Wednesday, August 30, 2006

UN Troops to occupy Grammar Zone

As fighting continues in the disputed Grammar Zone of Aukland, the UN Security Council last night passed a motion to install a peace-keeping force in the troubled region.

The long-running conflict began when Auckland Grammar School annexed the Zone, a measure it claims was necessary to prevent further incursions by parents who live outside the region. Fighting intensified last week as various groups of parents launched legal actions against the School. Auckland Grammar responded by conducting house-to-house searches in Epsom and Remuera, an action it claims was necessary to identify properties used as safe houses by parents to infiltrate boys into the the School.

Forces loyal to Auckland Grammar have also mounted road-blocks, stopping and searching SUVs entering the Zone. A spokesman for the School claims these tactics have been successful, revealing several boys who were being smuggled into the area. The School is now beginning work on a three-metre high fence to be built along the perimeter of the Zone, an action which local real estate firms claim violates previous peace agreements.

The main news agency in the region, The Bays and Remuera Times, has received statements from parents claiming that daily incursions into the zone are continuing successfully, despite the School's actions. Parents are also seeking support from the powerful Ministry of Education, which is known to have fully-equipped Inspectors and large stocks of policy guidelines.

The United Nations peace-keeping force is likely to comprise troops from Israel, Serbia and Sierra Leone.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hasta la vista

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Leaked memo reveals truth about Herald on Sunday

The Herald on Sunday has been rocked by scandal following the leaking of an internal memo which reveals that many of the people in its celebrity photographs section are nobodies.

The paper has gained widespread acceptance for its insightful photographs of people standing around at parties, some of whom are known celebrities but many who are only vaguely recognisable, if at all. With the release of the memo comes the shocking truth that they are not remotely famous.

The memo was written to Herald senior management by sub-editor Justine de Vlaminck, whom sources say was known as Debbie Smith when working in her first job on the Porirua Gazette. It details the strategies behind the making of the celebrity photos section: "really there are not that many real celebrities in Auckland and there are not that many places where they congregate. It can be a hard job filling three pages with photographs. "

"We have a bad time finding places to go to photograph people who are even mildly well-known. Theatre openings and art gallery viewings would seem the obvious choices but real A-list celebs are mostly pretty stupid and try to avoid people who talk in complete sentences. The folk who do hang out at these events are generally old, ugly and badly-dressed, even if they are the intellectual capital of the knowledge economy. Besides, our readers wouldn't have a clue who they are. Our readers are morons.

"So, once we have taken the week's snaps of Charlotte Dawson and Marc Ellis, we look around for people who are tolerably recognisable. Usually, there is not much in choices of location: the opening of yet another Parnell restaurant, some party at a posh car dealership, the unveiling of the first collection by this week's breathtaking new fashion talent. It is all pretty humdrum. There are few pickings when it comes to star quality either: what genuine paparazzi-bait would bother going out on a wet Tuesday night to a piss-up at a hairdressing salon?"

"What we do is find anyone who looks hot and could pass for a bit-part player in Shortland Street. It's not that difficult for the photographers: most of them only picked up a camera in the first place so they could ogle girls' boobies without being arrested. At this kind of bash there will usually be a bunch of Dio girls who would do pretty much anything for a Strawberry Vodkatini. As for men, we can always find a few foppish boys who look as if they might be heirs to vast manufacturing fortunes, even if they came on the bus from Avondale.

"We then top off the evening by taking a picture of any bald guy with no neck who happens to be passing. The mid-life crisis blokes all try to look like former All-Blacks when they are dangling their BMW keyrings in front of nail-technicians at Sponge Bar; if it fools those floozies, it will fool our readership. Actually, those floozies are our readership: ask the marketing department."

"When we crawl back to the office the next morning, we are usually too hung-over to remember who we photographed or where, so we just make stuff up. That's why everyone in the photographs has such silly names, like Clint Rutgers or Pollyanna Carboose. Most of the events are just as fictitious. A lot of them are just staff parties; sometimes we don't even have to leave the building to get a photo shoot."

"It might all seem just a tad ethically challenged, but what does it matter? Nobody's going to win a Qantas doing this sort of work and Robert Fisk isn't going to come looking for a story about us. It doesn't matter to the readers anyway. Down the line in Waiwhatever, they think anybody in the big city who dies her hair blonde and cultivates an eating disorder must be famous."

No spokesman for the Herald on Sunday was available for comment.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sensible Sentencing Trust Calls for Arming of Shop Workers

Following the shooting of an assailant by a gun store owner, the Sensible Sentencing Trust has called for the arming of shop workers.

Commenting on the incident at SAI Guns and Ammo in Penrose, Trust Spokesman Garth McVicar observed, "this time a tragedy was averted. Mr Carvell, the store owner, had a ready supply of high-quality precision firearms, as you would expect in a gun store. The next time a machete-wielding thug goes on a crime spree, the shop he enters could be Baker's Delight or Paper Plus. The staff would not be able to defend themselves with baguettes or A4 lever-arch files."

"Retail staff are in the front-line of the war against violent crime, yet they are ill-equipped to protect themselves and their stock. Providing them with handguns is the only way to prevent disaster," he continued. "The Government should be required to provide shop owners with weapons and training programmes for their staff."

Predicting further incidents of this kind, Mr McVicar said "we have commissioned independent research which shows that 89% of teenage males take drugs, play ultra-violent computer games and get 'pumped-up' on what they call 'gangsta rap' and 'death metal.' This is a dangerous cocktail of anti-social influences which, sooner rather than later, will erupt into a tsunami of violent crime. It is just a time-bomb waiting to explode."

"Guns are not cheap, but neither is the cost of crime. Providing staff with handguns, pump-action shotguns and maybe semiautomatic weapons is the answer. Of course, we would not advocate giving every shop assistant a 9mm Heckler and Koch P2000 with ambidextrous slide locks and magazine release. This sort of arsenal should only be made available to staff who have shown themselves to be mature, responsible members of the community. We would not want to see firearms being issued to those slovenly, ill-kempt youths who work part-time in many stores just to buy mag wheels for their souped-up cars."

Concluding his prepared statement, Mr McVicar told reporters, "the Warehouse is where everyone gets a bargain but, in future, it will be where P-crazed hoodlums who break the law get filled with lead."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Better than Welly?

You may not realise it but part of my work is involved in developing solutions to solve the current skills shortages in Auckland. Its great work that is very rewarding and I work closely with the business community which I don't do much in other parts of my life.
I have been reading the 'jobs letter' and it says that there is good news for civil servants who want to go across the ditch - Camberra are doing a massive recruitment drive in Wellington. Although Camberra can generally offer higher salaries, there is a downside to the deal - you have to live in Camberra.

Its probably a bit mean for me to judge but even the people of Camberra admit that their city is a bit on the boring side.

It also reports of a Dutch study that shows that pregant women in high stress jobs should not work more than 24 hours a week from teh very beginning of their pregnancy.
It shows that these women were more likely to have babies that were born at lower than average weight.
These babies are, in turn, more likely to be obese, be more at risk of heart attacks, stroke and diabetes. Also these women are more likely to have problems with their pregancies. This is a pretty important point as many women want to continur working as normal for several months into their pregnancy. I guess it can sometimes be easy to forget how stressed you are until its too late.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

my postcode is?

NZ Post - relaunched the postcode system recently. I still have no idea what mine is, nor has anyone let me know. Waste of time?

Write The Rest Here

Thursday, June 01, 2006

He just wanted my account number

I had the strangest experience a couple of days ago.
I have been receiving Nigerian scam emails just like everyone else for years but I have been receiving this South African email for a while and I have been deleting it.

Two mornings ago, at about 7am my mobile phone rang. It came up restricted number which I usually wouldn’t answer. The only reason I have started answering restricted numbers is that the Auckland city council and also many journalists have their number restricted and you cant tell who it is – so I have had to start answering it.
Anyway Its this guy with a thick African accent and my initial thought is that it is someone from the International Union of Socialist Youth calling to talk to me about Spain but he says he is from South Africa and that he has sent me an email and that he needs my account number and I am like “what? Huh?” because his accent is so thick so I say goodbye and think nothing of it really. Until I turn on my computer and there is a scammers email from this guy in South Africa!
I have to have my cell number online because I am an elected representative but that is so funny – and strange, does it happen often that they call people? Can I do anything about it?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tamaki Blog

I have set up a information blog for the Tamaki Community Board. I have been writing for it for about a week and we have had quite a few people visit.
It is a sort of experiment in communication in the sense that it is not a personal political blog but a board information blog.
Please check it out - no rude comments please if you want to comment about me do so on Ketewere

Write The Rest Here

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I am a professional broadcaster

After convincing the Radio Live crew that I was a much better leftie than Jacqui Brown (and smarter too) I have been given a paid spot (hence the professional part) on the radio every friday at 4.45pm. Ben (former blogger) and NBR business journalist is the right wing part of the 15 minute "left v right point of view sharing extravaganza with James Coleman - its called "the week that was." I have been doing it for a couple of weeks and forgot to tell the blogosphere.
You should all listen - its a hell of a lot of fun - 702am or 100.6 Auckland, 98.7FM in Welly or check out here for other frequencies across the country!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A chance to Act

Immigration is the ultimate ball for politicians to pick up and sprint with. On the whole immigrants are a very vulnerable bunch, at the mercy of our immigration system: to be accepted, or not to be accepted. Refugees even more so.
New Zealand’s immigration legislation has been reviewed by the government, and their discussion paper is available for public comment. No Right Turn has given the whole document a fairly good going over, Tze Ming Mok has her points here, and my recent article on Scoop canvasses the opinions of some people in the know.

The most dramatic proposition in the discussion paper is the idea to introduce classified information into the immigration decision making process. A person could be declined entry on the basis of secret evidence – and that’s an incredibly difficult situation to defend oneself against.
In my research for the Scoop article, Paul Buchanan gave a good example as to why we should be concerned about political manipulation in the security intelligence sector. Remember those Iraqis, allegedly members of Saddam Hussien’s former government, who Winston Peters railed about in parliament last year? They’re now facing deportation. Buchanan has a point when he says that we should be worried about the two possible explanations for this: either the security services had no idea who these guys were when they first entered the country, or they’re facing deportation for political motivations – pandering to Peters. Neither possibility looks good.

Public submissions are due on the proposal on 30 June. Put in your two cents about the future of New Zealand. Do it!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What it means to be lonely

I stumbled across this story today and It got me thinking about the Ministry of Social Developments yearly Social report.
The Social report - reports on various indicators and I often use them in my work. As I work in South Auckland with a high proportion of Maori, Pasifika and migrants the social report shows key indicators for these communities.
Although I doubt that google trends and the social report have much in common I thought that I would draw your attention to the reports outcomes for 'Lonliness' and 'trust in others'

"Trust in others"
The social report reports on the population over 15 years. It found that 69% of New Zealanders said that they believed people could be trusted. It found that people in the 'other' ethnic group reported the highest overall level of trust in others at 73% Maori (57 percent) and Pacific peoples (56 percent) had the lowest proportions who felt that people could be trusted.

Trust in others tends to increase as personal income levels increase. New Zealanders with personal incomes over $100,001 reported the highest overall levels of trust (82 percent). Those with incomes of $30,000 or less reported lower levels of trust overall, with only 66 percent indicating that they thought people could be trusted 'almost always' or 'usually'

Those living in Manukau reported the lowest level of trust in others, with 61 percent reporting people could 'almost always' or 'usually' be trusted.

Which I found pretty unsurprising but interesting all the same - NZ ranked 26th in the OCED for 'Trust in others'

The Lonliness stats go like this

NZ/ Europeans reported the lowest rate of loneliness with 15 percent - Twenty-two percent of Maori and 25 percent of Pacific peoples reported they are 'sometimes' 'most of the time', or 'always' lonely. Asian/Indian peoples (36 percent) and people in 'Otherî ethnic groups (36 percent) reported the highest rates of loneliness.

Incomes of $20,000 or less reported higher rates of loneliness than people with higher incomes. This compares with a loneliness rate of only 5 percent for those with a personal income over $100,001.

People living in Manukau City had the highest reported incidence of loneliness. Those living in the Rodney District had the lowest reported incidence of experiencing loneliness (14 percent).

They measure lonliness and trust in others because they are measures of wellbeing. There is probably something in the 'stuff' story about Aucklanders and their levels of misery. Unless we are all obsessed with a little cartoon goth girl.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Well, didn't expect THAT one...

Who would have thought?

UFO study finds no sign of aliens

So many falsehoods, so little time. I'll move onto something else soon

Rick decided to take issue with my analysis of his recent 'fisking' (could we please come up with another name? Naming an argumentative tactic after the most unreadable modern liberal becomes incredibly grating). He had promised a refutation of my analysis, and while I can see some holes in my original argument, he fails to raise any of them.

Let's have a look at what Rick says, and why he fails, again, to miss his target...

"Yah,As I said, it's not ad hominum[sic] if I'm arguing the issue. The success of Kate is the issue- she put it on the table herself."

Let's analyse the claims Rick made about Kate, the claims that Kate made about herself and whether or not Rick's original "fisking" is indeed ad hominem taken from the comments box of my original post.

The logical fallacy behind argumentum ad hominem is this:

1. Person A makes claim X.
2. There is something objectionable about Person A.
3. Therefore claim X is false.

Rick argues the following

1. Kate claims she is successful
2. Kate is a local body politician, and a "paracite"
3. Thefore Kate's claim she is successful is false.

At its most simple level then, this is a logically fallacious ad hominem argument. However, it goes even further than that, because the first two propositions of Rick's themselves are either untrue or do not logically follow.

As to point 1, during her speech, Kate stated:

"I was invited to speak because I am a successful woman. I must say that this is very flattering, as I do not yet feel successful."

Ergo, Kate is implying that she does not perceive herself to be successful. As a result, Kate did not "put it on the table" that she was successful. In fact, Kate makes no claim either way as to whether or not she is successful.

As to point 2, Rick states that:

"There is a name for what she is, and logical arguments to justify my calling her by that name. Politicians and beurocrats[sic] opperating[sic] outside their briefs are paracites[sic]. No apoligies[sic] for saying so."

Of course, Rick doesn't elucidate these 'logical' arguments as to why (a) politicians and bureaucrats operating outside their briefs are parasites, and (b) why Kate is acting outside her brief to appear in the AUSA Quad to speak about womens issues, and is therefore a parasite. It is just assumed and asserted and, therefore, rhetorically useless. As such, even the construction of Rick's ad hominem argument is shaky, let alone the fact that, were the points correct, it would still be a logical fallacy.

"As for Kate's lesson about unnamed abstract women who are supposed to put us on a guilt trip...useless. Maybe you, X, and you, Kate, had something in mind but the speech says nothing of it. There is no substance, just the assumption that someone somewhere is hurting and it's our fault. All X has done is to try to enter new issues that might have helped Kate's case had she thought to include them herself. Which she didn't."

This is a strawman argument on the part of Rick. If one were to read Kate's speech, one would understand from the statement that the intent of the speech is not to make the listener feel guilty. The intent of the point about the situation of women overseas was to inform the listener that women's issues are not unique to this country. Further, because Kate did not bring up any specific named examples of these instances overseas does not ipso facto prove that they are incorrect. Indeed, given that I subsequently gave numerous examples of said discrimination and abuses, proving that they are not an abstraction, Rick's point is moot. The examples that I raised were not new issues, they were simply an instance of having to state the obvious, to make it blindingly clear. Kate's biggest mistake here was assuming most people had some grip on, or knowledge of what is going on in the world. It's quite clear that they don't.

"Now another fact is that men and woman fit themselves, and are fit by nature, for differnet[sic] tasks. In a free society each individual will find their way within the limits of their will, but consciousness of gender choice will colour that. Right? Thus the lives of men and woman will be as distinct as their respective observation of sexual dimorphism. Taking to this natural state of affairs a socialist meat-cleaver and carving up a 50/50 split will please no one- except perhaps she who seeks to weild such a knife over us all".

As a student of biology and anthropology, I strongly refute much of this paragraph. In my original reply to Rick I made it clear that his and others' discussions of the 'natural' gender and societal roles of men and women within society were made on two fatally flawed assumptions: that biological sex = gender identity = gender role; and that this meta-variable was biological determined. Rick provides no evidence to support these assumptions, and attempts to support his 'point' by simply restating it. Let us make it clear: gender roles and scripts are not, let me repeat NOT entirely biologically determined. It is a simple 'just so story' to say, to assert, that it is the natural order of things that men earn more, that men have a higher proportion of leadership roles in the public and private sectors, because nature made it that way. There is no empirical evidence to suggest that these are the results of our evolutionary histories. As a result, such lines of reasoning HAVE NO PLACE in a gender equality discourse.

I am glad that Rick has recognised the value of 'the consciousness of gender choice', but I still do not accept, and he has failed to show, why those disparate gender roles are justified. Sexual dimorphism, that is the physical differences in primary and secondary sexual characteristics between biological males and females is not sufficient to cause, explain or justify the imposition of an imbalance in societal gender roles between gendered males and females. It is not a 'natural' state of affairs, as I have shown, there is very little evidence to suggest that socio-cultural imbalance of power between genders has any basis in evolutionary mechanisms.

"And why not equalise male/female ratio in all industries? Why just the high-paying flashy desirable ones and not freezing worker and criminal ones? X says that would be silly, and it is. But it's as silly for these latter things as well as the former."

Rick failed to see my original point. It is silly to call for equality in criminal statistics, by trying to increase female participation in the criminal sector (I can't believe I just wrote that, but that's essentially what Rick called for). We should be trying to decrease all participation, irrespective of gender, in that particular 'sector'.

As for the comment regarding freezing workers, well, yes, women should be able to be freezing workers without being hindered on the basis of their gender identity. I would like to see women being able to enter any field of their choice without facing barriers because society sees them as having breasts and therefore 'naturally unsuited' to such tasks. It just so happens, however, that it is the higher paying 'flashy' jobs that women generally find the greatest barriers to participating in. Men also find themselves facing discrimination in certain sectors: childcare, teaching are two well known examples, along with, until quite recently, nursing. These are also societal impositions, assumptions about the 'roles' of gender and equating them to the 'natural inability' of men to perform such roles. They are just as flawed, and just as unfair.

"Men and woman must have equal rights, but they are not equal. X wants men and woman to be equal sexually? Let that be his personal bedroom fantasy. Men and woman are different creatures and most of the rest of us rather enjoy that fact."

Rick fails to see my point. As a predominantly androphilic queer person, I can assure Rick that I hold no sexual fantasies about biological women, whether biological men are involved or not. On a gender level, I choose not to operate from a 'male'/'female' dichotomy, and I do not identify as either a gendered male or female, so comments about my sexual behaviour from such a space are irrelevant. But I digress! Rights are about power: who holds it, who exercises it, who bows to it. Men and women should be sexually equal; Women should have the right to have intercourse with someone without being labelled a slut, where, in the same situation, a man is hailed as a "stud". When such double standards exist, women and men are not sexually equal. When women are expected to act as the sexual gate keeper to men, women and men are not sexually equal. When men impose restrictions and barriers to a woman's control of her reproductive life, men and women are not sexually equal. Sexual power goes beyond the actual act of sex, which Rick seems to be preoccupied with in his response. Men and women are biologically sexually different, as Rick correctly points out. That doesn't, however, justify a disparate power dynamic that revolves around male and female sexuality.

"Gender is a determinent[sic] of what one can do and of what can be done to one. If not then it would be a non-concept, lacking all identity- it wouldn't even be a word but just a sound. But in our age, and in our society, we choose genders- we like it, benifit[sic] from it. We have it. Deal with it."

