Sunday, March 07, 2021

Maori: "...gentle, kind and involved fathers"

Continuing with Stuff's 'Our Truth' crusade Michelle Duff has a piece profiling five good Maori Dads to show that they do exist. 

We all know there are good Dads - Maori and non-Maori - everywhere. The reason it isn't reported is that it isn't news. It's abiding fact.

She goes on to bemoan Once Were Warriors - "the spectre of Māori fatherhood, ground into New Zealand’s cultural fabric like a long stain of Double Brown on a pub carpet" - and some sensationalised  2006 research about the 'warrior gene' reinforcing stereotypes that sadly, "Māori start to believe".

Inevitably the narrative moves on to how Maori child-rearing practises were so much better in pre-European times. Duff lifts this 1840 quote from a writer called Polack:

 “The father was devotedly fond of his children and they were his pride and delight”, wrote Polack, a Jew and a trader for some years.

I went to the source and found that the immediately preceding sentence reads, "Child prisoners were greatly prized and lived with the whanau but they remained slaves for life." That part of the quote was naturally excluded. The practise of slavery - so abhorred internationally today - was ended by colonisation.

Stuff's obsession with selectively re-educating the audience is utterly patronising.

I form my views from a mix of: what I see with my own two eyes, reading, statistics,and anecdote. 

If 47 percent of those on the Sole Parent Support benefit (for caregivers with children up to 14 years-old) are Maori, commonsense dictates that the degree of contact Maori fathers have with their children is lower than for non-Maori.

Yes, I accept that not all of the fathers of mothers on SPS would be Maori, and some of the SPS recipients would acually be the fathers of the dependent children. Some of the claims will even be fraudulent - Mum claims despite Dad being ever-present.

However, from a PHD thesis held at the University of Waikato:

During the 1990s Yeoman and Cook (2008) estimated that around 40% of Māori children lived in a single parent household, predominantly with the mother. In other words, 2 out of every 5 Māori children were raised in homes with only one parent; a trend that is likely to keep increasing (Hutton, 2001). This also means that a large majority of fathers are absent from the everyday lives of their children or have limited contact with them. It also poses a question, where are all the fathers?

Asked, I believe, by a young Maori man. 


Kiwi Dave said...

Not just utterly patronising, but destructive of Stuff’s credibility too, and rather irrelevant to the problem it skirts around.

Even if we accept that colonisation turned disproportionate numbers of Maori fathers into monsters, ‘decolonisation’ won’t necessarily fix that problem any more than you can fix a broken arm by climbing back onto the ladder you fell off and thus broke the arm.

david said...

Lindsay I think in this case colonisation has a lot to answer for. It was the subsequent introduction of the welfare state by the colonists (I use that term broadly-as does Stuff) that enables single mothers to abandon the father. This is not quite the narrative Stuff is promoting however.

Max Ritchie said...

You can’t blame the welfare state on colonialism. Sweden was never colonized yet has as developed a welfare state as you’ll find. You can blame the irresponsibility of men and its acceptance by women on the welfare state however. While the DPB was well-intentioned it had consequences. Combine that with our modern free and easy approach to sex and the breakdown in society - where are the volunteers? empty churches, marriage follows the children instead of preceding etc - and you have the social disaster we now face. Not helped by the PM’s example.

Brendan McNeill said...

Of course there are loving and kind Maori Fathers, and as you say, this is not news. What ought to be news is Stuff's journalistic activism, and its 'whitewashing' of New Zealand's history - a lie that you so ably pointed out.

I didn't read the article, but my wife and I both commented to each other on the headline.

There is a naivety in the minds of both journalists and editors at Stuff, who no doubt sincerely believe that by changing the narrative they can change reality. Well, good luck with that.

Rick said...

"Pre-colonisation, Māori lived by this celestial example. Society was not patriarchal, and men and women had complementary roles."

Sure. The men had a compliment of many wives and the wives, if they wanted to hold on to that status, paid many compliments to their husband!

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Apparently the best harmony was kept if one wife was 'head wife' and kept the others under control.

Rick said...

So I understand too. Will explore this more in future post about the Wairau Affray where a wife was tactically taken and then 'accidentally' shot and the blame given to the Settlers.

Been reading some more from the source book:

Smith and Duff also put in a bit about the father proudly carrying his infants continually in his mat. They leave out that the author observed that this must have been a painful irritation to a tender infant!

The author, Joel Polack, then goes on to write about one particular father who has his son stuffed. After the taxidermy, he carried the un-buried child around and made jokes with the other Maori fathers about what a well behaved, quiet, son he now had! Does this sound like love and empathy or more like the sort of ethic that puts a child in a tumble drier to die?

This attempt to pretend pre-Colonial NZ was Smurf Village ain't going to fly.

boudicca said...

And what about infanticide of female babies, who had no economic value and wouldn't be warriors. Much like modern India

The Slippery Slope said...

You're right of course Dave.
"the welfare state by the colonists that enables single mothers to abandon the father".
You just conveniently forgot that the DPB was set up in NZ due to the unprecedented number of (European) MEN abandoning their families in NZ - to no stigma whatsoever, leaving women to manage and care for children bearing the stigma you so obviously show.
Of course it also means women no longer have to 'put up with' whatever bullshit behaviour men are wont to impose - violence, marital rape, child abuse, etc. etc. etc.
Perhaps you could focus on critiquing men's behaviour as much as you so obviously delight on blaming women for how they cope with men's.

Max Ritchie said...

Not too sure about your thesis, Slippery. Much of the rationale, by Thaddeus McCarthy, was to allow women to escape abusive relationships. TM’s Royal Commission thought that the numbers would be small. Unforeseen consequences, as we now know.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

A DPB Emergency benefit was created in 1968. Kay Goodger "...the Department of Social Security administratively grouped together, under the generic name "Domestic Purposes Benefit", the various emergency benefits paid to women who had lost the support of their husbands, including de facto husbands, wives of prisoners and single mothers. These changes improved sole mothers' access to reliable ongoing assistance. However, as the demand continued to grow, the discretionary system of support became increasingly difficult to administer. In March 1969, there were 2,321 emergency domestic purposes in force; by March 1973, they had increased nearly four-fold to reach 9,234."

From memory the first published 1974 DPB stat was around 17,000. This included all those who'd arrived from the prior benefit. The recipents were there for a number of reasons as per above. Doubtless some women left violent relationships, others chose to keep a child but not marry or cohabit with the father. But it became a statutory right rather than discretionary under the recommendation of the Royal Commission and was primarily about preventing child poverty and allowing single parent families to participate in society like other families. Goodger makes no mention of domestic violence except in relation to the end of the 19th century!

Goodger's work: