Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

It’s literally the second day we’ve had a woman as a leader of one of our two largest parties again, and already people are trying to metaphorically get their noses up into her womb, and the usual brigade won’t stop talking about her age.

So, let’s make some things clear. We, the voters of New Zealand, are on a very real and not-so-metaphorical level Jacinda Ardern’s employers. That means we have all the responsibilities that entails as well as the rights.

If an employer in any way implied that your family status had a direct impact on your status in your job, you would absolutely have a discrimination case against them, even if you weren’t a woman. If they tried to imply your age was relevant to your qualification in an interview, that would also be a huge problem for them. While nobody can police you in the ballot box for voting that way, if you genuinely want MPs to act more like they’re employed by the public, (which they are) then we have to accept that there are certain debates the public doesn’t get to have about MPs, or even coalition leaders, and that we should do our best to ignore those factors in our votes. I know for a fact that some of the people expressing sexist opinions about how Ms Ardern’s age disqualifies her or how we supposedly have a right to know whether she plans to start a family while Labour Leader are equally as keen on being allowed to fire MPs like Todd Barclay or Metiria Turei. They certainly can’t have things both ways.

When do Jacinda Ardern’s family plans become our business? Like any employer, when she actually is pregnant and needs to plan how to reconcile that with her job. Until then, we don’t actually have a right to know- it’s up to her how much she chooses to share, and anyone who asks outside of a personal capacity is being incredibly rude. (And honestly, it’s a bit of a minefield to ask that sort of question even in a personal capacity when they haven’t already made their general opinions clear to you)

When does her age become relevant? It doesn’t, at least not until she’s literally old enough that we might legitimately worry about her health not being up to the challenge of being a leader, which frankly, is unlikely to happen before her political career ends, and New Zealand politics has largely avoided the issues that say, American politics has with people running at older and older ages, so as long as that trend continues, age itself should be an irrelevancy. We can discuss her temperament, and we can discuss her experience, but assuming those directly from her age is unfair.

I won’t ask people whether they’d ask these questions of a man, because honestly, we’ve had a man with a pretty large family as Prime Minister for a few months now (and yes, Bill English has from time to time taken time off from votes or responsibilities to see his family. And that’s actually okay, so long as he’s delegated responsibilities appropriately and is still actually keeping up with his job, which there’s no indication he isn’t) and it hasn’t come up, so anyone who says they would is lying, either to you or to themselves.

If we can simply assume that a man with a large family can do the job, then we should be willing to give the same trust and leeway to a woman that might potentially want to start a hypothetical family. If we can simply assume that some of the older MPs we’ve had in leadership positions are up to the job without having dumb discussions about non-existent health concerns, then we can simply evaluate a younger MP on her experience and leave her age out of it. It’s not too much to ask of us to be good employers.

And honestly, the more people use these things as criticism against Ms Ardern, the more strident support she’s going to get from liberal voters who are tired of this whole ridiculous song and dance, and there’s really no good evidence it’s going to be very convincing to swing voters.


So, Labour’s list is out. You can see bios for the most electable candidates at Labour’s website, although it hasn’t yet been updated for list-only candidates*. (update: you can find Labour’s article on their list here)

If you haven’t been following the news, you will note that in addition to the expected absense of Annette King after she decided to step aside next election in favour of Jacinda Ardern for deputy and Paul Eagle in her electorate, Sue Moroney is now gone too. This is a big loss for Labour, as she has been a champion for working women, making excellent strides with paid parental leave in Parliament, and it looks like they’ve naively looked at the party vote in her electorate and decided she’s a drag as a candidate, when I think it’s likely she just suffered from a tide towards national in the election, and deserved an electable list position. I expect if she hadn’t resigned, this means the highest she would have ranked would be the early 30s, and to be honest, that’s a very unfair ranking when compared to some of the performances of MPs who were ranked significantly higher, such as Stuart Nash, Clare Curran, Ruth Dyson, or Jenny Salesa. Appeal to the electorate can’t be the only consideration when ranking list MPs, there also has to be some concession to how effective they were at pushing key legislation and their performance in the house. Moroney should have ranked very highly on those two issues among sitting Labour MPs, and certainly among those who aren’t currently on the front bench, and probably deserved a ranking nearby Ruth Dyson and Jenny Salesa.

I’m honestly not as interested in the story about what caused the delay in releasing the list, and whether Little was trying to bump Willie Jackson up the ranks, as in all practical terms, he’s in a fairly electable position. If Labour polls below 30%, Jackson certainly hasn’t earned his spot in Parliament back, and being possibly the lowest-ranked list MP for Labour in 2017 will give everyone who wants him in the party a huge incentive to campaign hard for the Party Vote to make sure his position is secure. I think that’s win-win, and even if he’s disappointed, I think he’s done pretty well out of the list selection, to be honest, with some more talented newer political blood ranking lower than him. (Willie Jackson might be new to the Labour Party, but he was also the deputy leader of the Alliance back during the Clark era, so he’s old blood in the same sense as Laila Harré is. And we’ll all note that she, while far more qualified to be an MP than Jackson, has not had anyone advocating to get her an electable position in the Labour Party)

I’ve gone through and assigned each candidate to their electorate where I could find public comfirmation of their selection, and recorded which electorates Labour won in 2014, then threw in Ōhāriu for good measure, as there’s a real chance Labour could win there, and I have assumed for the primary scenario that Kelvin Davis will win again in Te Tai Tokerau. Neither of those are really guaranteed, but they are likely enough that Labour should be banking on them happening when it selects its list. (arguably, it should also be considering its candidates for Hamilton East and Hamilton West in terms of gender balance too, as most governments win at least 1 of the Hamilton seats, if not both of them) I’ve then calculated the effective list position for the remaining candidates, and compared it with the current average of recent Labour polling performances, which would net them 36 seats.

