Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: The role of women is 'diminished and trivialised'

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Tui Blonde beer television commercial.
Photo / Supplied
Tui Blonde beer television commercial. Photo / Supplied

Today, Tracey and Brian Marceau, the parents of murdered 18-year-old Christie Marceau, are due to launch the campaign for stricter bail laws outside Auckland's High Court. On 7th November last year their beautiful daughter was attacked and killed at their North Shore home - allegedly by a man who was facing a charge of kidnapping and assaulting Christie yet was bailed to an address close to the Marceaus' family home.

In conjunction with the Sensible Sentencing Trust, her grieving parents are hoping that the proposed Christie's Law may prevent similar tragedies from occurring in future. Full page newspaper advertisements over the weekend called for New Zealanders to put their signatures behind the campaign for tougher bail laws, including the reintroduction of meaningful bail bonds as well as instituting annual performance reviews for judges and formal inquiries following serious bail breaches.

According to the movement's Facebook page "[i]n 81% of cases where the charge is for a violent offence, bail is granted.

Yet this is the case for only 31% of traffic offenders." A Herald on Sunday article - Crims put with victims - told of violent offenders and rapists bailed to the same address as their victims.

Yesterday the Sunday papers carried a few stories with misogynistic references to varying degrees. There was the one about the business in Mangere that asked prospective female employees to text a photo because "[g]ood looks will be an advantage". In another article a woman said that not knowing your left hand from your right was "a girls' problem".
Then there was the piece about women being permitted to propose to men on the upcoming 29th February - as if the rest of the time we're supposed to be passive beings subject to the whims of men. And in the Sunday Star Times' sports section female athletes were relegated to page seven as if their inclusion was an afterthought, a token gesture.

Such examples are easy to brush off as being insignificant in the scheme of things, especially when considered alongside the violent murders of young women. Indeed when viewed as isolated incidents the subtext can be difficult to interpret. But in accumulation, when understood as being small parts that make a bigger picture, these slights and countless others like them comprise a culture that routinely, often unquestioningly, accepts the diminished and trivialised position of women.

This is the overarching backdrop to our society. There is a consistent pattern that involves disrespecting women, sexualising their roles and underscoring their subservience to men. It's a pattern that often passes as normal, accepted, unremarkable. It's an environment that has enabled the perpetuation of systemic failures ranging from poor representation of women in boardrooms to inadequate bail laws that fail to protect female victims.

And to those who say feminists should lighten up about those sexist television advertisements for Tui beer, I say this: I would love to inhabit a world where shrugging off such portrayals as just a bit of bloke-ish fun is a neutral, harmless option. But as long such depictions look suspiciously like an intrinsic component of a sustained attempt to objectify women in order bolster men, they deserve the disdain they've attracted.

While women, who last time I checked comprised more than 50 per cent of the population, continue to be treated like some minority group that can be rode roughshod over by the prevailing patriarchy, then I will continue to question such demeaning advertisements as strongly as I will champion the campaign for Christie's Law. I wish her parents all the best as they seek to make sense out of such a senseless and needless tragedy.

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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