Friday, August 25, 2017

TOP bros

I have, for the last few years been associated in a minor capacity with a research group called Te Punaha Matatini, devoted to the study of networks and complex systems,  based out the physics department at UoA. Amongst their redeeming features is a commitment to bringing together diverse groups of voices, in part because there is good evidence to suggest that avoiding the old pale, stale and male makeup that is prevalent in much of academia results in better science, but mostly because it is the right thing to do. Even better, it is a commitment that is acted on, which makes me proud to have been associated with them.
I have, for the past year or so, been involved in the organisation of a festival called Kiwiburn. It is a group that aspires to many of the same ideas as Te Punaha Matatini. I would note, that it is an overwhelmingly white culture. There are a lot of good people involved in Kiwiburn. There are a lot of people who are actively trying to get across the idea of a culture of consent. A culture without the misogyny,  the blindness and the ignorance that leads to a culture where women and minorities don't feel safe. Fuck, it's got a long way to go. Most of these people are women. Some are men. Some are men who talk the talk, but then use the trust engendered by the new culture they are trying to build, to abuse. Some are men who stand by and watch this abuse, on the basis that the abuser is a friend or something. I love 95% of what Kiwiburn is and does. I cannot, at this point, say that I am proud to be associated with it.
I have seen female friends point out misogyny,  point out dangerous behaviour,  and be written off as shrill, abrasive feminists. I have then watched as I, a middle class white male, have said the same things and been greeted with people nodding and saying,  yes, this is terrible,  we should do something about it. It sickens me. Like, literally,  makes me want to vomit a little bit. 
I have watched idiot software engineers embedded in the bro culture of silicon valley, side with MRA's and try and use my discipline (biology) as a justification for why women avoid STEM fields. They suggest that they have the science to back them up, that their opinions,  with regard to biology are all grounded in evidence. I know, exactly how spectacularly wrong they have the science.
How does  all this relate to TOP?
I have seen women mention that they are uncomfortable with Morgan's use of language.  I have then seen men (it's always men) at best ignore them, at worst, tell them that they're being silly and that they should look at the policy as if policy is the only thing that matters in politics. 
I have seen men (it's always men) who are all very suddenly very concerned for the future of the country. Men who claim it's all about the policy. That policy,  is more important to them than the misogyny and litany of personal attacks that Morgan launches at people every time someone tells him his language is troubling them. I have seen all manner of poorly thought out excuses trotted out by numerous men (it's always men) as to why, even though Morgan's speech is problematic,  we should ignore it and focus on the policy.
I have watched,  as women, who are experts in their field, go and look at the TOP policies,  as all the suddenly very concerned men insist upon. I have then watched as these opinions and quietly ignored and the discussion moved, by very concerned men, to other topics, especially when the opinion is poor.
No one person that I know has neccesarily done all of this. No one person that I know of, has necessarily been subjected to all of this. Standing back and watching the community though, this is the pattern that's apparent to me.
Politics has never been, is not, can not and never will be a thing where only the evidence matters. Politics is relationships,  full of moral judgements,  messy, and if we're lucky,  at least partially backed by evidence. There should be more evidence based policy, but it's not the only thing that matters. TOP, and it's supporters, look to me like they are fetishising evidence and seem to think that policy is going to solve everything. To make matters worse, when I go digging through their policy at the behest of suddenly very concerned men, I see a party that treats people, as economic units, rather than, y'know, actual people. And I see men, adamant that we as a society,  have been misled by authority in the past, and adamant that we should no longer trust authority,  then act puzzled and mildly hurt, respect their authority, even though, according to them, they are obviously right, why won't all you silly little people listen to reason - as if fucking reason is some platonic ideal that has only a single logical interpretation, i.e. theirs.
And my view of this, I don't think, is going to change until people stop making fucking excuses for Gareth fucking Morgan, and acknowledge that politics is not just economics. It's not just policy. It's not just evidence.  It's all of these things.  And more than anything, it's people. Morgan does not get that.
Yeah. I get that you might actually think TOPs policies are the bestest cute little bunnies wearing bowties and capes that are going to swoop down off a rainbow and save us all. I think you're wrong. I can live with that. When I see someone supporting TOP though,  I don't see just that. I see someone who is often willing to condem misogyny, preach consent and is at the same time willing to tell women to  tolerate a culture that treats them like shit. It all contiributes to our culture and to be honest, it makes me sick. Like, literally,  makes actually want to vomit a little bit.
Fuck that shit.
Right, writing this has completely ruined my morning. I'm going to try and find a halfway decent cinnamon bun.