In that first scenario, where the two competitive races against minor parties go Labour’s way, they would end up with 20 male MPs, and 16 female MPs. Each of those two races would return a female list MP instead if Labour lost, assuming the minor party Labour lost to didn’t take a seat off them, which is a reasonably safe assumption given the polling of both United Future and Mana, so if Labour loses both Te Tai Tokerau and Ōhāriu and maintains its current polling into the election, its caucus will be gender-balanced for the first time ever.

According to its own regulations, Labour should be selecting its list so that women are expected to win at least 50% of its seats. This so-called “man ban” has not eventuated, as Labour will be assuming they’ll win both those key electorates, which means they need to make up four women in the party vote from current polling. The earliest they could do this would be to win exactly another 15 seats, (ie. 51 total, enough that they could govern with just the Greens in their coalition) which would require roughly a 41.5% Party Vote for Labour, assuming all of the votes were gained off National. That’s a 12% bump from current polling, something which would basically require Bill English to completely gaffe up the campaign, like claiming the Labour Party aren’t mainstream enough, or undermining our nuclear free-status, or simply being as racist as he was last time he was National Leader. Labour shouldn’t have to rely on National screwing up their campaign to elect enough women to get a reasonably balanced caucus, especially as women are a key constituency for Labour, especially as they are a fair amount of the unionised workforce nowadays.

The Herald seems to have run the same calculation I have to determine list eligibility, as they note that a party vote returning 40 Labour seats, which with current polling is about 33%, (which is about 1% higher than the error bars on their current polling, so a difficult result to get even if Labour is under-polling this election) would be required to elect Mallard as a list MP. This almost has me hoping that we don’t move too far from current polling and end up with a NZ First-Green-Labour government, as I suspect this election would be Mallard’s last if he doesn’t make it in, and Labour desperately needs to shed some of the dead wood that’s still somehow making it into the top 40 list positions.


Take a moment, go view this video, specifically but not exclusively the supplementary questions by Jan Logie, (about 5:35) then come back to this post so you have the background you’ll need.

Done? Thanks. The Ministry of Social Development has made an outrageous decision to hold NGO funding hostage to big data collection. The level of data collection they want might not be a problem for certain NGOs, especially were to compromise and allow an opt-in basis, such as say, ones offering immunisations. But prominent organisations like NZAC1 have expressed that handing over the requested data is a breach of confidentiality and in their view unethical, and Rape Crisis have announced they will boycott government funding if they’re made to disclose any additional data. For context, rape crisis centres are constantly struggling to recieve enough community funding to provide the services they need to even with the government’s help, so this should reinforce that they view this mandatory data-sharing as an existential threat.

As someone who has done data analysis in their work, (I did it even though it wasn’t in my job description, in fact) and who even does it in my spare time to settle matters of debate, I absolutely understand the value of this data to the government, especially in targeting their social assistance dollars more effectively. (because money should be prioritised to places where we can prove it’s effective, for sure) I understand the challenges of incomplete data sets. I also understand the challenges of people misinterpreting what data they need to provide. I will even grant that the people in the government who initially requested this data will want it for nothing other than researching what the most effective types of social spending are, and that they fully intend to be ethical caretakers of people’s private information, and to store it securely.

But none of that makes it a good idea to hold hostage NGO funding to big data. Firstly, there is the obvious issue that services involving counselling or survivors of abusive behaviour absolutely, critically need to be able to provide services on a condition of strict confidentially or even complete anonymity in some cases in order to be able to help people in our society that need it the most.

Not only is it tying the hands of counsellours or volunteers to require them to explain that clients’ data is confidential and private even though it will be provided to MSD, (in addition to being flat out inaccurate- the strict interpretation of confidentiality held to by most such services requires that records be only held in one place, be secured using physical lock-and-key for paper records and encryption for digital ones, and not be shared with anyone else outside of anonymous use in ethical review or in the event that a client is a risk to their own or someone else’s safety) people who have been raped will have difficulty filling out a form identifying themselves when they’re seeking help because they may not be ready to admit what they experienced is real, and writing something down can “make it real.” Jan Logie’s example of men who won’t even give their names is not only accurate but typical of many people seeking support, and not just men. Anyone who accepts this contract is going to be committing to turning away people unable to accept anything less than the strictest confidentiality, or worse, they’re going to entrap themselves into breaching the contract in order to help people.

What adds insult upon insult to this issue, (we’re well past the initial injury if these contracts aren’t amended for services that require confidentiality) is that the government has an expert panel2 helping guide its data strategy that has recommended against precisely this type of mandatory collection in their report3, calling for at least an easily accessible opt-out procedure for all big data collection by Government agencies, so even the proponents of big data don’t want the government to take this approach. Literally the best defense that can be made is that the government is legally allowed to insist that its data collection is more important than anonymity.

