When left-wing commentator Chris Trotter recently likened Winston Peters’ treatment by the media to a “political equivalent of a gang-rape”, he was promptly critiqued by Media 7’s Russell Brown and feminist blogger ex-expat at the Hand Mirror:
Did he not stop to think that a lot of women feel uncomfortable about rape jokes and using rape in a flippant manner because rape is an ever-present background threat to daily life for many of us? Did he not consider that his flippant use of the term might be a triggers for those who have been raped?
Now using language which offends in a careless manner is very, very easy to do. US media commentator Tom Watson changed the title of this article after negative feedback – from “The Sexist Media Lynching of Hillary Clinton”, replacing lynching with mugging. He explained his choice to change the title:
I’m taking the rare step of changing the headline. My original headline was, in retrospect, inflammatory and I regret the use of the word “lynching.” Its use had two inherent problems: poor writing (the word did not accurately describe what I intended it to) and an unfortunate tendency to discount its historic – and literal – meaning in American history. I’m taking this action because this post continues to draw significant traffic from search engines, and I’d like to correct my error in judgment, however tardy it may be. That said, my overall argument stands uncorrected.
I vividly remember the phrase “nitty-gritty” causing debate in the UK, with some claiming its history dated back to to raping Black women on slave-ships – getting in amongst the “nitty-gritty.” Others dispute this.
The discussion provoked huge reactions of the political correctness gone mad type variety – with many speaking strongly about the importance to human freedoms of them being able to continue saying “nitty-gritty.”
I was reminded of this when I read Mr Trotter’s response to the criticisms of his use of “gang-rape.” Now typically I suspect Mr Trotter would be on the side of using language carefully to avoid excluding – after all, he is unashamedly a lefty, with a (usually) corresponding tendency to pay attention to who has power and who does not. His response begins:
Why am I even bothering to reply to the comments of a blogsite called “The Hand Mirror”?
Because third-wave feminists are a strange bunch.
And continues in similar vein, describing the Hand Mirror as “faux” and “so-called” “feminists”, and ending by asking:
Can it possibly be true that human-beings are only worth defending when they are female?
The Hand Mirror responded in detail to Chris Trotter’s response here, addressing both their concerns with his use of “rape” and their own definitions and ranges of feminism.
But has Mr Trotter identified a deeper problem with feminism in Aotearoa/New Zealand? One recently overcome in the US, with the simple strategy of appointing a man to front the women’s movement.
One of the most damaging periods in the New Zealand Left’s history was that period in the early-to-mid-1980s, when Second Wave Feminism, at that time dominated (at least rhetorically) by the lesbian-separatist wing of the feminist movement, more or less declared war, not only on the patriarchy, but even upon those women within their own movement who continued to involve themselves emotionally and politically with men.
It seems I’d mistakenly remembered the Springbok Tour, the Waitangi Tribunal’s remit extension to examine historical breaches of the Treaty, and the introduction of Rogernomics and neo-liberal economic policy as being the key political issues on the left in the early 1980s – but actually no, it was some lesbians who didn’t want to organise with men.
So instead, we may have to rely on feminist champion Steve Crow. He’s pretty good at taking on bureaucracy and winning. Unless anyone else has other ideas?
Actually, it occurs to me we shouldn’t stop with feminism. How about appointing a new leader of the tino rangatiratanga movement, make sure Maori have independence and the ability to manage their own economic affairs – wouldn’t a mainstream man like Don Brash help there?
Someone (else) should suggest it to Tame Iti, Annette Sykes, Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples.