letters · politics

A letter I wrote to the Minister of Education re: sexual consent education, and its response.

In response to a rape jokes scandal in a New Zealand school, the then Minister of Education Hekia Parata ruled out compulsory consent education – saying that it was best addressed in the family.

I sent an email to here, and here’s the response I got.

I wrote:

Hi Hekia.

I write to regarding the comments you made as reported in this RNZ article: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/326678/wellington-college-students-suspended-for-rape-comments

“Today, Education Minister Hekia Parata ruled out introducing compulsory education around sexual consent in high schools, saying the subject was best addressed in a family setting.

Ms Parata said the issue was a conversation for parents to have with their children, and schools had the freedom to supplement the pupils’ education if they wanted to.”

For context, I’m 31 year old pakeha male.

I think this is a disappointingly regressive attitude.

I got my sex education in 1997-2000. It covered use of condoms, STIs and pregnancy. I wish it had covered sexual consent, because there are certain regrettable situations I’ve been involved in which consent education might have prevented.

I think compulsory consent education is a no brainer, if not a bit of minefield to navigate.

All the best,

David Johnston

The response: (PDF)

Dear David

The Minister of Education, Hon Hekia Parata, has asked me to reply to your email of 15 March 2017 about the introduction of compulsory education around sexual consent.

Teaching children and young people respect for others is a responsibility for all of us; something they learn at home and school, both in what they are told, and what they observe around them.

As part of this shared responsibility, The New Zealand Curriculum recognises that schools work with children and young people on the skills they need to navigate personal relationships and sexual identity.

Sexuality education is a compulsory part of our health and physical education curriculum, which schools must deliver in Years 1 to 10. The Ministry of Education expects schools to follow the guidance we issued in 2015, this can be found at http://health.tki.org.nz/Teaching-in-HPE/Policy-guidelines/Sexuality-education-a-guide-for-principals-boards-of-trustees-and-teachers This guidance spells out what should be covered by sexuality education. For secondary schools, that detail sets out a clear pathway through topics including consent, coercion and sexual violence.

Our guidance puts identity and sexuality firmly in the context of relationships with others. It covers the skills of self-knowledge, assertiveness and caring that are central to healthy relationships. Students learn about personal boundaries in sexuality education. From the beginning, we expect schools to teach children to identify safe and unsafe touching and the importance of respect. By Years 6 to 7, students are identifying pressures from others and developing assertiveness strategies.

Schools are required to consult with their communities every two years, or more often, about how they teach sexuality education. It is one of the reasons there is variation from school to school in teaching this subject. Any teaching programme discussing consent requires an understanding of empathy and respect for others’ feelings. So at the heart of sexuality education, again from a young age, is material on affirming the feelings and beliefs of others.

Many secondary schools and communities include consent in their sexuality education. Many schools also hold forums outside scheduled classes where important issues such as consent, coercion and safety in intimate relationships can be debated and discussed.

We encourage all schools to look at what they are doing on sexuality education with their school community.

Thank you for taking the time to share your views.

Glen Johnson
Acting Group Manager Pathways and Progress Early Learning and Student Achievement

It’s an interesting response – pretty comprehensive and pro-consent education – and completely at odds with Hekia’s comment.

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observation · politics

The four kinds of National voter.

  1. The will-always-vote-National voter

    This voter supports National the same way a sports fan supports a particular team. It’s likely that they vote the same way their parents did. It’s not a kind of support that comes from consideration of policy, rather it’s just backing a team.

  2. The house-owning voter

    Although not explicitly – National pretty much ran on a policy of not doing anything about the housing crisis. Their single housing specific policy was to increase the first home buyer grant, which is great if you’re the one selling your house. There’s $10,000 more you can sell your house for.

    I think a lot of kiwis who have already bought houses, don’t want to see an end to the housing crisis. They want to see houses continue to rise – so they can double their money like they’ve seen others do.

  3. The I-don’t-like-beneficiaries voter

    I think a lot of New Zealanders are sick of what they see as a perverse incentive to welfare dependency in New Zealand – and they’re not without merit.

    The single thing I’m most critical of Labour and Green about is their head-in-the-sand ‘everybody should have kids if they want them’ attitude. For educated middle class New Zealanders who put off having kids till they’re in their 30s, seeing a system that seems to enable people who care about their kids far less they do, they can’t abide by.