If the government wants more data from these services, the most they should reasonably do is require that clients be allowed to opt in to data collection if they’re comfortable with the idea. This allows those receptive to provide a limited data set for analysis, or to ask the questions the government are so keen for their NGO partners to explain, and those not amenable to the idea to dismiss it and still access life-saving services that most likely are incredibly effective uses of funding. If the government can concede that paid leave to deal with the aftermath of domestic violence is effective, they can certainly concede that funding services like Rape Crisis shouldn’t be contingent on mandatory data sharing.


So, I found out recently that someone I used to follow for commentary on politics, a man who aggressively claimed to be a feminist, and a good guy engaged in progressive activism, has in fact been behaving in an emotionally abusive way to women for a long time, including his former employee, who worked for him at a time when I was doing some minor volunteer stuff for his community of activists. (His ex-wife still hosts the podcast they were involved in, Citizen Radio)

His ex-wife has come out publicly and talked about the fact that she’s going to have to cut professional ties with him, and has at least managed to convince him into therapy. I genuinely hope it helps him, and that he can start acting on those principles he claims to have, and make up for some of the harm he’s caused.

Now, obviously it’s not news that sometimes guys who have been terrible to women end up in left-wing circles. There have been abusers of all stripes or degrees in a lot of left-wing activist groups.

I’m glad to say that this person hasn’t been an idol or even someone I’ve really been listening to in years. But I feel extremely bad about this whole situation.

Why? Because I noticed he was behaving in a way that worried me. I felt that he was being overly aggressive in talking about supporting women, something that is a classic covering tactic for abusive behaviour. That he seemed to want validation for being a feminist rather than really care about treating everyone as equals. That things were a little too much about What Reflected Well On Jamie. Men who are genuine about supporting women don’t need to be praised for it, it’s not about them, it’s about doing the right thing and being a decent human being, and feminism is something ordinary that they only get loud about if nobody else is doing it yet and someone needs to step up. If they want a cookie they’ll bake it themselves, because baking is men’s work too. 😉

Jamie is someone who never handled criticism well. Who joked about having an eating disorder but really did need help around an unhealthy relationship with food that he wasn’t handling well, and had a hard time getting help for. Who admitted to manipulative behaviour publicly on smaller issues. It hurt me a lot to realise that I wasn’t even surprised at this news, it all clicked into place immediately and made sense with all of these smaller hints, and immediately horrified me. I can only imagine how Allison feels, having been married to him and having relied on him as her business partner. It was no surprise to me that he has declined to make any public statement or apology, and asked that it not be mentioned on what is now her podcast.

I hope he brings up those issues I mentioned in the therapy, and I really hope he gets the help he needs for everything, because if he doesn’t, then he’s gonna hurt people close to him one way or another, even if the word is out there on the internet now, it won’t get to all his casual acquaintances so easily, and he needs help to get some self-security so that he can avoid this sort of behaviour pattern in the future.

But that’s not an excuse to behave in an unsafe way, and not to listen when someone sets boundaries in place with you. There is no excuse for harassment when someone has told you to stop. I have had my own problems that I’ve needed to go to therapy for, as I allude to from time to time, and those are still no excuse for not reading the signs that you’re behaving unacceptably, especially when they’re made clear to you multiple times by different people.

I have a minor part in this play, and that’s the thing that’s worst about hearing this news. If you really want to know what’s going on, you should go read the personal accounts that some very brave women have put out in public about this, as it’s really their story. But even knowing that unjustified self-recrimination is part of the cycle of this sort of manipulation and harassment, I find myself wondering if I couldn’t have done something to stop this.

The incident that convinced me that I needed time away from that community was when a key volunteer who was a friend of mine had a jokey but slightly inappropriate discussion about what donor money was being spent on, that veered into some pretty invasive speculation about Jamie and Allison’s personal lives. As you may not be surprised to learn, Jamie had an immediate and pretty explosive reaction, didn’t even discuss the matter at all, and completely replaced him with no explanation, and installed me in his place with little to no transparency.

I felt horrible, this volunteer was a good guy who still supported me and also the community even after the incident. I was left trying to pick up a lot of pieces after an over-reaction about a stupid discussion that admittedly was out of line, but could have been handled so much better. It was easily fixable with an open letter to the community setting up some acceptable boundaries. I didn’t trust myself to handle the situation well, I simply got panicky whenever I thought about it, and in true fashion for someone with social anxiety, I simply faded away from the community.

I tried to hold it together for a while first, but I felt really bad about the whole thing no matter what I did, and I wasn’t yet entirely well in dealing with my own social anxieties at the time.

That wasn’t the right thing to do, obviously, but I did correctly recognise I needed to “put my own seatbelt on first,” and look after myself. I should have maybe outlined what went on and simply told everyone why I was bowing out. In hindsight I should have at least passed my concerns on to his then-wife and told her I trusted her to handle the situation if there was anything that needed to be done, so that maybe it would have clued her into things sooner. And I’m really sorry if my lack of action on this enabled this guy, who I thought shared my opinions and outlook, to get away with anything, because if I had had even a sniff of the allegations about abuse when this happened, I wouldn’t have faded away. I would have been with everyone trying to shout about this issue until it had been solved.

