Label Maker

Mr Hague questioned whether Mr Shaw would be at home speaking on a marae, to trade unionists or to a group of farmers. He also said voters outside the capital might not relate to a metrosexual, Wellington-based MP who does not drive.

NZ Herald

I think Kevin is implying that Mr Shaw is not a real man.

Of course, he was not saying that directly, but in his comments about Mr Shaw’s appeal or lack of appeal to New Zealand as a whole he has painted a pretty poor picture of that New Zealand.  On behalf of all men who are not real men I would like to say a few things.

I am not sure where Mr Hague is going with the idea that Green Party leaders need to be able to drive to have popular appeal.  That aside, I’m not sure that I have ever thought, part way through a conversation, “I quite like this person, but I wonder if they can drive a car.”

I’m sure Mr Shaw would not feel at home speaking on a marae, or at a trade union meeting or at a Field Day because that is not his home.  On the other hand, in my job I quite often deal with people who are very different from me, and sometimes in quite emotional circumstances about high stakes things, and it has seemed to me that if I listen to them, and know what I am talking about, and don’t bullshit them then they don’t care about other things.  The tiny minority of people who do care about the other things are either narrow-minded bigots, or are carrying so much baggage and dealing with so much stress and trauma that they can’t think straight.

And finally, metrosexuality:

  1. a heterosexual urban man who enjoys shopping, fashion, and similar interests traditionally associated with women or homosexual men.

However you might appropriate the term, metrosexual has a generally negative connotation.  A real man doesn’t want to be called a metrosexual; it suggests tastes not appropriate to masculinity.  The fact that the term exists suggests that it is something abnormal that needs a definition.  Never mind how piss poor that is, it’s just a part of a suite of gender roles that we all have to deal with (let’s not get into “tomboy” for example).  I was always irritated when people jeered about Helen Clark’s sexuality or lack of femininity, and this irks me in a similar way.  It breaks a couple of rules for me.  Firstly, play the argument and not the person, and secondly, never presume.

In what world would John Key or Helen Clark fit into the hackneyed category “a typical kiwi”?

Should we reverse the situation to make the point.  Would it be a concern that a farming, grass roots rugby enthusiast would not have appeal to urban voters?

Are we always to be trapped in our tropes?  Are we never to make something new?  A man in his early 40s who has travelled the world and dealt with people from all walks of life will not feel at “home” talking to farmers?  I reckon he’ll be alright actually, and that the farmers will be ok too.  And the Maori, and the trade unionists.  Show a little respect to their intelligence, and to the ability of anyone with integrity and sincerity to reach out beyond their background and touch the lives of others.