Posts Tagged ‘gender politics’

Media can’t resist boobs

August 23, 2008

Yesterday my local newspaper came with the front-page banner headline “$35,000 boob battle”.

Presumably, I’m supposed to be shocked by this outrageous waste of ratepayers’ money, blah, blah. Well I’m not.

True, the court battle was always going to be “an exercise in futility” as Mayor Banks put it. But I am glad that my Council took the case, even though the chances of winning were slim and the victor is one of Auckland’s sleaziest citizens. Outside Mt Eden. Prison that is.

It wasn’t about freedom of expression in my view. People are quite free to go to the event that the boobs parade aimed to plublicise — despite the extraordinarily disingenuous denial of this in court — should they want to get their jollies oggling the pneumatic wonders of the porn stars on show. Not to mention the jelly wrestling.

It wasn’t even about what we might quaintly term “decency” for many of us, although the sad, tawdry spectacle taking place in our main thoroughfare was demeaning for the participants and by-standers, and arguably, the reputation of the city as well.

It was about the celebration of the exploitation of women as sex objects, something that we all should have got past long ago.

No, when it comes to waste I’m much more exercised by the Council’s plans to build an iconic lifting bridge down at the viaduct for $51.2 million (and rising). As Brian Rudman asks, is a toy like this really the best use of public funds? After all, we have a bridge there already. It is, as Rudman says, “a bridge too far.”

There are so many better things for which the Council could use $51.2m. Rates relief for one. Okay, you may not think that attempting to injunct a hard-core porn king’s sexploitation parade is one of them, but the unnecessary bridge is (currently) expected to cost roughly 1400 times more.

Yep, 1400 times more. You’d think that would be more newsworthy, but it seems that the news media can’t resist boobs.


Proving consent

August 20, 2008

The Ministry of Justice is now seeking comment on the idea that those charged with rape should have to prove consent as well as on proposals to create a legal definition of consent to remove ambiguity and to ban questioning complainants about their sexual history with the alleged attacker. (Discussion document here, or here for the 672KB pdf file).

I posted last month on the Law Commission’s comments on the need to reform court processes in sexual offence trials. As retired Appeal Court Justice Ted Thomas rightly put it:

“the nature and impact of the trial in sexual cases on complainants is a brutalising and distressing experience in which the complainant is effectively put on trial.”

Something needs to be done to ensure that justice is done and that sexual violence is taken seriously and some of the proposals in the Ministry’s paper look promising on the face of it.

But doing away with the presumption of innocence and requiring a higher standard of proof from defendants is another matter. There are flaws with “innocent until proven guilty”, but it is generally thought that it is better to let a few guilty go unpunished then to punish the innocent. Last month Inventory2 condemned the idea as “a piece of liberal lunacy”, saying “(it) goes too far, and should be quickly condemned to the dusbin.”

How about we look at all the other alternatives, implement those that look like they will make a difference, and then revisit the issue of proving consent if we consider this necessary. There is a great deal to gain, but also a great deal to lose.

[Update: MacDoc makes some constructive suggestions about how to improve the trial process.

And in his typically thoughtful way, Bomber at TUMEKE! crows that, “… gone are the days a rape suspect could claim consent from the sparkle in the victims eye.” Some will be surprised to hear that this is what rape suspects argue.]

On yer bikes, boobs?

August 19, 2008

As expected, Auckland City Council’s attempt to get an injunction preventing the “Boobs on Bikes” parade was unscussessful.

The Herald report states that the Judge, “said although some councillors may deem the parade to be offensive, she did not agree, even if it was tacky.” Further:

“Females walking down the street bare-breasted was not unlawful. But she added her decision was made by considering the law not morals.”

It sounds as though the Judge missed the point. The reason why many of us find the parade “offensive” is because it celebrates the exploitation of women as sexual objects.

It is not about whether or not it is immoral per se for women to bare their breasts in public. I personally would be very pleased if women could, for instance, breast-feed their babies in public without anybody giving it a second thought.

The christian right may be offended by the public display of women’s breasts, but that’s their problem.

That the pornographer organising the event thought that the decision was “incredibly balanced and well thought out and complete” says it all.

Stopping boobs on bikes

August 14, 2008

Update: The city council committee voted today to take out an injunction. Its chances of success are probably not good from what I hear, so it looks like it’s all on next Wednesday — an alliance of lefties and prudes against the pornographer and the boobs on bikes.

