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Universal Te Reo

Posted: March 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

The Greens had the first policy launch of the year, arguing for universal teaching of Te Reo in Primary schools, intermediates, and to a limited degree in Secondary schools. (that is, as a core curriculum subject for Years 1-10) This is not entirely unprecedented1, and it is a reasonable reaction to the still-declining ability of Māori to actually hold a conversation in their own language. I had meant to talk about this earlier but other events displaced my work on this post, so you can have it on delay instead.

Some would argue that this is a hippy-dippy thing for a party to promote, but I think that’s probably because very few of them have actually sat down and read up on the matter like I did after the policy announcement. (despite being a language nerd and being in favour in principle, I wanted to know the statistics around this and familiarize myself with a few of the broad issues facing educators and students in this space)

The last information2 we have is that Te Reo is only available in less than 50% of New Zealand schools. As an official language with legal recognition in New Zealand, (fun fact: this means Te Reo Māori actually has a higher formal status than English in New Zealand law, as English has no legislative status despite being a de facto official language) Te Reo Māori deserves better. Also included in the policy, but not being talked about, is a push for better access to Māori sign language for the intersection of the deaf and Māori communities, which is incredibly important. As a second-language speaker myself, I can definitely say that my brief experiences with not always being able to accurately explain New Zealand culture were not just frustrating but incredibly alienating, and that’s only a small taste of what children who don’t even have the vocabulary to understand and discuss their own culture because they’ve only ever been taught signs for European cultures must feel.

Because we’re mostly talking about primary and intermediate schools, (plus the first two years of secondary) the usual practice is that all education is considered core education, and the differences come about in optional parts of the curriculum that each school decides to cover, so in practice it would no longer be an option not to learn Te Reo in Years 1-8 once it is available in all schools, however arguably there might be some flexibility for secondary school students depending on how universality is handled there that might make the last two proposed years non-compulsory. I think the benefits grossly outweigh the compulsion required, as with compulsory education in English language.

All this is essentially talking about is teaching basic vocabulary and rote phrases to young kiwis. Advanced language learning where people are actually taught language structure and how to compose their own sentences without rote memorisation is usually left until Year 11 in language education, although given how early the Greens want to start, (as usually languages other than English don’t start until Year 9) it’s possible that advanced grammar could be taught much earlier in terms of what school year it’s introduced in while still going slower than the secondary school pace of second-language education, in which case, great.

This would have the pleasant side-effect of improving education of English as students not failing Te Reo would have some basic understanding of grammar. Te Reo grammar is much less complicated than English grammar, so they’d still both need to be covered either separately or comparatively, but they would likely need to become familiar with concepts of what nouns are, what verbs are, how plurals work, what pronouns are, and how possessives, indefinite articles, and definite articles work, even though a few of those things differ in Te Reo.

And language nerdery aside, it’s shown that education that integrates Māori culture and language is much more effective for Māori students, (as you would expect!) which means it will help provide equality of opportunity in education, and that language revitalization efforts integrating compulsory education into the mix is very effective, and giving it status as a core subject that everyone needs to learn will help remove the element of peer-pressure that is likely contributing to declining ability in Te Reo.

And on the benefits for non-Māori students, the UK has had a lot of benefits migrating to a very similar policy of compulsory second language education3, although there have been challenges in up-skilling the workforce to cope with it that they still haven’t met, which we would likely encounter as well, and would thus need to aggressively plan for. And unlike generic second language education, compulsory Te Reo should lead to much increased racial harmony between other ethnic groups in New Zealand and Māori due to increased ability to understand the Māori perspective and participate meaningfully in Māori culture, which can only be a good thing.

Overall it’s a well-founded bit of policy, and it’s shot across the bow in terms of values: the Greens know it’s not a general vote-grabber to propose policy that benefits Māori, but it’s a debate they want to have and reverse public perception on as part of their planned win. This is much like what Cunliffe managed to do with wealth taxes, despite his loss, (which was due to other reasons) and it’s the right way to campaign in an election year. Despite being in a populist mood, people will always prefer a genuine party with values to an establishment one without, and populism is best aimed at things the people most care about, so let’s hope that Labour has also understood that lesson from both 2014 and 2016.


