COMMENT: Hate is a strong word. I generally try to reserve it for things that really deserve it, like black jelly-beans, racism, capsicum and The Bachelor. Generally speaking, I'm a lover, not a hater; a bleeding heart liberal who just wants the world to be a better place.
Just preferably without the lollies of the devil and terribly sexist reality television.
Accusations of hatred, then, tend to rankle. Occasionally I've even been accused of perpetuating hate speech, so perhaps the free speech coalition (or whatever Brash et al are calling themselves these days now that their favourite egregiously offensive speakers have decided not to come to New Zealand) should add me to the list of undesirable rabble-rousers whose free speech rights should be defended to the death.
Although, as I signed Renae Maihi's petition, I suspect I may fall on the wrong side of the free speech argument, namely as someone whose right to free speech defenders of free speech rather wish they didn't have to defend.
Recently, however, another accusation of hate has come to light. Apparently, I'm a man-hater. A [male] friend of my partner told her last week that I should write a column about how great men are every couple of months or so to make up for all of the columns I write that give him the impression that I hate men. A kind of "yay for the gents" puff piece to cancel out all of my shrill shrieking would apparently balance the scales.
An old friend of my father also protested to him on the golf course a few months ago that I was being a bit hard on middle-aged white men. Clearly, for some people of the white and male variety, I've struck a nerve.
I can't say I'm surprised. Over the past few years, I've heard – from writers much more experienced than myself – that it's difficult to be a white man these days. "Pale Male Stale is nothing but racism, sexism and ageism wrapped in a pithy phrase," Jason Krupp wrote in the National Business Review a few years ago.
Being "an ageing, conservative male" is an "unpardonable sin", wrote Cameron Slater late last year. People "fair of skin and male of sex" are members of "a despised minority", Karl du Fresne pontificated in May.
It appears that I have added to these gentlemen's suffering. The least I can do is offer my heartfelt apologies. How challenging it must be to be part of a demographic that is paid more than any other across most sectors, that is better represented than any other in almost every boardroom and in Parliament, and that occupies the vast majority of positions of power in nearly every society.
Unfortunate realities aside, however, I feel that I should set the record straight. I hate inequality. I hate discrimination. I hate sexism and misogyny. But I don't hate men.
I do find it tiresome that whenever I point out the inequalities entrenched in our society I am required to reassure people that I know that not all men are sexual predators, misogynists, and/or bad people, and that there are lots of very good men out there.
Whenever I'm called upon to undergo my ritualistic #notallmen reassurance dance about how many great men there are I can't help but be reminded of the ancient Māori whakatauki (proverb): "Kāore te kumara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka". The kumara does not speak of its own sweetness.
I've never actually said that I hate men, nor that men are terrible or anything of the sort. I have, however, highlighted some uncomfortable statistics. The gender pay gap always gets a rise (it was 9.4 per cent in 2017, but is significantly worse for non-Pākehā women, with Statistics NZ data suggesting that Māori women are paid 77.1 per cent of the hourly earnings of men, while Pasifika women are paid only 71.6 per cent) as do the numbers that show that more women are victims of sexual violence than men (the Ministry of Justice estimates 24 per cent of women will experience sexual violence during their lifetime, as will 6 per cent of men).
When I point out such statistics, my intention is not to show that men are terrible human beings, rather that, statistically speaking, women are still being treated unfairly.
I know a number of wonderful men who agree with me wholeheartedly on that point. The injustice of the situation concerns them too. Funnily enough, their first reaction when they read numbers like that is not to jump to their own defence, as if they saw themselves in the sobering statistics mentioned, but to ask why such a situation is still happening.
When they read about the inequality that women face, somehow they manage not to inject themselves into the centre of the debate.
Those are the men I love the most. Thankfully, there are a lot of them. They're empathetic, thoroughly decent and secure enough in themselves that they don't feel the need to react defensively whenever they read a statistic they don't like. I was raised by one of them, and I'm lucky to count many of them as friends.
So this column is for them, the good blokes. The ones who support women, who stand up for justice and equality, and who don't interpret advocacy for women's rights as man-hating.
You could even call it a column about how great men are. Gentlemen, if you're lucky, I might write you another one in November.