City Councillor Cathy Casey is asking the city development committee to take out an injunction to stop the boobs on bikes parade from going ahead. The ride promotes the “Erotica Lifestyles Expo” that starts next tomorrow week.

A few weeks ago the Council passed a bylaw aimed at stopping events deemed “offensive”. Now the Herald reports that:

“[Parade organiser] pornographer Steve Crow has made it clear he will stage the event on Wednesday despite the council refusing to issue a permit.”

I’m not saying we should stop the Erotica Lifestyles Expo — although it  sounds tacky, what with “jelly pool wrestling, amateur strip tease, the ‘men of steel’, and appearances from US porn stars Taylor Wane and Rita Faltoyano (to name a few).” You have to be over 18 and pay to get in. The promoters tout the fact that 26,500 people attended last year, but that’s nothing in Auckland terms. Pasifika Festival attracts more than 225,000 people.

But boobs on bikes is another thing. It is public. It objectifies women and demeans the participants and oggling observers. That such a spectacle, run by a hard-core pornographer, takes place in our city’s main street is sad.

If she fails to gain an injunction, Cathy Casey has a plan B. She’s threatening to lie across Queen St with friends to stop the parade.

“If the council can’t win and the court can’t win, maybe people power, maybe woman power can …”

Perhaps that might be the best way. An official banning would just makes Crow into a martyr for “free speech”. I’m sure that’s how the corporate media would run it.

Note: In 2000 the Christian Heritage Party warned that the “Sexpo” show (as it was then called) “is likely to increase the already appalling level of sexual abuse in this country.” Perhaps we should have listened, but we weren’t to know that their leader was an expert in this field. (Disclaimer: I regard the CHP as having the same relationship to mainstream christians as the anarchist-Marxist left have to social democrats like myself. Although I think I’d trust the anarchists a lot more.)

[Update: MacDoctor blogs along similar lines.]

Ad industry: us, sexist?

August 7, 2008

Just to show that Granny hasn’t completely given itself over to National’s spin machine, there’s a fine article today about the continued sexist portrayal of women in NZ ads and how it’s perceived by women.

A survey found large majorities of NZ women believed that advertising:

  • portrayed women as “unequal in society”
  • did not use “real women”
  • harmed their ability to be taken seriously in the workplace.


boobs vs boobs

August 2, 2008

These days in Auckland, the first sign of spring seems to be a parade of surgically-enhanced mammaries along what passes for our main street, to the raptuous applause of tens of thousands of bystanders and bemusement of a small number of tourists caught unawares. We call this spectacle “Boobs on Bikes”.

This year Auckland City Council have passed a new bylaw aimed at stopping events deemed “offensive”. Inevitably, pornographer Steve Crow (who Granny describes as a “businessman”) says this won’t stop him. Sadly, he’s probably right.

It pains me to say this, but I agree with Mayor John Banks when he says:

“In a perfect world we wouldn’t have Boobs on Bikes in Queen St, but we don’t live in a perfect world.”

“I’m very aware that in these post-Christian times, in this slack and ill-disciplined society, holding up a bylaw around what is decent and what is not will be very difficult.”

Attempts to stop the parade wouldn’t succeed. They’d just give more publicity to the event. And I hate the idea of giving City Council officials any more power to decide what we can do in our city.

Not an easy position to come to, given that the parade demeans women. Actually, it demeans the men who delight in it too, poor sods, excited by a glimpse or two of the plastic surgeons’ craft.

Part of the problem with the new by-law is that it doesn’t define what is meant by “offence”. The City Vision minority attempted to amend it to give some specificity, ruling out “R-rated or age-restricted commercial activity involving full or partial nudity…”

I have a lot of time for the worthy Richard Northey and his colleagues, but wonder at how practical they were being.

So it looks like we will give our city over to a pornographer and for an afternoon become Gotham City. And hope that eventually interest will die away.

Don’t know about the last bit though. We still have mysogynist rap music, don’t we?

Rape: put the accused on trial, not the victim

July 16, 2008

Largely overlooked on the blogosphere have been the recommendations in Law Commission’s report (large pdf) on the disclosure of previous convictions, similar offending, etc, in court.

