I didn’t blog about Phil Goff’s sexist comments when all that was unfolding, because everyone else said it much better than I did—including my partner, who wrote directly to Phil Goff outlining why the comments were bad.
He got a response today. It’s not pretty.
Thank you for your email.
Chris Finlayson is one of the most vitriolic MPs in Parliament, repeatedly abusing others including his most recent attack on Dame Anne Salmond for daring to criticize the GCSB Bill. He had just finished personally attacking Annette King , who is a close personal friend as well as a colleague, as he has done on many previous occasions.
Chris Finlayson fits the description of misogynist which makes it fitting that he has been defeated on three occasions by Labour Parliamentarians who happen to be women.
I am disappointed that you fell for the National Party spin describing me as sexist when there is nothing in my record which sustains that.
Phil Goff MP
Oh boy, let’s unpack this one.
First of all, no one is denying that Chris Finlayson is vitriolic, and he may well be “one of the most vitriolic MPs in Parliament”. But here’s the thing: when members of the opposing party are making themselves look like idiots, the trick is not to sink to their level (you know the old chestnut: never argue with an idiot; they’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience). The trick is to rise above childish taunts and be the better person. The time for personal insults and mud-slinging was back in primary school.
Secondly, I’m confused as to why you think Chris Finlayson being a misogynist means that you yourself are somehow exempt from making misogynistic comments. The idea here is not to be slightly more respectful of women than the other guy. The baseline isn’t measured against others’ misogyny, it’s measured against how you treat and refer to male colleagues.
Thirdly, your statement “Finlayson fits the description of misogynist which makes it fitting that he has been defeated on three occasions by Labour Parliamentarians who happen to be women” would only make sense if you had made your comment in response to Chris Finlayson demeaning or otherwise disrespecting women as a gender. A fitting response to “women don’t make good MPs” might be “then explain why you’ve been beaten by two of them?” However, this was not the context your comment was made in; your comment was made in the context of losing elections, and the fact that Chris Finlayson has lost three of them. The comment could have stood on its own and your point would have been made—but instead, to make the comment more humiliating, you pointed out that his defeaters were women. The only reason to make that point is if you believe that being beaten by a woman is more embarrassing than being beaten by a man. You can say “Labour Parliamentarians who happen to be women” all you like two weeks after the fact, but that doesn’t change the fact that in the heat of the moment, you chose “you were beaten by a GIRL!” as your attack.
Here’s the thing, Phil. Your comment wasn’t “National spin” and, quite frankly, it’s insulting that you assume we all just read Twitter instead of watching Parliament TV and getting outraged all on our own. But instead of acknowledging that your statement might have been problematic, you’ve resorted to the childish argument of “but the other guy was worse!”, and it doesn’t make you look very good at all.