Category Archives: Bigotry

Bizarre claims about choice

I’m struggling to write at the moment, between falling asleep in the evenings instead of writing like I usually do, and being so busy during the day that I’ve just had no spare time. This weekend I might try pre-writing several days worth of material to smooth things over a bit when I’m particularly tired or run off my feet.

Today it’s an American nugget of stupidity that’s caught my eye. The article is a few months old, but the stupidity glows bright through time. A Florida state Representative wants to restrict people to using the bathroom of their biological sex at birth (no word on the fate of intersex people. Unisex bathrooms for those of ambiguous sexual characteristics only?). This is a fairly normal state of affairs, with all the usual claims of public safety and won’t you think of the poor women subjected to the men in women’s clothing in their bathrooms? No word on what happens when trans men go to use female bathrooms under this law. That would probably bother quite a few women – to have someone who looks and thinks like a man in their bathrooms. Anyway.

What really stands out about this guy is his claim that

People are not forced to go the restroom. They choose to go to the restroom.

That’s some pretty deep bullshit that you just felt yourself land in there. It’s a biological need, which everyone feels, and it is not optional! But people like this man are so desperate to justify their bigoted points of view that they will make all sorts of ridiculous claims that fall apart when held up to the light. They’re counting on people not questioning anything.

I am not trans, and so my word on trans issues is only that of a bystander. Trans men and women, in my opinion, have the right to identify as the gender they believe they are, and a right to use the facilities meant for that gender. I trust them to do so as much as I trust anyone else – because they are anyone else. They’re not more dangerous than the average person, or more depraved, or anything like that. They’re just people.

Trans issues are difficult for this cis writer to talk about because they are not my issues, and I can never understand them fully. I can only say that trans people are people, an deserve every human right afforded to the most affluent straight cis white man. The reality is a long way off, but the groundwork is laid when people begin to see trans rights as human rights.

The crazy lady next door

A recent survey reveals that New Zealanders are mostly ok with ethnic minorities or LGBT people living next door, only half would be ok with someone with a diagnosed mental illness moving in. I am happy that three quarters of us would be ok with living next to a Maori or an Indian or a gay person. I mean, it could be better but three quarters isn’t terrible. But only half being ok with the mentally ill? What is that saying?

The first thing it says is that people do not understand mental illness. I reckon they’re imagining someone seriously ill moving in, someone who can’t care for themselves yet is somehow living alone, while the reality of the garden variety mental health client is very different. Something like one in five people suffer from mental illnesses at some point – so, statistically, a bunch of people you know have mental illnesses, and it’s likely that you don’t even know about at least a few of them. Mental illness is not just people who have been on meds so long that they shake uncontrollably, who are unable to deal with personal care, who are prone to flying into a rage at strangers over tiny things. It’s the guy next door, who seem just fine, if a bit quiet. It’s the lady down the road who seems to keep odd hours but is nice enough. It’s also your doctor, your dentist, your receptionist, and your cleaner. It’s the parking warden you just swore at under your breath, and your friend’s mum who bakes the best cookies.

Living next door to someone with a mental illness shouldn’t be a big deal. It is quite likely that if you live in a few places, with a few people, you will end up living with someone with a mental illness, diagnosed or otherwise. Sure, you’re going to hate some of them, but you’re going to like and care about others. If you can live with them, you can live next door to them, where you don’t have to fight about the hairs left all over the bathroom.

What about the seriously mentally ill, who can’t care for themselves properly? Wouldn’t it be a bad thing to live next door to them? Well, no. In almost all cases, you’re going to notice their mental illness about as much as you notice someone’s epilepsy or diabetes. Sure, there can be emergencies where the illness comes to the fore and it gets all very exciting for a while, and maybe you even have to call an ambulance, but in general everything goes on behind closed doors.

There are exceptions, people who cause trouble for their neighbours by their behaviour – but they’re rare, and they shouldn’t be the standard by which mentally ill people are judged. The truth is, the bipolar patient next door is no different to the diabetic over the back fence. They’re just out to live their own lives in their own homes, and people should not be afraid of that.

I know a lot of beneficiaries . . .

