hatred shown towards looters following the Quake. I remember listening Michael Law on the radio recently. He talked about how a boy's bike had been stolen the day before the Quake which caused the boy to have to take the bus... and be killed in the bus on the day of the Quake. Mike Law completely blamed the theft for the boys death, and basically said that the bike-thief was "nothing more than a murderer" - - - which is completely ridiculous (especially because the bike theft happened before the quake).

I also heard that a boy with Asperger's syndrome who had stolen some sparkly lights after the quake because 'he couldn't help himself' (and had never stolen anything before) had been receiving DEATH THREATS on Facebook. Wow. A terrible disaster does not justify such an over-the-top response to theft AT ALL.