Thursday, 17 November 2011

How much does gender matter this election?

Feeling guilty about my big P political lethargy this election, I've decided to compare each parties women's or gender policies as a measure for commitment to gender equity, and share them with you all, complete with an exciting rating system. A more detailed review would examine every party policy for gender implications, but I'm still mildly lethargic so here's the short sharp version. Enjoy.

United Future has a Gender Affairs policy. Highlights include targeting family violence policy towards recognising men and women are both perpetrators and victims of family violence. This despite Peter Dunne's Families Commission confirming family violence is heavily gendered, not gender neutral requiring equal opportunity responses. There's also a new Gender Ministry to replace Women's Affairs and "recognise the specific needs of both genders." Rating: Patriarchal.

New Zealand First has a policy manifesto. No women's policy, but women are mentioned six times in the 116 page document. Rating: Negligent.

ACT has no policy on women or gender inequality. There's no need, because market forces ensure girls can do anything.

The Mana Party Social Wellbeing policy and Maori Party Whanau Ora policy do not mention gender or women, disappointing given the fact colonisation has done wahine Maori no favours. While I recognise there are world view issues here, honouring Mana Wahine is readily available within Te Ao Maori - and Mana's Annette Sykes in particular is an expert. Given the horrific rates of violence against Maori women and the education, employment and health stats which Maori women wrestle with, a Mana Wahine policy seems critical to true whanau ora. Ratings: Neglectful x 3.

Now, the big three in the polls. National's two page policy explains upcoming plans and describes their achievements in government, including the lowest ever gender pay gap, at 9.6%, based on the NZ Income Survey. I decided to have a look at hourly wages from the Quarterly Employment Survey:


Which looks more like a steady gender gap of 13% to me.

National also trumpet their improved services for survivors of sexual violence - court advisors and a discretionary victim grant of $500. Both good (court advisors training was a couple of weeks ago so just squeaking under the wire) and a testament to Simon Power's commitment to these issues. But disingenous from a government which slashed funding for therapy for sexual violence survivors, then did an about turn six months and several survivor suicides later when said funding cut miserably failed an independent review.

National are planning, if re-elected, to continue contributing to intiatives to end violence against women. Difficult to square with the funding cuts last term to the award winning "It's Not Ok" campaign. Let's hope there are some genuine prevention measures in the pipeline. Rating: Could Do Better.

Now to Labour and the Greens. Both have women's policies. The Greens are the only party to acknowledge a variety of gender identities, in their "Sexual Orientation and Gender/Sex Identity Policy." Labour's Rainbow policy in contrast is silent on gender identity.

Labour gets a tick for fronting up on the gender pay gap, work-life balance, mothering and care-giving and women's health. Their plans to address violence against women are strong and sensible, moving the sexual and domestic violence sectors into greater collaboration and suggesting a cross party approach. It's about time, particularly since it was the last Labour government which repeatedly back-tracked in naming "family" violence as a gendered issue, and allowed the courts to move away from fully implementing the Domestic Violence Act under pressure from men's rights groups.

The Labour policy also repeatedly recognises that women of different ethnicities, ages and abilities may have different needs, which is a welcome relief. Requiring information about pay rates to be available, for example, will impact very differently on women in different sectors of paid work, even if it benefits all women.

Some of the policy is aspirational, without clear steps being described, which undermines credibility. But overall, this is a strong policy. Rating: Good.

The Greens policy clearly aims for gender equity for all women. The key principles are aspirational, including the only reference in any policy to Te Tiriti - vital, I'd have thought, for talking about gender equity in Aotearoa. They also embed state responsibilities in an international human rights context - so place gender firmly in both the local and global - and name structural and indirect discrimination as concerns. Pay equity, mothering and violence against women all get a mention.

Even more impressive is the detailed policy plan the Greens produce, naming the legislation they will use to implement their aspirations. They detail plans to financially and socially support mothers, including in the workplace, increase workplace flexibility, monitor pay rates with a view to enforcing equal pay legislation and ensure women in low paid work/living on benefits have adequate resources. The healthcare plans are comprehensive too.

The Greens fall down a little on violence against women, where their policy is almost exclusively focussed on domestic violence rather than including sexual violence, and their prevention plans - innovative in focussing on violence in the media - do not include evidence based skills focused education in learning respectful and ethical negotiation behaviours.

The education policy ideas would allow higher education to be accessible to more than middle-class women by reducing costs; similarly the justice plans to review protection order costs and increase law centre funding. And asking wahine Maori and migrant women what they need is welcome. Though using "lesbian relationships" to talk about same-sex couples is clumsy and out-of-context in terms of human rights, overall this is an excellent policy document with easily the most substance of all those on offer. Rating: Green Star.

