I call bullshit

This morning I alluded to something about yesterday’s ‘Best Start’ announcement that was bugging me. As I was writing my post yesterday, I knew something was off, but I couldn’t pinpoint what. Overnight, it became glaringly obvious.

The thing that bugs me is the goal that 80% of pregnant people are booked in for antenatal checks by 10 weeks.

On the surface, it sounds great. Of course it does – it seems apparent that earlier intervention and support can lead to better outcomes to parents and their babies.

But really, it’s a bit of an empty promise, isn’t it?

Let’s think about which pregnancies and babies might be at risk.

There are a few (non-exhaustive) categories of pregnancies in those first 10 weeks:

  • Known pregnancies to families who have been actively trying to have a baby
  • Known unexpected, wanted pregnancies
  • Known unexpected, unwanted pregnancies
  • Unknown pregnancies

People who know they’re pregnant at 10 weeks fall into the first three categories. Of those, known, wanted pregnancies the pregnancies where the pregnant person is most likely to take themselves off for an antenatal check.

Why might a person who has a wanted, known pregnancy not attend an antenatal visit as soon as possible? Well, there are some potential barriers to this – the cost of an appointment, transport, childcare, time off work, the wait time for appointments. However, so far, there has been no announcement to address these issues for pregnant people.

Besides – making an appointment is free and takes next to no time at all. All Labour wants here is booked appointments – which is a pretty easy area to show that positive ground is being made, but might not translate to better or earlier antenatal care for women. Labour also hasn’t shown any evidence that this is a problem. It smells a wee bit like making up a problem just so you can provide a solution.

Another point – not all pregnant people want antenatal checks. Most, maybe. Probably. I don’t know about you, but I think that pregnant people should be able to choose what medical intervention they have in their lives. I think as long as pregnant people have options available and accessible to them, we should be trusting people to make the right choices for them.

Now, here we’re getting into pregnancies that are potentially at risk of not attending an antenatal check in the first 10 weeks – unwanted pregnancies, and unknown pregnancies.

If you want to support people who are pregnant and don’t want to be, to attend antenatal appointments, maybe you should actively support making other options available – and legal – for pregnant people. Maybe you should take down the hoops and stigma and hell that lawmakers have put in place to prevent pregnant people from making choices that should be legitimately available to all pregnant people.

And yes, here I’m talking about two things; adoption and abortion. Let’s make both of these things accessible and available to pregnant people, and make an effort to support people who are experiencing unwanted pregnancies.

Let’s support pregnant people who want abortions by providing transport to clinics if they live far away. Let’s provide financial assistance when they need to find care for their other children and take time off work. It’s much, much cheaper than some of the alternatives.

Let’s support pregnant people considering adoption by a) publicising the option and how people might access it, and b) providing practical and emotional support to those people who are considering it.

If there’s no shame in going to your doctor and telling them that you are considering abortion, or that you’re struggling to come to terms with the news and want to consider adopting out your pregnancy, maybe pregnant people would be less reluctant to see their doctor for antenatal care. Maybe a greater level of support will help prevent pregnant people from feeling trapped in the first place, and maybe seeing legitimate options will take some of the stress out of pregnancy, and lead to healthier pregnancies and better mental health outcomes for people who have had unwanted pregnancies.

Right – the last category – unknown pregnancies. Now, these are the people who arguably would benefit most from receiving antenatal care. These people don’t know they’re pregnant, so even if they wanted to, can’t make changes to their lives and behaviours which might seriously benefit their future child.

No amount of government pressure or support will assist these people to attend antenatal appointments – if they don’t know they’re pregnant at 10 weeks, they’re probably unlikely to make random antenatal appointments just on the off chance that they could be.

So, you know what? I’m calling bullshit on this ‘best start’ aim. I don’t think it targets the people who are in most need of assistance, and I don’t think it touches on all of the actual issues that pregnant people face.

Sure, it looks great on the surface, but it lacks substance.

2014 – Election Year

2014 – it’s election year!

Today Labour announced their Best Start package. The package includes:

  • a payment of $60/week to families with an household income under $150,000/year until their babies are 1 year old;
  • extended payments for families on ‘modest’ and ‘middle’ incomes until their child turns three – what ‘modest’ and ‘middle’ incomes includes hasn’t been released yet;
  • increased parental leave from the current 14 weeks to 26 weeks;
  • free ECE for over threes increased from 20 hours to 25 hours per week;
  • free antenatal classes for all mums;
  • ensuring that 80% of pregnant people are booked for antenatal checks by 10 weeks;
  • more home visits to families who need extra support; and
  • access to free ECE for kiddies under three ‘if they are identified as being especially vulnerable’.