The most interesting and important may not have been central to the original brief, which was to some extent obviated by the Court of Appeal’s view of the Evidence Act 2006. It’s about wider court processes in sexual offence trials.

The Report highlights the evidence of retired Appeal Court Justice Ted Thomas that, “the nature and impact of the trial in sexual cases on complainants is a brutalising and distressing experience in which the complainant is effectively put on trial.”

It is. The focus is all too often the complainant’s sexual history and conduct. It is all too often the victim who is rigorously cross-examined in an attempt to undermine her credibility. The victimisation of the victims in NZ’s sexual offence cases has been a weeping sore for far too long.

The Law Commission, clearly swayed by Thomas’s evidence, concludes:

“We formed the view that the government should undertake an inquiry into whether the present adversarial trial process should be modified or replaced by some alternative model, either for sex offences or for some wider class of offences.”

“The Task Force on Sexual Violence which is presently sitting should be asked to define the issues and possible options that could be considered by that inquiry.”

“We do not express any view about what the outcome of the inquiry should be but we are troubled about the manner in which these cases are currently dealt with.”

An excellent suggestion. The “alternative model” they’re talking about is the inquisitorial system. As Catriona MacLennan pointed out on Nine-to-noon today, aspects of the inquisitorial system have been introduced in areas such as employment law and small claims adjudication, so it’s not such a revolutionary idea to be looking at.

I don’t see why we’re so wedded to the adversarial system. It’s only indirectly aimed at seeing justice done, despite what many NZers think. Here’s hoping that the government takes up the Law Commission’s recommendations without delay.

[Note:The RNZ interview is worth listening to. MacLennan suggests that defendants prove consent.]

Veitch — Will justice be done?

July 10, 2008

The broad outlines of Tony Veitch’s assault on his former partner are now becoming clear. So are some very disturbing issues about the way that domestic violence and celebrity crime  are treated in this country.

Rather than reporting a serious crime to the proper authorities, Veitch’s lawyers seem to have colluded in an attempt to cover it up by buying the victim’s silence. Don’t lawyers have any responsibilities to see justice done?

Paul Litterick has suggested, “Let’s make pies of [Veitch] and then force-feed him to his lawyers”; or perhaps, name and shame the lawyers if we’re too squeamish. I don’t think I’d go quite as far as using this particular recipe for humble pie, but can’t those involved in the attempted cover-up be charged with obstructing justice?


Five years of decriminalised prostitution

June 26, 2008

It’s been five years since the Prostitution Reform Act decriminalised prostitution in New Zealand. This would, we were told at the time, “issue in a season of open slather and open up a Pandora’s box.”

New Zealand doesn’t seem to have become the Sodom and Gomorrah of the South Pacific, so we’re probably safe from divine retribution for the time being. Once again, the social conservatives have been shown to be false prophets.

Overall, the Prostitution Law Review Committee recently reported that the reforms had little effect on the numbers in the industry, and “some improvement” in employment conditions. “But this is by no means universal”. Likewise, the Prostitutes’ Collective says that the industry has been working quite well, but has some concerns about brothel keepers’ compliance with the law. Some brothel owners need to adopt better health and safety practices, they say.

Before the reform, the illicit nature of the work saw sex workers exposed to expoitative and coercive behaviour by pimps and the like. The improvements in working conditions for these workers are to be applauded. But there is clearly more work to be done.

The Law Review Committee recommended in its report that, “the sex industry, with the help of the Department of Labour and others, moves towards written, best-practice employment contracts … becoming standard for sex workers working in brothels.” It also called for funding for regular Ministry of Health inspections of brothels and to support services by non-government organisations, including assistance with exiting for those who wanted to quit sex work.

On the whole, those who supported the reform should feel proud. Those who opposed it, claiming to be concerned for the well-being of the prostitutes, might like to reflect on the error of their ways.

What is it about “no” that rugger buggers don’t get?

June 24, 2008

I’m appalled by the suggestion of an unnamed English rugby official that the rape allegation last week against four English rugby players was “designed to destabilise the tour… You have to remember that New Zealand are still bitter with us over their exit from the World Cup.”

Now Twickenham are complicit in a possible rape. Does this upper-class prat really not know that charges don’t get laid in most rape cases? Coffs Harbour ring any bells? No charges laid, but the NRL fined the Bulldogs $150,000.

This gaffe followed Graham Henry’s (hat-tip to The Hand Mirror):