‘I know a lot of beneficiaries and they are all dead-beat shitheads who will never work’ – good for you. You’re generalising to a huge and diverse population. Three quarters of all unemployment beneficiaries will be off the benefit in under a year, and in the meantime every extra penny makes a difference in their kids’ lives.

Even if someone is on a benefit long-term, $25 per week makes a huge difference to their kids’ lives – because no, beneficiaries do not all waste every penny on booze, drugs, and gambling. They are human, and have the human range of vices, but also the human impulse to protect and provide for their kids. There are always exceptions, but they should be seen for what they are – exceptions.

There are middle-class parents who smoke and drink and gamble their money away, and a $25 per week pay rise will not benefit their kids at all – shall we say that they don’t deserve their raise? No, because that’s bullshit. We don’t do that to ‘respectable’ people, why should be do that to poor people?

There’s this idea that poor people are that way because of some moral failing. That’s just blatantly wrong. People are poor for a variety of reasons, and ‘because they’re a lazy sheathed’ is way down the list of causes. Coming from a poor background, or being Maori, or being disabled, are much more common reasons, and we can stop pretending that any of those things are moral failings. Poor people are not inherently scum, and treating them like they are makes you a despicable person.

The way to tackle poverty is to make sure poor people have enough to live on. It’s that easy. Poor people tend to be excellent budgeters, because otherwise they’d starve in the streets. They know how to get the most out of the worst. Give them some fucking dignity and let them live like whole people, rather than half-shunned lives.

The answer is not this or that intricate programme that someone dreams up – fruit and vegetable baskets to poor families do nothing to get the power bill paid. A meat hamper is pretty fucking useless if you don’t have any gas to cook it on. Insulation in the ceiling is no good when there is water seeping up through the floorboards.

Give. Poor people. Enough. Money. Stop judging them. Start trusting them with their own lives.

Not our problem

On Friday an article came out that has a quote dug right out of a social inequality gold mine. Christchurch City councillor Ali Jones says of a proposal to lease private rentals to help house the homeless this winter:

This is not social housing. This is kids, this is drug addiction, this is families and criminality. There’s a whole lot of stuff in here we should not be dealing with

The first thing to establish is the need for this plan. It’s probably only one proposal of several, but something needs to be done for the homeless of Christchurch. It gets cold there in winter, with snow at times. I cannot find any statistics on the number of people living on the streets in Christchurch, but anecdata suggests somewhere between dozens and hundreds. There are many lives affected by the decisions being made by people with homes to go back to in the evening, people who don’t know the first thing about living rough.

Ali Jones is not willing to endorse the council dedicating up to $400,000 to helping the homeless because they are kids, addicts, families, criminals, and that’s not who social housing is for. Wait, what? I thought social housing was for the vulnerable (kids, families, addicts) and for people who would otherwise have nowhere to live (criminals). In fact, people with criminal records are perhaps some of the most vulnerable when it comes to housing. Getting a place with a record can’t be easy, in the same way that getting a job isn’t easy.

Jones says that this is not core council business. If it’s not their business to provide for the needs of their community, then whose business is it? Central government will not. Charities cannot, because they just don’t have the resources. There are several charities in the Christchurch area that do great work with the homeless, but they are stretched far too thin to do any more than what they are already. Local government simply needs to step up.

There are benefits to Christchurch from housing homeless people properly. The savings in police time and in hospital time will be worthwhile. But I shouldn’t even be thinking in terms of economic justifications. These are people we’re talking about, and their lives are worth more than dollars and cents.

Jones speaks ‘at risk of sounding cold-hearted’. Lady, you don’t sound cold-hearted. You sound utterly heartless and preoccupied with what you think the role of local government is over the actual reality of human suffering. You are cherishing your pennies at the expense of the lives of others – people who you evidently believe have lives less valuable than your own. Being kids, addicts, criminals, does not make these people any less deserving of care than your own kin, and you should be thinking of them in terms of real human beings, not stereotypes.

Body shaming, part 1367248843221

toothpaste

This photo came across my Facebook feed today, with the caption “When you press realy [sic] hard to get that last bit of toothpaste.” My response? “Ahahahaha I get it! It’s funny because she doesn’t have a nice body”

The kind of humour that relies on mocking the physical attributes of others is just sad. It’s ‘punching down’ – picking on the little guy. You can go after all sorts of people in more powerful positions and be pretty funny, but picking on someone due to something outside of their control, while giving them no right of reply, is so wrong. It’s not funny. It’s nasty.