Firstly, there are lots of things I like about this announcement:

I think extended parental leave is great. I have concerns about where the money will come from, but I definitely think it’s important. There are lots of great ways that it could be made more affordable for businesses, so I won’t go into it here.

I think antenatal checks are really important. Parents and babies to be should receive the very best care possible, and the earlier mums get care, the better. There’s no mention on how this will be paid for, but in principle, I think it’s a great investment.

Now, where I think there are a couple of issues:

Fundamentally, I think ECE is really, really important. However, it should be noted that families with 1 child who earn up to $72,748/year gross (or up to $166,296 with three children) qualify for a childcare subsidy of $1.52 per hour for up to 50 hours a week. Families who earn less qualify for more assistance (a greater hourly subsidy).

Now, of course, it’s still going to cost to send your bub to ECE for more than the 20 free hours. However, realistically, those families who are most in need (and have a gross yearly income of less than $62,400) will save a maximum of $19.65 a week. That’s less than $1000/year.

While it’s definitely not insignificant for families, I’d suggest that the money might be better used to increase social services for families.

That moves quite nicely to the $60/week for new parents. It’s pretty well known that kids are expensive. $60/week is a lot of money for families. I don’t think the payment should go to families earning $150,000 a year. I also think the money should be scaled to provide for families most in need. A family with a gross income of $50,000 a year needs quite a different level of support to a family earning $100,000/year.

I keep coming back to this though – all of those $60/week – that’s $3,500,000 a WEEK could be paid into social services to help new families AND build community at the same time.

Now, I understand that Labour’s usual approach is to give money to allow for freedom of choice, but there are lots and lots of benefits of a different approach. For example, we know that reading aloud to children improves their performance at school.* Putting money into reading programs at libraries and books in homes programmes will cost less than $60/week, but arguably, benefit children more directly.

Spending money to make doctors visits for all children under 18 free (or even more heavily subsidised) – awesome. Spending money improving free transport options to doctors? Great. Spending that same $3,500,000 a week to increase paid parental leave? Rad. Subsidised or free shuttles available to take parents to antenatal groups? Awesome.

Maybe this approach would help other issues too. Helping provide parents with networks and supports in their communities often helps parents to be better parents.

A mum who is having problems breastfeeding, who can discuss her issues with other parents at a baby group might find a solution without having to go to an expensive lactation consultant and might breastfeed for longer because she has support. A dad with a colicky baby might meet other parents with tips to help. More eyes on babies, and more supports for parents can only improve babies outcomes (and probably parent’s sanity, too!)

So, if it were my money, that’s what I’d do. Investing in babies is super important. Giving parents the ability to invest in their babies? Priceless.

* There’s a study, and I’ve read it, but I can’t find the link right now. I’ll update when I find it.

I’m offended because you’re offensive

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more complaints about people being upset about things they see on FB or twitter. In fact, the other day I saw tweets from someone saying she was crying and felt attacked because people she followed used a word she found offensive. Keep in mind, they weren’t messaging at her, they were just tweeting on their own account and she happened to follow.

I saw someone else indignantly professing that they were going to unfollow people if they tweeted things she didn’t like, and yet another person getting upset because after she had tweeted something, people who didn’t follow her (gasp!) replied questioning her tweets.

I’m a firm believer that there’s a difference between being offensive and being offended. Being deliberately offensive is rude, and it’s not a nice thing to do. If someone says something directed at you that they know you’ll be upset by, you’re probably a jerk.

However, someone simply saying something undirected at you, even if you’re offended? That doesn’t mean it is offensive. It means you’re offended. And being offended isn’t the worst thing ever. It’s OKAY to be offended. You’re an adult, for Christ sake. If you don’t like it, move on.

If you want to tell someone ‘hey, you said this and fyi I’m offended because…’, fine. It’s not okay to say ‘you’re being offensive and you shouldn’t say that because I’m offended’. Here’s a really, really good comic on the subject from here.


How you deal with being offended is on you. Being offended is YOUR problem. It doesn’t give you the right to demand that others change their behaviour – maybe it just means that you need to choose to spend time with people who don’t do or say things that upset you.

You’re the one who needs to drive that change – it’s unrealistic, not to mention completely unfair to expect the rest of the world to understand what offends you specifically and refrain from those things.