And now I’m left wondering: Did I help him get away with this behaviour by never talking about my worries? That’s the most frequent thought I’m hearing expressed by everyone who’s had a story to tell about this guy, that they’ve all been apologizing for not coming forward earlier, not talking enough, not believing in themselves, but they all have the excuse that he was directly manipulating them. I won’t absolve myself, (if anyone wants to tell me I should have said something, that’s probably a fair call, as he never harassed or manipulated me directly, and if anyone wants a personal apology, I will send you a genuine one in private, I promise) but I think all the women who’ve actually survived this behaviour deserve a pass. Please don’t attack anyone for not being able to bear bringing their story into the public. It’s hard enough having to deal with the situation in the first place, I hope everyone can understand why many people stayed anonymous.

This isn’t something that’s easy to come to terms with, and even though nobody is currently talking about physical or sexual abuse, (I really hope it never got that far, but if it did happen to anyone, please be brave and come forward, we’ll support you!) successful harassers have a lot of strategies to make you doubt yourself, and Jamie is actually a charismatic guy despite his issues, and his response made me consider that maybe I was being unreasonable, and that I should give him a chance, and let the hurt feelings cool down. I regret listening to those impulses that seemed reasonable at the time. I wish word of this had gotten to me, I would have happily acted as a go-between to keep people anonymous while still getting their stories out. It’s ridiculous that this makes me feel powerless and angry even though I had only the smallest chance to help. But that’s what situations like this do to everyone, and it’s part of why this whole situation is so wrong and enraging, and people who know me know I’m not quick to anger. (any longer, another lesson learnt in adolescence, fortunately)

So, there are lessons to be learned here:

Firstly, for anyone who doesn’t already, believe women when they make allegations. (I think there is #believewomen on twitter if you want to follow general conversation about this point, assuming you are comfortable reading twitter) This doesn’t mean someone who’s accused is guilty until proven innocent, it just means the allegations are serious and you need to hear out everyone’s story, and support people who make allegations and take them seriously so that this sort of stuff comes out into the open. It takes real leadership to admit to something like this and put it right, so kudos to Allison, who deserves a lot of support for doing the exact right things as soon as she got a story she could substantiate.

Secondly, not every guy who says feminist things is okay. You know that whole “every man is a rapist” quote that MRAs love to harp on about with regards to feminists? What it’s actually talking about is that, as far as any woman can tell, any man could be a rapist. It’s referring to “Schrödinger’s rapist,” if you will: that even the most aggressively feminist of guys can be manipulative, or harrassing, or compensate for their insecurity by being praise-dependent and manipulating women for that praise because they feel threatened by men, and the emotional abuse this guy commited is on the same spectrum as full-blown rape or rapey behaviour. Jamie hasn’t proven MRAs right, he’s proven feminists right: that it’s really difficult to tell who the “bad sorts” are, because those ideas that normalise harassing behaviour sneak into everyone’s psyche at some point, and even guys who are aggressively on the side of women’s rights can still do things that are hugely hurtful to women. Schrödinger’s rapist (or harasser) is real, and he’s often in a superposition of “good guy” and “bad guy,” where he’s making excuses that actually he’s good and didn’t do anything wrong, honest, why won’t you understand? And sadly even for some guys that have been virtue-signalling super hard, when you give them a chance, that waveform collapses and it turns out you’re stuck alone with a guy who will blow up on you if you criticise him, or won’t respect your boundaries, or will outright commit abuse. There is no excuse for that, and it’s a problem for everyone who dates men, and sometimes even for women who don’t have any interest in the idea.

Thirdly, not every guy who supports women is going to have Jamie’s sorts of issues or respond to similar issues the way he did, but it’s okay if you’re not feeling up to trusting any particular guy or even all guys after this sort of incident, in fact, please do whatever you feel you need to to stay safe, whoever you are. Some guys who have a lot of female friends and are emotionally dependent on their good opinion of them aren’t very good at respecting boundaries and need clear communication and possibly someone to threaten them into doing the right thing. Some men don’t fall into that situation. Others, like me, have had issues judging social situations correctly in the past, but will actually respond well to feedback. One of my friends in college deserves a big thankyou for having been really nice about having a boundary discussion with me once and setting me right, because I was getting a little obsessive about our friendship and it made her feel uncomfortable. Thanks for being classy, and you’ll know who you are if you ever read this, because you’re the only person that ever had to do that for me.

It’s okay that people won’t know which kind of guy they’re handling until they’re in a situation like this. Women or anyone else being harassed should trust their guts around this sort of thing, if someone disturbs you it’s okay to set up boundaries or get away in any way you need to. They might be a good guy who’ll react well and respect their friend, or who will be a little taken aback but will get over it and be better in the future, in which case, no harm done. They might be a good guy who’s totally offended, or they might genuinely be a bad guy who’ll flip out, in which case, they didn’t deserve to be your friend in the first place, and it’s good to know you can ditch them, because everyone deserves better than that. If someone won’t respect your boundaries or you don’t feel comfortable having the talk to set them, talk to your friends, people you trust, people in authority, and find people who’ll help you sort it out. It’s okay to need help to get through it, especially if the person harassing you is your boss.