20 comments:

R Watts said...

I guess the difference is made because both the Greens and Labour have/had strong female leaders. The way the Greens will always have a female co-leader means that they will never push women's rights into the background.

Scott Chris said...

R Watts says:- "I guess the difference is made because both the Greens and Labour have/had strong female leaders."

'Had' is the operative word IMO. Off topic but I was interested to see this piece of news:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/5981502/First-woman-awarded-science-honour/

About time… in more ways than one.

Hugh said...

I believe National had a strong female leader, too.

A Nonny Moose said...

Hugh, you mean the one who ripped the guts out of the DPB and made a glorified mess of minimum/youth wage. Sounds depressingly familiar. She and Paula Bennett would have a lot to talk about, I'm sure.

Hugh said...

I didn't say she was a good strong female leader, but she was definitely female and she was definitely strong.

Adele said...

Kiaora,

You are perpetuating a colonial and imperialist mindset when you say Māori ought to be doing this or that to demonstrate (to Pākehā) a commitment to mana wāhine.

Te Ao Māori is the worldview of Māori and until Pākehā bother themselves with its complexity they ought not to comment on it from a position which can only be construed as ignorance.

Leonie Pihama is representing a view of mana wāhine located in her position as a Māori academic advancing a theoretical framework which may or may not have relevance to other wāhine out there.

LudditeJourno said...

Hi Adele, fair cop I'm a Pakeha making a judgment call here, absolutely embedded in colonial history. Hence my acknowledging the world views difference - and I also acknowledge I'm waaaay not doing credit to those world view differences in this piece of writing. But I'm standing by commenting on the absence of Mana Wahine policy for these two parties. And I'd love to read a better informed and more nuanced piece of writing on whether theoretical pieces like Leonie Pihama's can become part of practise, if you can point me there.
Thanks, LJ

Bliss said...

Being a Pākehā male I cannot resist....

You are perpetuating a colonial and imperialist mindset when you say Māori ought to be doing this or that to demonstrate (to Pākehā) a commitment to mana wāhine.

Actually the comments were from a proud and respectable tradition of feminist resistance to the patriarchal tendencies in our society, as far as I can tell.

This is a pan cultural tradition and concentrates on women, (and in more recent times on gender issues).

Whilst Māori woman have to deal themselves with their own issues (as do we Pākehā men deal with ours) there is much benefit to Māori woman in support/comment from women of other cultures. And vice-verse.

peace
W

Tamara said...

Thanks LJ. Helped confirm my decision.

Marian said...

What about MANA and New Zealand First? I'm weighing up whether to give one of them my party vote. Watched Winston Peters here and even though he looks slightly out of it and still manages to get up my nose, some of what he says seems OK to me, and as I get older I'm happy to have someone talking with enthusiasm for the elderly http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/video.cfm?c_id=1&gal_cid=1&gallery_id=122726. As for MANA, Sue Bradford and Annette Sykes would be strong advocates for women I think.

Marama Davidson (Ngapuhi/Te Rarawa/Ngati Porou) said...

Kia ora - I appreciate your analysis even though I acknowledge you are coming from your own non-Maori perspective. I think it's important that you at least claim that identity, and then we can take it or leave it. I'm a Maori wahine and the only comment I have, which I have also put up to Mana - is that I would love to see Mana and Maori Party make some explicit comments regarding the voice and position of wahine. Given the generations of our voice and participation in decision making processes being trampled on, even by our own, I would personally like to see a strong statement that acknowledges both the situation up to now and a commitment to seeing that change.

Kelly Buchanan, Alliance Wellington Central said...

The relevant Alliance policies:

http://alliance.org.nz/what-we-stand-for/alliance-policies/alliance-party-womens-rights-policy/

http://alliance.org.nz/what-we-stand-for/alliance-policies/alliance-party-gay-lesbian-bi-sexual-and-transgender-policy/

LudditeJourno said...

Marian - both reviewed above.
Marama - thanks and agree with all the points you make. I think part of the issues around world view here is my initial premise of looking at women's policies in the first instances - hence my looking within social and whanau ora policies for Mana and the Maori Party. I love your suggestion.
Kelly - thank you for the links.

Kay said...

I agree that the typo in Labour's Rainbow Policy is unfortunate. The first sentence should have read "equal rights ... sexual orientation and gender identity and expression". The policy does include reference to transsexual and intersex New Zealanders, and a full commitment to implementing the recommendations of the To Be Who I Am transgender enquiry of the Human Rights Commission.