  4. The I-believed-Nationals-lies voter

    National conducted a campaign of fear mongering about inheritance taxes, and lies about Labour increasing income tax or not budgeting properly.

    This has always been National’s strategy – portray Labour as idealistic but incompetent, and that somehow ‘greedy = good business sense’- ignoring that during the last Labour government – they managed to quite successfully produce a budget surplus.

politics

The psychopath class.

Let me start by explaining how my political views have developed.

In my teens and early 20s I was attracted towards anarchism. I held conspiratorial beliefs, include that 9/11 was an inside job and I genuinely believed the 2012 prophecy.

As I got older and started seeing through the quasi-religious conspiracies prevalent in the anarchist/hippy social circles and I also developed an appreciation for the genuine quality of educated working and relatively rich professionals. I developed an appreciation that the world is getting better in many regards – literacy is prevalent, disease is no longer a common part of life, and people are more free to choose their careers.

I’m on a backswing now – and I’m convinced that the world is in a large part, ruled by pyschopaths who care little for the experience of everyone else on Earth.

The average intelligent, empathetic person, like myself or yourself – isn’t necessarily very motivated to climb up the ladders of power or wealth. Instead, for many of us, we’d opt to choose a career we enjoy, or spending time with our friends.

Let’s acknowledge that some people are genuine psychopaths who have no problem inflicting misery on others. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have good risk assessment capabilities, and thus don’t necesserily commit crimes or overt social infractions – as they recognise the harm that would produce to themselves.

Where an intelligent empath may not be motivated to climb the ladders or power and wealth, these psychopaths are.

The problem with the world isn’t that there aren’t enough good people. It’s that the good people aren’t motivated by power, and the bad people disproptionately are.

Some good people are idealists and do seek to move toward power to influence for the better – and this is a good thing. I think we should do more to talk about whether the people we are voting for and hiring, are self serving psychopaths, or people who have the interests of the world at heart.

politics · wellbeing

Mental Health Awareness Week and male tears.

Mental health awareness week has highlighted an interesting theme in gender politics.

I’ve long thought that talk of delicious male tears and other ‘ironic misandry’ is toxic and unhelpful. MHAW highlights where it’s most damaging.

Here’s some example posts I’ve been seeing:

There’s also Terry Crew’s vulnerable revelation about his experience as a victim of sexual assault, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein saga.

This kind of appreciation that it’s ok to be vulnerable and it’s good to talk talk about your feelings runs into an uncomfortable friction with some themes amongst internet feminism – mocking male fragility and male tears.

bahar-mustafa-white-men-diversity-ban-male-tears-killallmen-featured-image

If we google ‘male tears feminism’ we get a few good articles on the top page:

Slate.com: The Rise of the Ironic Man-Hater – Summary: Ironic misandry is ‘reductio ad absurdum’ – intentionally exaggerating the stereotype of feminists as man haters to point out how absurd it is.

Time.com: Ironic Misandry: Why Feminists Pretending to Hate Men Isn’t Funny – Summary: Even if ironic misandry is in jest – it’s bad PR for feminism to use it.

The Guardian: Feminists don’t hate men. But it wouldn’t matter if we did – Summary: Misandry is a way of blowing off steam and men complaining about it grasping at straws to find victimhood.

I’ll concede that being the victim of disrespectful jokes doesn’t entail the same amount of harm as being subject to sexual assault or being systemically paid less.

I would argue that ‘male tears’, ‘#killallmen’ jokes are more on par with ‘make me a sandwich’ and rape jokes.

A point that the slate article makes – is that genuine feminist men are ok with these jokes:

“The men who get annoyed by misandry jokes are in my experience universally brittle, insecure, humorless weenies with victim complexes,” while the “many intelligent, warm, confident feminist men in my life … mostly get the joke immediately and play along. They’re not worried I actually want to milk them for their tears.”

This is similar to saying the pledges in a hazing ritual are actually ok with the hazing. They might say that – and the harm of the hazing may be outweighed by their desire for social approval – but that doesn’t making the hazing ok.

It’s a form of gaslighting to suggest that – ‘if you’re not ok with being the subject of bullying – it’s because you’re not a good person’.

