Time for Key to Strip (off his White Ribbon)

This morning on Radio New Zealand Rob McCann of the White Ribbon Campaign repeatedly dodged a reasonable question: "Do you want John Key to remain as a White Ribbon Ambassador?" Moreover, he stated that his organization had "reached out" to the prime minister after the "incident" (i.e. his humiliation at the hands of The Rock presenters) and they accepted his office's explanation that Key "did not know what was going to occur and he did not know the references were about rape". McCann Interview

So it seems we can add the White Ribbon Campaign to the burgeoning list of individuals and organizations willing to excuse and overlook Key's boorishness, acting as if he were a lovable cheeky toddler stamping his chubby feet at the prospect of a bath, rather than the fully grown adult leader of our nation, responsible for his choices, which increasingly reflect badly on us all. How could someone with Key's alleged business and political acumen not realize that stepping into a cage could only end badly?

Watch the clip. Notice the words used to encourage him once he agreed to sit in the cage: "Show us a bit of support for the low, impoverished people of this country and pick up the soap." Listen to the gleeful laughter surrounding Key as he complies with the demeaning request.

Given that the White Ribbon Campaign was started by Canadian men stout enough to wear the feminist badge and stand up against the prevailing patriarchy, it is sad to see that their New Zealand division has come across as completely gormless and ineffectual. Instead of seizing an opportunity to make a real point about masculinity and leadership by stripping Key of his White Ribbon, McCann whinged that "some of the comments around the prime minister are political," clearly wishing that it would all just go away.

Instead, some have begun to scrutinize the White Ribbon Campaign New Zealand. Stu Fleming tweets that "I got alarm bells ringing with $200K operating cost for a 1.5 person operation". The annual return filed with Charities Services reveals the organization received just $3,691 in donations for the year ending June 30, 2015 while at the same time garnering government grants and contracts to the tune of $309,940. Prior to then, their two posted returns report zero income from any source.

By the way, in July 2014, Christchurch lost its only remaining rape crisis centre for lack of just $30,000 of government funding.

Perhaps McCann is correct that something political is going on.

We have a government and a leader who have repeatedly made it plain they will crush any person or organization that dares to criticize them and their priorities. Following in their lead is a vicious cadre of lowest common denominator sycophants. When Eleanor Catton dared to say New Zealand was led by "neoliberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians", barely any time elapsed between Key declaring her political insight to be no greater than a rugby player's and Sean Plunket smearing her as a "traitor" and an "ungrateful hua". The waitress who exposed Key's repeated violations of her personal space was manipulated by Dirty Politics star Rachel Glucina, her anonymity stripped away within 24 hours. Even a 16 year-old school girl was left humiliated after innocently inquiring whether Maori Language Week could be extended to a full month. Our charming PM reduced her to tears by going right into attack mode and stating that people would find a month of Te Reo boring.

At last count, more than 10,000 decent Kiwis have petitioned the White Ribbon Campaign to remove Key as one of their ambassadors, but from McCann's performance this morning, it appears these pleas are falling on deaf ears.
(Find the petition here.)

I have written to White Ribbon's "mother organization" in Canada and provided many recent examples of additional incidents demonstrating that Key is an unworthy ambassador for their cause. Their Executive Director informs me that the New Zealand branch is fully independent but the Canadians are following events in New Zealand with interest. Given that Key's cheeky antics so often attract the attention and shock of international media outlets, they should be concerned indeed.

Key's continuing association with the 24 year-old, 60+ nation White Ribbon Campaign degrades the organization's standing and impact both here and abroad, making a mockery of what they allegedly stand for: a world of healthy relationships, gender equality, and compassionate masculinity.


An American expat living in Auckland since 2000, Julia Schiller is a graduate of Washington University in St Louis, a former ESOL teacher, a Labour Party volunteer, and a self-employed entrepreneur.