LudditeJourno said...

Thanks Kay. Agree with you on what the Labour Police covers, but I also think there are multiple opportunities to acknowledge gender identity differing from "acceptable" gender norms in that context which the policy misses.

Martin Gibson said...

As a candidate for United Future I find your statement that our gender policy is "Patriachal" because it proposes winding up the Ministry of Women's affairs and replacing it with a Ministry of Gender Affairs.
At a stretch you could say it moves things in a patriachal direction, which I guess it does, but only in order to move away from a sexist situation where you have a taxpayer-funded lobby group that complains about pay gaps, but not the absence of women in Pike River Mine.
Your suggestion that Annette Sykes embodies Mana Wahine is another example of New Zealand's left trying to pass Marxism off to Maori as tikanga. Annette Sykes embodies the agressive behaviour more typical of badly-expressed male traits, but feminism is not about femininity is it? It would be more accurate to call it femasulinism, because the focus is on competing with men, rather than both sexes working in harmony rather than competition, which is described by the Maori concepts of Mana Tane and Mana Wahine. Feminism is the colonisation that dare not speak its name, and Maori men have suffered from it at least as much as women.
It's time to have an open discussion about this, rather than putting the "Patrichal" stamp of things in the hope it quashes further examination.
I wrote a column about this recently:

http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/opinion/column/?id=25079

LudditeJourno said...

Martin, I think you'll find I'm all about the "further examination". Thank you for engaging here. To further examine:
1. Are you suggesting here that feminism is to blame for gender segregation of paid work? The comment you make about the lack of complaints that women were in Pike Mine suggests that. I think you'll find that feminists have continually pushed for gendered male jobs to be available to women. Resistance to this tends to come from patriarchy, not feminists. Pike Mine was a tragedy for the men killed, and all the people related to them.
What are United Futures plans to change gender segregation in the workplace, and ensure jobs are available to all?
2. I'm curious about your description of Annette Sykes. She does very well in a traditionally male profession (law) because she's incredibly intelligent and not afraid of making difficult arguments well. I don't see those characteristics as always and only male.
3. Your description of "femasulism" (sic) and the comparison to both genders being in harmony - Martin, harmony is when all groups are getting what they want and need. To quote Peter Tosh "no peace without justice". Women and men will not be in harmony while one in three women will experience sexual or domestic violence from a man in her life. Or any one of the other enduring statistics of the gender disharmony patriarchy (and other complex social structures) cause.
4. Feminism and colonisation have absolutely been entwined at times. Just as patriarchy and colonisation have. As a Pakeha feminist I'm interested in talking and working this through with Maori. I know many, many Maori women who feel similarly.
5. Please provide evidence as to why, when family violence in NZ leads to 90% of protection orders going to women; a woman killed by a male partner or ex-partner every 5 weeks; Police, hospital and Refuge stats all pointing to this being predominantly male violence against women - please explain United Futures policy statement, that you will move to ensure policy responses to family violence are gender blind. This makes no sense. I would absolutely support United Future advocating for services for male victims - these are limited at the moment - but on a needs basis. At the moment Refuge cannot house all the women and children who want to use their services. This is not gender symmetry.
Look forward to your responses - as I say, I'm all about the examination.
LJ

Martin Gibson said...

Okay, here are my answers to your questions, right after a disclaimer:
My usual concern about men who criticise feminism is that they are often angry, aggressive, and religious or have reached a point where they feel bitter toward women.
I am none of these. I am happily married with one daughter.
My wife is earns more money than me, so I do more of the housework and a proportionate share of caring for our child. In criticising feminism I am not saying we should withdraw their right to vote.
My concerns about the impact feminism is having on New Zealand is not so much about its impact on men as on my female friends from school.
I am 39 and so we were born at the high tide of “all men are rapists” and “girls can do anything”. Many of them have chased the careers and empowering casual sex and now wish they had gotten married in their mid-20s and worked a little more in harmony with their fertility.
Most are surprised to hear about feminisms roots in Marxism and Gloria Steinem’s connections with the CIA and financial elite. The Rockefeller family poured a lot of money into feminist causes, and David Rockefeller has been quoted as saying they did it “because it’s not good business for only half the population to pay income tax”.
I am not interested in pushing one side or the other, but more in considering what might make the best situation for the most people.

