Women in the House – some numbers from the 2014 election

Based on the election night results, we will have 121 MPs in the House, of whom 39 will be women. That’s 32.2%. It’s the same proportion of women as there was following the election in 2011, and it’s down from 34% in 2008.

Excluding parties with just one MP (ACT and United Future), here are the numbers for each party.

Greens – 6 men, 7 women, 54% women
Maori – 1 man, 1 woman, 50% women
Labour – 20 men, 12 women, 37.5% women
National – 44 men, 17 women, 28% women
New Zealand First – 9 men, 2 women, 18% women

Well done to the Greens and the Maori party.

My own party needs to do some very careful work on selection. The proportion of women in the Labour caucus doesn’t meet the party’s goal of 45% at this election, and it’s slipped backwards from 2011. We lost three strong women last night – Moana Mackey, Carol Beaumont, and Maryan Street – and that’s very hard to take.

We have good Maori and Pasifika representation in caucus, but no Chinese New Zealanders, and no Indian New Zealanders.

On the radio, talking about domestic violence

I was on Nights on Radio NZ earlier this week, talking about domestic violence. It was, as ever, a difficult topic to talk about.

You can find a recording of the talk here: Click on “Pundit: Feminist thought”

I talked about some of the myths about domestic violence, including the “myth” that women are violent too. This is not actually a myth, because it’s true. But, the scale is different. I’ve come across one study which has some reasonably good stats – domestic violence as reported by children.

Domestic violence as witnessed by New Zealand children

This is from the Dunedin longitudinal study. The researchers have been following an entire cohort of children, all the children born in Dunedin between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973. That’s a very powerful dataset. In this particular article, the researchers look at the children’s reports of domestic violence, c/f reports by perpetrators or by victims. Here’s what they found.

One-quarter (24%) of the sample reported violence or threats of violence directed from one parent to the other. Nine percent reported infrequent assaults while one in 10 reported more than five acts of physical violence. In violent families, 55% reported violence by fathers only, 28% by both partners, and 16% by mothers only.

I also talked about the testimony from Sir Patrick Stewart. It is compelling and distressing.

Patrick Stewart: the legacy of domestic violence

There’s more from Patrick Stewart here: Sir Patrick Stewart’s powerful message about domestic violence

If you are affected by domestic violence, then Women’s Refuge can help.

http://womensrefuge.org.nz/

Or phone Women’s Refuge on 0800 REFUGE / 0800 733843

There was so much that we didn’t have time to talk about, such as the chronic underfunding of Women’s Refuge, and that women are in most danger as they prepare to leave or just after they leave which is why “she should just leave” is such a dangerous myth, or that it is widespread and occurs in all social groups.

And there was something that affected me more than almost anything. I put up a Facebook post, letting people know that I would be on the air talking about domestic violence. And immediately, some of my friends told me stories.

My daughter got out of her marriage physically unharmed on the whole, though her ex did blame bruising on her thighs on their then 3 year old son – he made an affidavit to the Family Court and they believed him FFS!! But the psychological battering was something else – she was either a useless wife and mother or a useless mother and wife.

Good luck Deborah, but the sector isnt positive. In Palmerston North since the Salvation Army closed its Womens Safe house last year due to lack of funding inhibiting its safe running, since then despite increased demand Palmerston North Women’s Refuge has gone from two safe houses that were well used to just one, have lost two staff members and are no longer able to run their children’s programme. The staff left have had their hours cut and are working the remaining hours on a voluntary basis, as well as now having to use their own cars. This leaves one safe house in the Manawatu/horowhenua district as PN womens refuge ‘area’ is the same as the DHB

Last year there were more than 90,000 domestic violence calls attended by police. It makes up 50% of their work. The form they (often called the Pol400) is 18 pages long, which accounts for the complexity of the relationships and the importance of getting the risk assessment correct. Despite all of this most police officers have no idea what happens to the Pol400 after it is filed.

We all know too much about domestic violence. And that tells you just how big a problem it is.

I’m running for Parliament

I’m running for Parliament this year, and I could do with a hand. Pop on over to my campaign blog: Deborah Russell for Labour in Rangitīkei, take a look at what I’ve been doing, and please, consider whether you could help me by making a donation.

I’ll be needing the donations to help pay for this:

Campaign plane!

Seriously, I could do with a hand. Details about how to make a donation, and what they will be used for, are on my campaign blog: Donate to my campaign.