Actually, no, gender is not a determinant of what one can do and of what can be done to one, just as ethnicity, cultural identity, religious affiliation or sexual orientatation aren't either: these are aspects of identity that range from the purely chosen to the blindly determined. And none of them are acceptable as determinants of 'what can be done to one'. Identity reflects whakapapa, as well as turangawaewae, where one acknowledges one has come from, as well as how one chooses to live ones own life. They are not tools for, or justifiers of, societal impositions, predetermined roles or restraints on individuals or identity groups. This brings us to the argument previously presented by Rick, but which fails to stand up to scrutiny. If women chose, as part of their identity as women, to avoid leadership roles in the public and private sector, then there would be very little to worry about. However, there is no evidence to support that the lack of women participation in the public and private sector is the result of an 'identity choice', and more evidence to suggest that such statistics are a manifestation of a culture that actively discourages the advancement of women in these areas: women who do find themselves in leadership roles overwhelmingly describe experiences of having to surrender aspects of their female identity, in order to 'make it', not because those aspects of their identity make them 'unsuited' to perform the tasks at hand, but because the culture they find themselves in is hostile to the expression of that identity.

We often don't choose many aspects of our gender, despite our ability to do so. In part the identity of being of the 'male' or 'female' gender is innately correlated with being biologically male or female. Further yet, the identity of 'male' or 'female' is reinforced (or rejected, in the case of transgendered individuals) by how society reacts to our genitalia, and later, secondary sexual characteristics. Further still, our gender roles (relatively distinct from gender identity) how men and women are supposed to act, the roles they are supposed to fulfill within society are most definitely not chosen. It is these predetermined assumptions about the 'roles' of 'men' and 'women' in society that form the basis of gender inequality and gender power imbalance.

"You say we're not quite there yet, when it comes to fighting for womens rights? Well to the extent to which you're right about this libertarians have your back. It is our main occupation- defending rights. But that ain't what Kate's talking about."

Kate is talking about the fact that gender identity should have no bearing on the level that society allows an individual to participate. I would assume that this was totally compatible with libertarianism, or any ideology that placed a premium on individual liberty.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Can anyone say "normalised?"

I was watching breakfast TV this morning and they had a story about a jockey and his horse. The story was very simple and spoke about the jockey and his horse being reunited for some reason. The real killer was when they asked the jockey how he felt about the horse in a partnership and the jockey said "Its better than having a girlfriend because it doesn't talk back" and then it cut to the newsroom where the news reader said jokingly "yes, he did really say that. Good on him". I was just stunned and it reminded me of the comments about what is normal or not.

I was sent this link,2106,3656482a1823,00.html to this story yesterday also which is so unbelievable I cant even comprehend it.
This story is saying
1. Liz Williams be alienated from the team and nobody seems to concerned about that
2. Liz Williams should not have bought up the issue as "boys will be boys"
3.That kind of behaviour in the NZ cycling team is the norm and accepted
4. If a cyclist feels unsafe it is not okay to complain about it
5. The females in this team have been lead to believe that this behaviour is okay and normal
6. If someone makes a complaint and others have not before them, then that complaint is not legitimate.
7. If other female team members are okay with certain behaviour and someone else is not then it is not the problem of the team but of the person to rectify,

I think this story is a clear example of how certain behaviour is legitimised in our society and that women have accepted certain behaviours as the norm without realising hat we have some say or control over the situation. Here is it women too who have taken the power away from their fellow sisters and have lead them to be powerless. It seems its not just University, its cycling too.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Is that all they could come up with, or: Fisking a so-called Fisking

Kate Sutton's speech during AUSA's Womensfest caused quite a stir over at Red Confectionery, attracting a substantial amount of comments from those who took issue with the modernist feminist undertones. Unsurprisingly, there wasn't a great deal of effort that went into truly analysing what was in the speech, but rather attacking the messenger herself...

I don't understand this. I honestly don't see how grown men can feel so viscerally threatened by this speech, or more tellingly, the person who delivered it. It is unfortunate that Mr Graham Watson, who so often rails like Moses to the Israelites from the moral high ground about the folly of ad hominem attacks (remember, it's two words), is so quick to use them, as the comment below illustrates:

"What an idiot to have to use hyperbole to attemt[sic] to create sensation out of nothing. The same woman who [sic] I am told there now exists documentary[sic] testimony of her making false rape claims against people. I am also told court papers are being prepared by her victim, to call her to account for her vivid imagination, so well expressed here again in her speech.

Honestly, Graham. Ian Wishart himself couldn't have pulled off these kinds of faux conspiratorial undertones. Rather than calling to account the actual problems that Mr Watson has with Kate's points, he spends bandwidth attempting to mar Kate's character with hints and innuendo about hypothetical future legal action against her. If there truly are such allegations, they should be argued in court, not brought into a discussion about feminist issues by a man who is obviously having difficulty elucidating the problems he has with Kate's speech. The arguments just come across as hysterical and irrelevant.

As usual, questioning gender inequality leads some to conclude that it's just a fact, a biological fact of life, that men do the work and women stay at home looking after the kids. Rick attempted to explain this with the term 'sexual dimorphism', a common biological term used to describe biological differences between sexes. Of course, this contains two implicit and flawed assumptions about the relationship between sex (which goolies you have), gender identity (whether you identify as male or female, both or neither, both and neither) and gender roles (what males and females are supposed to do within their respective societies). Those assumptions are that Sex = Gender Identity = Gender Roles, that is that the constructs are somehow interchangeable, and that Sex/Gender Identity/Gender Roles are somehow blindly biologically determined - that those who are born with vaginas must identify as females and further that the traits they exhibit, their 'femininity' and all that that entails, is somehow an immutable biological artefact.

