Monday, 28 November 2011

yes, i am the right person

in a post on my blog, i wrote some tales from my experiences as a sign-waver. i had another go on friday, waving labour signs in the morning and MMP signs in the afternoon. the morning session was great, but the afternoon one not so much.

we were at the corner of morrinsville rd & cambridge rd in hamilton, known by the burger king right on the corner and the big new world store behind that. i got quite a bit of positive support and of course, a few negative ones. mostly the negative stuff doesn't bother me. people have a right to express their dissension to a political statement after all. and if their expression of dissent involves a raised finger or a "f**k MMP", then so be it.

but i really did mind the middle-aged white male who yelled at me "are you the right person to be holding that?". the tone was offensive, but the implication much more so. he questioned my right to be holding an MMP sign on the basis of what? he doesn't know me from a bar of soap, so he was making that judgement solely on my physical appearance.

so basically, he's saying that because i'm a brown muslim woman, i don't have the right to express a political view on the electoral system of this country. that right is apparently to be restricted to people who look and sound like him. i didn't give him the response he deserved, but instead yelled out "absolutely! and we're going to win. have a nice weekend!"

i had a few other negative reactions but not too many. not surprising given the majority of people support MMP. but this is what i noticed. when i started the sign waving, there was an older white woman on the other side of the road, also waving an MMP sign. she left about 20 minutes before i did, and there was a noticeable increase in negative comments/reactions after she left.

this is something i'm having real difficulty in dealing with. and it manifests itself in so many small ways, a lot of which i can't speak about publicly. (well, i could but i'm not prepared to deal with the consequences or in some cases to breach confidentiality.) but they add up to a feeling of being unwanted, of not belonging. and i just can't pretend that it doesn't hurt. it does hurt, terribly.

even though i know that the majority don't feel this way. even though i know that the positive responses far outweighed the negative ones. knowing the logic of a situation doesn't always help.

here's something else. by far, the majority of negative responses were by white males, and they were generally in nice vehicles. this is no doubt because of the types of issues i've been advocating. MMP is something that benefits minority communities so they are less likely to respond negatively to it. labour policy is more likely to appeal to the less affluent. so it's probably no surprise that the pierced, the tatooed, the drivers of older & poorer looking cars, & even young brown males were giving me some pretty positive responses or no response at all.

so it wouldn't be fair to say that the more affluent people are, the less manners they tend to show. but it certainly did feel that way. maybe i should have tried waving paul goldsmith signs in the epsom electorate to see if i got a different reaction. or nz first signs in tauranga - actually, that sounds like a hilarious experiment which i could try in a year when they really look certain to lose.

i do want to reiterate what i said on my own blog: this stuff isn't going to stop me from participating in visible political activities. if anything, it shows that i need to be doing more of it, not less. the only problem is that it somehow is a huge drain on my energy. even though i try to not let it affect me, it does. there's only so much mental fortitude i can draw on.


Stuart Bast Baker said...

Some people are dicks. I'm a white male, from a relatively well off background - and the types of comments as you've described appall me.
Good on you for reacting positively and politely. Supporting a proportionate system, and doing it despite intolerant reactions, is the right thing to do - hopefully the majority of people realise that, and smile when they see you waving those billboards.

Richard Watts said...

It shows that yes you were the right person holding the sign.

anarkaytie said...

Hi stargazer,

having spent some of my childhood in the Waikato, I can say I'm not totally surprised that the racism I heard in the 70's is still going strong, and still wrong.

You are definitely the right person to be campaigning for a more representative system of voting, which gives all voices in our community a say in how our country develops, a say in how we legislate for the good of all who live in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

stargazer said...

thank you all so much for your support. actually have tears in my eyes as i write this. i guess i didn't realise just how badly this has affected me.

Foggy in Nelson said...

hugs. agree with Richard - you were absolutely the right person to be holding the sign. I wish you were in Parliament...

KimV said...

Good for you! I'm glad you're choosing to continue.

ewsm said...

as a woman I know how it feels to be sidelined so I can have some empathy with you

you are absolutely the right person, ANY person in NZ is the right person

it is hugely unfortunate that white males don't realise their position is privileged. how they cannot see that they have a privileged position when they dominate every sector of society which holds power and makes decisions is incomprehensible. that they can be rude and dismissive to women and minorities is worse.

I'm sorry you had to tolerate such rudeness. know that whenever you do, there are many other people supporting you. we just may not be there at the right time.

stargazer said...

thanx foggy, kimv & ewsm. really appreciate your support.

i just want to point out that i don't want to stereotype all white men here. there are plenty who i've found to be supportive and understanding in the various organisations i work with. but yes, there are a certain number of them who don't understand their privilege, and this particular one who really didn't care about the hurt he was causing.