Friday 18 February 2011

You Know Something's Wrong When ...

You Guy's Have Got To Be Kidding!: You know something's very, very wrong when the only person the Media 7 team could find to argue for the continuation of Women's Studies courses was ...

THE BETE NOIR of The Hand Mirror set ends up fronting for the value of Women’s Studies courses on Media 7.

Say what?

Yes, that’s right, the only panellist willing to defend Women’s Studies courses (and pretty much the whole feminist discourse) on last night’s Media 7 programme was the Queen of Thorns favourite prick – Chris Trotter.

Prompted by the recent decision to cancel the Women’s Studies course at Victoria University, the producers of Media 7 were keen to examine the likely impact of its demise on the coverage of gender issues by the New Zealand media.

But could they get anybody with a strong personal commitment to the teaching of Women’s Studies to appear on the show? Not on your Nelly! Sandra Coney and Sue Kedgely, founding mothers of Second Wave Feminism in New Zealand, declined. All the women in academia who were approached were unwilling to put their heads above the ivory parapet. Even the women at New Zealand’s premier feminist blogsite – The Hand Mirror – refused to participate.

Finally, in desperation (or was it out of a wicked sense of humour?) they asked Chris Trotter if he would be prepared to comment.

Well, after I stopped laughing, my first question was: "Is there no one else slightly better qualified than me – like a woman – willing to discuss this?" The producers explained that they’d lined up Deborah Coddington to discuss women in journalism, and that a young graduate of the University of Auckland’s Women’s Studies course, Hannah Lynch, would supply the voice of direct experience, but they’d been unable to find any women who were prepared to come on the programme and defend Women’s Studies per se. (To be fair, Marilyn Waring would have fronted, but she had another engagement.)

Blame it on the Imp of Perversity – but I said "Okay, I’ll do it!"

And what a weird experience it turned out to be.

The show kicked-off with an interview between Media 7 journalist Sarah Daniell and a former Women’s Studies student from Vic’ who’s gone on to become a household name in New Zealand journalism ….. John Campbell.

Okay, make that two blokes.

Then Deborah – the former libertarian and Act MP – informed the show’s stand-in host, José Barboza (you’re cursing the timing of that Webstock Conference now, aren’t you Russell) that, as a young journalist, she took her inspiration from Joan Didion, Gloria Steinem and woman journalists writing for the left-wing American periodical Mother Jones. Who knew? And, what went wrong?

For my money, however, the star of the show was Hannah. With the forbearance of age, I shall pass over this budding journalist’s first foray into public political commentary in silence. The programme is viewable here. Make up your own mind.

Suffice to say that, by the end of the programme I was ready to start bellowing out the chorus of I Am Woman and, at a pinch, would have burned my Y-fronts on camera.

Is the backlash born of the barbecue-pit and the sports bar really this strong? Have we truly reached such a low intellectual level in this country, and is the climate of fear in our universities, corporations, party caucuses, trade union offices and newsrooms really so great, that the only people willing to defend what is arguably the most important progressive movement of the past half-century are John Campbell and ….. me!

Surely, there’s something very, very wrong with this picture?


The Paradoxical Cat said...

Yes. The climate of fear really is that great.

Anonymous said...

What is it about you Chris that you wind up on the barricades defending lost causes?


Anonymous said...

Good grief.....her argument 'I finished the course' was compelling though.

Unknown said...

Sadly Yoko Ono is still correct, but she also says "think about it, do something about it".

Anonymous said...

What are they teaching those kids at journo school these days? How to wear pretty frocks and lipstick?

WAKE UP said...

Here’s George Gilder on Steinem et al, way back in 1973:

“Most of the proponents (of Women’s Lib) are graduate students, assistant professors, journalists, and various lumpen litterateurs; products of distended education and stinted experience, permissive sex and cynical love; or else they are wives and mothers manqué, having their revenge on the world of men. An indefatigable few are lesbians or dildotage activists.
“But mostly they are young and intellectual, sufferring from the simultaneous contraction of opportunity and inflation of prestige affecting most of their age and profession. Spoiled by doting parents during the postwar binge of pretentious motherhood, beneficiaries of a steadily ascending familial affluence, taught to expect too much of life, educated to believe that qualifications decide, and qualified as no previous female generation – these women simply have no idea how most people live, or why”.
(from “Sexual Suicide”, by George Gilder, Quadrangle 1973)
So what were you expecting?

Anonymous said...

Yes I watched the show in horror... I thought you did a good job representing NZ women. The incredible disconnect between women from different classes in NZ was evident in the show. And yes, NZ has had a few female CEOs women in power, but that glass ceiling largely discussed during the show is yet to be broken everywhere in the world.

