Te Mana and women.

Today a Feminist activist Boganette (link – www.twitter.com/boganettenz) posted a question on the Te Mana political party’s Facebook page asking if they had policy on sexual health and access to abortion and if they would be listing their positioning on ‘conscious’ issues.What followed can only be described as base sexism, misogyny, abuse, and trolling.

The abuse is pretty normal when discussing access to abortion or issues surrounding pro-choice, as is the hate against women who dare to ask uncomfortable questions. Being called a lesbian, a whore, (as if these are even fundamentally bad things), and being told to get fucked in various forms, is classic, if not run of the mill misogyny aimed at women who ask valid questions even without stating a position. What is important is knowing what each potential party stands for .It is surprising and extremely disappointing  that all this happened on the social networking page of a political party looking to gain votes not far out from a important election for New Zealand.

Many on the left in New Zealand feel disaffected and are looking for a place to put their vote on November 26. A party, even a young one like Te Mana, should be monitoring its social networking pages regularly and looking after its supporters, potential voters, and not letting one man loose with hate speech against women. It makes me wonder if his perspective is something the party membership are comfortable with. This may be unfair but when I asked Sue Bradford, on her facebook page, about what the party position on sexual health and abortion access was, my questions were ignored. This could be because she is busy with her campaign for the Waitakere seat. But I do wonder, in all fairness to Sue Bradford – does the party have a policy on these issues? Issues that are so important to so many voters?

I have asked the party to moderate their page, but from what I can tell the thread is still there with vitriol intact. I know abortion and sexual health can be contentious but it is also a fundamental policy platform. And potential voters should not be verbally attacked online for making a valid policy enquiry.

So I have some questions for Te Mana;

  • Who is in charge of the Women’s Affairs portfolio?
  • What is your policy on sexual health?
  • What is your policy on access to abortion?
  • Is Te Mana a pro-choice party?

Te Mana is a political party that claims to represent Maori, the poor and under -represented; many of those are women. This is a time when they need to stand up and be counted. Do they stand with women?

29 thoughts on “Te Mana and women.

  1. I’d love to hear answers to those questions as well. When it comes down to it if you go to a political party’s Facebook page and ask a question about policy you should be able to assume you will get a response from the party. Otherwise why bother having a page at all?

      • Kia ora Neesha,
        1stly have just picked up this thread tonight while moderating
        (MANA Tauranga Moana Branch) and am disgusted at the level of abuse directed relating to what are valid and pertinent policy questions. While I am not on any Te Mana policy committees as a member and supporter I am very interested in policy issues and advocate of the rights on maori wahine and their voices in all facets that affect us as maori wahine. Thus, in response to your thread questions (Q1) Veronica Tawhai and Sue Bradford are policy contributors (source Mana AGM and http://www.mana.net.nz)
        (Q2) Te Mana does have a broad Health policy (www.mana.net.nz) however, there is no explicit mention on sexual health at this time my understanding as someone who attended the AGM is that Te Mana is actively seeking policy analysts who can offer pro bono/voluntary time and expertise to keep building on this body of knowledge whilst, Te Mana is in the early development stages (so) if you are interested perhaps you could make contact?
        (Q3) Te Mana does not currently have a policy on this question
        (Q4) Te Mana does not have a pro-choice party policy (realise) this doesn’t answer all your questions but I have reviewed websites, policy of Te Mana and this is what is publicly known/published. I also tautoko that moderating FB pages is necessary to maintain contextualization of questions, korero and content and as for ‘trolls’ not sure what is happening here…..anyway, na mihi hazel hape ki mana tauranga moana branch. Mauri ora!

      • Hazel,

        I really appreciate your reply. It feels like you understand what myself and others were doing by holding our ground. Thank you. I have looked at the website and there is a broad range of policy up there which is great and I look forward to specific policy on sexual health and abortion access being released in the near future. Though it can be a difficult area of policy I feel it is essential that all parties have a clear positioning this issue.
        One point of clarification when you say Te Mana does not have a pro-choice policy does this mean the party is not pro choice or that policy is yet to be written?
        Thank you once again for such a thoughtful and understanding reply to my blog. It is lovely after what has been a rather challenging moment or two.


      • Why would a political party set up a social networking page if not to inform and get voters? It doesn’t explain the freedom people have to abuse others on the page at all!

  2. Pingback: Time to show if you care about women, Mana « Ideologically Impure

  3. I have just discovered the main perpetrator of the hate speech against the policy questions made is a woman. I must admit to being shocked about that.

