Sunday, 20 November 2011

In solidarity with Russel Norman's EA*

Russel Norman's decision to stand down his EA because of the actions of her partner is a feminist issue. I'm going to leave alone why the Greens thought it appropriate to condemn putting stickers on National party billboards (although it doesn't look good for principled left-wing green voters).** But why is his EA even part of the discussion?

Russel Norman decided to go public with the fact that his EA was in a relationship with Jolyon White. He then decided to use the power he has because she works for him to stand her down (I know that he is not her direct employer but Parliamentary Services are pretty responsive to MPs wishes).

From an employment perspective this is creepy enough - she is being stood down because she didn't tell her boss something her partner said months ago and instead made it clear to her partner that she didn't want anything to do with his actions. This is a pretty horrific view of employment and the right bosses have over their employees lives. A view Russel Norman endorsed.

But there is an important gendered to this. Russel Norman's action reinforces a world-view that defines women in relationships with men through their partners' beliefs and actions and therefore denies their autonomy and even existence. People have condemned Julie's writing on the hand mirror and tried to silence her, because of who her partner is. This discriminatory way of treating of women in relationships with men is systemic. Men are not treated this way, and are not defined by the actions of their partners. Russel Norman has endorsed this double standard by the way he has treated his EA.

Although this is far from the only feminist reason not to vote for any party which has Russell Norman at number 2 on its list. This was, after all, his assessment of Clint Rickards:
I don’t see that being involved in consenting group sex is any reason for him not to go back to work. And people use sex aids so using a police baton in a consenting situation doesn’t seem grounds for refusing him his job back.

Something to think about in the polling booth.

* Obviously this construction of her identity is problematic. However, I decided since I didn't think her identity should be public in this way I didn't feel comfortable putting yet another hit into google about who she was.
** I find the idea that political parties should be able to put up their truly inane hoardings in publicly owned space, but it is morally wrong to talk back to those hoardings, no matter what you are saying, a really depressing view of political dialogue.


big news said...

totally disagree. My understanding is that this EA resigned from Parliamentary Services last week. I guess her partner had nothing to do with that decision to resign.

peter w said...

I found this post very good and it touches on a problem that is commom amd widespread, being tainted or judged guilty by association for your partners actions.

And Russell Norman creeped me out with his Rickards comments, he sounded like a versed rape apologist or even a defense lawyer.

I was going to vote greens figuring they were the best of a bad bunch, maybe they still are but now even a vote for them feels bad.

Dave said...

The EA should be sacked, she knew of her partners plans, she should have known it would look bad for her employer, and she did nothing. Doing nothing in this situation is the same as condoning her partners actions.
You place certain restrictions & obligations on your self when you take any executive type job with a political party. She had an obligation to inform Russell Norman of her partners plans, end of story.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post and I have seen many examples where people are unjustly punished due to association only but I think in this case the EA had a duty to disclose to Dr Norman what she knew. Doing and saying nothing once you know implies tacit support for the actions of her partner.

Keir said...

Norman had to do this, because she knew, and she chose not to tell Norman as part of a deliberate firewalling strategy. If Norman doesn't act against people who do this, it looks like tacit endorsement.

So I don't think it has to do with any feminist principle; if it had been the EA's best mate & the EA had said they knew, I think much the same would have happened.

Peter Martin said...

Why don't you email Norman and ask him if the course of action was taken because of what the Green Party wasn't told...or because the EA was female?
Or would that be too easy?

Natalie said...

I totally agree with this post, it's not as if the actions of the EA's partner were anything to do with her or with the Green party, so why did Russell even feel the need to get involved? If a member of the Labour party's little brother's girlfriend's cousin was involved and they knew about it, would Labour sack that person? Who you associate with doesn't make you guilty of anything, so this post is correct - our opinions and actions can be completely separate from those of our partners, it's not our responsibility to moderate them, and we shouldn't be punished for them.


David S. said...

That quote from Norman at the bottom is truely terrible given the context of the Rickard case, but I think he acted correctly here. A person's right to freedom of speech ends when they interfere with another person's right to freedom of speech.

