Don’t Assault a Politician if You’re Male
Josie Butler threw a dildo at the face of Steven Joyce. That assault subjected Joyce to risk of injury. If it had landed differently it could have caused an eye, mouth or tooth injury, unlikely to have been serious but not impossible. Ms Butler’s cause was confused, not based on personal trauma, and she justified it to herself with some inane comparison to rape. Media made great mirth from her violent offence and there was barely any recognition that it was violence that deserved the same disapproval as any other violence. She wasn’t charged for her crime.
John Howland tipped an ice-cream container of muddy flour-based mixture over Gerry Brownlee. The chances of significant injury from this act were lower. Mr Howland’s crime involved significant personal trauma and provocation, having suffered like so many Christchurch residents from uncaring, bullying bureaucracies typified by Mr Brownlee’s unbridled powers and dictatorial style. Mr Howland committed his protest offence a few days before what would have been the birthday of his son who died in the Christchurch earthquake. He was prosecuted for assault and now awaits sentencing.
Media did not generally comment on the double standard here and, as usual, failed to recognize or mention the sexist basis of that double standard. Considerable attempt was made to portray the Christchurch earthquake memorial event as somehow more inappropriate for any protest than the Waitangi Day event was. However, Mr Brownlee was seen by many as hypocritical for attending the memorial having caused so many of Christchurch’s survivors unnecessary suffering since the earthquake, and expression of protest could be argued to be very relevant and appropriate.
The sexism shown in these two cases is exactly the same sexism that underlies current consideration of a legal defence or partial defence for murdering a partner or family member when committed by someone who claims to have been abused by that family member. Sexism is apparent in the basic idea that immediate provocation, long recognized as capable of overwhelming the judgment and self-control of any average person, should be erased from legal consideration because it might result in compassion toward male offenders while non-immediate, ‘slow-burn’ provocation as is believed to be suffered mainly by women in abusive relationships should be legally recognized to reduce or remove consequences when those women murder the alleged abuser, despite the fact that those women have a wide variety of support services available to protect them and to help them escape their situation. As shown in the unequal treatment of the two recent protesting offenders, any ‘slow-burn provocation’ law will be applied in a sexist way such that women are given special treatment, as indeed is its intention.