Responses to “why have women left the Occupy movement?”

May 10, 2012

Our article in last month’s issue (also available online here) looking at why women have left the Occupy movement elicited several responses. They are printed here to continue this important discussion.

As part of our Socialism 2012 conference, the Workers Party will be holding a session on “safer spaces in the left,” concerning how to make left groups welcoming and inclusive. This will be facilitated by Kassie Hartendorp at 11am Saturday the 2nd of June, Newtown Community Centre.

 Still supporting the movement

How do you know they left the Occupy Movement to even start asking the question? Has there been some kind of research done? Occupy Auckland was, after all, in the CBD, so naturally it comes with the regular experiences that come with transients and those who drink and take drugs in and around the city, I had one frightening experience one particular night I was there, but it didn’t stop me supporting the Movement or going back, sleeping in the middle of the city poses its risks, irrespective of whether a person in an occupier or not, it’s all just part and parcel of sleeping rough, though I admit, the safer spaces policy did kind of go out the door during the latter part of the occupation.

-Alison Withers  Read the rest of this entry »

US and New Zealand: The struggle for access to abortions and contraception continues

April 8, 2012

Vita Bryant, Workers Party, Wellington

In the heat of the campaigning for the Republican Primaries, Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown, a well-respected Catholic university in Washington DC, applied to make a submission to the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The committee had convened to discuss whether or not to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which would allow employers to opt out of providing insurance coverage for contraception on religious grounds – in other words, regardless of an employee’s religious belief, their employer can mandate whether or not their insurance will cover access to contraception. In a country where the costs of medicines are largely covered by private insurance arrangements, such an amendment could leave the contraceptive choices of hundreds of thousands of women in the United States to the whims of their employers. Read the rest of this entry »

Defending the Domestic Purposes Benefit

April 6, 2012

This article was contributed to The Spark by Jessica Ward

The Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) was fought for by our mothers and grandmothers. Before the introduction of the DPB women raising children were entirely financially dependent on a partner. Women in abusive relationships that wanted to leave their husband would be forced to also leave their children. The DBP was formed through Social Security Amendment Act in 1973 with the first payments starting in May of 1974. The DPB was originally set at a level that enabled solo mums to care for their children as a full time job without having to enter the work-force. Unfortunately now this is not the case. National’s proposed benefit cuts mean mothers on the DBP will be required to start looking for part time work when their child turns 3 and full time work once their child turns 6. Read the rest of this entry »

Why have women left the Occupy movement?

April 4, 2012

Byron Clark, Coordinating editor of The Spark

The Occupy movement began as a movement championing the “99%” united against the 1% of the world’s population that control a disproportionate amount the worlds wealth. A possible flaw in this is that oppression is not as simple as a 99:1 ratio and exists within the working class and even within social movements. A movement that saw an even gender balance when it arrived in New Zealand last October saw the number of women involved dwindle to just a hand full. The Spark asked women currently or previously involved in the movement why they thought so many women left. Their responses are printed here. Some names have been changed for privacy reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Talk to Me About Sewing Machines, Talk to Me About Workers’ Rights! A Call to Action for Socialists from a revolutionary hooker

January 19, 2012

Greta de Graves

 The question of how to relate to sex workers (in this article, I will use the term ‘sex worker’ to refer to workers in commercialised sexual encounters, including, but not limited to prostitutes, strippers, go-go dancers, and pornographic actors of all genders) has been a topic of contention for many Marxist and other radical activists, and the New Zealand left has not been exempt from this struggle.  The rationales that I have heard as to why the left is often ambivalent towards sex worker struggles are diverse, ranging from “all commercialised sex is inherently sexist and politically incorrect – it is a tactical mistake to ‘normalise’ sex work” to “sex workers are unintelligent and non-political – it would be a waste of our time and energy to politically align ourselves with them.”

Such attitudes (voiced to me by experienced and hard-working activists) are in direct conflict to my experience as a sex worker.  My experiences that lead me into the sex industry conformed to every sad stereotype prevalent in popular culture – I was left in a huge amount of debt at the break-up of an unhealthy relationship, and was struggling to come to terms with the suicide of a close friend.  I experienced poor mental health and was unable to find work that would allow me to pay off my debts and fit in with my existing job and study.  I felt depressed, un-attractive and had a low sex drive.  I didn’t believe that anyone would ever love or even sexually desire me – a crazy, neurotic failure – ever again.

And then a friend told me that she was thinking of working as a prostitute – and it occurred to me “well, why couldn’t I do that?”  While I had a fairly sheltered upbringing, I had always had a fascination with what I perceived to be the glamorous “underworld” that sex workers occupied.  Of course, the reality proved to be far different.  In my experience, the vast majority of consumers of commercial sex in New Zealand can only be described as normal. Of different races, different personalities, different apparent socio-economic and educational backgrounds, different ages, some married, some single, but none of them the type society would classify as “deviant,” or who would arouse suspicion in their friends, families and colleagues that they paid for sexual services.

Read the rest of this entry »

Legal battle over sleepover shifts demonstrates union role in women’s pay equity struggle

June 23, 2011

Horizontal labour market segregation on the basis of gender has been well-entrenched in New Zealand’s economy, including within the care sector which is majority-comprised of women workers. The following article by Kelly Pope - a member of the Christchurch branch of the Workers Party who works as a mental health support person – demonstrates the continued relevance of the workers’ movement and trade unionism in addressing equal pay issues.

