by Susanne Kemp
Forget the war and repression in Syria. Forget the massive protests against the theocratic regime in Iran. Forget mass hunger and poverty across the Third World. Forget the millions of refugees. Forget the women (and men) of the world labouring for a pittance in horrendous conditions in factories, mines and other workplaces across the Third World.
For the NZ ‘mainstream media’ none of this counts for much.
You see, Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford are going to have a baby. Judging by the gush it would appear that they are the first-ever highly-privileged First World, white middle class couple to be doing so.
No First World, privileged, white, middle class people have ever had a baby before.
Presumably this is why TV broadcaster Hillary Barry tweeted, “I think it’s only right at this point that @jacindaardern take on the mantle of Mother of the Nation.”
And, presumably it’s also why normal programming on TV had to be interrupted for the news item announcing this extraordinary event. I mean, how impressive is it that the mainstream media here are so on top of the truly big stories in the world today?
And don’t even think about working class women in this country getting pregnant and trying to juggle pregnancy/family/domestic stuff and paid employment, let alone poor women in the Third World.
For instance, this reality didn’t stop Council of Trade Unions head Richard Wagstaff from commenting, “On behalf of Kiwis juggling paid work and parenthood, I’d just like to say ‘welcome to the club’ to Jacinda and Clarke. It’s not always easy, but the union movement supports them and all parents on this journey to make paid work fit better around family life.”
Jacinda, of course, is in a different world from the vast majority of women and couples on the planet “juggling paid work and parenthood”. She will get the paid leave that the Alliance Party fought for and which her idol, previous Labour prime minister Helen Clark, said would be introduced “over my dead body”. (This, of course, didn’t stop Clark from tweeting today, “Every woman should have the choice of combining family & career.”)
Well, with a prime ministerial income of $471,000 plus tax-free allowance of just over $22,500 – our very own royal couple can more than easily afford for hubby to take time off from his TV fishing show to be a house-husband/dad.
This also makes a mockery of Green Party leader James Shaw’s claim: “That a woman can be the Prime Minister of New Zealand and choose to have a family while in office says a lot about the kind of country we are and that we can be modern, progressive, inclusive, and equal.”
Actually, it shows the opposite. It shows that if you are a woman on a half-million dollar a year income – that’s at least 12 times the median pay – you can afford to have a baby and a house-husband/dad. It is indicative of economic inequality in this country.
The position of a Pacific Islands female worker in south Auckland working several jobs at the same time just to pay the rent and feed the kids is entirely different. Most working class women in this country have little choice but to work through pregnancy and then get back to work as soon as possible after giving birth. And for working class and peasant women in the Third World there is simply no choice.
Moreover, capitalism, the system Ardern is there to manage, requires and can’t exist without those low-paid workers in New Zealand, not to mention utterly impoverished workers, female and male, across much of the globe.
In a 2015 article on malnutrition and pregnancy in the Third World Kelsey Parrotte noted, “According to the World Food Programme, half of all pregnant women in developing countries are anaemic (having an iron deficiency), which causes around 110,000 deaths during childbirth per year.”
So, get real James Shaw!
Isn’t it funny what moves liberals, especially the white ones? Here’s a member of the actual ruling class, the chief manager of NZ Capitalism Ltd, on just under $500,000 a year, having a baby and they’re acting like she is the first person to carry out a heart transplant operation, or to walk on the moon, or cure cancer or AIDS, or row around the world. And one prominent TV journalist even wants her to be gifted the mantle of “Mother of the Nation”. (Aren’t journalists supposed to exemplify critical thinking?)
And because public life in New Zealand is utterly dominated by liberals we get this kind of gush overload, accompanied by the pretence that the advance of middle and upper class women equates to the advance of women as a whole. Working class women and the impoverished mass of women in the Third World are simply erased by the tide of gushing, self-absorbed NZ middle class liberalism.
Thank heavens for al-Jazeera and BBC World News!
While the biggest news in the world today for the NZ media is a celebrity pregnancy, their big stories were about major events that affect millions of people at the sharp end of repression, exploitation and oppression in the world order that Jacinda Ardern and her party are an integral part of.
Revolutionary BBC World News and al-Jazeera certainly are not, but their journalists do have some sort of comprehension about what is important news in the world and what isn’t, whereas the NZ ‘mainstream media’ are just plain embarrassing toadies.