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.


So John Key announced today he intends to resign as Prime Minister in a week’s time, heralding the end of a political era. (or perhaps a political error, take your pick) Coverage was initially not particularly clear on whether he’s to resign from Parliament at the same time, but it looks like he’s staying until the election at least, so no by-election for Helensville1.

There are several implications of this. For those who are not political nerds, all the new Prime Minister requires to be Prime Minister is the confidence of the House. That is, a majority of Parliament has to be willing to vote for the replacement. Essentially that means it will be an internal National choice that will then be endorsed by its coalition partners. We don’t get a “by-election” or anything of the kind, and Bill English doesn’t become Prime Minister automatically because he’s the deputy. Those are the sorts of things that happen in Presidential systems, we’re a Parliamentary democracy.

The most obvious fallout is that it’s absolutely going to cost National in polling going forward, and probably even in the Party Vote in 2017. A lot of the party stability was driven by the perception that Key was unassailable as a leader, while his resignation speech has talked up his caucus colleagues, all of them has significant problems as potential Prime Ministers. Let’s go through them:

The Throwback: Bill English

English, a former Leader of the Opposition, has tried to make a run at PM before, back in the Clark era. In National Party history, he had the second-worst election campaign ever, bested only by Don Brash’s later implosion. While he’s not unpopular within the National Party, it’s likely his appeal to soft National supporters is minimal, and wouldn’t be able to hold the “Key coalition” together. There’s also a good argument that English makes more sense as Finance Minister, although if John Key is staying in Parliament post-election, they could potentially swap roles. While he hasn’t succeeded in the past, he’s also in the interesting position of probably being the most popular option with the general electorate- initial (non-scientific) polls have Bill English as a favourite to replace Key, although this could be driven by the perception that he’s also the most likely option.

Key has said that if English puts his hat in the ring, he will have Key’s vote, making him a natural choice for establishment supporters, however there’s a real risk that English would simply be a caretaker Prime Minister who doesn’t look appealing compared to Little.

The Compromise: Paula Bennett

One of the most senior MPs, Bennett has a lot of the same advantages as a potential leader that John Key does- she’s from a more modest background, she’s popular within the party, and she has support with various factions within National. In many ways she’s a middle-of-the-road choice: not too liberal, not too conservative. Not too popular with the general electorate, but popular enough with core supporters. Bennett arguably represents the best bet at continuing National’s current political strategy of populist neoliberalism, where they pair a right-wing core economic agenda with poll-driven social policy.

The Conservative: Judith Collins

Collins is a bit of an interesting case here. Previously booted from her ministerial position for conflicts of interest, Collins has long been eying the leadership position, and is a favourite of the faction most opposed to Key’s leadership style: Conservative voters. Like a lot of the potential options, Collins isn’t particularly popular outside of core National voters, unlike the others, however, she’s actually viewed very negatively in the public, possibly due to her aggressive conservatism, possibly due to her perceived corruption. Either way, Collins is something of a Trump option: an aggressive conservative populist who the opposition views as an easy road to victory, but could surprise us.

The Strategist: Steven Joyce

Joyce, also a conservative in the same faction as Collins, has largely avoided controversy in his career, but also inspires deep hatred among liberal New Zealand. He is most likely remembered as “Dildo Baggins,” for self-explanatory reasons. If you’ve been living in a hole, please go and YouTube it, the rest of us will wait.

Joyce has many of the upsides of Collins, but without her aggressive style or the stink of scandal. While he might be a more palatable option to the liberal wing of the party, he’s arguably a less effective conservative, too.

Others: Brownlee, Adams, etc…

I’m about 90% sure one of the four listed above is going to be our next Prime Minister, but there are others inside cabinet who arguably could put forward something of a case for selection. The National Party is usually pretty serious about seniority, so I expect the only other MP with a shot at the top job is Gerry Brownlee, who is honestly an objectively worse pick than any of the four listed above, and doesn’t have the social intelligence to be Prime Minister.