Thank you.

On separate swimming hours for women

Hamilton City Council is proposing that up to three hours a week be set aside at one of its community swimming pools for a women-only session.

Man ban at public pool

And the response is…. predictable. Start with the headline, with its overtones of “Begone, ye wicked men!” It’s designed to elicit a negative response.

Then there the usual “PC gone mad” trope.

…the proposal was concerning and represented “separatist thinking”.

Excluding ratepayers from public facilities based on their gender was “political correctness going too far”.

“If we are going to do this for women, what about all the shy men among us. Can we have a couple of hours free from women?”

I’ve gotten very tired of the “PC gone made” trope. I’d like to know exactly what the speaker thinks is wrong with the proposal, and his reasons for thinking it’s wrong. Perhaps he’s concerned that it will lead to divisions in the community. Perhaps he’s concerned that it means that some people will miss out on swimming altogether because they are not able to use a particular facility at a particular time. If he had spelled out his concerns, instead of waving his hands in the air and saying, “PC gone mad”, then at least we would have the beginnings of a conversation.

Of course, it could be that the speaker *did* specify some of those concerns, and they just didn’t get reported.

And, Kiwiblog is onto it. DON’T READ THE COMMENTS. Really, just don’t. (‘Though there are a few people in there fighting the overwhelming tide of, you guessed it, “PC gone mad”.)

How much better to think of this from the point of view of what the community needs. Hamilton is a diverse community, and it includes people from cultures where women traditionally wear loose garments and cover their heads, as well as women who have left countries which are not as peaceful as New Zealand is. Many of these women might like to swim, and would benefit from learning to swim, but do not want to wear the form fitting and really rather revealing clothing that New Zealanders usually wear when swimming.

It’s all very well to say that women should just adapt and fit in and get on with it. The net effect will be to exclude these women from swimming altogether, all for want of a little flexibility. Setting aside this time means that Hamilton City Council is working towards providing for the needs of *all* the members of its community. More to the point, there are plenty of other swimming facilities in the city. No one is going to miss out on swimming, or on swimming at a particular time (there are other venues), or on swimming at a particular place (there are other times).

If we are to live in a tolerant and inclusive society, then we need to find ways to accommodate difference. Yes, there are some differences we must not tolerate (forced marriages and clitoredectomy performed on people who have not consented come to mind, and no doubt there are others). This is a difference that a society can tolerate, and ought to tolerate, on the grounds of being inclusive.

And a big shout out to my lovely friend Anjum Rahman for making the case for setting aside a few hours to allow women to swim only in the company of other women.

Women, beauty and age

I was on Radio NZ Nights yesterday evening, talking about women and beauty and age and double standards. You can listen to the discussion here.

Radio NZ Nights: Equality for women with feminist blogger Deborah Russell: women, beauty, aging and double standards.

I started with Mary Wollstonecraft, and her deep concerns about how the quest for beauty and beauty alone distorted women’s behaviour.

And, why do they not discover, when ‘in the noon of beauty’s power,’c that they are treated like queens only to be deluded by hollow respect, till they are led to resign, or not assume, their natural prerogatives? Confined then in cages like the feathered race, they have nothing to do but to plume themselves, and stalk with mock majesty from perch to perch.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792

The conversation segued from there, as it always does, here, there and everywhere. Bryan Crump, the Nights host, always (always!) asks me something unexpected.

As I was preparing for the discussion, I came across Susan Sontag’s 1972 article, “The Double Standard of Aging” (PDF available here).

A man doesn’t need to tamper with his face. A woman’s face is the canvas on which she paints a revised portrait of herself.

It’s very much second wave feminism, but there are some hints here and there of seeing beyond the concerns of white middle class educated women.

Oppressors, as a rule, deny oppressed people their own “native” standards of beauty. And the oppressed end up being convinced that they are ugly.

There’s a post on Sociological Images, referencing Sontag, and looking at the differences between the images that come up if you google, “woman face”, and “man face”. It makes Sontag’s point, that women are supposed to be young, with symmetrical, unlined, hairless faces. And evidently, as Sociological Images says, they should also be white.

As ever, when I’m talking to a generalist audience on Radio NZ, I tend towards a more mainstream feminism. I’ll be talking again in a few weeks, sometime in June, and I’m contemplating pushing into somewhat more complicated territory, perhaps into a discussion of intersectionality and privilege. We shall see….

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 660 other followers