The good thing that has come about because of this is that there’s been a large discussion of this issue that’s almost exclusively positive. The closest I saw to anyone being a troll was one guy asking very aggressively for details of the story so he could “know what’s going on.”

It’s okay to be skeptical, that guy, but please have some sensitivity while you do it. If you’re going to ask questions, be super polite and accept “I don’t want to tell you” or “please follow this/these links” for an answer with grace. You don’t need to weigh in about what that says about someone’s credibility, you can be judgemental in your head rather than on social media if it doesn’t impact you personally. Please don’t imply that it’s not reasonable to default to believing people who bring up these allegations and then be skeptical if things don’t actually check out. Not every woman is going to be okay sharing every detail of their story in public. Some are, and they’re courageous and deserve praise. But not everyone can do that, okay?

Overall, every angle of this story sucks. Now we’re going to have MRA trolls arguing that every feminist guy is some sort of “beta male,” (haha sure, some of the strongest guys I know respect women, you assholes. Ironically I’ve never met someone who I would think of as anything near an “alpha male” who is actually concerned about who is “alpha” and who is “beta,” because they’ve all been way too cool for that insecure bullshit) that all guys are predators of women and that’s natural and okay, and there will be many women who will feel even more like they can’t trust men. (which okay, may be a reasonable starting point in some cases…) All I can say to everyone who disagrees with them, or who has survived this type of harassment, is that you have as much of my support as you’d like, and as much space as you want, too, at your own discretion.

Worth noting today is that Laila Harré has formally re-joined the Labour Party, (h/t to Andrea Vance) and intends to stand as a candidate. (depending on party decisions on electorate selection and list ordering, of course)

Laila has excellent credibility with the Left in general and working people in particular, and her selection as leader was basically the reason the Internet Party enjoyed any legitimacy at all, pre-Mana alliance or post-.1 It wasn’t exactly a great move for her reputation in retrospect due to how successful the Right were in associating Mana and the Internet Party with Kim Dotcom due to his donation, but it does make clear that she has a lot of mana with the left.

Prior to Sue Moroney taking over the issue, Laila was the original champion of paid parental leave in Parliament, (she successfully pushed for 12 weeks) has been a friend to the union movement and a vocal critic of neoliberal policies ever since Rogernomics, and quit as a Labour member to join the NewLabour Party and thereby eventually the Alliance, which as its name suggests, was an electoral alliance of radical left parties, such as the Greens, (temporarily) Mana Motuhake, NewLabour, and the Democrats for Social Credit. After her election in ’96, she has served as Minister of Women’s affairs and associate Minister of Labour and commerce, fighting hard for much of the pro-worker legislation that occurred prior to collapse of the Alliance as an effective political vehicle. She has also served as a strategist for the Green Party, so this is a woman who has literally been prominent in every significant left-wing political movement since the 80s, and would provide credibility to the notion that Labour is positioning itself as a senior coalition partner for the Greens, as Ms. Harré is still to a degree part of the Green whānau, and having her at the table for that discussion could legitimately make it easier for both sides.

If Andrew Little wants to run a big-tent campaign that targets both the Labour left and Middle New Zealand, or even if he is going for a left-wing Labour campaign that targets demotivated voters, (ie. “the missing million” strategy) Laila is an excellent candidate who he should be placing high up his list, as she is persuasive to both groups2. (given her crowning achievements have mostly been around securing pay and benefits for workers, she has a lot of pull with left-leaning centrists) He should even be considering how quickly he can move her to the front bench, I would argue. While she’s not new to politics, she is part of the populist change Labour could represent in 2017, and she deserves a winnable electorate or list position when compared to some of  the less inspiring electorate MPs, and even a couple of the senior List MPs that snuck in with the 2014 election. (Compare and contrast Laila to Mallard or Ardern, for instance, both of whom were given very winnable list and electorate positions. Then compare with her to some of Labour’s less stellar candidates like say, Clare Curran, and I think an objective observer can agree that Laila deserves to be on or near the front bench)

Laila would make an excellent Minister for Women, or a great head of MBIE, or even both, whether or not Labour intend to split MBIE again3 into Labour and Business ministries. While normally I would be promoting a Green candidate for most ministerial positions if Labour can win in 2017, I can’t really see anyone more qualified to advocate for women, and there is simply no way a party branded as “Labour” is going to even consider handing over the ministry dedicated to working people to any other party in more than an associate role. Little should be seriously considering not only his current shadow cabinet, but how the people on his list and winning electorate selection could contribute to a possible cabinet in 2017 if he is taking his job as Bill English’s opposite seriously, and Laila is an excellent way to give himself more options in both the Labour and Ministry for Women areas.


My feelings on Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate are very mixed.

The Positive

On the one hand, as several feminists I respect have pointed out, she is the most overqualified candidate for president in modern history, to a point that she’s comparable with one of the greats such as Thomas Jefferson in that regard, who also came to the Presidency through the State Department. (And of course, women do have to be overqualified to break that last glass ceiling in each country, sadly) She is the candidate, of the two likely to win, who I prefer. She has “waited her turn” for the nomination of the democratic party. She was a good supporter of President Obama, even after her understandably hurt feelings at essentially having the nomination swept away from under her feet by him. (because supporting men they lose out on promotions to is expected of women in the workplace, even when men in the same position are allowed to spit the dummy and have a hissy fit) She has played the system extraordinarily well and by any conventional wisdom, deserves to be the USA’s next president.