My money at this stage is on Bennett, as she seems the least objectionable option that is most likely to be able to duplicate Key’s strategy, and to hold their caucus together.

Whoever National pick, they’re in for a tough ride. They have eight months of actual Prime Ministering before an election campaign. They will get the benefit of Key’s experience given he’s staying on as an MP, but that’s a very short time to make any differentiations you need, get a grip on the polls and make sure you’re not losing political ground in the transition, and to ensure you have an effective political strategy that works without Key. (although if they’re lucky and smart in their pick, their current strategy will be portable to whoever their new Leader is)

Ultimately, the winner from this news seems to be Andrew Little, who has gone from anticipating a general election against a Prime Minister that was more popular than him and needed to be torn down, to a battle against a neophyte leader who might face similar issues to Goff or the pack of Davids that preceded Little as Leader of the Opposition.


Our half-baked schoolyard bully of a Prime Minister has once again contracted a case of foot-in-mouth disease, saying it is a “stupid” idea to have a cabinet that includes a fair number of women1.

I have such a long list of arguments against ridiculous comments like this it’s practically an orbital ring.

The first and most obvious is that implying that you’re not capable of putting an equal amount of women into cabinet/ministerial positions and you “instead” promote by merit implies at least one of two things, neither of which is acceptable:

  • Either you can’t locate ten/thirteen women within your caucus who are qualified to be ministers.
  • Or you don’t think women as a category are inherently equally qualified to be ministers as men are, so it’s okay for you to have more men, rather than a recruitment failure on your part for not finding and mentoring enough women.

I’m going to state the obvious and say that the former is definitely true. If you want to have ten women (or twelve to thirteen if you want equality for ministers outside cabinet, too) available for ministerial positions, you generally need to have twice that many women in your caucus so that you are mentoring potential replacements for your A-team. With 17 women in Caucus, National only has enough female “talent” to  comfortably maintain 8 women in cabinet. (which Key clearly recognises, as only 7 women are ministers inside cabinet) If you want fully equal number of ministers, you really need 25 women in your government, which is roughly a 42% ratio.

The phrasing of Key’s objection also seems to imply he believes the second implication of what he said, too.

And all of this is admitting to a poverty of talent not only in National’s female caucus, but its party leadership. Surely a competent party and a competent government should not only be able to pick 25 qualified women, but it should be able to pick at least 30, given you need 61 people to govern. And within those 30, there should not only be thirteen women qualified to be ministers, but you should have the ability to choose based on merit, and other less obvious qualities. (such as who wants to do what, affording appropriate seniority to various ministers, and managing the various political factions and personality conflicts) This isn’t like squaring a circle, for someone who wants to be Prime Minister, this is simply something you need to be able to do to be qualified. If John Key isn’t capable of adding “have I fairly considered all of the women in my party?” to his decision-making criteria, then the qualification question reflects back on him. And we understand he might need some time to get to the point that he can actually have a completely equal cabinet, that’s fair. He needs to recruit more women, and mentor the ones he does have in his caucus. But to dismiss the idea as silly without even trying smacks of arrogance.

One of the frequent objections I hear to this idea is “why do you feel people are ‘entitled’ to be represented at roughly the same rate as you are in the overall population?” To which my response is that women aren’t entitled.

They’re qualified. They’re talented. They’re hard-working, they’re smart, they’ll fight, and they’re effective, you just have to be willing to reach out to people who believe in serving their country and your values, and that’s something that even the National Party can do, and I’m not even complementing them to say so, I’m just saying that this is Management 101-level stuff.

The people who are entitled are men who think it’s okay for us to hog two-thirds of leadership positions. If I am ever acknowledged for some particular thing I did, or some honour, I want to know I’ve earned it by merit, not because someone gave it to me because they’re too sexist to acknowledge a woman who genuinely did better than me.