It may be that many men simply don’t care – but we should acknowledge that some men are more sensitive than others. The idea that a good man is an insensitive one – is precisely the conception of traditional norms of masculinity.

The reason that ‘male tears’ is such an effective insult, is because goes to the heart of the traditional conception of what it is to be a man. Speaking up about it – only exposes one to more ridicule – revealing oneself to be a weak man with feelings.

It’s precisely having feelings, I imagine, that causes men to kill themselfs – which they do at about three times the rate that women do – depending on what part of the world you look at.

The argument that the misandry is merely ironic identically reflects the arguments that many on the alt-right make about using racist terminology.

For example, Jeffry Lord tweeted ‘Seig heil’ and later defended it as ironic mocking of white supremacists.

If you’re interested in reading more – here’s a good article by Vox about ‘ironic racism’ and the alt-right.

There is a key difference of course – alt right ‘ironic racism’ is enforcing an existing dynamic, whereas feminist ‘ironic misandry’ seeks to flip an existing dynamic.

But in either case – they’re both toxic and bigoted. Ironic misandry is bullying, basically. I have a very hard time believing that someone who thinks it’s ok to mock male emotional vulnerability has men’s interests at heart.

politics

Some back of a napkin analysis re: male vs female sentencing.

This facebook post

22228192_10212800698266410_7965463935256288586_n.jpg

and this news article about a women who received 11 months home detention for pushing her husband down the stairs, killing him got me into a discussion about whether it is men or women are treated more leniently when it comes to domestic violence.

Using these tables from NZStats, here’s what I’ve got:

(The murder statistics aren’t that interesting, because for both men and women, almost all of them result in imprisonment, and the length of sentences isn’t available).

Men, Manslaughter
Sentence Total sentences   Imprisonment sentences   Community sentences   Monetary   Other   No sentence recorded
2007/08 20 16 4 .. .. ..
2008/09 23 23 .. .. .. ..
2009/10 32 30 1 .. .. 1
2010/11 37 35 2 .. .. ..
2011/12 21 19 2 .. .. ..
2012/13 15 14 1 .. .. ..
2013/14 27 25 2 .. .. ..
2014/15 15 15 .. .. .. ..
2015/16 19 16 3 .. .. ..
2016/17 21 21 .. .. .. ..
Women, Manslaughter
Sentence Total sentences   Imprisonment sentences   Community sentences   Monetary   Other   No sentence recorded
2007/08 4 2 2 .. .. ..
2008/09 6 5 1 .. .. ..
2009/10 17 9 8 .. .. ..
2010/11 5 3 2 .. .. ..
2011/12 6 4 1 .. .. 1
2012/13 4 3 1 .. .. ..
2013/14 4 4 .. .. .. ..
2014/15 3 2 1 .. .. ..
2015/16 7 4 2 1 .. ..
2016/17 5 2 .. .. .. 3

Some thoughts:

  • Men obviously commit more manslaughter than women
  • The sample size for women is a lot smaller, meaning that any noise is going to have a much bigger effect
  • But that said – eyeballing it, about 1/3 of women convicted of manslaughter get a non-custodial sentence, while almost all men get a custodial sentence
  • It’s possible that men commit more serious manslaughter offenses
  • It’s possible that women plead guilty earlier, or express more remorse

The data for assualts is more pronounced. There are a lot of of them, and so we can more safely extract trends:

Men, Assault
Sentence Total sentences   Imprisonment sentences   Community sentences   Monetary   Other   No sentence recorded
2007/08 7980 1401 4063 1336 781 399
2008/09 8487 1408 4651 1233 880 315
2009/10 8436 1500 4715 1048 847 326
2010/11 8144 1394 4681 904 914 251
2011/12 7755 1406 4394 855 854 246
2012/13 7320 1452 4202 734 740 192
2013/14 6332 1239 3799 606 547 141
2014/15 6026 1318 3632 534 437 105
2015/16 6497 1497 3914 511 487 88
2016/17 6545 1498 4063 439 441 104
Women, Assault
Sentence Total sentences   Imprisonment sentences   Community sentences   Monetary   Other   No sentence recorded
2007/08 1349 72 697 245 246 89
2008/09 1588 82 833 269 305 99
2009/10 1675 96 937 225 312 105
2010/11 1704 110 996 192 319 87
2011/12 1605 104 948 191 277 85
2012/13 1374 90 860 148 207 69
2013/14 1226 87 799 105 196 39
2014/15 1224 95 803 103 186 37
2015/16 1263 100 845 85 194 39
2016/17 1182 84 801 90 172 35

Around 20% of men who are convicted of assault get a custodial sentence.

