Andrea Vance writes:
While female MPs were sipping orange juice at a celebratory Parliament breakfast, and their male colleagues were pinning white camellia to their suit lapels, it was sexist business as usual in the corridors of power.
Jacinda Ardern was distracted. She had too many papers crossing her desk. She was weak for not firing Clare Curran.
Don’t think this is sexist?
When Simon Bridges accuses Ardern of being distracted dealing with Winston Peters, his underlying message is: baby brain. It carries the scent of paternalistic condescension.
Bridges might not even be conscious of it. But the words we choose infer things beyond what we intend.
No commentator ever suggested John Key had too much paperwork to deal with, even when he was struck down with one of his “brain fades”.
He was not described as weak for letting foreign minister Murray McCully get away with using a private email account – and he got hacked.
Andrea basically says that words such as weak are only used to describe female politicians, not male ones.
A quick search of Scoop shows on 82 occasions a release or speech from Labour or the Greens has “John Key” and “weak” in it.
A couple of examples:
“Now that John Key is facing a similar donations scandal with one of his own Ministers, but refusing to act on it, he is showing how inconsistent and weak he is,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.
That Metiria Turei being sexist against John Key.
John Key is showing his weak leadership and refusal to do what is morally right by not raising human rights abuses of New Zealand born Australians on Christmas Island with Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition leader Andrew Little says.
“This was a weak and gutless display in Parliament today from the Prime Minister.
And Andrew Little also called John Key weak.
Prime Ministers are routinely called weak by Opposition MPs. To say it is sexist when the PM is female is, well, weak!
Winston Peters is running rings around her because that’s what Winston Peters has done to successive coalition partners. His disruptiveness is gender-neutral.
Yes and having Simon Bridges criticise her leadership as weak because of it is not sexist. In fact there is an interesting background when it comes to criticising weak leadership of PMs dealing with Winston.
Back in 1997 Jim Bolger was Prime Minister and Winston was Deputy PM. And the Northern Region of the Young Nationals had an excellent regular newsletter. Off memory it may have been called Northern Lights.
The July edition of that newsletter had a cartoon and story which portrayed the PM as drunk in the kitchen on whiskey while Winston and the “Tight Five” were running around playing havoc, stealing the cutlery etc. It was excellent Young Nats humour.
The newsletter caused a big stir as the Sunday Star Times got hold of a copy and ran it on the front page during the National Party conference. The Regional Chair of the Young Nationals was summoned to a brutal dressing down by not just the Prime Minister, but also the party president, the chair of the Rules Committee, the Chief of Staff, the Chief Press Secretary the Party General Secretary etc. He was told he was “the stupidest f**k who had ever lived”, had destroyed the conference, destroyed the Government’s unity etc and that as a consequence he must withdraw from the election scheduled the next day for Young Nationals President as him being elected would be seen as the Young Nats endorsing the cartoon showing Bolger as weak.
The Young Nats Chair in question took what would have been an incredibly intimidating brow beating for the best part of half an hour but stood his ground and refused to withdraw from the election. He said the newsletter was just light hearted humour and the Young Nats should get to decide who their own officers are. I was incredibly impressed with his stance as I would have been a quivering wreck if I had endured the same.
The next day at the AGM I am told there was a remarkable sight. The Prime Minister turned up to the Young Nats AGM. Party rules make the Party Leader a voting member of every committee and body, including Young Nats. So he used this obscure rule to turn up just to vote against this Regional Chairman, and even started lobbying others to vote against him. Young Nats were startled to have the PM in attendance as for the last ten years they had invited him to their conference and he had never been able to make it.
So who was the Young Nats Chair whose newsletter portrayed Jim Bolger weak for how he was dealing with Winston Peters? By coincidence it was a Simon Joseph Bridges.