Sunday, 27 November 2011

Reasons to be cheerful

I'm not feeling particularly cheerful tonight.

This parliament will be the first parliament for 12 years that does not have a majority for abortion law reform.  There was never a majority to talk about abortion, or to have the debate, but there has been a majority that would support abortion law if they had to vote.  That majority almost certainly no longer exists, thanks to the mob Winston Peters brought in, and the high vote for National.  Important abortion rights advocates in the Labour party are gone: Steve Chadwick, Carol Beaumont and Carmel Sepoluni (although there is a small chance of either, but not both, of the last two getting in on the specials).  While we can expect some turn-over and some of them to get back in this term, it won't change the fundamental maths and ability to add up to 61.

While high National polling was inevitable, and under 48% is actually much less worse than it could be, the results themselves are pretty dire.  My main hope for the evening was that both John Banks and Peter Dunne would lose their seat, that they didn't bring any cronies with them is not a particularly big silver lining.  I did idly think "well it'd be funny if NZFirst got back in" in the last few days - I didn't mean it! That's all bad news.  I'm not sad about Labour's collapse or glad about the Greens rise - apart from how it effects abortion politics.  I would have liked to see Annette Sykes in there - although I'm sure she'll just as useful work from where she is now.

I find the rise of the Conservative party pretty depressing - a sign that money can buy your votes.  But also everything felt reactionary last night - and the news that almost 3% of people want National to be more reactionary than they are - is pretty depressing.

The coverage was also pretty reactionary. TVOne's election coverage was so bad that I considered advocating a shift to TV3 - where Paul Henry, John Tamihere, Chris Trotter and Rodney Hide waited for us.  It was wall to wall bloke, bloke, bloke bloke, matey, bloke.  Which was only emphasised when they brought on Jacinda Arden and Nikkie Kaye and talked about their looks, or had Petra Bagust circulating round a party. On top of that with Willie Jackson on TVOne, John Tamihere on TV3 and Derek Fox on Maori TV each channel had its own Clint Rickards apologist.  I'm not surprised by the male centred nature of this coverage, but the programmers should be ashamed.  

Having said that there are always some reasons to be cheerful.  

  • MMP is looking pretty safe.
  • Turn-out was low.  I find knowing that 35% of eligible voters voted National much more reassuring than the near 50% you hear in the news.  
  • National actually lost 100,000 votes over the last three years (Labour lost 200,000)
  • Don Brash is resigning his farcical time as ACT leader.
  • Paul "the most important thing to me that people in prison can't vote" Quinn is out of parliament, at least for now.
  • Paula Bennett may yet lose Waitakere - that would be a thing of beauty.
  • There are some strong advocates for abortion rights within the Green caucus.
  • Mojo Mathers should get in on the Specials.  Having a deaf MP should have some pretty awesome flow-on effects when it comes to accessibility and entrenching NZ Sign as an official language.
  • Kelly Buchanan got 36 votes - so my friend should have had a pretty good night.

There's a more fundamental reason to be cheerful - and I'll expand on this tomorrow - we don't have to accept the world the politicians want to make.  If voting is the most important political act you do, then election night is always going to be depressing.  But if you dream of a world that is better, then there are going to plenty of opportunities to help make it over the next three years.  After all the biggest steps towards women's liberation in this country were made under right-wing Male Chauvanist Piggy Muldoon.  


Carol said...

I agree with your last paragraph.

However, I'm worried for our future under a nother term of a National government. Neverthelesss,I feel a Labour led government would not have had an easy time in these globally turbulent times.

I have felt during the last 6 months that a new left wing grass-roots movement is building - it can be seen with the Occupy movement, and the narratives being developed by the Labour, Green and Mana parties.

The mainstream media is pretty much captive to corporate and masculine-dominated interests. I think the next few years on the streets and cyber-ways will be very productive for the left and for feminists & LGBT people.

A word of caution, though, with respect to what happened after Muldoon's time. The neoliberal ideologues were able to drive a wedge beteen class and (so-called) "identity" politics. The neoliberals were by and large OK with a narrow version of feminism and LGBT issues, as long as it didn't interfer with their economic programme.