Gentle media bigotry

Sometimes I look at our news opinion pieces and think, why do we let these people vomit their way into print? It’s making us all look bad. My shining example today is a piece by Mike Hosking, a radio DJ who probably has no business opining about anything even vaguely sensitive.

I’ve linked to the original article, but it has been artfully adjusted in a very Soviet Union kind of way. The editors removed an inflammatory comment made by Hosking, saying “This line has been removed so as to avoid future confusion.” Riiiight. This makes NewsTalk ZB, the publisher of the piece, look rather like they’re trying to make this all go away quietly, rather than having to own up to the blatant bigotry that their employee spouted.

The article was about a recent tussle between a primary school and some of its parents over their bible in schools programme, which is blatant proselytising intruding on school time. It’s not learning about religions, it’s not about learning morals and ethics, it’s about accepting Jesus as your personal saviour. A complaint has been made to the Human Rights Commission over it all.

Mr Hosking, mulling over the nature of the complaint (this is lifted from another article, which was not willing to censor the DJ’s bigotry), stated that one of that parents who complained to the HRC was “Muslim, which indicates perhaps a lack of tolerance, tolerance perhaps being one of the virtues her kids might have learned in Christian studies.”

Digest that for a moment. He’s saying that her religion automatically makes her an intolerant person, and that the way to remedy that is by teaching her kids another religion (My religion’s better that yours! Join me in being intolerant to everyone else’s beliefs!). That kind of tar-brush bigotry does not have a place in my multicultural country. Hell, it has no place in any society, because it’s just so backwards.

Do you have to be Muslim in order to not want your child indoctrinated in a religion? Well, no, but if you’re Muslim then not wanting anyone else’s religion shoved down your kid’s throats is intolerant in Mr Hosking’s world. For shame. Will he next tell us that Indians are only good for owning dairies and running restaurants, or does blatant racism seem a step too far? Blatant bigotry of other kinds seems just fine.

Of course, this all turned out to be even more ridiculous in that the Muslim woman is actually a Buddhist man. He couldn’t even gets his facts vaguely straight.

Why do we let people like him publish anything that’s not related to sport or entertainment? It’s a minefield, and they stomp around in lead clown shoes. Maybe not even sport and entertainment are safe.

Some people

you look at and rather wish you didn’t know them. Example of the day: A young man who wrote a group off as ‘fuckn gay cunts’. admittedly, he did it over a joke image of a creme egg being held by someone’s butt-cheeks, with the usual ‘how do you eat yours?’ tagline, so in a way it was a logical idea. But those words are much more than a reaction to a single image. They carry a layer of meaning beyond the immediate reaction.

This young man is blatantly homophobic. I’ve known him for thirteen or fourteen years, and he’s been painfully homophobic all that time. He displays it without much in the way of prodding, and he makes no apologies for it. He’s a bit of a caveman. With a daughter. Crap.

The phrase itself is a brutal one. It’s one of the most hurtful phrases that can be used toward gay people, especially from a homophobe. It doesn’t seem to have quite the same impact on straight people, and I think it’s because it’s an attempt to smear a straight person, rather than a condemnation of their entire identity.

It’s an ugly slur. I wish it was dying out, that it wasn’t the go-to phrase to hurt gay people, and to write off straight people. I have no idea what it means to the in-betweens, to be honest. To me it’s infuriating rather than hurtful, because really, how dare anyone be so bigoted? People can and should be better than that. Perhaps we need more thirteen-year-old feminists to catch these people before they’re too set in their ways.

I wish I didn’t know people like this. I wish that I could look at my old school classes and know that the people in them all turned out to be decent human beings. I know I was an iffy prospect that turned out ok, but then I didn’t have a family that allowed hate speech (or any speech, but that’s a different matter). What the father models bigotry, there’s not a lot of hope for the kids.

I’m raising my kids to be better than this. Hating and fearing another group of people for their race, or their sexuality, or their gender identity is not acceptable in my house, and it should not be acceptable outside it either.