Tuesday, 26 June 2012


we went to see "brave" on sunday.  i had no idea what the film would be about, having somehow missed all the ads on tv.  i only found out it was an animated movie a few of hours before we went to see it.  but i'm still not too old to enjoy animated films (really enjoyed "the lorax" earlier this year).  this post will have spoilers, so if you haven't seen it yet, you might want to find something else to read about now.

there were a lot of things i really liked about the movie.  a female lead - yay!  with another strong central female character, being the mother of the female lead.  the film is centred around the relationship between these two female characters, which is brilliant.  and the theatre was packed full, so yay again, because it proves once again that films with strong female characters can make money.

i loved the way the film turned the traditional fairytale of princes competing to win the princess completely on its head.  i loved that the princess didn't allow herself to become a trophy or prize that is won.  i love that it didn't have the traditional happy-ever-after ending with some random dude turning up to "complete" our heroine.

i loved the portrayal of the mother-daughter relationship - it felt so natural, so much what many mothers & daughters experience.  that lack of understanding, the pull of the traditional against the modern, the talking past each other.  the mother fearing for her daughter's future in the full knowledge of the cultural context of her daughter's life.  the daughter not understanding her mother's wisdom and experience, yet having her own wisdom and seeing that traditions aren't always for the best.

i loved that the women were able to influence the men around them, and showed strong leadership qualities.  i thought the father-daughter relationship was sweet though not developed strongly.

the animation was great.  the colours and scenery were lovely to watch.

but there were things i didn't like.  the plot was just so cliche.  child forced to marry someone not of her choosing?  ugh.  just saw that in the marigold hotel movie.  and a million bollywood movies and plenty of hollywood movies as well.  it's just so boring as a plot line.

then there was the hen-pecked "yes dear" husband thing that came through a couple of times.  which i hate because it's only generally used to show how terrible domineering wives are, and how unmanly such husbands are.  there's no reason why husbands can't agree with the superior wisdom of their wives on a particular matter, without hanging their heads and muttering a defeated "yes dear".  not cool.

and our female lead - white, skinny, big round baby eyes.  again, way too cliche, too much in line with the standard model of beauty that is constantly in the media.  though i did find the red hair lovely, and i really appreciated that she wasn't constantly sexualised.  but seriously, a young woman who is an accomplished horse-rider (on a huge clydesdale like animal) and archer is likely to have some muscles on her arms, and a build that isn't quite consistent with what was portrayed.

i also found the fact that the father was plainly unattractive to be annoying as well.  it's like the whole beauty-and-the-geek thing: that all men are deserving of a beautiful woman, regardless of their level of attractiveness.  you rarely see the opposite - a less attractive/geeky woman with a super attractive man, with the undercurrent being that she is totally deserving to be with such a man.  in current popular culture, i really haven't seen it.

as for an accurate portrayal of scottish culture, this clearly wasn't one.  there's a very long post about scottish stereotyping here.  as for myself, i found it annoying that all the men were basically presented as violent boofheads.

so on the whole, i'd say not the best film ever.  but still, the positives outweighed the negatives, and the central theme of the film about the mother-daughter relationship was so well done that it's a movie worth seeing.  and i know my perspective is coloured by the fact that there are clearly not enough movies that centre around women - for analysis of oscars nominated films for 2010, this is really good:

which means that when one comes along, it's much easier to ignore the negatives, and it almost becomes an imperative to support the film so that more of them will get made.  but in the case of "brave", in relation to it's female characters, i think it's definitely a strong film, done well, and worth supporting.

on being shut out

every now and then i get a very real and direct reminder that i don't belong.  it can be a little thing or a big thing, but still really alienating.  but it's definitely worse when i get that reminder from an organisation that i'd previously thought was a safe place, one that was welcoming of difference and one that actively promotes diversity.  amongst such a group, i guess i expect more.

it turns out that one such organisation is organising an event at a pub - well, in a private function room above the bar, but in my mind it's still being held at a pub and i'm not interested in being there.  while that might be fine with a majority of nz'ers, it's not a place that feels accessible to everyone.  i've written about this before, and what i said then seems just as relevant now:

i know there will be many people who'll say "suck it up, this our culture & you're in our country so you'll just have to adjust". to which i say "this is my country & i have as much right to determine what our culture will be & how it will develop as you do". but more than that, we know we have a problem with the drinking culture, we know the social & economic harm that is being caused by excess alcohol consumption. the reason we have strong (but often misguided) advertising campaigns in an attempt to change that culture is because we know it's destructive.

so i'm just throwing another factor in the mix. that factor being that when you organise your social or business events around drinking & alcohol, you are going to exclude some people. and it's not just us "touchy, fussy" muslim people, but many other types of people as well. a lot of these people won't be able to speak out against it, because the peer pressure is very strong & they find it hard to fight against. i find it easier because most people already think i'm weird or very different anyway, and i've gone past caring what other people think.