Lately, I’ve also seen people spend significant amounts of time writing blogs, only to refuse to engage when someone (politely) disagrees with their opinion.

Here’s the thing. I think when you choose to put yourself out there, you’re going to come across others who have a different opinion to you. In most cases, I think it’s okay to agree to disagree, and to choose not to engage. It’s not very mature, and it makes me wonder why you even bother to broadcast your opinion, but I get it. Sometimes you just want to state your opinion and don’t really have the time or energy to get into it with someone else.

There are some times, however, when I do think you kind of have a responsibility to engage with people who disagree with you. In situations where you hold yourself out as an expert or an advocate on a subject, you’re taking about that subject and are happily engaging with people who agree with you – well, I think then you have a responsibility to also engage with those who don’t.

I mean sure, it’s your blog/facebook page/website, and you can do what you like. But you know, I think it’s actually pretty rude to put yourself out there as representing others, then categorically refusing to engage unless people don’t share your opinion. You’re being a shitty advocate.

Honestly – I think if you can’t deal with people who politely disagree, then I don’t think you’re the right person to be claiming to represent others. Maybe we don’t want you representing us if you shut others out. Maybe it doesn’t actually help the cause.


Now, don’t get me wrong – I think if someone’s being rude or deliberately offensive in the way they disagree, all bets are off the table. I think it’s perfectly okay to refuse to engage with people who can’t be polite.

If they’re polite about it though, and you’re not engaging because you can’t or won’t back up your argument? Basically your point is just a big circle jerk. “Hi, I’m a sloth expert, and I love sloths. Here’s my opinion on why I think they’re totally awesome, and I want to give a voice to them. This is what ALL people who love sloths think. If you love sloths too, I’ll talk forever. If you don’t though, I don’t even want to talk about why, I’m just not interested in your opinion”

Being part of society, especially on social media where you put yourself out there demands some give and take. If you’re not willing to do that, maybe you need to rethink how you put yourself out there.

Spinning and how it taught me about myself

I’m pretty good at things that I’m good at.

If that sounds silly, that’s because it is.

When something doesn’t come easily to me, I don’t do it. I’m lucky in that I’m a quick learner. Most things I have to do twice, or three times at worst, then I’ve picked it up and I’m off. When things don’t come easy to me, I don’t like them.

Examples of this are gardening (a black thumb, lack of patience and forgetfulness lead to dead plants), painting (what do you mean, tiny details make a big, big difference?) and spinning.

A few months ago I was listening to a back episode of the Knitmore Girls Podcast and in the Mother Knows Best segment, Gigi said something that really resonated with me (and I paraphrase)

Smart kids aren’t smart enough to know that to be good at something, they have to practice. Other kids know they have to practice to get good at something, but smart kids haven’t figured that out yet.

I’m that kid. I like being good at stuff, and often I pick things up quickly so I practice to get better, rather than practice to get competent.

Lately, I’ve been trying push myself out of my comfort zone and spend some time practicing things that I’m not good at, in order to get competent.

One of those things is spinning. I wanted to learn to spin – I even bought a spinning wheel! But despite all my research and reading, I really didn’t get it. I couldn’t figure out how to set the wheel up so it spun, I couldn’t treadle, or feed fibre or ANYTHING. I just sucked.

I toyed with going to a class for ages, then finally on 1 September 2013, took at class at Holland Road Yarn Company with the wonderful Tash. Tash taught me about fibre – staple length, crimp, how to draft, and how to get the fluff onto a spindle. She gave me some real confidence that I could do this, and watching her drop spindle gave me something to aspire to – thanks so much, Tash. You’re amazing.

Here’s what I had after a two hour class. Spinning does not come naturally to me.

First spinning adventure

First spinning adventure

I practiced a bit more


Second spinning adventure

Second spinning adventure

Second spinning adventure

Second spinning adventure

Plied it:

Plied second spinning adventure

Plied second spinning adventure

I still wasn’t very good, but I was determined to GET this thing. Spinning was something wonderful and magical to me, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to give up.

Things got a bit better

Not perfect, but better.

I switched over to the wheel, which was a Very Scary Thing.

The wheel was different – but do-able.

This was finally useable. Not totally even, not perfect, but beautiful, and made with my very own hands.

The green skein on the left is my latest. I’m going to spin up the blue fibre in the picture above and combine them into some bright coloured, beautiful handspun socks. I can’t wait.


