Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Matthew 7: 3
What happened this week around Metiria and Jacinda is about privilege.
In Metiria’s case it is about a bunch of people who have had the privilege of never needing a benefit condemning someone who has.
There’s a well known background fact that is often forgotten: the percentage of benefit fiddlers versus the percentage of private sector tax dodgers. That is 4% for benefit fiddling, and 55% for fraud in the private sector.
I was on the dole in 1991 for six months. It was awful and I hated it. The amount of money was inadequate to happiness and the process of reporting in at the employment centre and the welfare office was depressing and humiliating. If I had also been raising a kid in that situation… well, I admire people who do it because I’m pretty sure it would have broken me. Young, female and Maori. A triple threat on the wrong side of white male middle-aged privilege.
It gets boring pointing it out, but the statistics below illustrate that benefits for being a sole parent, or a young parents go disproportionally to Maori women. A product of colonialism, that. Best thing to do? Go hard on that group when they lie to scrape together some more money. 200 years of discrimination is no excuse.
Of all the white men who have wanted to comment on Metiria, well, never has a dildo been thrown at a better person:
We’ve had one leader [Metiria] stay but the leader isn’t fit to be a cabinet minister but she’s still the leader… I don’t think we’d be keen to have her in our cabinet.
Steven Joyce, 4 August, 2017
In 2010 while Minister of Transport, Joyce admitted to two prior driving convictions, careless driving resulting in a fine in 1988, and careless driving causing injury resulting in a fine and loss of licence in 1989.
What a man of principle he is that Steven Joyce.
Then we had this, which is the best deployment of a pointed finger and a “you” outside a classroom in generation.
Step off, Richardson.
Go back up to those statistics above. One of them explains why people like Jesse and Mark think their questions were ok. It’s this one:
Sole Parent Support:
- Male – 8%
- Female – 92%
Please don’t tell women things are better. When it comes to children, childcare, being out of the workforce… it’s 92 to 8 not better. Now – not in the paleolithic past but now – there is NO REASON why women should be the primary caregivers of children; the primary unpaid cleaners, cooks, nappy-changers and play-date facilitators.
Of course if you have a lot of money you can pay to get help with raising kids or if you have a wealthy partner then you have the opportunity to be a stay at home parent. Like Bill. His wife has been happy to stay at home with their six kids for long periods, and they have been able to pay for a nanny when she has wanted to go back to work.
it is probably the mother role with which Mary English seems most comfortable…. she is a genuinely family-based woman…. Despite the sometimes-minuscule age gaps (13 months between Thomas and Maria) Mary has enjoyed her children, taken time off when they were babies, breastfed them all. She still tries to see everyone off to school in the morning and takes in as much Saturday sport as possible…. There is a strong commitment to keep the children out of the public eye, which is part of the reason they hired the nanny…. Even if you are the wife of the Leader of the Opposition, six kids keep you busy. The last time we speak Mary is on her way to a series of end-of-year plays and prizegivings that will go on until late in the evening.
Herald, 7 December 2001
That sounds like it has worked well, but I don’t like how cosy and “normal” that narrative is presented to us as. That story is quite exceptional: the number of children, the ability to effortlessly support them, the ability to switch easily from family life to well paid career. Bill, also, is not in the narrative, and that too reads as “normal”. Family = women. Family = women. Family = women. It’s the repeating normalised cultural refrain and leads us to Jesse and Mark. Male mouthpieces of the cultural norm.
Do not be trapped in tropes. The tropes here are that white, straight men who are married with kids don’t need to be questioned about their private lives. If they have done something a little irregular in the past then it falls into the narrative of “boys will be boys”, or “everyone stuffs up”. If you are not a white, straight, man who is married with kids then you are fair game under the “we have a right to know” rubric. Mistakes are unacceptable. In Jacinda’s case it is the mistake of having a womb. In the case of Metiria it is the mistake of having to lie to keep her benefit at a higher level while trying to raise a kid and study. If you are “privileged” enough not to have a womb or to have needed a benefit then these things can be questioned as abnormal.
What I wouldn’t mind seeing is more support for Metiria. Much more. From her own party in particular. The whole story Metiria tells about her complicated living arrangements, and her mother as a flatmate, and disappearing partner is describing reality for a section of society. It is describing normal. Not normal for people controlling media or consuming it, but normal for a large group of other people – the ones who don’t often see the point of voting, or care about Jacinda’s baby plans, or know who Mark Richardson is, or give a fuck about the America’s Cup.
I wish the Greens would show some courage, like she did, and stop trying to fit in so much. Fitting in is how we ended up here: pretending everyone is a white straight man who likes rugby and bbq and slaps everyone different around the head with their dicks if they dare to suggest other things.