Political standards go down as Key and Goff attempt to ‘man up’

8 Nov

With the national election only three weeks away the Dominion Post has had the ‘balls’ to put John Key and Phil Goff to a real test of political suitability by measuring their ‘blokeyness’ (see this article on Stuff). Can John Key drink a yardy in under a minute? Does Phil Goff let his wife take control of the direction on the open road? Does John Key go commando? Forget testing the potential leaders on their commitment to dealing with child poverty, New Zealand’s marine disaster or the increasing vulnerability of New Zealand economy. Instead, the Dominion Post thinks the best way to ensure that we elect a prime minister who is able to provide innovative solutions to the problems we are facing, is by measuring his ability to draw on the core ‘bloke’ values from the 19th century suited to chasing round sheep or educating ‘natives’ in property rights.

By choosing to put this ‘blokeyness test’ on the front page the Dominion Post has once again failed to provoke real debates about policy issues. But by doing this they have also accidentally offered some political insight by highlighting the lines New Zealand politicians are prepared to cross in order to connect themselves to the myth of the real man. Take the casual treatment of violence. When we are faced with horrific rates of domestic violence and child abuse, the Dominion Post considers it acceptable to encourage men to joke about whether or not they’ve been in a fight. Who better to come up with policy to better prevent domestic violence than someone who has proven he can ‘man up’ enough to throw a few punches right? Instead of challenging this casual treatment of violence, both Key and Goff go along with it and Key enjoys joking about a 40 year old grudge he’s had resulting from a teenage punch-up.

These ‘real men’ don’t exist – they never did – and yet we always return to these myths in times of insecurity for comfort. For Key and Goff it’s just about winning votes but the consequences go a lot deeper. Several years ago there was a bad drought in Whakatane and it brought with it a spate of suicides by male farmers who had lost their farms as a result. These are the ‘real blokes’ we talk about, the ones who hadn’t been taught how to talk about feelings of insecurity and so took drastic measures when they were unable to cope. Stories like this shatter the myth of the ‘real bloke’. There have been people such as John Kirwan who have been prepared to voice their concerns about the myth. Several years ago he publicly admitted to suffering from depression and highlighted how harmful challenging men to ‘man up’ can be. John Key and Phil Goff had the opportunity to challenge the pressure to ‘man up’ but instead they let it slide. It takes a certain sort of cowardice to perpetuate harmful myths in order to gain votes.

These are not the type of leaders I want to elect. I want someone who stops relying on the past to lull people into a false sense of security and instead has enough faith in the intelligence of New Zealanders to challenge us to think critically about ourselves and about how to solve the problems we are facing. But then again, what would I know about New Zealand politics, according to the Dominion Post I probably can’t even read a map.

Marianne Bevan


3 Responses to “Political standards go down as Key and Goff attempt to ‘man up’”

  1. Paul Comrie-Thomson November 10, 2011 at 12:35 am #

    Unsurprising when this is the sort of thinking in which our journalists-in-training are socialized. See: http://www.pundit.co.nz/content/what-did-you-do-in-the-2011-campaign-grandad

  2. Phill Jones November 13, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    Thanks Marianne! This is first thing i have ever read from you. Congratulations to all involved in this blog, i have been enjoying reading the articles so far, keep it up!


  1. a-Pathetic - Project Freerange - November 28, 2011

    […] Ahead pointed out, these ‘real men’ which our would be PM’s are desperately trying to mimic never really existed. Moreover, their attempts to buy into this outdated cultural trope serve only to entrench the most […]

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