In 2007 the Service and Food Workers’ Union (SFWU) and the Public Service Association (PSA) took cases against two major residential service providers in the intellectual disability sector, attempting to gain minimum wage pay for hours spent on sleepover shifts. After a decision by the Employment Relations Authority that considered sleeping over to be work, the issue was appealed to the Employment Court by IHC in May 2009. A support worker who was employed by IHC’s IDEA Services, Phil Dickson, was the individual applicant in this case.

Since then, the Employment Court has found the existing payment of sleepover rates to be in breach of the Minimum Wage Act, ruling in favour of Mr Dickson and the union. A subsequent case taken to the Court of Appeal by IHC has resulted in the same outcome. Since this decision on 16th February 2011, the case has been taken further by IHC and will now be considered by the Supreme Court with a decision expected sometime after this year’s general election. While this long legal process has been unfolding, the PSA has filed additional legal proceedings against more than thirty health and disability support employers also currently paying below minimum wage sleepover rates, including Barnardos, Hawkes Bay DHB, Spectrum Care and Healthcare NZ. Read the rest of this entry »

Most recent figures show women still coming off worse under capitalism

June 22, 2011

This article was prepared by The Spark editorial board and first appeared in the June 2011 issue of The Spark.

The most recent Statistics New Zealand figures show slight upward trends in terms of employment, income, and labour force participation. By no means can we equate this to a beginning of the end of the recession, as these are very minimal increases outside of and below the scale required to show recovery. One thing certain from the gendered statistics contained in the March 2011 quarter Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) and the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) is that women are still coming off worse under capitalism and are in fact being disproportionately impacted by the recession. Read the rest of this entry »

Revisiting socialism and women’s liberation

March 10, 2011

This article is by Kassie Hartendorp, organiser of the Wellington branch of the Workers Party. The article will be printed in three parts, in the new Women’s Liberation section of The Spark.

Historically, one of the most controversial topics within Marxist theory is ‘the woman question’ which continues to create debate and disagreement within socialist politics. August Bebel defines the woman question as dealing “with the position that woman should hold in our social organism, and seeks to determine how she can best develop her powers and her abilities, in order to become a useful member of human society, endowed with equal rights and serving society according to her best capacity.” Because the demand for women’s rights is often seen to conflict with the priority of class struggle, some Marxists have refrained from tackling this topic, as it has not been uncommon for groups to split over disagreements on how to end women’s oppression. In this article we will review four writers; Frederick Engels, August Bebel, Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai and analyse what they have put forward in regards to women’s suffrage, marriage and the family, motherhood and love, and sexuality. This is only a small selection of the plethora of issues within the woman question, but due to word restraints, I will be just discussing these four areas. We choose here to use the term ‘women’s oppression’ rather than the more recently used ‘gender inequality’. While the terms are similar, the former is the historically specific description of the oppression and exploitation of women within the longer trajectory of capitalism. Read the rest of this entry »

Capitalist state fails police rape victims

September 10, 2010

Marika Pratley, Workers Party, Wellington Branch

The Spark September 2010

Eight women were denied compensation for being raped by police
officers at a recent Police Misconduct Forum. Seven cases proved police
misconduct in court, but only one woman was successful in bringing a
prosecution, against police officers Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton for rape in 2005. She was raped by them and another Tauranga man in 1989.

Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton

An inquiry into Police Misconduct and rape was initiated by Dame Margaret Bazley in which 300 cases of Police Misconduct were identified.

Former Police Minister Annette King began working with the 8 women to set up the forum in 2007. They were pressured into signing confidentiality agreements, meaning the other 300 women in the report were excluded from participation. Although compensation was considered, it was decided that it was not the government’s responsibility to compensate the eight women. This raises the issue of not just whether these survivors should be getting compensation, but how we can stop rape happening to begin with. Read the rest of this entry »

Women’s Rights 2008

August 21, 2008

(Boobs on Bikes organiser Steve Crow argues that the issue is a woman’s right to bare her breasts in public)

Women of New Zealand, I believe
You owe some gratitude to Steve
Since Rogernomics hit the fan
It’s since been for himself each man
Each to his own and stuff thy neighbour
Under National or Labour
Once we marched fraternally
Now its all just me me me
Through these weary winter nights
Who’s seeking to advance your rights?

Here’s someone who gives a shit
Standing up to do his bit
His bit and then a wee bit more
To win that right you’ve long yearned for
The right to cling with fishnet knees
In bracing ten or twelve degrees
On someone’s thousand cc Harley
With each goosefleshed naked charlie
On display to be assessed:
” I like those sticky up ones best!”
” Hers are much too big and saggy”
and other comment just as daggy

How many a sleepless night
Did you pray “God ­ grant me this right!”
How many a weary dreary year
Did you trudge on, with the fear
That your daughter and her heir
Might not ever live to bare?

Let housework, childcare, equal pay
Take a back seat yet one more day
Ignore the wind and clasp the seat
Enjoying your right to be raw meat.

Don Franks


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