Around 7% of women who are convicted of assault get a custodial sentence.

    • It’s likely that the assaults men commit are more serious
    • Men are probably more likely to have commited prior offences

In any case – some pretty good refuting evidence would be required to suggest that women are treated more harshly when it relates to violence offenses.

 

politics · social philosophy

Tinder’s #menprovement campaign is looking like some cheap misandric bullshit.

Tinder has launched a new advertising/social awareness campaign, they’re calling #menprovement.

22141089_1413388888730892_1312093210497322896_n

The premise is that there a lot of douchebags on Tinder, and so there’s a scientifically themed effort to improve the quality of men on Tinder.

It features videos of women scientists like these:

And charts like these:

Now obviously this is intended to be a fairly lighthearted kind of campaign – but humour like this doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The reason that this campaign is considered a good idea, is because there is genuine sentiment that there are too many douchey men on Tinder.

A starting point – let’s acknowledge the existence of douchey men and abuse women face on the internet.

I want to be clear. I acknowledge that women on the internet, and on dating apps like Tinder, likely face a lot of verbal/written abuse in the face of rejection, sleazy messages, unsolicited dick pics etc.

I’m generally of the opinion that men and women have opposite problems on online dating – where women suffer through unwanted attention – men suffer from a vacuum of attention, and loneliness.

If we consider the wider issue of rape culture / consent culture – it’s very reasonable to consider conducting social campaigns aimed at changing the way people behave, and in this case, the way men behave in the context of a dating app.

So getting that out of the way – I acknowledge that there’s a problem of douchey behaviour from men on dating apps like Tinder, and it would be a good thing to improve on that.

Tinder’s campaign does not address actual douchey behaviour

This image is probably the egregious example:

Wanting a partner who has a job and is nice to your mother? Great – that’s just the kind of thing we want to encourage.

Being six feet tall? – Is that really the problem with Tinder? That there’s not enough tall men? Are short men guilty of being douchebags?

I’m not going to pretend that we shouldn’t have physical qualities that we find attractive, and I’m not offended by the proposition that many women prefer a man taller than them.

The issue I have with this image is the gross insensitivity it demonstrates.

For example, where I think the fat acceptance movement is dangerous; I think obesity should be treated as a health condition, not an acceptable lifestyle, I think all people should be treated with respect – and not be the subject of cruel jokes.

So while I think it’s ok for someone to have a preference for slim women for example – I don’t think it’s ok to make fat jokes. The same goes for short men – show some sensitivity.

Let’s examine some qualities of what Tinder considers douches

 

  • A self employed CEO
  • Has a bluetooth
  • Tips minimum
  • Late because charging vape
  • Is into fitness, and you should be too
  • Posts gym sessions on instagram
  • ‘This body wasn’t built for monogamy’
  • Eggplant emojis as opener
  • Come hungry as closer

Of this list, I’d say tipping minimum is perhaps the only actual douche behavior, and eggplant emoji, depending on whether you’re into that kind of thing.

Here’s where Tinder needs to get it straight:

There’s nothing wrong with being into the gym, being non-monogamous, or owning your own business. 

It’s straight up misandric bullshit to try shame men for possessing these qualities – things that they’re probably quite proud of.

If I’m to hazard a guess here – that these stereotypes are seen as acceptable targets – because they’re ‘successful men’ – and can therefore take take being taken down a notch.

However – what Tinder needs to realise – is that it’s not just men fitting the stereotype, or men who water rolls of the duck’s back of,  that sees these videos.

I think we need to consider men in the context of having higher rates of suicide, and higher rates of computer and video game addiction. Within that context – we shouldn’t be trying to tear men’s sense of self esteem and value away from them. If men get that from owning their own business, or working out – that that should be encouraged, not criticised for being douchey.

What it suggests to me – is that Tinder’s willingness to go along with this campaign – means that they don’t value men’s feelings nearly as highly as women’s. That again reinforces the social norm of male disposability.

