Gender and Race in the fall of Judith Collins

The Collins and Oravida scandal has the power to dent National’s support for three reasons- gender, race, and raw simplicity. The story contains elements that alienate the soft middle that swung to National under John Key, particularly the ‘working bloke’ vote. Also, as I’ve argued in a previous post Collins has enough power, profile and proximity to Key to tarnish him and change votes.

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Firstly, Judith Collins. She is a strong-willed woman that bucks gender stereotypes. A lot of soft blue votes don’t appreciate that and will be harsher on her than if she was a man. However, the presence of prejudice does not mean the absence of guilt. Rather, many soft blue voters will be less forgiving of her guilt because she’s an unconventional woman. I’ve heard working people say similar things about Hekia Parata. They hate her arrogance, but it’s worse because she’s Māori. This can push some sexist votes back to the blokey blokes on the Left.

Secondly, race. The fact that Judith Collins’ friends are rich and allegedly corrupt Chinese people will antagonise a lot of soft blue votes and working blokes. The fact that Collins has close friendships and business relationships with Stone Shi and Julia Xu does not resonate with many of these voters. Asians are the ‘other’ to many kiwis, especially working bloke voters. Everyone knows that there is racism in New Zealand towards Asians in general and Chinese in particular. The Left is mimicking New Zealand First and dog-whistling to this racism on housing.

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This is our history. Our racism is more subtle now.

Thirdly, simplicity. This is a very easy story to understand. In fact, you don’t even need to understand the story to understand the story. There will be voters across the country that will read this as ‘bossy woman looking after rich Asian mates.’ That is far from the experience and preferences of many of those that have swung to National.

But more than that, this plays into a narrative of cronyism. From Nick Smith and Bronwyn Pullar through Act and cups of tea to Collins and Oravida, a narrative is taking shape. National are smug and only looking out for their mates.

Perhaps the most damaging element for National is the proximity, profile and power of Collins. She is a nationally known figure who sits very near the throne. She is one of a few that can tarnish Key. A 3 News Reid Research poll said 40% of respondents thought John Key should stand Collins down as Minister. The news from the last two days will only increase this number. National’s internal polls may show that the party takes a hit from the ongoing Oravida fiasco. This may force Collins into act of contrition, or even earn her a demotion. Or maybe easter could make everyone forget about the whole thing. Only time will tell.

 

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Paternity leave is a feminist issue

A while back I attended a feminist event that discussed, amongst other things, maternity leave. An audience member asked how women could be successful and have a family when they both require so much time. The respondent, an academic, suggested that there were a few options- more maternity leave, more flexible work hours, children at work, and greater use of childcare. These are all great campaigns, but the elaborations that followed were mostly focused on the latter. There was a tone of resignation, like ‘this is the choice you must make’.

As a male feminist who wants to have children and be an active father, I was a little saddened. The idea of men putting their careers aside for a year or three to care for the children was not even considered. 

I just can’t understand why we as a society (and the left-wing men particularly) do not expect men to forgo a period in THEIR careers to help raise children. It’s treated as a given that women will lose at least a year of their careers. I think men in general (and on the left especially) need to put their hands up and share the effort (and the reward) of caring for children. Not only is it fair for men for take time out of their career too, I think a lot of men would welcome the opportunity. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of gender norm policing from other men on the issue, but that makes the issue all the more important to raise. I think feminist men need to make more of an effort here.  

If we all do so, perhaps one day parental leave will be expected of ALL parents, regardless of gender. And then, hopefully, parental leave will cease to be a career disadvantage for ANYONE, and will instead become an accepted necessity. Because expecting women to take a career break, and men to barely see their children is untenable.