Although I agree with the message behind those stickers they should have found another way to present it. National have every right to present their message however vacuous it might be.

National have more resources than most when it comes to presenting their message but we're not talking about a medium which others do not have access to, there was no reason to "balance the scales" through this kind of activism.

Considering this EA confessed to having known about this months in advance I think it was a fair decision to stand her down on full pay pending an investigation. As far as the feminist angle is concerned, if she had been a he I would have expected the same decision, and if it wasn't made I would want to know why.

I do not deny that, "a world-view (exists) that defines women in relationships with men through their partners' beliefs and actions and therefore denies their autonomy and even existence.". But if this action reinforces that view, that does not alter the principle's on which it is based, it only invites a further discussion away from these events.

gazzamuso said...

First of all, his EA was well aware of the plans and should have informed Russell immediately. The vandalism was illegal and should be treated as such. Second, I don't see it as a feminist issue at all because I can guarantee that if Russel's EA was male and that EA's female partner co-ordinated the exact same attack, this blog post would not exist.

Maia said...

To all those who are saying it had nothing to do with gender - can you remember a similar political example of a man being punished for what his partner knew or did. Because I can think of several others in recent New Zealand history - that woman from a government department whose husband was involved in National (she says very vaguely - but I assume you remember who I mean). As well as the difference between John Pagani/Julie difference in treatment, which is part of hte same phenonmenon.

A lot of people here seem to believe that employers do own people's private lives and that one has a responsibility to tell your employer about your partner's actions. I find that terrifying. It seems particularly egregious in this case, where what is in public evidence is that she heard that they were planning something and said "I don't want to be involved or no anything about it." I think people particularly gazzamuso are prescribing a level of knowledge of specifics and plans without evidence.

Dave - the idea that doing nothing is condoning your partner's actions is nonsense. People's partners do things they don't approve of all the time - because people in relationships are separate autonomous people. The idea that because you know what your partner is planning to do you condone it is singularly ridiculous statement - and neither society nor relationships could function it people actually acted on it.

big news - Do you have any evidence for that, since it's not my understanding.

peter w said...

I find it visual vandalism to have to see right honorable liars and wannabes plastered all over the place.

I find them improved and much better to look at when a bit of thoughtful vandalism is carried out.

I would say there needs to be more of it, its a form of the public sending messages back to our dear leaders.

And For Norman to bring up police batons in the same sentence as 'sex toys' in light of what we all know is rather sick.

If the police had brought a 'conspiracy case' against Rickards and his pack raping police mates, ie; they were conspiring to profile certain types of woman and then sexually abuse/rape them,then none of those pricks would have beaten the baton charges, rickards would have been locked up and Norman could have saved himself from looking like a rape apologist.

Soft prosecution I thought .....

Now Im off to vandalise some politicians precious sign ... they'll look much better when Im finished

Anonymous said...

Green candidate Max Dillon-Coyle was ousted from standing in the Hamilton electorate because of his girlfriend's actions.


Not an issue for games said...

Framing this as a feminist issue is disingenuous, offensive and unnecessarily polarising. Including, with minimal context, comments Russel Norman made years prior to support your character assassination is Machiavellian. And using Anne's situation to further your agenda is repulsive.

I can't decide whether your diatribe reads more like a Labour Party attack on the Greens or the simple musings of a desperate man hater.

Natalie said...

If you read Russel's original blog post it does also say this:

[ADDENDUM - I should add, in light of the useful discussion below, that I agree that the power imbalance between a group of older male police officers and a 16 year old vulnerable young woman is such that what appears to have taken place (without knowing all the detail) was an abuse of a position of power. And while it may not have been illegal, it is not the kind of behaviour that is acceptable from a police officer. Police must meet a higher standard of behaviour because of their positions of power. But the problem isn't that they engaged in group sex, the problem is that they abused their positions of power to get something they wanted from someone in a vulnerable position. My original comment above about group sex was in response to my perception that a lot of the reaction to the case was of a conservative moralistic nature about group sex rather than about an abuse of power.]