Douchey behaviour that Tinder could have used.

The thing is – this could have been quite an interesting and positive campaign – if Tinder had seeked to address actual toxic or unappealing behaviour.

Here’s a quick list, if they need inspiration:

  • Boring first messages, ‘Sup’, ‘How are you’ guy.
  • Main hobbies are playing video games and trolling on the internet, and nothing outside of that guy.
  • Ten days unwashed dishes guy.
  • Responds with abuse at rejection guy.
  • Only wants to talk about you guy.
  • Only wants to talk about him guy.
  • Never suggests going on a date guy.
  • Insists on a first date at your place guy.
  • Is cheating on his girlfriend guy.
  • Selfish lover guy.

How women can foster non-douchey behaviour Tinder

Let’s get this ball rolling.

  • Send the first message. Set the frame for the conversation. Want flirty banter? Want a challenging argument? Want a standard get to know each other conversation? Your message determines that.
  • Unmatch severe douches. Train men with negative reinforcement.
  • Call out mild douchey behaviour. See if there’s a correction of behaviour.
  • Respond to desired behaviour with positive reinforcement. Personally, I like the 😍 emoji

God. This must be what being a Cosmopoliton writer must feel like.

‘But it’s just a joke David, stop taking it so seriously’.

Jokes are never just jokes. Jokes are generally funny because they have a kernel of truth (or what the joke teller purports to be the truth).

Just like how telling racist jokes creates a hostile environment for black people, or telling sexist jokes creates a hostile environment for women  – these guys of jokes create an hostile environment for men.

Now – I would suggest that there’s a brand of feminism that is ok with this – men need to be taken down a notch because either that’s justice, or because that makes it easier for women to achieve equality. I don’t want to get get into this line of argument here – but I would make two points – that this is likely to be not effective, it’s just likely to cause division between men and women, and that this philosophy directly contradicts the argument that ‘feminism is for the interests of both men and women’.

Reactions from the internet

The reactions on their Twitter and Facebook threads has been almost entirely negative – mostly pointing out that it’s sexist and douchey in itself. There’s also a lot of comments from men saying how they don’t get matches – would would seem to confirm comment I made in the first section.

This does take us to a point of personal conflict for me. While I clearly agree with the commenters in this instance – in other gendered hot topics on the internet – there is often a reaction of faux victimisation from what can be fairly considered alt-right types. (I’m struggling to think of examples here right now though – maybe revisit this later).

Bottom Line

A pretty gross campaign.

Not the right way to go about creating a society of confident, respectful men, at all.

I’m curious to hear from my feminist friends about this. While Tinder has faced a bit of criticism on social media about this – the feminist community as a whole are quite quiet about it. There’s definitely no social media storm about it – which does suggest that people simply don’t care about this kind of toxic gender dynamic.

There is though – the chance that this is a long running deeper social critique – that explores things like gender norms around height attraction, and all will be revealed in time. If I was taking a bet, I’d bet against that happening though.

politics

A quick thought about punching nazis.

On With the emboldening of the white supremacy and the alt-right, there is growing discourse about whether it’s ok to confront nazis with violence. For example, take a look at this segment on Bill Maher’s show.

The alt right use nazi punching episodes as evidence that liberals are the real fascists.

To weigh in with my own opinion:

What concerns me about pro-nazi punching sentiment – is the potential for it to turn into an uncontrollable mob frenzy. For example there’s the example of the wrongly targeted doxxing victim following Charlottesville, or the shooting of Republican senators at a baseball game.

On the other hand, I’m perplex and how Germany allowed the Nazis to rise to power, after the failed beer hall putsch that killed four police officers.

Here’s an example of a nazi punching episode:

Now being honest, I’m not particularly sympathetic to Richard Spencer, and I can’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction at witnessing this attack, regardless of whether it fits with my more rational thoughts about the matter.

But for those who suggest that this is completely unwarranted and unforgivable – here’s a counterpoint:

Here is a video of Buzz Aldrin punching a man who believes he didn’t walk on the moon:

 

There are of course some notable differences. Buzz Aldrin is an old man. Buzz wasn’t going out of his way to punch someone, he was punching someone who was already in his face.

It does pose an interesting moral conundrum though. Is there some point at which we’ll let a punch slide? Just where is it?