Which is of course, precisely the problem, and were she not running against a authoritarian narcissist and loser1, who is a fraudulent libel bully2 and likes to brag about sexual assault of attractive blondes3, but some other kind of populist, she would be practically guaranteed to lose because she has essentially been looking for an endorsement of the political establishment, not the people.

Does the fact that she’s a woman and the USA hasn’t yet had a female president play into this? Of course it does. There are absolutely bros out there voting for Gary Johnson or even Donald Trump (or perhaps writing in for Bernie Sanders, despite the fact that he has endorsed Ms. Clinton) who don’t yet understand, like practically the entire rest of the world, that a woman can be a good leader, and what being led by a woman looks like and feels like. (the answer is mainly “good”) I have been a defender of women as Heads of Government before, so I hope I can say this without being accused of disliking the idea of a female president, as I feel that women in particular, and diverse candidates in general, have been long overdue as US Presidents. It should have been a woman’s “turn,” insofar as such a concept should apply to politics, long before Hillary.

Let’s be charitable and not bring up the issue of Hillary’s approval ratings in the negative section, as it’s likely to have been significantly bumped down by pure virtue of her gender, which is not acceptable.

The Negative

That said, is everyone who is being called a Bernie Bro coming to their decision based purely on unconscious sexism? Absolutely not. There are so many legitimate arguments against Clinton as a candidate it’s not funny. She is an establishment candidate running during a populist mood. (which incidentally explains a lot of Trump’s popularity- the fact that the man’s a moron is actually a plus for him with certain voters, as they don’t want someone who sounds like a politician, and they want someone they believe will put the interests of ordinary people first, which Trump at least has passable rhetoric for, if your definition of “ordinary” is restricted to white people) She is the most right-wing candidate (some would argue that, normalising for America’s general rightward lean, she’s a centrist. That may be fair) to succeed in capturing the Democratic nomination since the southern strategy, and yes, I am including her husband in that calculation.

As a President, there is evidence that while she will enthusiastically support certain liberal (as opposed to Left) issues like women’s rights in general and abortion rights in particular, queer rights, (albeit as a follower of public opinion rather than an actual leader) compromise gun reforms, and expanding access to healthcare, but taken overall she’s also pretty dangerous on a policy-based analysis. While she does support higher taxes on the rich to pay for expanding access to education, this was actually a concession to her primary opponent, and not a policy she came up with herself. She opposes sufficient regulation on big banks, corporate accountability, refuses to take a side on the Dakota Access pipeline, an unnecessary relic of fossil fuel infrastructure in an era where all new infrastructure needs to be planning for a carbon-zero future, and that’s all before we start mentioning the things she was for before she was “against” them,  like the Keystone XL pipeline, and, thanks to Wikileaks, we have absolute confirmation that she is only pretending to be against the TPPA to score points with voters, and thus cannot be relied upon to prevent its passage into law.

She was the wrong nominee. Her primary opponent, while an elderly white man, would also have been the most left-wing Democratic nominee for President in modern history, and the first Jewish nominee, (and thereby also the first nominee that didn’t openly claim to be Christian) so his nomination would also have been historic, even if it pushed back the first female nominee. Bernie Sanders polled significantly better head-to-head with Trump at the time when he was all-but-nominated as the Republican candidate, and Bernie and Clinton were the only Democrats in the race, at which time it’s likely that opinion around the nominees had solidified to a point that head-to-head polling was reasonable. (At the time, Clinton was losing head-to-head against Trump, precisely because she needed Sanders’ supporters to get her over the line) His policies were objectively better for America: extending Medicare to everyone, a more universal education program, a dovish foreign policy, and real restraint for the US’ billionaire class and their servants on Wall Street.

And on top of that, there’s evidence that, unlike in the general election, (where voter fraud appears to be on Trump’s side) the contest was unfairly stacked against Bernie Sanders. The Democratic campaign was supporting her behind the scenes during the primary, because Bernie Sanders wasn’t an establishment democrat, despite his pledge to support the party and its nominee even if he lost, a pledge he didn’t have to make. They colluded with Debbie Wassermann-Shulz to put primary debates on at obscure times and to run as few as possible, going so far as to back out on the last debate after they had been pressured into running more. They manipulated primary procedure to disadvantage his campaign in Nevada. They illegally colluded with SuperPACs, despite Hillary’s supposed opposition to the Citizens United decision. They took advantage of voter suppression in several primary states in order to win. And there is evidence from our friends at Wikileaks to suggest that Hillary’s campaign did so enthusiastically.