      • i have never experienced a woman attacking other women like that. it is surprising and rather sad. The page was down for a while but the offense remarks have not been removed. But hopefully some action will be taken one way or another. Hopefully it gets picked up by mainstream media and they can speak to the initial questions raised and how the Mana party are going to manage their social networking from now on. There is room for improvement.

  4. I am one of those disaffected lefties unsure of how to vote in November, and I was seriously considering voting for Te Mana. But now there is absolutely no way I will. They did not answer the question, and gave the trolls free reign. Even if they don’t have a policy yet (although it seems strange to me that they wouldn’t have policies on issues that affect so many women in such an important way, but that’s just me I guess) come out and say it, politely, and maybe ask for people’s input.
    Like Neesha I hope this gets picked by the media, but for a different reason: politicians need to be clear on their policies around abortion and women’s issues because this is how many of us vote. This election I will be voting according to policies around abortion access and pay equity. Sadly, I do not know who I will be voting for, and find myself wishing for a “no confidence” box to tick.

  5. “MANA Wahine will announce this policy at a womens forum being convened in Auckland by womens affairs and womens organisations shortly. It is hoped Annette Sykes Vice President and Mereana Pittman Gay rights and Tino Rangatiratanga Activist will be our spokespeople there” – Finally an answer!

    Either way a few people have said “Mana Maori” the most abusive person on the Te Mana page is actually just a troll trying to push people away from supporting Te Mana. It seems definitely possible. If someone wanted to sabotage a political party or movement by being hostile and threatening to potential voters they could just follow Mana Maori’s lead!
    Either way – it’s good to know we finally have an answer. I imagine the policy will be a pro-choice and pro-woman policy – it will be good to have that confirmed.

    • I still find it hard to fathom they don’t monitor their social networking pages. That kind of abuse over hours is such bad form for a political party. i am wondering on their position Boganette but I hope you are right. Glad you finally got an answer, took a bit to get it though eh?

  6. Thank-you for posting. I was shocked when I saw the comments on Te Mana. I am disappointed and they have lost my vote. I cannot understand why the original poster was attacked when the question was not a rude question. I wanted to know the answer.

    • I’d like to post a response to this whakaaro from Kara Floss – “Boganette, I always loved reading your blog and the feistyness they showed (and your brilliant and ribald SOH). But I have to agree with Anna that this has been carried on over and above what are granted, some pretty ugly comments (which have been dealt with) and which Im sure shocked many TM fb members, myself included. But the continued outrage on Neeshas blog comments even after what I thought were some pretty graceful replies by Nikolasa seemed to be just OTT.

      What more did she want? Apologies were given for ugly comments – check. Explanations given for why comments weren’t taken off as quickly as Neesha would have liked – check. Offending person banned from page – check. A statement put up about a hui regarding womens affairs run by Annette and Mereana (some wahine toa there I can tell you!) – check.

      To me, this smacked of arrogance from Neesha as she continued to dig for further mea culpas from Te Mana fb people in her blog comments. And her comment that she was sure any derogatory comments about Maori would have been instantly removed (unlike the mean ones toward her), revealed more about herself than she realises. And sadly, it’s not original. (in case its not clear, ie “you are just hating on me coz im pakeha, and its reverse racism”).

      IMHO also, the outrage shown about Te Mana not being interested in wooing your votes definitely showed feelings of entitlement. Te Mana Party is a political party that unapologetically claims to first and foremost represent Maori, retain a kaupapa that upholds the Treaty,and to stand up for the poor and marginalised, and therefore, the unheard.

      We have voices. We are strong wahine. I would vote for Te Mana as to allow others to have that voice.

      A few ugly comments by one person does not change that.”

  7. Kia ora tatou e wahine ma, I one of the people responsible for Mana’s Facebook page – I am sorry this has happened to you and am never happy when people on the page are called names, you have however already highlighted how passionate people are about THIS particular issue so no doubt you understand where the intensity comes from.

    BTW, the particular user has been banned for a period of time (the length of time is still to be decided on).

    We have set up the page to allow supporters and potential supporters to express their opinions and views on a range of issues. To ask questions (and we try hard to get back answers, but please do be patient) and announce upcoming events of interest and pass on relevant panui.

    The comments that are expressed by those on the page do not represent the views of Mana and I guess I feel that is a little naive to suggest, it’s social networking, the rules are different and I can’t/won’t buy into that argument, I seriously did NOT think I needed to include THAT proviso, it just seems so “institutional”… (TBH – we decided we didn’t want to run our page like the Greens, where you can’t START conversations, only RESPOND to them) and yes, this is one of the challenges we will continue to face as a result, but he aha!

