Yesterday Maurice Williamson used Parliament to boost his male ego and in the process turned Parliament back into a boys’ club, announcing how fortunate he’d been to spend the last hour in his office with the Miss Universe NZ contestants. Note the extended male laughter. I was told there was also barking but I was too shocked to hear that.
In the words of my favourite tweet yesterday, “1954 called and said it wants its patronising misogyny back.”
I have feminist concerns with beauty pageants but that’s not relevant here. As a woman MP I don’t have any objection to the contestants visiting parliament.
I do however have a problem with a male colleague using his role to turn back the clock to a time when there were not women MPs in the House. To frame his acknowledgement in the way he did “I’ve been fortunate in the last hour to have been in my office with…” was designed to stir up the heterosexual men, and it successfully created a space for all those jokes. Including one joke in response to the Speaker recognising the Wellington contestant “Isn’t she a bit young for you?”
Despite the impression Maurice’s little piece of theatre tried to create of a boys club, voters in New Zealand did actually chose to elect quite a few of us, women, and I know quite a few people out there found the whole episode creepy (creepy is a direct quote from a media producer).
So today we reclaimed Parliament for 2012 by inviting the finalists in the Feminists of the Year competition to come and be acknowledged. This was a celebration of not having to act nicely around strange male politicians and the power of an ironic analysis over an ass.
I look forward to a time when our country celebrates collective feminist action rather than individual asses (like Maurice Williamson) and when young women have a right to access our House without stirring up crass sexual references, or even more prosaically a time when all male politicians realise what century where in.
Thanks so much to the Feminists of the year for helping to reclaim a bit of Parliament for all the feminists.