Spinning isn’t something that comes easily to me. I had to practice for HOURS until I had something that anyone else in their right mind would even recognise as yarn. Spinning isn’t a zen thing for me yet – there’s still a reasonable amount of swearing that goes on at my wheel.

Despite that, it’s something I’m intensely proud of. This skill – it’s something that I had to work really hard at to get here. It exposed some vulnerabilities in me – this ugly spoil brat who wasn’t willing to stick out learning a new skill if it was hard.

Learning to spin taught me a lot about myself, and for that, I’m grateful.

Freshly dyed pretty – what will you become?

“Roast Busters” ie let me tell you a rape joke

Trigger warning. Obviously.

This is my favourite rape joke.*

“Needless to say, rape, it’s the most heinous crime imaginable. It seems it’s a comics dream, through…it seems when you do rape jokes that the material is so dangerous and edgy. The truth is, it’s the safest area to talk about in comedy. Who’s going to complain about a rape joke? Rape victims? They don’t even report rape!”

This Roast Busters business (fucking shitty name, too, by the way) – we KNOW it’s not okay.

Pop quiz! Let me ask you, think to yourself, when is sex without consent okay? If you answered anything other than ‘never’ (unless it was ‘um, duh, never ever’ or ‘are you fucking serious, of course never’), stop reading and read this, over and over and over until it sinks in.

I don’t have much more to say about this disgusting rape grossness ‘gang’ bullshit. I hope they’re caught, and I hope they’re prosecuted. I hope the process helps some of the victims, and I hope the victims don’t spend one second feeling guilty.

What I like specifically about Sarah Silverman’s joke is the horrible, lung-crushing reality it highlights.

Rape is chronically underreported. Some sources put the stats at an alarming 95% of all rapes going unreported, but it’s generally accepted that less than half of all rapes are reported. Earlier this year, UK newspaper The Independent ran this cover:

Want to know what upsets me more than rape? More than rape jokes or the fact that we have to have front pages like the one above because there’s so much rape happening, or that fucking “Roast Busters” is a thing?

That people victim-blame people for being victims. It’s not enough that some 13 year old girl was raped, that every week she has to hear one of her ‘friends’ spout off a bullshit rape joke, and that she has to open the paper to see some asshole aging bigot telling children that if they think they can walk outside in a park, they need to grow up or maybe they might get raped, but now she also gets blamed for not reporting her rape.

You know what I have to say to that? A big fuuuuuuuuuuckkkkkk yoooooooou. 

I am so goddamn sick of people blaming victims for not reporting the horrible, shitty shit that happens to them.

I’m sick to death of seeing tweets about how they were sexually assaulted on the train and replies asking ‘did you tell anyone? you know, if you don’t it could happen to someone else’.

NO NO NO. It’s not victim’s job to prevent sexual assault. It’s the assaulter’s job to not assault.

“Someone pushed me on the street”  “did you call the police?” Fuck off. No. The onus isn’t on the victim here. How fucking DARE you insinuate for even a second that someone’s failure to report crime may contribute to the commission of another crime?

If the girls and women who have been raped by this disgusting rape ‘gang’ choose not to make a complaint, that’s their choice. If that means we need to legislate to enable the police to have wider powers to prosecute people without their co-operation, then that’s what we need.

But don’t you fucking dare re-victimise people who have been through a shitty, horrible experience by putting the onus on them. Don’t fucking dare.

* There are some rape jokes I like. The rape jokes I find funny are the ones that make interesting or funny observations about society and rape culture. Let me be clear. Rape isn’t funny. Ever.


Gender quota

Today Labour approved a gender quota within their party which will mean that at the next election, at least 45% of their MPs will be women. In the 2017 election, the quota will be 50%.

I have a few things to say about this.

Firstly, I’m not a Labour member so I don’t really care how they run their party. A gender quota won’t make me vote for a party; policies will. My opinion about this isn’t an opinion so much about Labour, but rather the dynamics of quotas in general. Now, Labour has said that the quota is about ensuring equality for women, but their policies and other actions don’t put their money where their mouth is.

For this, see their failure to vote to decriminalise abortion, instead going for the watered down ‘review’ of abortion law. Sorry, but in my world, ‘reviewing’ a law that deprives a woman of the ability to legally make medical choices about her body doesn’t cut it.  Likewise, only 1 of the top 5 of their list are women – though I do acknowledge that 4/10 of their top 10 are women – this is pretty darn good work, and I note that they’ve achieved that without a quota.