Which of course, brings us to the issue of Wikileaks, and that the Clinton campaign’s defense against their allegations is itself problematic. Firstly, let me say that if any of the actual content of the leaks were incorrect, there would be sufficient proof for her campaign to come out with documentary evidence outright saying so. That they have not done so is a classic “non-denial denial,” ie. implied evidence of absence. Secondly, let me say that leaking documents is not a “cyber attack.” It is either espionage or data breach. Cyber attacks fall under “sabotage,” a charge much too serious to apply to some documents that have been copied and released publicly without permission. (which, by the by, is basically the definition of whistle-blowing once you add in “public interest,” which the fact that Ms. Clinton is a Presidential candidate clearly does) Now, the Clinton campaign have instead pivoted their defense to the provenance of the leak, which they contest (with no information provided to the public to prove so, even though there is reasonable circumstantial evidence available in the data itself) that they are a result of Russian espionage. So what? What does that matter if the leaks are true and of public import? (Nobody has yet provided any reasonable argument that anything Wikileaks has ever published has been false, fyi, so it’s actually a pretty reliable source)

Ms. Clinton has given paid speeches to Wall Street in which she has claimed it is acceptable to have both a private position and a public position, and despite her protestations, she was clearly talking about double-talk to the electorate when you read the leaked transcripts. That said, the upside of that particular speech is that if you look into it carefully, her admission about being out-of-touch with working class Americans is actually genuine, and something she really should be saying on the campaign trail- “I used to be one of you, and just because I’ve risen above that now doesn’t mean I won’t continue trying to advocate for the working class” is simultaneously honest, genuine, and good policy. Hillary is not good at letting us look at the genuine parts of her that make her a good candidate, and they’re there, look at how positively received her defense of abortion rights was, for instance.

But back to her campaign’s defense about Wikileaks, this brings us to the issue of how hawkish Ms. Clinton is on foreign policy, and why that’s a problem with tensions so high with Russia. She is openly accusing them of manipulating the election in her country without concrete evidence, (to which she is lucky the extent of the response has been to humorously request to observe the election in certain non-critical states) she is openly trying to increase tensions by calling for a no-fly zone in Syria when the only people bombing it are aligned with Russia, and she supports encroaching on Russian territory so far by admitting new members into NATO that the metaphorical equivalent would be Russia having bases along the Canadian and Mexican borders with the USA, despite the fact that the Allies promised after German reunification4 that NATO would go no further east than Germany.

The fact is that, regardless of the sexism against her, Ms. Clinton is an over-scripted establishment candidate, appealing to the rich and trying to steal establishment Republicans away from Mr. Trump in an election environment where there is a real hunger for a populist candidate that understands that working class (no, not middle class, I mean working class) people are suffering, that the US is tired of political corruption and political dynasties, (of which Ms. Clinton is now part, in campaigning for the Presidency after her husband had won) and that they want someone who will not only provide them proven leadership and sound policy, but will attack the people who are economically bleeding them dry. The former Secretary of State isn’t that person, although of course, despite the perceptions of the rust belt and certain authoritarians, neither is Mr. Trump.

In Summary

Hillary Clinton may be the most qualified candidate in modern US political history. She may be the best shot at the first woman to become US president, and the hardest campaigner among the major parties. But she was neither the best candidate in her primary, (that was, objectively, Bernie Sanders) nor is she the best female candidate in the race. It is, of course, fortunate for her that she’s fighting against perhaps the most unqualified man to ever become a major party nominee. (I will count Ronald Reagan as more qualified because at least he had charisma)

I hope we look back at the US election and see it as the missed opportunity for a Sanders Presidency. I hope we don’t end up with a resumption of the cold war between the US and Russia, despite indications that Hillary Clinton’s provocation of Russia are above the level that occured in the original Cold War. I hope I’m wrong about not being able to trust Hillary’s will-I-won’t-I opposition to the TPPA. I hope I’m proven wrong and that she works with Mr. Sanders in fostering the new progressive caucus within the Democratic Party. I hope I’m wrong about my pessimism that she’ll fight climate change adequately. I hope I genuinely get to celebrate the US joining the rest of the civilised world in electing a woman, instead of bemoaning that on the issues she’s the worst female candidate we possibly could have gotten. But I’m not optimistic yet.


One of the things I most commonly do as a guy who participates in feminism is simply provide a male face repeating things that women have said to give them “more credibility” with a certain audience, because people who to varying degrees buy into into patriarchal arguments are to varying degrees going to unconsciously distrust women saying something more than men saying something. (and you know, because there’s a long and unfortunate tradition of men needing to hear men say something before it really takes off)

In that tradition, I’m going to assemble some common objections to feminism so I can link people to this post rather than writing a new argument every time. Let’s go one-by-one.

1: Feminism is out to get men.

On the contrary, every type of feminism holds at its core that women and men are equal. (yes, there are different “flavours” of feminism) It is literally the dictionary definition of feminism. Yes, even radical feminists believe this.

Do things feminists advocate sometimes hurt men’s feelings, or maybe result in small temporary “inequalities” in what’s socially acceptable while we adjust social norms to a more equal framework? Yes. But that’s a problem of practical implementation and usually a relic of sexism that hurts men, (such as the awkward situation where a man defending himself against a women being violent against him is regarded as wronger than her attacking him in the first place for some strange reason because “men shouldn’t hit women”) rather than something that feminism is to blame for.

2: Feminism has been bad for men overall.

Sometimes this argument is phrased as “feminism has hurt both men and women,” but I think the accusation that feminism has been bad for women is so ridiculous I won’t even bother arguing against it here. (it’s usually based on a particular study which has been well-analyzed as not meaning what people say it means, if it’s even robust enough to take seriously at all)

Arguments that feminism benefits men are so common that “fbm” is a well-used acronym by various feminisms. I have even made a few myself.

