September 2016

18 Sep Too Many Chiefs (not enough women)

First published in “Your Weekend” Saturday 17 September 2016

Murdoch - Chiefs

By Michele A’Court…

After more than a month of the Chiefs making headlines, what have we learnt?

On the one hand, this: That as a society, we don’t respect women who work as strippers. The women we care about (our daughters, sisters, mothers and partners) aren’t strippers, so we can’t empathise with women who are. We assume that women who do this job aren’t honest or trustworthy, or deserving of workplace safety.

Note: this does not apply to male strippers. They’re fun and non-threatening, and they might have other jobs like being a steel worker or Channing Tatum and are just having a bit of fun. It doesn’t define them – it’s probably a hobby.

That men fuelled by alcohol and bro-ness and exposed to nudity are like locomotives – once they’ve built up a head of steam, you can’t expect them to stop. They don’t have brakes. Apparently, they go to their lizard brain and can no longer be expected to tell right from wrong. They will forget you are someone’s daughter, sister, mother or partner.

But on the other hand, we should also learn this: A large number of us will not put up with this any longer.

From here on, no-one can reasonably claim you need hindsight to know that internal investigations are insufficient. Particularly if you are a group that prides itself on having a team culture where you all look out for each other and have each other’s back.

And that if you are investigating these kind of allegations, the first person you should talk to is the person making those allegations. She shouldn’t be the last.

That “consent” means one of the people can ask for whatever it is to stop at any time. Consent is specific to every moment. You – the whole big group of you – are going to have to listen to someone who might be small, young, or even naked and do as she says.

That in some instances, going to the police is not the only valid way to seek redress. Louise Nicholas’s story taught us that – an internal police investigation got exactly nowhere for years. It was the 4th Estate (a newspaper reporter) that eventually brought justice. It is not unreasonable now to think of the 5th Estate (social media) as an appropriate channel to bring this to public attention.

And that if Louise Nicholas offers to help you with the investigation, you should say yes. Several weeks ago.

And also, that if you are the Minister for Women it is your job to have an opinion on the way women are treated and viewed by society. If you can’t comment on the way private organisations treat women, you can’t talk about the wage gap or the need for women on private company boards either. In which case, I don’t know what you are for.


By Jeremy Elwood…


Since the events of the Chief’s Moronic Monday, and the subsequent wet squib of an inquiry, much of the media focus has been, understandably, on whether this incident is indicative of a deeper problem within New Zealand’s rugby culture.

It’s an obvious target, being something that most Kiwis are familiar with, regardless of their own interest in the sport.

I’ve never liked rugby. I find it a tedious sport to watch, I was rubbish at playing it, and yes, I have a number of bad memories of the “culture”, from school days onwards. So whilst I welcome any critique of it, I also have to admit that the kind of behaviour currently in the spotlight, and the responses to it, is hardly limited to the players and fans of my least favourite sport.

It seems that any time a group of men get together around alcohol and women, the potential to act like animals raises its ugly head. I know, I know, it’s Not All Men. I can admit that without joining in with that petulant cry from blokes who feel like somehow calling out the men who do act this way is an attack on our entire gender.

I see it regularly in my own job. Stag parties, corporate social clubs, birthday groups; we get all of these and more at comedy clubs all the time. Most of them are great, just having a laugh and a good time, but every now and again you get the ones where a mob mentality has taken over and “boys being boys” is on the edge of turning into “grown men being barbarians.” They heckle, they shout abuse (particularly to female comedians), and, more than likely, their next stop after they’ve ruined a comedy night is to go ruin one at a strip club.

This is nothing new. Testosterone plus booze plus sexual frustration plus encouragement from your mates has been a recipe for disaster for centuries. But that doesn’t mean we should let it slide. Brushing it off in the sober light of day as a bit of harmless fun, or even hinting that any woman caught up in the midst of it has in any way encouraged it is a symptom of something far darker than the actions of a few idiots. It’s suggesting that a person’s worth, and right to safety, is predicated on their job, dress sense or gender.

It’s fantastic that this story is refusing to go away. The fact that the Rugby Union were unable to brush this aside is a step forward. There are many more steps to take, though, by people throughout our society who can no longer hide behind a “culture”, rugby or otherwise.


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03 Sep Going Out On Your Own Terms – from “Your Weekend”

Jeremy and I watched the Tragically Hip’s last ever concert – the choice they made about how to end their artistic career after lead singer, Gord Downie, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It made both of us muse about the choices we do (and don’t) get to make about how we end things. This piece was written with huge respect to Downie, and also to Lecretia Seales who fought for the right to end her life on her own terms.–michele-acourt-going-out-on-your-own-terms

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03 Sep On The Rag – monthly podcast

One of the most exciting and satisfying things I get to work on is a podcast for the Spinoff (a terrific news and social commentary website) called “On The Rag”. Hosted by Alex Casey, and with Leonie Hayden (Mana magazine) we chew over what the month has been like for women in NZ and the world. Expect hilarity, anger and Prosecco. Here’s a link to them all:

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