I first remember Rosemary McLeod from my youth. She was a cartoonist and columnist for the Listener. My mother, a nascent femisist, also had a book of her collected writings. She was clearly a significant thinker, commentor and agitator for women's rights. She seemed to be able to address serious matters frankly and with humour.
Later, McLeod became a more angry voice, primarily for the Dominion. In my student politics days, she wrote a very critical piece on comments I'd made about marriages of convenience. Shortland St stars Nick and Rachel entered a marriage of convenience to obtain student allowances and I'd commented that these marriages (they did in fact exist) were "a rational response to an irrational situation". McLeod was incensed. I was selfish, naive, a thief etc etc etc. It was a slightly unhinged response.
Today McLeod gives us her judgment on Helen Clark. There's some direct praise, but it is overshadowed by comments about her marriage, her dress-sense, her academic career and her failure to have kids. It's a good piece of writing however, because it almost obscures McLeod's envy. Clark, unlike McLeod, was in the game, not sitting on the sidelines barking disapproval.
This has been what I've realised about McLeod. She disapproves. Disapproves of sexism, of course, but disapproves also of a woman who's succeeded in politics. Rather than celebrating the achievements of Clark's government, McLeod concentrates her attention on developing a catalogue of her disapprovals. This list includes a disapproval of the newly elected Member for Wellington Central because he's gay and had the audacity to pinch his partner's backside. Grant Robertson's is at the beginning of what will certainly be a successful and influential career. He'll face far sterner criticism that McLeod's. I doubt for a minute he'll be distracted by her latest gripe.
I tell my youngest to be wary of the disapprovalists. The usually insecure, rigid thinkers who need everyone to follow simple stereotypes to make themselves feel good. Fortunately for now, they are kids who are seduced by appeal of conformity, but McLeod proves they can and do grow into adults.
5 days ago