Men have been seen as “default” and a certain view of masculinity as unassailable for so long that it’s not been up for question what it means to be a man, and thus society has brutally punished people who fall to any degree outside that definition. It is now beginning to change and that is only possible because of men beginning to believe in feminist ideals.

I’m constantly pleased by how it’s becoming not only tolerated or okay to have a different idea of what it means to be a man, but how it’s actually beginning to be celebrated.And for those of us who never felt we fit in, this is one of the more exciting times to be alive, even if it means that there are some problems showing up while we figure it out.

3: But feminists didn’t argue against (this thing that hurts men).

Really? Are you sure?

Because feminists argued against conscription, are still arguing against the prison-industrial complex, have stood with gay men to protect their rights, have stood with transpeople (both transmen and transwomen) to help them advocate for themselves, have joined the economy while still facing pressure to pick up more than their share of unpaid work, and have generally been one of the biggest voices in support of men who have faced sexual assault, who may never have received justice without the reforms advocated by feminists.

Usually this argument is one of two things- either a failure to do the research, or in some particular cases, (such as TERFs, eugh) stumbling upon the one splinter-group of feminists who have actually taken things too far and don’t represent the good things that feminism as a whole is responsible for.

4: Child custody cases are biased against men

This kinda falls under the whole “fbm” discussion earlier- the reason child custody sometimes perpetuates a bias against men is because of a patriarchal stereotype that men aren’t interested in childcare the same way women are, and that to the degree that they are, they’re not as competent. (And also the dichotomy of men being viewed as sexual predators when interacting with children vs women being viewed as caregivers)

That you even have the option to contest custody is ironically thanks to feminism. The tradition otherwise would have been that even if your spouse died you would need to find some other woman to look after your children- either a family member, a new wife, or an employee or slave. (yeah, we’re going back THAT far)

There have been trends and individual cases regarding child custody that have bothered me. This isn’t an argument for less feminism. It’s an argument for more.

5: Feminists aren’t consistent in arguing for perfect equality of outcome

This is usually phrased something along the lines of “feminists want precise equality of pay, but don’t want us to (x),” where (x) may be, for example, “release male prisoners until equal amounts of men and women are imprisoned” or something equally ridiculous. (You can also substitute equality of pay for equal numbers of women in Parliament)

Firstly, feminism is an entire school of thought. You will find people arguing all sorts of positions within it, so it’s a bit erroneous to pretend that All Feminists Think (x) for anything that doesn’t directly relate to feminism. And even then, there’s no guarantee that an issue won’t be controversial, or split between different sub-ideologies.

Ignoring that for a moment, let’s talk about equality, the stated goal of feminists. There’s two broad schools of thought on What Equality Is, and those are equality of outcome, and equality of opportunity. The latter claims that if we all have the same rights, that is equality. As the violation of those rights differs by gender in practice, we don’t even have equality of opportunity today in my view. The latter says that we should be able to look at outcomes (eg. statistics about imprisonment, or sexual assault, or number of female parliamentarians, or the pay gap) and they should be close to equal in an equal society.

My personal view is that equality of opportunity should imply approximate equality of outcome. (as in, if women are equal to men, controlling for other factors*, they should be within a couple of percentage points of achieving the same outcomes, such as equal pay) Looking at that in terms of pay equity, the closest women have gotten an acceptable level of inequality is a 6% gap. (ie. being paid 92% of what a man gets, on average) Likewise, in Parliament, you would expect an average of 57-63 female MPs, with that number varying upwards in elections with overhang seats. Since MMP, parliaments have only averaged around 30% female MPs. There’s a really good argument that we should be looking at approximate equality of outcome in those easy-to-measure areas as an indicator of whether gender equality has been realised. (and it also becomes more excusable to have years in which that number is below equal if there are also years in which that number is above equal, which hasn’t happened yet)

The general counter-argument to whatever (x) is, such as prison populations, is that said figures don’t control for other factors. Sure, more men are imprisoned, but that’s because more men are committing serious crimes. New Zealand imprisons about 15.35 men for every woman, and while each type of offending achieves the same rank in how common it is among male and female prisoners, it is noted that men commit more violent offenses relative to their numbers. What we would want to be looking at is conviction rates of men and women among similar crimes, although of course we would expect more variability than in some other gender comparisons, as there are complex variables that can’t be properly controlled for, and it could be that, for instance, one gender is brought to court when they’re innocent more often, and thus should actually have a lower conviction rate. Controlling for all the unrelated factors is extremely difficult, and would constitute a research paper in its own right.

6: Feminists don’t believe in equality because they called me/someone names

It’s not inequality to critique through humour, which is what most feminist name-calling seems to be related to. You also have to understand that for most women, feminism isn’t simply them railing about hypotheticals they’d like to change or things that might be a little nicer. It’s more about screaming at the top of the lungs about how the world is broken and it needs to be fixed and how frustrating that is.

And maybe we should sit back and have a think before we go privileging our feelings about being humourously insulted over their feelings about how much their life sucks, because that’s a pretty terrible set of priorities right there.