Kerre Woodham says Sue should’ve kept quiet, PM just having fun

Once again, Kerre Woodham has caused me to headdesk; this time it’s because of her interpretation of the “John Key thinks Liz Hurley is hot, Sue Kedgley calls him on it” incident.

Apparently Sue shouldn’t be allowed to complain about his sexism because she once entered a beauty pageant (coming in second) as an undergraduate at university: see, because these two events are in the same spirit -the spirit of fun!- Sue looks like a bad-tempered hypocrite for complaining when John Key made his comments.

Ok, firstly let’s tackle the point that entering a beauty pageant as a student and making comments rating the hotness of various celebs while one is the Prime Minister are  actually the same thing. They aren’t. There are many, many things about those two situations that are different; maybe a brief, non-comprehensive list might help:

1)John Key =/= Sue Kedgeley. I think we can all agree on this one.

2)A beauty pageant =/= a radio show with a man who violently assulated his domestic partner.

3)A student =/= the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Oh, but apparently these things were both done in the spirit of fun, so surely they are the same thing. Except no explanation is provided as to why Kedgely entered the contest (and there are plenty of possible reasons if you even begin to think about it), and the thing about Key’s comments being in the “spirit of fun” is that the fun has it’s roots in sexism. It’s unlikely that Key would say “I said those things because I’m sexist”, and he probably didn’t think that as he was saying them, but that doesn’t mean the comments weren’t sexist.

I also appreicated how Kerre said that if ever there was a time for a “no comment”, this would’ve been the best time for it. I feel the same way, except she’s talking about how Sue Kedgely should’ve kept her mouth shut when the PM said some stupid stuff, and I’m talking about what the PM should’ve said when he was asked the question, thus avoiding saying the stupid stuff in the first place.

Finally, it’s a cheap low-blow to say that presumably Sue (and her twin sister, Helen) entered the pageant because they wanted people to think they were hot. Maybe there was a freakin’ sweet prize involved. You couldn’t tempt me into entering a beauty pageant very easily, but I know some people who would do almost anything for a joke and $50, or some free food, or whatever. And we are talking about students here… (I say with toungue-in-cheek, as a student myself). Maybe she was making a point, maybe she did want to win and have people think she was hot; who cares? As Kerre herself points out, times and people change. Even if Sue were absolutely gaggingly desperate for some form of sexist approval as a young woman and then later slammed someone for something sexist, this doesn’t make her a hypocrite and therefore the sexist thing is actually not sexist. Rather, the sexism has always been there it has just taken the person’s realization of this for them to start denouncing it. Maybe Kerre would think I’m a mean spirited hypocrite for this, but I have in my life participated in sexist acts and also put myself in the position of being objectified and victimized by sexism. Now I realise that those things were bad, and work to fight sexism. The things haven’t changed, but I have. That doesn’t mean that the stuff happening now isn’t sexist and I’m just shrilly overreacting, it just means that now I have the tools to deal with it.

To sum up: thumbs up to Sue Kedgely, thumbs down to Kerre and her sexism-endorsing, stereotype-reinforcing missing-the-point stance.

13 Comments

  1. stef says:

    But it was just a bit of fun…. gah!

  2. Boganette says:

    Well said.

    Not that I think that Sue being in a beauty pagent is a big deal at all – or sexist – but honestly: people change. When we’re teenagers and in our early 20s we’re trying to figure out where we fit in the world. Political or ideological views can change – or stay the same – or become stronger – but you can’t diss someone for listening and learning and changing their world view based on that.

    I used to work in a Bunny Bar when I was 18 believe it or not. I got paid to wear a bunny suit and play pool and talk to boring businessmen. Does that make me any less of a feminist now?

    Kerre Woodham is an idiot though. For real. She makes me want crush things.

    • steph says:

      Ugh, I know. I know what to expect from her now -nothing good- and yet she keeps hitting new lows of awful.

      And yeah, I don’t necessarily think that beauty pageants are problematic (mixed views- sort of hate them, sort of don’t care) but that aside, people do change. I’ve never worked in a bunny bar, but I have courted the approval of dudes in a way that, when I look back, makes me cringe at how much I desperately valued their approval of how I looked. If anything, that’s made me more of a feminist now, because I know what’s it’s like to be in that world and how awful it made me feel.

      • steph says:

        (Not meaning to equate your work as a bunny with courting male approval like I did, sorry! Poorly phrased)

      • Boganette says:

        It’s interesting reading this after this email I got last night. I’ve just published it on the blog and it is essentially asking why women seek attention from men in the way we’re talking about on here.

        I do think most of my bunny bar job can be explained away as just young and dumb behaviour – but also, when it’s drilled into you that being intelligent or funny or kind or a decent person is less important than how you look in a pair of hot pants or a short skirt how can we not buy into that? Especially at 18. It’s some weird push-pull of approval based on looks vs approval based on personality/intelligence. And when you’re a teenager getting approval is incredibly important. That’s why there are so many conformity issues around that age.

        • steph says:

          I think for me, at least, it really was related to it being drilled into me that being attractive was so important, and being a smart girl was not really anything that exciting-unless perhaps you are also a hottie. This kind of message was something that gets pushed on women from so early on-for me I wasn’t even really aware of it until much later when I looked back in retrospect. And I didn’t really realise I was buying into something because I didn’t really get what was going on. So yeah, it was a lot about approval, and also about fitting in. As you said, getting approval is really important to teenagers, and even more so if your self-esteem is shot from feeling like you don’t conform/meet expectations.

          I didn’t really care about being told I was smart or funny- even though I was told that, those weren’t the things I saw my male friends (overtly) valuing and I really wanted to be valued by dudes; after all, being valued by men was being held up as thing pinnacle of awesomness by society.

  3. Boganette says:

    “Back in the day, when Sue and her twin sister Helen were the stuff of undergraduate fantasy” – Are you fucking kidding me right now?!?!

    “Being all mealy mouthed just makes her look like a bad tempered old bag” – This woman is fucking PAID to write this shit.

    WTF. DUDE SERIOUSLY WTF.

    • steph says:

      I think she forgot to use the words shrill, lonely, jealous, angry, over-reacting, harpy, crone, or other shitty words used to shut women up. Kerre’s off her game, obviously.

  4. Richard says:

    I can already hear the people saying “but Kerre Woodham can’t be sexist because she’s a woman, lol!”

    The people who say this are idiots.

    • steph says:

      Yep, in fact I’m sure people have already said it before in reponse to other shitty sexism coming from her.

      I bet if someone’s talking about the Key issue and denounces it, someone else will go “Oh but Kerre doesn’t think it was a big deal, and she’s a woman!”. She’ll be that female friend that people always seem to have when they’re trying to defend their sexist opinion: “well my friend’s a woman and she says….”. Sigh.

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  6. Amanda says:

    Key has a female friend over at Teh Herald too!

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10704755

    For the tl;dr: Haven’t you got bigger problems to think about? That’s not sexism, this is, my anecdata stands. THE END.

    My favourite line: “Anyway, we also know the Prime Minister has had a vasectomy, so there’s zero chance the power band he’s been wearing is intended to help produce a Hollywood baby.”

    Yes, because EVERYONE knows that the only reason you have sex is to procreate, and the only reason hollywood women exist is to create the next generation of good lookers. Ergo, no babeh makin facility, no need to bang ’em *facepalm*

    • steph says:

      I just dashed off a post about this before I saw your comment! Headdesked so hard over it. Such a crock of “stop getting so upset, it was nothing”, dismissive crap.