I think having more women in politics is a great thing. I would love to be properly represented by my parliament, though I accept that a lot of the issues I have with the current representation is because of MMP.

Now, let’s talk about why I’m not into quotas. First, rightly or wrongly, having a quota brings into question the worthiness of every woman in those positions. Is it fair? No. Is it logical? No. Will it happen? Abso-fricking-loutely.

While I think in some situations, quotas can be really useful. Where I think quotas can be useful is after other methods to remove or reduce barriers to entry are in place and aren’t successful.

For example, a subject that is close to my heart is women in law. Every few months, someone writes an article or blog about how terrible women have it in the legal profession. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think there are a hell of a lot of problems with the legal profession and particularly how women are treated in the legal profession.

The problem is, almost all of these articles and blogs talk about how in the last 10 years, women have turned into a majority at law schools around New Zealand; more women than men are completing profs and getting admitted to the bar. The percentage of women in the NZLS is climbing. Awesome. Great news. Women are involved at university level and are sticking around to enter the profession.

Now, where the problem is – these articles and blogs almost always go on to discuss what a failure it is that the ratio of men to women as partners, or high up in the legal profession is still nowhere near 50-50. Well, duh. If the ratio at university and admission level has only equalised in the last 10 years, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that since it takes longer than 10 years to become a partner, the flow on effects are yet to be realised.

The reality is that good, sustainable change sometimes takes time. Is there more we can do, more we should be doing? Of course. Women in law programs are great. Greater protections for parental leave is fantastic. Awareness of sexism in the workplace and the implementation of strategies to prevent it and provide safe workplaces – amazing. Let’s do those things. ALL of these things will help to encourage women into the profession and retain them once they’re there.

Obviously, we’re doing good things in encouraging women into law. As to whether there’s a retention issue in the profession – well, I haven’t seen the stats, but I’d be comfortable to guess that there are definitely some issues in retention and there lots of things that we could do to help that.

Does this mean we need a quota? Would a quota help? My view: no. Maybe it would mean that in the short term, there were more women in higher positions. However, the perception (wrong or otherwise) that some of these women maybe not have ‘earned’ their place will harm ALL women in those positions, even if they would have been there without the quota. If there continues to be retention issues, then the quality of women filling those quota places will decline. That’s bad for everybody.

I think it’s more important to look at why women are underrepresented in the profession, be it law or politics, and work to fix those things. What are the barriers to entry and how can we fix them? Why are we not retaining women in the industry? What can we do to support people who have obligations as careers (as parents or care for other people)?

I’ve seen the argument that a quota might be useful is where the reason for underrepresentation is selection bias. Maybe people selecting our MPs are biased in the way they do it and take gender into account when they shouldn’t. Well, if that’s the case, I’d like to get rid of those people, please. Again, there are other methods that we can implement to prevent bias before resorting to a quota. Let’s try those things first.

I would love to see more women in politics – there are increasing numbers of women in politics at university and party level, and I think this is awesome. At representative level though, we’re lacking a bit. Instead of jumping to fix this problem at the end, I propose ensuring that we have really healthy roots to ensure that we’re able to retain a wider range women in these industries, happily.

I’d also like to acknowledge that there are lots of people who are working really, really hard to reduce the barriers, both to entry and retention, that I’ve been talking about. I don’t propose that I’m coming up with anything new here – thank you to all of those people who are doing great work everyday to help increase women’s representation in all sorts of industries.

Last night I dreamed of giants

Last night I dreamed of giants. They were in trouble with the authorities because they had been drinking too much water from the lake. Which authorities? I don’t know. The government? The police? The giant council?

The giants drank using down-pipes as straws. If straws are straws to people, and down-pipes are straws to giants, giants must be gigantic. There are some pros and cons to using down-pipes over straws. No bendy bit for ease of drinking while reclining, but also none of those pesky splits in the straw that result in you wearing milkshake on your shirt, but have none in your mouth. They’d also be more readily reusable for your environmentally conscious giants. Conversely, they’d take a long time to degrade and giant’s dishwashers must be big.

What do giants who drink from down-pipe straws eat? Do you think they bother with things like bananas and strawberries, or does the entire fruit get stuck in their teeth? Speaking of teeth, what do they floss with; and what do they use for dental work?

Where do giants poop, and why was I more worried about them drinking too much of the lake, and not about how long their showers were?

Brains are quite interesting things. Sometimes the inside of mine is quite fun, and other times I thought so much about giant societies that I’m late for work.