Recent National Party distractions from more important political issues in election year include two women Ministers attacking the Green Party co-leader over her choice of clothing – as well as the flag debate.
Anne Tolley and Judith Collins called Metiria Turei a hypocrite, and a ‘sensitive wee sausage’ when she reacted with outrage to their criticism of her wearing what is apparently a $2,000 Adrienna Winklemann designer jacket.
I was intrigued by my own snap reaction. I rarely even notice what people wear, being much more interested in what they say and even more what they do.
Yet I did have an immediate twinge of concern, as a member of the Greens who spends little and cares less about clothes.
My knee-jerk reaction was about whether it was a good message for a social justice party to have a co-leader spending this much on a jacket.
Ms Turei’s viewpoint
But there are many counter points to be made. Ms Turei rightly said that as a professional woman, she has to dress appropriately to do her job – she certainly couldn’t get away with what I wear! It’s easier to get a message through if you present as people expect with business suits or equivalent.
It’s also infuriating the way women public figures find their appearance and clothing subject to comment so much more than men (not that men are immune). As long as they are clean, tidy, and not totally ‘way out’ in their dress, that should be enough,
But I guess this is utopian, given that many people spend countless hours and billions of dollars on personal grooming, cosmetics, and plastic surgery. There are studies by economists (google Daniel Hamermesh for details) which show there are clear economic returns to physical attractiveness – and more so for women.
Only for occupations where I somewhat reluctantly concede that appearance is a reasonable job requirement, such as modeling, does it seem fair that it helps people, especially women, get jobs and/or earn more.\
Even then, most feminists would argue that extreme thinness is overdone in modeling. Surely models reflecting the differing size, shapes, and age in the general population could help sell a wider range of clothing.
Back to the comments by National Party Women Ministers
It’s concerning that on this and other issues (such as jumping on boy racers’ cars to start crushing them), they Collins and Tolley) appear to be the bully girls of this administration. They certainly show strong women at the top – but for what ends?
Sure, they convey anti-violence messages, but even then largely pretending that domestic violence is gender neutral rather than mainly perpetrated by men against women and children.
And I worry that apart from this, the main gender policy of this administration and its Ministry of Women’s Affairs appears to be attempts (and only fairly weak ones at that) to encourage more women into top jobs.
Of course, I support equality of opportunity, treatment, and preferably outcome, as well as pay equity. But I have a 50% nightmare where women are half of all top jobs, but little else has changed.
This could happen if policies continue which allow child poverty and wide inequalities to be maintained, with the lowest paid and beneficiaries ignored and race, class and other inequities left unchallenged.
These National women Ministers certainly feed this nightmare. Think of Paula Bennett too – benefiting from good educational subsidies while on the Domestic Purposes Benefit herself, and then kicking away the support ladder. Instead, she is pushing sole mothers more quickly into paid jobs which aren’t there.
So I say to Metiria Turia, good on you for saying and showing that you haven’t abandoned the people you came from. You’re not a hypocrite for being financially secure and still fighting for a better deal for those in poverty. I think we should all judge you by your efforts there.