there are plenty of circumstances where i wouldn't care that a particular event was being held in a pub.  i just wouldn't go.  i'd perhaps feel like i was missing out but i wouldn't be upset about it.  but in this case, as i've said, the event is being held by an organisation that has, as one of it's major objectives, the empowering of minorities by giving them a voice.  it's hardly consistent then to organise your event so that it's not accessible to a whole group of people.

what's even harder is to complain about it.  to a board that is predominantly made up of white men, in which i'm the only person of colour.  to be put once again in the position of whining minority that causes so much trouble and can't just do what the rest of "us" do.  to be put again in a position that highlights just how much i don't belong and don't matter.  it's a trigger for so many similar (and sometimes nasty) reminders of how wrong it is for me to be different.

it's like being a vegetarian and being invited to a party where only meat is served.  why would you do it?  if you were intending to be inclusive, then why would you insult your guest by not providing for them.  either say you clearly don't intend to be inclusive (and stop taking funding for being inclusive), or think carefully when planning your event, consult widely before making any final decisions, and make it so that all those who you've invited feel welcome.

i'm trying to figure out why i feel so particularly hurt about this particular event.  i guess it's because the people involved have known me for quite some time; they know my beliefs; they know my objections around this stuff.  and they didn't even think about it.  but it's more than just me - they didn't think about a whole range of other people that are likely to be excluded.  people who are often excluded in our society already, something which this organisation is trying to remedy.

right now, i'm so tempted to walk away.  it's so much easier to stick with people who are like me, where i wouldn't even have to worry about such things let alone be hurt by them.  so much easier to shut them out to save myself from being shut out by them.  even though i know it's not the answer, and i know it's so important to fight for spaces that are inclusive.  maybe a good night's sleep will help me feel more able to take on that fight.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

so unusual

so last night was the annual american consulate 4th of july celebration.  which is never on the 4th of july because the staff are all on holiday.  but it was especially early this year, because they were also commemorating 70 years since the american military arrived in nz in big numbers - being 1942 after the bombing of pearl harbour, with the yellow peril & all.

not being a fan of things military, given that they simply remind of death and destruction, it wasn't really a theme i was ever going to warm to.  nonetheless, it was good to catch up with some people & meet some new people.  i didn't meet lucy lawless, also present, because - well, i really don't know what i might have said to her.  i did meet simon power, who congratulated me on "entering the world of politics" based on a recent position i've been elected to.  i set him straight in that regard, telling him i've been very involved in politics and actually stood as a list candidate a couple of times.  the surprise on his face was as you would expect, & also incredibly annoying given the stereotypes in his head that would have lead to it.

on a possibly related note, i'm getting my daily masterchef fix now that the aussie version is on.  i really like the australian one best, mostly because i really like george, gary & matt preston.  but also because they do diversity so incredibly well.  and all these diverse people are presented as fair dinkum aussies, their cooking styles based on their own heritage is celebrated and showcased, and i love that their family connections are also highlighted.  this is especially so for men, because their really are so few programmes that show men positively interacting and committed to their families.  if we see them in families at all, the narratives are mostly that their families are a burden, their wives are nagging fun-killers, and, well i'm sure you know what i mean.

but on today's programme, it really was wonderful to see a hijab-wearing muslim woman not only make it to the top 50, get her family featured, but also be in the top 12 best cooks for the round.  it just brought home to me how little i get to see people like myself in mainstream programming, just doing normal things and being part of the crowd like everyone else.  it shouldn't be rare, it shouldn't be something so unusual.  but because it is, i felt it to be something special to the extent i was almost in tears.  yay, we get to be "normal" just for once.  without the simon powers of this world raising their eyebrows.  without it seeming anything out of the ordinary or any kind of effort.  well done her, and well done masterchef.

Friday, 15 June 2012

pacific march

this is awesome:

because political activism and organisation are the first step towards solving the problems in the poster.  it's also great to see a sector that definitely doesn't get enough representation in decision-making structures within this country, stepping out to be heard and to be included.  more power to them.

ETA:  useful piece from tagata pasifika on the march:

Thursday, 14 June 2012


last night i attended two meetings.  the first was a "save tvnz 7" meeting, which was packed.  someone had booked a room at the university, but it was clearly too small, with people standing outside the door.  the speakers were bomber bradbury, mark servian from the greens, clare curran from labour & david beatson.

it was an interesting crowd - tending towards the older generation, but certainly not exclusively so.  and one of the points made at the meeting was that all mainstream channels were aiming at the 14-49 year-old demographic.  i believe it was brian edwards who wrote about the fact that older people are just not being catered to in terms of programming.   which is a sad state of affairs.  but the loss of tvnz 6 which catered for younger viewers was also talked about.

once tvnz 7 goes, maori television will be the only thing close to a public service broadcasting channel.  maori tv doesn't qualify 100% to that description because they still run adds.  tvnz 6 & 7 didn't - other than promos for their own programmes.