I have been told I’m simply arguing for quotas and don’t understand selection by merit. Really? Well, let’s have a look at what National thinks is selecting by merit in its 2014 list:

  • Simon Bridges, a slick-hair seat filler who can’t seem to give a straight answer on anything, is one rank above Nikki Kaye, the one woman in National’s caucus that everyone across Parliament acknowledges is an effective and compassionate MP, and one of National’s best, even if they don’t always agree with her.
  • Murray McCully, of Sheepgate fame, is ranked significantly higher than one Amy Adams, who is largely successful in her job of “not making the news,” unlike McCully, who seems to have a reverse-midas touch.
  • Chester Borrows, who is due to some fluke of birth a freaking deputy Speaker, despite trying to compromise on beating children, and having run over the feet of protestors because they were in his way, still manages to rank higher than Louise Upston, who debates better than he does and manages to not be a disaster.
  • Despite both of them being odious, Melissa Lee is also ranked lower than Sam Loto-Iiga. Whatever you wish to say about Lee, I doubt she could mix things up as badly as a Minister as Loto-Iiga has, although arguably such a comment is me inviting her to disprove it.

And lest you think I’m simply picking every woman on the list and saying they deserve to be higher, I can tell you that the two highest-ranked women on National’s previous list are rubbish that deserve to be much further down, preferably trading placing with the actually talented Nikki Kaye. Parata is out of her depth running education, and I think everyone outside of the National Party faithful breathed a sigh of relief on hearing that she plans to step down with the 2017 election, and Collins is a scandal magnet who’s lobbying to succeed Key as leader, despite the fact that she wants to be Prime Minister of a majority liberal country2 and couldn’t effectively campaign to liberals even if she starred in a hit musical about intersectional feminism. (While I won’t tempt fate by daring them to pick her3, I can’t see any effective political strategy for an odious insider like Collins to win the Prime Ministership in an actual election as leader. The best shot she has is John Key resigning mid-term)

There are complications to be sorted out to do this, however, and unlike National, Labour is acknowledging them. One of the problems is that even if you alternate your party list, the two largest parties win a sizable number of electorates, many of them predictably going to either Labour or National. Some ‘safe’ Labour seats will need to be taken away from senior male MPs, and given to female MPs so that other list winners will balance out. Some competitive seats may also need to go to women, so that the potential for surprise wins makes it likely that labour will still average out to roughly even representation.

Despite all the sexist uproar about a “man ban,” Labour had actually worked this out reasonably well and agreed to the rule under Cunliffe, so unless it’s repealed in less than a year, you can expect to see a half-female Labour caucus in 2017, despite the difficulties. (the real question will be if they’ve managed to order MPs in a way that puts the minnows near the bottom and the powerhouses at the top and/or in safe seats. We need a lot less Mallards and Currans in Labour’s caucus if they want to take back the treasury benches)

In all, it’s 2016. We deserve to live in a country where not just the Left, but even the Right acknowledge that a cabinet with equal amounts of women in it is realistic, fair, and qualified, and anyone who said otherwise is desperately hanging on to outmoded ways of thinking.


Those of you who are not particularly aware of the way electorate boundaries are drawn may not be aware that New Zealand actually has a quota for South Island electorates. Basically, regardless of the relative population imbalance, the South Island is always guaranteed to have at least 16 electorate seats. Essentially how they work is that the median electorate size is set to 1/16th the population of the South Island at the time electorates are reviewed, then the North Island seats are divided up relative to this so that they don’t vary by more than 5% from the median size. After that, Māori electorates are “superimposed” over the borders of the general seats in a way that divides them roughly by the Māori electoral roll population, and so that there’s a proper proportion of Māori seats to General seats.

Unless there’s a sudden exodus of North Islanders to the South Island at some point, or a mass immigration to the South Island to get away from Donald Trump, there’s likely to be a long-term issue with that. Why? Because of something I call “list seat parity,” which is the idea that parties with significant shares of the Party Vote, like National, Labour, the Greens, and New Zealand First, should never have overhang seats.