Anonymous said...

I tried but I couldn't watch till the end. Where did they find Hannah? Who on earth chose her to be on the show? It'll take me a wee while to overcome feeling furious at her pathetic - and that's me trying to be charitable - contribution.

Anonymous said...

Not sure I qualify as part of "The Hand Mirror set" but always happy to get a plug, Chris.

I can't comment on why other women might have declined to participate and certainly appreciate you asking the question you did of the producers. But who else to ask? Only a very few bloggers (on whatever part of the political spectrum) get rated as "experts" or "commentators" by the media, and once you start to look specifically for explictly feminist women who is there beyond the academics and the still-prominent second-wavers, who do to be blunt have other jobs to do?

We just don't have a feminist equivalent of you, and once one's exhausted feminism the Left seems the next best thing (in media commentary as in everything else).

Chris Trotter said...

My apologies, Ideologically Impure, for lumping you in with the Hand Mirror set. One should never confuse Bourbon with Coke.

Victor said...

Poor Hannah

She can't help being young and ignorant.

Us geriatrics were all like that at one time. It's just that we spouted a different brand of muddled certainty.

Wisdom might come with age. But so, alas, do back ache and memory loss!

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming I'm Coke, because bourbon is filthy.

Anonymous said...

Women's studies should go - because if no-one of it's beneficiaries can be found to defend it, it is truly worthless.

And 'the climate of fear is that great' Paradoxical Cat? Really? For those Womens Studies academics who were losing their jobs? What did they have to fear or lose? At least Hannah had the guts to front up and try.

Perhaps the lack of WS academic rigor was felt to be indefensible? Like defending scholarships for female university students, when they had become a majority. Hard to be oppressed when you set the agenda, eh?

SPC said...

It would seem Womens Studies was/is no longer effective in establishing solidarity, possibly because of a lack of class consciousness.

I made a point to Prue Hyman some years ago about the risk that women working for their own wage would lose solidarity for women who were not working - Hannah sort of affirmed that by seeing WFF as somehow incentivising the wrong choice for women (even though it took tens of thousands of children out of working poor two income family poverty and kept home ownership affordable for struggling middle class families). Whereas my criticism of WFF is that it is not based (with tax credits add ons where still required) on the payment of the dole to any non working partner (not being work tested for raising up children - as per the DPB) - to note that 2 wages (and the woman working is the norm) and those deprived of that second job will struggle to own a home and save for retirement.

Was not feminism about choice, rather than abandoning women without jobs (and their children) to poverty? Where Hannah sort of says women can only have a career if they have their children placed in child care and never take time off work when having a family (barring our 12 week parental leave). And seems to think that feminism is about not helping those women who are not working. This fits the right-wing meme about reducing support to the unemployed and poor and instead transferring tax cuts to the more successful.

I promoted the idea of payment of a social wage/dole to the non working partner to Laila Harre when she was Womens Affiars Minister in the first term of the last Labour government. It would place women with partners and those on the DPB on an equal footing and this would maitain solidarity amongst women and prevent the divide and conquest of women and their families that this government is now trying to exploit by bashing beneficiaries to place downward pressure on wages.

Chris Trotter said...

My apologies, Ideologically Impure. Please choose the least filthy from the following:

One should never confuse ...

Vodka with Orange
Gin with Tonic
Rum with Coke
Whiskey with Water

WAKE UP said...

The biggest shibboleths of the women's "movement" were:

1) you can have it all
2) this is desirable
3) men already had it

when the truth has always been:

1) nobody can have it all
2) it's a damnfool, selfish idea
3) men were/are just as circumscribed by gender/anatomy/destiny roles etc as women were/are (check the mortality stats, for example - in war or peace)

the problem was: men already knew this from their own version of bitter experience - but chivalrously let the feminists find it out for themselves...

result: confusion in the ranks :)

Unknown said...

Yoko Ono again: the women are the slaves of the slaves.

SPC said...

Maybe the buddhists have a point, it's in the lack of ambition to have a career or to be a parent that we are truly free. But, if they end the courses that do not lead to profit for capital, what will free people do?

Or people could just fight for the 8 hour work day and job sharing and affordable childcare and use the nanny (if the high paid career option path is chosen) so people can have careers and be parents. Job sharing allows 2 people a work and life balance and also provides rest and recovery for high achievement at peak work load capacity periods of the year - it is actually quite productive alternative to people working 55-60 hours a week alone and being unable to cope with extra load periods. It is also more appropriate to our culture and environment lifestyle opportunities.

Besides now that we live much longer and people can store egges etc, it is much more plausible to have it all across time - and more easily still if only housing was more affordable.