When the Industrial Relations Act came into effect in this country in 1973, employers were unable to advertise for jobs by gender. For instance, a builder couldn't ask for a male hammer-hand. Fair enough. I'm sure there were plenty of capable young women willing and able to take on the job of carpenter's apprentice back in the 70s, if only they'd been given a sniff of a chance. But as always there are ways around doing things.
Enterprising employers who believed in doing things the old fashioned way didn't let a piece of namby-pamby socialist drivel get in the way of them running their businesses. A builder looking for a male hammer-hand may well have taken a leaf out of the book of one man I read about who advertised, in the Herald from memory, asking for a hammer hand who would be willing to work with their shirt off in summer. I'd have loved to have seen the chippy's face if a bolshy, bra-less feminist had turned up, able to wield a hammer with the best of them.
These days, it's understood, surely, that most jobs are able to be done by any of us, however we identify, provided we have the skill set and the work ethic. Law, science, engineering, child care, teaching — none of these is the exclusive domain of one sex. Not any more. Even the job of being mum and dad can be done by mum and mum and dad and dad — and anyone who doubts the ability of gay couples to raise great children needs to expand their friendship group.
However, one thing that sticks in my craw is virtue signalling madness. The decision by the organisers of the Farmers' Santa Parade to sack Neville Baker from his starring Santa role in the parade, because of comments he made in the Herald last week is ludicrous and in the words of my ancient talkback callers, "PC gone mad".
Neville Baker runs My Santa, an Auckland-based recruitment company specialising in training and placing professional Santas. He's been running the business for 10 years and last week he gave an interview to the Herald on Sunday, talking about, among other things, training Santas in a #MeToo era.
White gloves are apparently a must so that everyone can see where Santa's hands are. And the appropriate way to lift children onto a lap is also taught to wannabe Santas.
So far all above board, all completely inoffensive.
However, Baker came unstuck when he dared to suggest that women couldn't be Santas. Plenty of women apply, apparently, but Baker's not having a bar of it.
"Putting the politically correct thing to one side," he said last week, "there's a certain character people expect to find when they come to meet Santa."
He doesn't want his clients coming back to him saying kids were asking why Santa has boobs, he went on to say. And as a result of those comments, and the resulting furore between the professionally outraged and the whiskered dinosaurs, Neville Baker has been sacked from Santa duties in the upcoming Farmer's Santa Parade.
The company that runs the event says that they are distancing themselves from Baker's company.
"We found his comments to be inappropriate and unnecessary and will not be using their services for this parade."
Oh well done, thin-lipped, righteous and smug people. Have you ever said to Baker, over the past five years you've been using him, that you'd like to change him up for a Santa with boobs? I doubt it.
And what if someone says they would like to represent Elsa from Frozen in the next Santa parade and they happen to be a thick-set muscular front-row forward with a five o'clock shadow and a passion for Elsa?
If a chick can be Santa, surely a hairy-arsed bloke can be Elsa. And if little kids are confused, well then isn't that the perfect time to have a conversation about openness and acceptance and gender roles in Hollywood?
No. Kids are kids. They know when they're being conned. We all grow up and understand that Santa isn't real. Just as we all grow up and understand that boys can be girls and girls can be boys and dads can be mums and some people don't want to have to tick a box.
For most of us, it's a sigh of relief that we don't all have to fit a certain type and behave a certain way. But come on. It's the sanctimony that gets me. If the Farmer's Parade organisers were really concerned that Santa should be multi-dimensional, they wouldn't have hired a white-haired, bushy-bearded, old-school bloke as they have done for the past five years. They would have been bold and confrontational and hired Santas from all across the LGBTQIU community. But they haven't because they know they get the crowds from having a traditional old Santa smiling and waving to the masses.
Neville Baker should never have been sacked as Santa. It was a pusillanimous move on the organisers' part. I just hope that next year he'll be back — and that next year, companies understand the concept of following their own moral compasses and their own values.