MMP is intended to have a healthy proportion of list MPs- the original ratio was that just above 41% of MPs would be list MPs, presumably with the intention that the ratio would stay around 5 list MPs to every 7 electorate ones. We have added two new electorates to the North Island since we switched to an MMP system, reducing the number of list MPs to 49, assuming no Independents are elected. (independents elected at a general election remove a list seat vacancy rather than creating an overhang so that Parliament doesn’t inflate grossly due to independents being elected, a rule which hasn’t become relevant since like, ever, as every “independent” in our system has either been someone who quit their party, or a lone MP optimistically having their own political party, presumably on the theory that they’ll earn a second seat again sometime in the future. Not happening, Seymour and Dunne, not happening.)

It theory, there’s really nothing wrong with actually having less electorates than we do, but 60%-ish of MPs being electorate MPs isn’t unreasonable and doesn’t hasn’t threatened parliaments much larger than about 125 MPs in the past.

With 70 seats, there’s a reasonable expectation of list seat parity, but it’s not guaranteed. Almost all electorate seats are won by National or Labour. There are only five others likely to be in serious contention in the current political climate, (which as we know, can rapidly change, but this list is actually somewhat on the high side by historical standards) and those are Epsom, Northland, Ōhārui, Waiariki, and possibly Te Tai Tokerau. (As nobody polls for electorates, we have no real clue whether the Māori party agreeing not to stand there will matter enough to unseat Kelvin Davis in 2017. I’m assuming it’s within the realm of possibility until I have good reason to think otherwise) Let’s assume that small parties won’t take more than five electorate seats. That currently leaves 66 currently for Labour and National. Labour, with roughly 27.5% of the party vote, earned 27 seats in 2014.

That’s not currently a problem, but with some small changes to the way our elections work, and a small boost in North Island population, (ie. a few more electorates) it might be.

Imagine for a moment that the Greens start eating into Labour’s party vote but not their electorate vote. Let’s assume in this calculation Labour can hold on to a similar number of electorate MPs- it only takes about a 5% shift to the Green party for Labour to start getting overhang MPs, compared to current polling, and that’s without any extra North Island electorates, and assuming Hone takes back Te Tai Tokerau. A roughly 4% shift to the Greens from Labour will start giving them overhang seats if the 2020 election adds a new electorate seat again. (note the link shows all of Labour’s seats as electorate seats with no overhang, that’s because the Commission’s calculator doesn’t allow for us to award more than the current 71 electorates. I take it you’re capable of using your imagination)

I would much prefer that instead of having a South Island quota, we simply set the number of electorates to 70 in legislation, and the South Island get its share based on how many 70ths of the population live on the South Island and are part of the General Roll. This will limit the chance that either Labour or National (but most likely, Labour) will end up with overhang seats in the future. This should limit the likelihood of overhang seats for Labour in the future, especially as we’re approaching the point where certain Wellington electorates like Wellington Central might actually spontaneously decide to elect a Green candidate even though they’re not campaigning for the electorate vote. (In terms the party vote, most Wellington electorates are three-way races between the Greens, Labour, and National)

If we don’t adjust the South Island Quota, however, we’re in for an interesting problem in the long term. Until relatively recently, about .5% more of the population would live in the North Island every census, but that rate’s actually increased a little bit recently. Assuming that trend continues, it won’t take too long for us to end up with nearly 90 electorates, (it only takes a population growth of just over 1 million in the North Island, if you assume the South Island population stays static) which would make breaking list parity the rule, rather than the exception. (in fact, it was actually one of the potential “reforms” to MMP that Labour had been talking about at the time of the MMP review was to add another 20 or so electorates, because they knew that the party most likely to get overhang seats that way would be Labour) This could actually happen in 20-30 years time, depending on migration numbers, so I hope I’m not the only one noticing that the South Island Quota is a terrible way to determine how many electorate seats we have.

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.


Remember my chart of what Parliament should look like with the threshold altered to winning a list seat outright?

Want to know the really funny thing?

If National had changed the rules to that, they’d be able to use the conservatives to defeat a bunch of members’ bills they’re now having to fillibuster. There are advantages to real reform to the voting system.

Instead, due to our odd rules about by-elections, New Zealand First takes a seat off National and makes them need two support votes to pass anything.