Maybe not in this situation but what's wrong with a woman participating in consensual group sex? Just cause you like it vanilla :P

Maia said...

A reminder to anonymous comments that you must adopt a consistent handle. Any future

Anonymous - Max Coyle was stepped down because it was believed that women can't have independent views from their partners, and therefore either he or his partner should have disclosed her identity. It's the same situation as Julie's and the EA in this case, and reinforces the dynamic I'm talking about not contradictory.

Natalie - What I object to is a third party describing group-sex as consenting, when the vulnerable person involved has repeatedly said that it was not. To state that Clint Rickards had consenting sex with Louise Nicholas is a political statement - one that I find abhorrent.

I understand that he doesn't have the same freedom as me to say "Clint Rickards is a rapist". But he could have said "legally we have to treat the group sex as consenting because of the decision of the courts...."

I find the way you ignore Louise Nicholas's quite horrific.

"I can't decide whether your diatribe reads more like a Labour Party attack on the Greens or the simple musings of a desperate man hater."

If it helps, I'm definitely more a man-hater than the supporter of the Green part. But in fact I just hate men who treat women with contempt.

Aaryn said...

Wow and I thought John Key drew a long bow last week with his taping could effect suicide claim. You've out done him on this one.

The EAs gender obviously has nothing to do with this. Russel's assistant didn't tell him that her partner was planning to deface billboards during an election campaign. Please, there are so many issues around equality we do need to stand up to like the media portrayal of women and unequal pay rates without having to manufacture false issues.

Tasha said...

Interesting post, I've seen some of the news coverage and have found this odd. I haven't had much time to really read in depth on it.
Interesting comments section - I somewhat agree that the EA should have mentioned this however it sounds like a "Months ago in passing" conversation not a "I saw him actively planning and leaving the house dressed in black"
Which is exactly why she didn't mention it until after as she wasn't sure he would even do it. Surely if she was "firewalling" (as Keir suggested) she wouldn't have mentioned it at all?
Granted I haven't read everything but it sounds more like she got punished for dobbing him in which is ridiculous in a whole bunch of ways.

Thrasher said...


With all due respect you are shifting the goalposts

You asked "can you remember a similar political example of a man being punished for what his partner knew or did."

An example was provided.

You claimed it doesn't count because "Max Coyle was stepped down because it was believed that women can't have independent views from their partners"

Could be, but you simply asked for an example where a man was punished for what his partner did.

If you meant an example where a man was punished for what his partner did because of an assumption that his views were subordinate to hers then you should have said so initially.

Don't blame people for answering the questions you ask, not some other question.

Jack said...

@Maia you say you hate men who treat women with contempt. So do I. But if you knew Russel Norman, then you would know that he doesn't treat women in contempt. Not in any way. This is a character assassination with no substance.

The same would have happened if his EA was male and knew about his partners illegal actions in an election campaign.

Maia said...

Thrasher - I researched the event and he does not seem to have been stood down for what she did, but what he did (ie the claim appears to be that he introduced her to the media as an independent without describing the relationship). People are claiming that what happened is not gendered, but even the counter example reinforces the idea that women are adjunts of their partner and not the other way round. It's all very well to say that a man would have been treated the same, but there are no examples of that and we do have examples of the male spouse of a female candidate being treated very differently from the female spouse of a male candidate with John Pagani and Julie.

Jack - I don't actually hate Russel Norman, or know if he always treats women with contempt - I was just playing on the amusing idea that I was either a man-hater or a Labour apologist. But I do know that he treated Louise Nicholas with contempt with that blog post and he has treated his EA with contempt over this matter.

Thrasher said...

"(ie the claim appears to be that he introduced her to the media as an independent without describing the relationship)."

And the claim was quite clear that she had no idea she was being presented inappropriately?

peter w said...

Russell Norman assassinated his own character with his own mouth/comments.

By christ when I look at norman I just feel so sad that Rod Donald died ......