I think we need a broad inclusive movement - not all in agreement under some party line - but a loose network of different kinds of campaigns and activism that agree on some central themes and aims, and agree to disagree on some other things.

While I'm worried, I'm also curiously quite energised when I think of future directions.

LadyNews said...

Glad I wasn't the only one disappointed over the sheer volume of male commentators and dearth of female commentators. At the election party I was at we were half-heartedly playing a drinking game, and early on I seriously considered adding "Drain the whole punch bowl if a female commentator shows up" to the list of rules.

Bea said...

You mentioned the fluffy Petra Bagust. You didn't mention the analysts Linda Clarke or Theresa Arsenau. Perhaps some of the issue is that you don't notice the really useful commentators when they're female?

Maia said...

As I mentioned the combination of Paul Henry, Rodney Hide, Chris Trotter and John Tamihere made TV3 so repellent that I never saw any of Linda Clark and Theresa Arsenau. They weren't just outnumbered significantly by men, they were outnumbered by Male Chauvanist Pigs (I'm feeling retro today).

I have also heard that Sandra Lee was good (on another male dominated show), but we don't get Maori TV.

All coverage was male dominated (and each channel made sure they had the Clint Rickards apologist demographic covered). However, I can only speak of the tokenistic role of women on the channel I watched.

Maia said...

Thanks Carol - I agree that there does seem to be some kind of organsing and movement that is really exciting, and that's what we need to focus.

I'm not sure I agree with you on the wedge analysis. After all before they agreed on neo-liberal policies David Lange and Bill Birch agree on restricting abortion law.And there was plenty of feminist opposition to neo-liberalism. But my brain is not up to arguments about the 1980s right now.

Carol said...

I was in London in the late 70s through to the mid 90s. My preception was that there was plenty of opposition to neoliberalism within the women's movement and a large section of the left voting public. However, neoliberal commentators, polticians and corporate marketers picked up on the populist surface of feminism and peddled it to the broader community. This ultimately undermined the feminist movement.

This has also, in the long term, created some divisions within the left.

Maia said...

Carol - I broadly agree with that. I guess I'm a bit sensitive about this because I think it's important to unpick the various planks of nonsense that people like Chris Trotter use to build their Waitakere man.

I don't think there's anything any movement can do if it's successful to avoid have some of its ideas co-opted. After all John Key's government will meet some of the demands of the communist manifesto.

If a wedge was driven between class-based politics and politics based on say gender or sexuality based on the fact that the ruling class took some of the trappings of feminism and said "ooh look a woman PM" (and in Britain I thought the opposite was true with the mining strike driving gay and lesiban liberation groups and women's liberation groups into the arms) then that's not actually something feminists can do anything about except continue to oppose those ideas, which they were doing anyway.

I guess I think that sometimes misogynist supposed leftists, used the co-option of some of the rhetoric of feminism to discredit women's liberation. When they'd never taken those ideas seriously to start with.

I think as long as we make it clear that our vision of feminism is different from Judith Collins or Paula Bennett then we're doing our job.

Sorry that's a little incoherent and ranty - my brain is not in full functioning today.

Carol said...

I totally agree with your last comment, Maia.

Yes, the miners' strike was an example where diverse groups joined together. I remember it well. I taught in a school with largely women teachers. I was Out there. We did a female staff visit to a Greenham Common demo on one occasion, and my (then) g/f came with us.

We also had miners come to talk to staff, and following that, had an on-going collection of materials for the strikers.

The staff also went on several demonstrations against Thatcher's education policies, and some parents of the school's children joined us.

It was a worrying time politically, but also vibrant in terms of collective political action. We need such action now.

The co-option of a narrowed, consumerist-friendly feminism by neoliberalism came a few years later. It was a way of making free-market consumer culture appealing to liberal urban middleclasess, where feminism had become accepted. For many it became an aspirational, middleclass girl-power thing, separated from any notion of class struggle.

Tamara said...

In relation to the election TV coverage, I elected to watch TV3 over TV1 since the latter had women commentators. I felt that this outweighed the awfulness of Paul Henry et al in this instance. Arsenau and Clarke were pretty impressive and contributed a lot more than most of the male commentators. Henry in particular might as well not have been there at all.