Gender Theory is a complex one, and there isn't space to go into a great deal here, but suffice to say that, while there is substantial evidence that gender identity has a strong biological correlation with sex, it is not an absolute relationship. Otherwise, we wouldn't have transgendered individuals. Even more dubious, and central to the discussion of gender equality, is the supposed relationship between sex and gender roles, or even gender identity and gender roles. While the tragic experiments of John Money/David Reimer have shown us that biology is a powerful force in these processes, we need to remember that societal norms, cultural mores and the need of those in power (whomever they may be) to justify, perpetuate and protect the status quo, has played and continues to play a significant role in defining what people will do and how people will act.

Unsurprisingly, those wishing to justify the poor participation rates of women leading in the private and indeed public sector, trot out the pseudo-scientific arguments of 'hormones', or as one commenter amusingly put it 'hormonal flux'. Of course! Elevated levels of progesterone and oestrogen means that women are incapable of interpreting statutes (judges), undertaking peer review (professors) or co-ordinating aquisitions (Chief Executives), while testosterone means that men can't use dictaphones (secretaries), or change nappies (child care).

This is a laughable fallacy. There is simply no empirical evidence to suggest that the subtle behavioural effects of sex-hormones is the reason that men are 'better' in leadership roles, while women are 'better' in support and administrative roles. Some evolutionary psychologists have attempted to explain (justify?) these disparitiess through reference to our evolutionary history and the division of labour among males and females in early hominid groups. However, like much of what evolutionary psychologists propose, there are very few data to support it. It's almost as if the proponents see a correlation that (a) women are in lower paid jobs (b) women have eostrogen and therefore that (a) and (b) somehow have some causative link. Utter. Bollocks.

As well as being a logical and empirical fallacy, these arguments are incredibly dishonest. By claiming 'hormones', proponents of this point of view have no responsibility to justify what is essentially their own prejudice:

"Hey! Don't look at me; it's not my fault that women are stuck in hormonal flux. I'm all for equality, but you know, biology means that women just can't cut it in the corporate world. They don't have the constitution. It's not their fault, it's just the hormones. We shouldn't set them up to fail."

But I digress! What I really wanted to do was have a look at a so-called fisking produced by Rick Giles. I like a good fisking, almost as much as I like a good frisking, and much more than I like a good fisting. Needless to say, I was a little underwhelmed by what transpired on Rick's blog. Rather than a good fisking, Rick's piece was short on substance, and devoid of any good refutation. It was, in fact, a nasty piece of work. Since I'm feeling cheated of a good fisking, I thought I would have a look at what Rick said; hey it's a veritable menage a trois a la fisk (Kate in Blue, Rick in Red, My own thoughts in black):

"I shall now quickly fisk Kate Sutton's Womensfest speech to The Quad at AU a few days ago.

Of course it would have been better to be there, because it was a speech and not a piece of literature. These are just speech notes released on Red Confectionery. The hook, the catch, and the swearing make more sense as a speech. However, the non-facts can be shot down here on equal terms weather
[sic] they be spoken or penned. So,-"

"I was invited to speak because I am a successful woman. I must say that this is very flattering, as I do not yet feel successful."

"You're not a successful woman. Success is reward for dealing in values but political power is a reward for penalising, for dealing in fear. You are a successful paracite,
[sic] if successful at all, but not a successful woman."

What kind of argument is that? Barely into the first paragraph, and already Rick starts the name calling complete with novel approach to spelling. How could Rick possibly judge whether Kate is a successful woman or not? I would consider a 24 year old, first time election to a community board, highest majority in the ward for those elections, now chair of that board to be at least to some extent successful. Call me crazy, but hey, just maybe. "Political power is a reward for penalising, for dealing in fear". What on earth is that supposed to mean, and how is it relevant to the discussion at hand? Would Rick then claim that Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi gained political power as a reward for penalising, dealing in fear? Very Odd.

Ad hominem, inconsistent and irrelevant.

"When told this I started to think about what success is – Sure I do many things. I am a former president of this student union, a current University of Auckland councillor, I am the chairperson of the Tamaki community board and I am a project manager for a charitable trust in South Auckland as well as sitting on about 4/5 other boards and committees."

"I rest my case."

Again: ad hominem, and irrelevant.

"I wanted to speak about women overseas and their plight – the feminisation of poverty and how vital it is for us to understand what is happening overseas,"

"Note the abstract reference to women outside New Zealand and some kind of plight. What women? Where? What's their boggle? If it's vital for us to understand why is it left to the imagination? Are you talking about Australian woman? Who? What? Where?"

I was disappointed that Kate didn't talk further on this, as we've had many personal discussions about it, and it something that I am keenly interested in. However, for Rick's benefit, let us look at the very real plight of women overseas. In Kenya, male legislators vote against rape laws, because in their culture, when a woman means no, she actually means yes. In the Dafur region, pro-government militias systematically use rape to control and intimidate non-Arab Sudanese communities. In India, 10 million female foetuses and babies have been killed over the last 20 years, because boys are better. Not to mention Pakistan (and India), where women are routinely murdered by family members for bringing dishonour to their families by being raped.

"the HIV/AIDS epidemic which affects mainly heterosexual females and their children."

