The taunts of homophobes

I’m not in the least bit surprised by the Prime Minister’s revelation that National supporters called her a “no kids lesbo” during TVNZ’s leaders debate early on in the campaign. Both issues – that she has no children and that she is a lesbian (the first true, the second not) – have been used by the National Party to criticise her on many occasions in the past. (Not that being gay should ever be seen as a criticism – but, clearly, those who hurl it as an insult think it is politically damaging.)

In fact, rumours about Clark’s sexuality and her marriage have been spread by National ever since she ran for Parliament in 1981. During her campaign to win the Auckland seat of Mount Albert in that year, her opponents tried to smear her with many accusations, including the lesbian one. Of that campaign, Clark told author Virginia Myers:

It was a difficult campaign. As a single woman I was really hammered. I was accused of being a lesbian, of living in a commune, having friends who were Trotskyites and gays, of being unstable and unable to settle to anything. If you elect Helen Clark, my political opponents said, she’s for abortion on demand and our whole society will change overnight.

Since then, Clark has faced similar accusations. She told Brian Edwards in his biography of the Prime Minister released in 2002:

Over the years you still get the National Party rumour-mongering, most recently that the marriage has broken up. When Peter [Davis, her husband] went to Christchurch they ran that one round. It never stops. I’ve heard National MPs interject, “What about your affair with so-and-so?” They never stop. They’re relentlessly personally nasty. The one thing I hate is the National Party. I think they’re loathsome people. I do.

But this isn’t merely a historical thing. National MPs have in the past year tried to bring Clark’s childlessness into political debate – saying her lack of children in some sense makes her unsuitable to be Prime Minister (for the details, read my earlier post here). It’s also worth noting that the lesbian charge has also been run against Clark this year by the Nats. When the Young Nats launched their new website last month, I was astonished to see a photo of Helen Clark mocked up as Darth Vader with the caption: “Luke – I am your lesbian father!”

This is all very ugly, and I am very glad that Don Brash has said he would consider comments such as the “no kids lesbo” ones that Clark alleges inappropriate. Perhaps he needs to remind his minders and MPs in no uncertain terms that Clark’s marriage, childlessness and sexual orientation are off-limits. His party has a history of this ugly stuff, and he should be very quick to distance himself from smears of this kind, even if they are coming from National Party members.

3 Comments Posted

  1. Well, I find it rather interesting that Mark Sainsbury – who was standing directly in front of the audience – heard no such comments, according to the SST.

    And may I note I didn’t recall the condemnation from this, or any other left blog, when Michael Cullen thought Brash’s nervous breakdown following his separation from his first wife was a big joke. Very peculiar, considering his wife is a divorcee. Or how about the frequent sneers about Brash being “an old man in a hurry”, from someone who ‘aint no spring chicken himself.

    As I said at the time, I turned off the debate inside of five minutes because the constant white noise while both Clark and Brash were speaking was unbearable. Perhaps Clark needs to check her own hypocrisy – and get Labour’s attack dogs and smear merchants back on the muzzle.

    “Revelation”? Sounds more like someone doing some pre-emptive spin ahead of the Three debate later this week, following criticism that her performance and style reinforces negative perceptions of Clark as Muldoon in drag. Or a convenient weapon of mass distraction from the plane incident?

    BTW, I’d like Winnie Laban and/or the Labour Party to deny rumours I’ve been hearing that in Mana some activists have been pointedly reminding PI/Maori voters of the National candidate’s sexual orientation. If true, what’s that about?

  2. What people say to denigrate others speaks volumes about themselves.
    let me try:

    Helen’s faults are:

    1. She is not an instant “turn on” sexually to these male cretins.

    OK women: How would you rate Don Brash or Gerry Brownlee from a female point of view? (Personally I can’t even bear to think about it !!!)

    2. Suspicion of homosexuality

    OK gay guys: How would you rate Don Brash or Gerry Brownlee from a male point of view? (Personally I can’t even think about that either !!!)

    3. A non Parent

    How would Brash and Brownlee talk about Helen if she were a mother, and contributed the same amount to the parenting of her children as they have to theirs? (What do their respective kids, wives and ex-wives really think on this matter.)

    I won’t go on … this is too distasteful.
    Imagine how distasteful this is in its implications to Peter, who is a member of the public and not a politician.

    Imagine if another Political Party, by attacking Don, Gerry et al caused the same degree of potential pain by involving the Brownlee/Brash family members.

    Imagine these guys in Government.
    Imagine them representing Aotearoa NZ in the world.
    (Personally I can’t bear to think about that at all!)


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