i should have taken notes because there was a lot of useful information provided, as well as some excellent arguments in favour of public broadcasting, and the role it plays in holding the powerful to account.  these channels, though they were never advertised by tvnz for fear of reducing viewership of tv1 & tv 2, still managed to get a significant number of viewers - 1.4 million in a month.  it doesn't help that the minister of broadcasting got these figures completely wrong, but even though he has now admitted his mistake, he's refusing to back down on this decision.  so much for this being a government that listens to the people.

the second meeting i went to was the annual ethnic communities listening forum, run by the hamilton city council.  i was pretty late, so only contributed to one of the 4 questions the counicl was seeking to consult on: how to improve the participation of ethnic minority communities with democratic process.

well, i thought that a lot of the reason people don't vote is because they don't really know the candidates, and either aren't confident or don't have the time to attend a heap of public meetings.  the best way is for the city council to provide webspace for each candidate, to put up whatever they want in that space - photos, video, CV, personal statements, whatever.  it's a much better way of finding out about the people who are standing than the 150 (or whatever) words we get in the booklet with our voting papers.

i also thought it would be useful for the council to have a page providing information on how to run a local body campaign.  some useful tips on what works best, some cheap campaigning methods, all the legal information on what you can & can't do.  a lot of people won't stand because they wouldn't have a clue how to go about it.  so giving them some information might help.  it's just an idea.

Monday, 11 June 2012

in which you get to see a blurry picture of me

i've been a bit slack on the blogging lately, because i'm feeling these days that i'm doing a full second job once i get home from my paid employment.  it seems that every organisation i'm involved with needs a lot of attention, which means that something has to be pushed to the background, and blogging is the easiest to let slide.  no-one is depending on it after all.

given that i've run out of energy to write anything meaningful, here are a couple of links via facebook: this piece from aljazeera outlining some pretty hostile conditions for muslims in myanamar/ burma:

The attack was a rare incident; the reactions suggest however that heightened levels of resentment towards the presence of Muslims in Myanmar society exist on a much wider scale. This animosity is shared by senior figures in the government - current representative to the UN, Ye Myint Aung, once described the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Arakan state who are singled out for particularly savage treatment, as "ugly as ogres", while since 1982 the government has denied them citizenship, claiming they are "illegal Bengali immigrants". Persecution of the group has been so protracted and debased that Medicins San Frontieres describes them as being among the world minority groups "most in danger of extinction".

and there's this piece about the hostile conditions in europe, looking towards the greek elections on 17 june:

There are two main stories about the Greek crisis in the media: the German-European story (the Greeks are irresponsible, lazy, free-spending, tax-dodging etc, and have to be brought under control and taught financial discipline) and the Greek story (our national sovereignty is threatened by the neoliberal technocracy imposed by Brussels). When it became impossible to ignore the plight of the Greek people, a third story emerged: the Greeks are now presented as humanitarian victims in need of help, as if a war or natural catastrophe had hit the country. While all three stories are false, the third is arguably the most disgusting. The Greeks are not passive victims: they are at war with the European economic establishment, and what they need is solidarity in their struggle, because it is our struggle too.

since that's all so sad and depressing, i'll share a nice moment i had this morning when passing on a donation from the waikato muslim association to community radio hamilton, as a contribution to the 89FM project:

it's a bit fuzzy, but there's me with manager phil grey, handing over the money.  the fundraising is going well, and we've secured about $90,000 of the approximately $110,000 we need.  the launch date when we switch over to FM is early august & will be a big change for the station.

Monday, 4 June 2012

i had no idea...

i can now tick another item off the bucket list.  tonight we went to see the waikato magic play live, and an excellent game it was too.  they've just beaten the southern steel, and i can't remember the score properly but i think it was something like 63-47.  of course i took my mooloo cow bell, and of course it was inappropriate because nobody else had one, and of course i made as much noise as i could with it!  that's part of the fun, and i wasn't interested in further advertising the sponsors with those plastic blow-up stick thingies.  they had their name everywhere they could as it was.

my netball career suffered a bit of setback in my younger years.  it turns out that i was the tallest girl in the class in standard 4 (as it was then), so of course the coach put me on defence, and that's the position i played in and got used to.  but by form 2, i'd stopped growing while everyone else took off.  and suddenly playing goal defence wasn't such a great idea anymore.  so i stopped with the netball by 4th form.  but it's funny how the rules all still stay in your mind.

magic were pretty ordinary in the first quarter, then really picked their game up from the 2nd & never looked back.

i was working today, by myself in the office, and found this cheered me up immensely:

if ever i have a theme song, i think this will be it.  apparently this was never a big hit, and i don't really understand why, considering some of the stuff that has made it to the top.  i can't say i'm a huge fan of tim finn, but i did like split enz music & i also remember liking this back in 1984.  but i really loved the one i've put up above from the first time i heard it.

if you want to read some less frivolous stuff by me, i'd suggest heading over to the hand mirror for my thoughts on changes to funding for post-graduate students.