"So do hickups! So does getting hair in your soup and forgetting where you put your shoes! Some vast patriarchal conspiracy, Kate? No. It's just that most members of every population are hetrosexual[sic] females and their children. Think about it, you're talking crap."

What Rick fails to understand from Kate's point is that heterosexual women are mainly affected by HIV/AIDS, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, because they do not have the ability or the power to prevent it. In these areas, women do not control any aspect of the sexuality: it's easy for us to say that women should just say no, but many, indeed most, simply can't, despite the fact that their communities demand that they remain virgins until marriage. Not only are most women in these African communities forced to surrender control of their sexuality to males, but they are traditionally blamed as the root of sexual evil, promiscuity and 'looseness', despite the fact that, particularly in South Africa, the spread of HIV is predominatly the result of a highly mobile, sexually careless mobile labour (male) workforce; it is these men who then return to their villages, and infect their wives. It is women who co-ordinate the care for HIV positive AIDS Orphans. It is HIV positive women that are shunned from their villages and communities, and HIV positive women who experience barriers to receiving retroviral drugs, even to condoms. And it is these women who are taking the power back. It is these sisterhoods that will help stem the spread of HIV among Africa's poorest and most disempowered.

"it is not an equal or fair world for women overseas in our poorer countries who are raped, mutilated, tortured and without homes – they are victims not perpetrators."

"Ohhhh, they're victims not perpetrators? Thanks for the correction, as if we needed to be corrected for thinking your poor abstract mutilated mystery women you haven't identified were guilty for being homeless and tortured. Shame on us. You really got us good with that one, Kate."

I don't understand what Rick is trying to prove with this point. Yes, they are the victims. The majority of discrimination, rape and mutilation is directed towards women by men. That is something that we should be concerned about; we're supposed to believe in equality, which means in an equality in the right not to live in fear. The mutilated Woman is not an abstraction, Rick: she's very real.

"ask most women if they are discriminated against and most pakeha women will say no. The problem is that the statistics tell a different story 24.2% of judges, 19.2% of newspaper editors, 17.2% of legal partnerships, 18.9% of mayors are women."

"What is this fascination with making men and woman homogenous in all industries?

People find their own place in the world without some Stalin conforming every pocket of society into a microcosmic duplicate of the national statistics. If 50% of New Zealanders are woman does it really follow that 50% of magazine editors need to be men? Does the number of percentage points by which we fall short of this really measure sexist discrimination as Kate suggests?"

If women are being barred from entry into those industries on the basis of their gender, then yes. It's quite simple. And here we witness the massive inconsistency in Rick's argument. Rick comes from a libertarian background that says we shouldn't discriminate on the basis of gender: every individual is equal, and should be judged on their merits. If that were so, then that null hypothesis should lead us to a prediction: The probability of finding a person of a certain gender in specific job, given that the null hypothesis of gender equality is correct, should be close 50%. However, we see that this prediction simply doesn't play out. Ergo Individuals are not equal for some reason on the basis of gender. Rick attempts to justify this by saying that there are innate gender role differences between men and women which are manifested in these differences: that across the board, men are found in leadership roles because they prefer them and women don't AND that men are innately better suited (hormonally, of course), to leadership roles while women are innatelybetter suited to support roles. He illustrates this with his response to Kate below:

"Why is it that 17% of professors and associate professors are women? But it that over 50% of general staff are women – its because there is still a hierarchy of jobs and there is a still a system where women have choices to move ahead - the boys network still exists in this university."

"Sexual dimorphism exists, celebrate it Sutton! Maybe "most pakeha women" don't wish they were judges, newspaper editors, and politicians? Men and woman have different abilities and tastes that don't happen to conform to what your numerical model demands they should be.

You just want to change the world into one giant game of Sutton Says."

So, the hypothesis proposed by Rick is that women would innately prefer to be lawyers, not judges; that women innately prefer to be teachers, not prinicipals; that women innately prefer to be general staff and not academics. This hypothesis presents a prediction: If we were to go out and survey University of Auckland students, female law students would probably on average indicate more than male ones that they would want to be a low-level lawyer than a Partner, or a Judge, or similar predictions in Medicine, or similar predictions in Education. It hasn't been done, but I doubt that in a controlled study these predictions would hold up. Anecdotally at least, evidence suggests that women are just as keen, on average, about taking up senior or leadership roles as men. Given that we've had to reject that hypothesis, what are we left with as an explanatory model for these gender disparities that we observe? There is only one alternative, as unpalatable as it may sound: systemic discrimination against women in leadership roles (incorporating also the possible propensity of many women to accept the social norms and gender roles that have been prescribed to and imposed on them)

"I am passionate about good governance and directorship and I am trying to break the mold of these statistics and bring my sisters with me, but it’s a long slow battle."

"I always ask people who produce this bullshit if they would also like to apply their golden median to the crime statistics. Is it also a problem for you, Kate, that insufficient violent offenders are females? Not enough drink drivers? Not enough white collar crime comming
[sic] from skirts? Should we try to equalise those statistics too for the same reason you have for equalising it in the legal workforce? A television campaign or schools programme to get more little girls to go crooked? Well why not? Or could it be that there are other considerations to the desirability of this kind of equality you have neglected to include in your stupid inferences? Hmmm."

