Cheering with the man fans

When the great Audre Lorde said there is no such thing as a single issue, because we don’t lead single issue lives, she didn’t have New Zealand’s current debates run by (straight, white, cis, able-bodied) man fans.

But as nearly always, even more than twenty years after her far-too-early death, her words are applicable.  The moment some in the Labour Party suggested that there need to be structural measures to combat structural sexist discrimination in politics, all hell broke loose.  Despite how modest the suggestions were – that some electorates could decide their Labour candidate from amongst women members – the fallout has been huge.

I stopped reading, I’ll be honest.  The framing of the issue, almost immediately, as a “man ban” told me all I needed to know – we were going to pretend that there was a level playing field for everyone in Aotearoa.  And that what we acheive in life is based only on Merit©.
This is one of the great colonising myths, the great sexist myths, the great myths of anyone who wants to pretend discrimination and oppression are just unfortunate circumstances, or maybe even – whisper it – possibly the fault of the group complaining.  It’s much easier, always, to blame the victim than it is to pay attention to those benefiting.
Somewhat depressingly, it’s too obvious to point out the hundreds of male political representatives New Zealand’s parliament who completely lack Merit©.  So I won’t bother.  Though John Banks will always hold a special place in my heart, for so many reasons.
The discussion about Merit© should have been immediately dismissed as the absolute nonsense it is, by people who believe in challenging inequality anyway.  How can we possibly say that has been the sole criteria by which parliamentarians have been selected?  Wouldn’t there be equal numbers of women and men? 
No, the fault lines of this issue can be seen in what else the man fan cheerleaders bring up.

I’ve seen commentators arguing if we allow quotas for women, where will it end?  Those pesky gays and Māori will be wanting their own quotas before too long, won’t they?  (Let’s not even go there on the fraught colonial history around Māori representation in general electorates.  We might have to call it, oh, Māori bans?)

I’ve seen right wing commentators making jokes about how difficult it will be to tell Labour women apart from male candidates.  This isn’t, sadly, a celebration of the beauties of gender diversity.

I’ve seen left-wing men making transphobic jokes about not being prepared to transition for their seat.

And then there is Merit©.  Coming up over and over again.

The sad thing is, it’s not just the (straight, white, cis, able-bodied) man fans coming up with this.  It’s people who really should know better.  Come on New Zealanders who believe in ending discrimination and oppression.  We’re never going to do this, on any issue, without making structural changes.  Be brave enough to say that and call this “man ban” crap out for what it is – excuses for believing women are somehow worth less than men.

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