    Yes we do monitor our page but not 24/7 (I didn’t see what happened until this morning). With that said, our preference is to NOT censor the comments or thoughts of those who are on the page, if you are uncomfortable with this, then kia tupato, feel free instead to email us.

    Neesha, you’re lucky, to never have seen confrontations like this, I’ve been on the front line of the debate in San Francisco during the 1990s (helping to assist women needing to access clinics in the Bay Area) and found that some of the female anti-abortion activists were some of the most aggressive, so that type of response is not particularly new from my perspective and again, I’m glad you’ve never had to experience this but it is not unusual and not out of the ordinary in the overall scheme of things.

    IF anyone would like information in the future I do suggest you email us at info@mana.net.nz and I can pass your question/request on to the appropriate policy working group.

    Mauri ora!

    • Thank-you for your response to Neesha. I think it’s great that you have banned the user and I’m glad the post has been moderated. Thank-you for doing that it is much appreciated. I have previously asked on other forums what party policy is on abortion and generally comments where I’m called a whore etc are deleted very quickly. There’s robust debate yes, but that’s different to homophobia, transphobia and sexism being allowed to stand for so long on a party FB page. But I take your explanation in good faith.

      Thank-you Neesha for blogging about this. I’m glad there is a safer forum open for us to discuss it.

    • Thank you for replying.
      I have had run ins before on other issues but not for asking to be treated with respect and for standing my ground.
      I guess I am disappointed that it appears some people who support the Mana party disrespect, if not actually hate women. As a political party I would be concerned that there seems to be a core group of supporters that will go out of their way to be abusive to women and any man that supports them.
      I didn’t ask the initial question but I did want to know the answer and chose to stand my ground against the abuse as a point of principal. I feel Te Mana as a movement is doing a similar thing so it seems strange that its supporters are so distrustful and abusive of someone else who acts in the same manner. I don’t mind being called a troll for standing my ground, just as Maori who stood their ground at Bastion Point didn’t fall over to abuse either, they stood strong. It is unfortunate people on the page are continuing now to attack me personally for raising a valid issue about the treatment of people enquiring about policy. I really appreciate you acting to the offensive comments experienced by myself and a number of others. The only reason I stood my ground on the page is because someone else asked the question there, otherwise I would have rung your press office directly to enquire.

      Generally though I am just sad that women standing their ground is treated so disrespectfully and i am also disheartened at the level of distrust in the Mana supporters, being called an infiltrator on a public forum/social networking page is utterly crazy. I just wanted to know with a number of others about policy.

      As to monitoring your page, your policy is your business but there should be a line, potential Mana voters should not have hate speech thrown at them. If anyone said anything against Maori on that page you would take action immediately. And I do feel that though it is a social networking page it is a natural place for people to get a feel for the party- it is naive to think otherwise. What happens on that page is advertising for the party, who you are, what you stand for and how you operate. It maybe unfair but from my experience I have an understanding of the Mana party.

      All the best for the election.

      By the way you can start discussion topics on the Green’s page, but it is under the discussions tab.

    • As an aside I found out the same person who you removed previously found the telephone number of someone he disagreed with and called and harassed them repeatedly. This person you removed also has a number of accounts in a number of names and generally speaking attacks women through your social networking page. Apparently the previous incident was also reported to police. That is shocking.

  8. “If anyone said anything against Maori on that page you would take action immediately.”

    Actually that is not the case, we have allowed such comments and ‘commenters’ to stay, as a way of showing others, the racism and bigotry that exists.

    And yes, we’re trying to stay ahead of the trolls but they sometimes get through, no excuse at all, simply a reality, I didn’t realise that Mana Maori was the same as this other person (and I know of who you speak), it’s an ongoing battle indeed. (BTW, he did call and apologise, not that this makes it any better, but he and the women in question worked things out, at least this is my understanding from a conversation I had with her).

    • Good to know. As to allowing the bigots etc staying on the page to potential supporters of Mana who are unaware you operate that way it can be misread. i also feel anyone drawn towards the Mana party already know that bigotry, hatred, racism and injustice exist. It is unfortunate people also have to experience it within the party framework when they go there interested in supporting you.

      • This might sit unwell with you Neesha, but it is a decision we did not make lightly and it’s a decision that has been made through ongoing korero from those who use the forum (not just those who moderate it) and as I said before, threatening behaviour is not tolerated, when we are advised of it and/or see it happening, we do our utmost to ensure it is stopped, as we have done in your case (I STILL can’t find the other comments that people are referring to!! DOH!)