That's just silly. Who would in their right mind, propose attempting to increase the number of female inmates? Kate's point referred to the lack of women in senior or leadership roles in the public and private sectors. That doesn't ipso facto imply that males are never discriminated against: it is perfectly reasonable to suspect that our current education system is not providing the educational quality to groups of boys that it does to some girls, or to consider that our health system is not geared towards the prevention of sex-specific cancers in men (prostate, testicular) as it is in women (breast, cervical, uterine, etc). Or that our Family Court may be biased towards mothers. Or that men are overrepresented in crime statistics. But that doesn't mean that there isn't discrimination towards women that needs addressing.

"Date rape, gang rape, sexual violence are all a norm here – it’s a joke because men make it so and they are the blokes, the boys club and they are putting us down and taking our jobs."

"Well you've got us there. But for a man to get to the bins where Craccum is kept you have to sometimes push girls out of the way, and down a flight of stairs. And as for gang rape, what else is there to do while waiting in those huge queues at the cafe? It's the norm, what can I say?

But, hey. I say again- they're not *your* jobs, Stalinette.

So the stats look bad, the story is still bad - what do we do?

Cut cafe queue times and hand out Craccum magazine to those who are kept waiting. Then I wont have any excuse for all this normalised raping I've been doing all the time and you wont have to think twice before going to luch."

Why is it that the vast majority of rapes, sexual assaults, batteries and violations directed by men towards women? Of course men get raped by women, and such cases are deserving of equally punitive measures. But if we were all equal, if there was no discrimination, if the power dynamic was balanced, then you would expect that there were equal numbers of people being raped of either gender. This is not the case; women are predominantly, though not exclusively, the victims of rape. We must all ask the question: WHY? Kate is not saying that all men are rapists. What Kate is showing is that the culture of rape goes deeper than just the actual act; it goes to the paradigm of unequal power relationships; rape is not about sexual desire, rape is about power, and the use of sex and physical force, predominantly by men, to exercise that power. Women need to take the power back, and men must be willing to share it. The question is whether or not either gender is playing their part in doing that. When you hear this joke:

Q: What's Black and Blue and doesn't like sex?
A: A rape victim

Spoken by men, and not challenged by either men or women, you have to think that we've both got a long way to go.

I am not a rapist, but as a man I do benefit from rape, as much as I don't wish to: I can walk down the street at night and feel completely safe, without the fear that I will be raped by a woman. A woman doesn't have that ability, but she has that right. It goes further than just saying that rape is unacceptable, which we all do, or even that joking about rape is not acceptable, which I suspect that the majority of us also do. It means looking at the power structures that exist that result in the majority of sexual assaults and rapes being directed at women. Looking at the power structures that allow the majority of rape victims to be women.

"We must encourage a culture of diversity and this starts with accepting women as equal in our society by providing them with equitable opportunity"

"Well they're not equal, unless you mean politically equal but you do not. "Equitable oppertunity"
[sic] means whatever you want it to mean, which is clearly that girl% is supposed to go up and boy% down so we're all nice and symmetrical like."

Well, yes, women should be equal, in every sense of the word: sexually, socially, politically, educationally. How could one justify otherwise? Because an individual has lactiferous mammaries, or a uterus, they are somehow not equals? By equals we don't mean identical, we don't mean homogenous, as feminists we mean equal to mean not having any rights, opportunities or potential hindered because of either genitalia or gender identity.

"You all have an obligation to wake the fuck up and realise how every thing that you have now, all the rights to be free to earn money to marry when you want, to gain an education, to control your sexuality and bear children when you want – all of these rights have been fought for by women and they can be taken away"

"Well that's it right there, isn't it Kate? You think you're Kate Sheppard and it's the 1800s, or that you're Betty Friedan and it's the 1960s. These were times for a'changin', for pushing the system the way you're still pushing now. But guess what Kate? It worked.

You are living in the past, still pushing. You still think the right to work, to learn, to invidivual sexuality, to mating and marriage choice are in immanent danger of being snuffed out. But they are not in any such danger, because we fought and won that battle together before you and I were even born.

And why did we fight for those thing? Wasn't it so we could enjoy them? Take your place in the world, woman. Stop squarking. Nobody is trying to make you have babies and steal your jobs, okay? Relax babe. You live in New Zealand in 2006. There are people who love you and could use your help and offer you theirs and share a community with you but if you can tell such people by the shape of their gender you're a better person than I am."

Well, that's a nice ending isn't it? All warm and fuzzy. A compassionate ending, it would seem. We aren't quite there yet, Rick. People assumed that the right to vote, the right to go to work and the right to marry as one pleases meant the end of gender discrimination. The power structures that exist, and their manifestations in earning statistics, statistics relating to sexual violence, to domestic violence, mean that women and men are not equal partners: the opportunities and rights, despite the ideals and the theory, are not equally available. The fact of the matter is, in many communities, people are trying to change that, and we should all embrace it, men and women. Kate's speech called on men to play an active role in trying to deconstruct and reform those power structures so that gender is not a determinant of what you are able to do, or what people are able to do to you. What on earth have we got to be afraid of?