1. Are you suggesting here that feminism is to blame for gender segregation of paid work?
A: Not at all – the point I was making was that the quest to end sexism currently seems one-sided. We don’t hear the Ministry of Women’s affairs voicing concern that 50 percent more women graduate from tertiary organisations in New Zealand than men, but this is a sign something is going wrong for our boys.
I don’t think United Future has any policy to ensure that “jobs are available to all” because we avoid reflexive calls for legislation. I would say the existing legislation would give any women who felt they had been discriminated against a forum to be heard, and as they always do, these pioneers will pave the way for others
I read of a study of women in the US military that found among other things that a quarter of female marines could not throw a hand grenade far enough to be out of its lethal range. The role of stretcher bearer is now designated four staff per casualty also.
It’s important to remember how far we have come, and perhaps take a leaf out of David Lange’s book and “pause for a cup of tea to pick up the stragglers” and run some of the gender politics through the sieve of common sense and the realities of biology.

2. I'm curious about your description of Annette Sykes. She does very well in a traditionally male profession (law) because she's incredibly intelligent and not afraid of making difficult arguments well. I don't see those characteristics as always and only male.
A: The point I was making was that while you might describe her as a “wahine toa”, she does not necessarily embody “mana wahine”, which is more about femininity and the characteristics traditionally associated with women that work in harmony with the corresponding male characteristics. She does well in a male environment because she channels a lot of male characteristics (femasculinism). I heard her proposals on tax on Friday night, and they did not sound incredibly intelligent; they sounded a lot like communism and would cause a flight of capital and talent from New Zealand.

(Out of space)

Martin Gibson said...

continued:
3. Your description of "femasulism" (sic) and the comparison to both genders being in harmony - Martin, harmony is when all groups are getting what they want and need. To quote Peter Tosh "no peace without justice".
A: Yes I’m aware there were a couple of typos in my original post, I suffered from a little premature publication there.
There is no justice where there is assumption of guilt either. I have spoken to many men who had been violent to their partners, and the situations were always complex. Childhood sibling rivalry aside, I have never been violent but I have had a girlfriend whose script called for a violent man, and although I sympathised with her when I heard her partner had been violent to her, I could picture how it went down.
Most couples live for the most part in harmony, so it is incorrect to say men and women will not be in harmony while there is domestic violence – we just need to extend the harmony.
In terms of the stats, we all know there are lies damn lies and statistics.
I read an interesting book about covert male depression, and the author pointed out that men tend to project covert depression outward, while women tend to internalise it.
When you compare male and female imprisonment men are much higher. When you add up female anorexia and self-harm to the imprisonment rate, the numbers are about equal.
I’m sure if you weighted the income imbalance to the women who would respond yes to the question: “Would you like your husband to earn 50% more than you?” you might find it told a different story. (see below for more on the pay gap)

4. Feminism and colonisation have absolutely been entwined at times. Just as patriarchy and colonisation have. As a Pakeha feminist I'm interested in talking and working this through with Maori. I know many, many Maori women who feel similarly.
A: Why don’t you have a chat to some Maori men? You can only learn so much looking into your proverbial hand mirror.
If you can get more Maori men coming home with food for their families, if they feel connected and valued in their various roles, they are far less likely to be violent.
Before you aim to destroy the patriarchy perhaps you should consider what women and men both like about it. Even if some feminists don’t, there’s no need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

5. Please provide evidence as to why, when family violence in NZ leads to 90% of protection orders going to women; a woman killed by a male partner or ex-partner every 5 weeks; Police, hospital and Refuge stats all pointing to this being predominantly male violence against women.
A: Once again those statistics seem to paint a clear-cut picture but hide something more complex.
I recently completed a one-week Child Matters child safety course, and learned that while men are more likely to kill a child, women abuse them in far higher numbers.
My father is a GP and often remarked that Maori men usually learned that the bigger stronger person gets their way through violence at the hands of their mother.
That is why I get a bit impatient with the whole White Ribbon: “Show you’re against violence to women” thing: I say: show you’re against violence to everyone!
Re United Future policy: we tend to look at things on the basis of whether they make NZ the best country in the world to live work and raise a family, and whether they embody common sense.
Here in Gisborne the men’s centre is administered through Women’s Refuge, because they have the budget. That doesn’t strike me as being common sense.

LudditeJourno said...

Hi Martin, thanks for your detailed response and appreciate that we are coming from very, very different world views. Which is beyond the scope of this post, in my opinion, to explore further here much though I am itching to.
I think you've given a comprehensive explanation and context for United Future's views on the family and gender, which should allow people to make their own minds up about whether to vote for you on the basis of gender equity.
The Patriarchal rating stays.
Thanks, LJ