        With that said, you’ve highlighted some important issues and with the ever increasing support base, we may indeed need to make it more clear how the page operates. Thanks for the continued korero amiga, I appreciate you taking the time to let us know how we can improve and strengthen the processes we have in place.

        Mauri ora e wahine!

  9. Kia ora Neesha & koutou,

    First of all, an apology to you Neesha for not replying in a timely way to your query directly to me on facebook, but just to say that a) I have had a lot of other things going on in my life this past few days which has meant I’ve not always able to get back to people quickly – either by email or facebook; and b) as I have no formal spokesperson or other role in Mana at the moment, I didn’t feel best qualified to respond on behalf of the organisation. But given what’s appeared to have happened, I felt I should say something now.

    First of all, I understand there has been abuse and threats (I get these as well and I know how offensive it is) and I’m very sorry for that – I hope Mana has dealt with the people concerned in an appropriate way.

    Second, re the fundamental questions you’re asking on policy, because Mana is so new, it has only been able to develop a very limited number of policies so far, although will people will keep working to develop more in the weeks and months ahead.

    I can see that Mana Movement member, feminist and wahine toa Mihirawhiti Searancke has offered to help write policy in this area, and I’m sure other women would be keen to help, including myself.

    Third, I suspect there are going to be some issues which for Mana will remain conscience issues even after formal policies, for example on women’s health, are developed. My sense is that party members, including our one MP and other candidates for the general election, may well hold various different positions on issues like abortion, drug law reform, euthanasia and other highly charged matters, and that the party will have to be a broad enough church to contain different views – as other political parties often allow their members to do likewise on what are seen as ‘conscience’ issues.

    Fourth, speaking for myself, I am a feminist and have been for most of my adult life. I support women’s right to choose, and best practice in delivery of family planning and other women’s reproductive health services in a way that respects the utmost physical and psychological integrity of women and girls involved.

    With best wishes to all involved in these debates, Sue Bradford

    • Thank you Sue for your reply and addressing both the policy and the concerns around abuse experienced by some of us on the Te Mana social networking page.
      I appreciate the party is new and things are in progress and learning is part of the process as party structure and policy is developed.I hope that some rules of engagement can be formulated to prevent what happened from occurring again in the future. It is unfortunate that some find women or those that are not hardcore Mana supporters a threat. In no way are any of us involved infiltrators or from the right as some accused when we stood our ground about abuse, behaviour accountability and the like.
      The experience all round has be unpleasant and unfortunate and has clarified my voting position. All the best in your new role and all the best in your electoral battle!
      Thank you once again for your reply.

  10. “I can see that Mana Movement member, feminist and wahine toa Mihirawhiti Searancke has offered to help write policy in this area” Isn’t Mihirawhiti Serancke an apologist for Brian Tamaki & the Destiny church. That makes it hard to take any women’s policy seriously that Mana adopts coming from a women that supports a cult that is anti the rights of women & our GLBT whanau.

  11. Destiny Church’s Tamaki wins lesbian praise
    By Yvonne Tahana 5:30 AM Thursday Jul 7, 2011
    A lesbian Maori listened to Destiny Church’s Hannah Tamaki at a “campaign supper” this week – and liked what she heard.
    Mihirawhiti Searancke, who has Ngati Maniapoto whakapapa links to both Hannah and husband Bishop Brian Tamaki, went to a Maori Women’s Welfare League meeting at a Destiny church in Hamilton on Tuesday.
    She said she was there to “tautoko” (support) them both but wanted to see whether Mrs Tamaki showed leadership traits.
    “What I saw … was someone who could relate to the women in the audience, someone who spoke very well, someone who was honest within herself, and [I wanted to see] if – but for the Destiny Church tag – she would come across as a very charismatic but very ordinary Maori woman who has an extreme love for her people.”
    Ms Searancke said she believed all churches had a long way to go in their attitudes to gay and lesbian people.
    Fellow lesbian Prue Kapua is a member of the league branch that complained to the head office that Destiny branches were unconstitutional as they were sectarian. She reiterated her position on Radio Waatea.
    “They are … Destiny branches, branches of the hahi [faith]. That compromises the non-sectarian requirement in terms of the league.”
    But Hine Puru, daughter of the late Dame Whina Cooper and a former vice-president, said she was disappointed the league was undertaking an inquiry into the branches – a step she saw as divisive.
    “My mother was a strong Catholic woman. Did she convert everyone to Catholicism?”
    Mrs Tamaki wants to be league president but was bumped from the voting papers after the complaints that the Destiny branches were unconstitutional. Sources suspect some lesbians in the league are offended by Destiny’s anti-gay stance.

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