‘Last Week’ … on John Key

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Something topical for a column. Check this video out (follow the link).

John Oliver weighs in on John Key’s rather ‘spectacular’ week of ponytails and pinot noir – catch the full episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver at 10.20pm on SoHo!

Posted by SoHo on Sunday, April 26, 2015


Feminism and Paul Henry


We are beginning our column writing task next week and I am going to start off by looking at the writing of Caitlin Moran who wrote ‘How to be a woman’. Follow this link to her views on being a feminist. One of the things we will discuss next week is using topical examples and issues for inspiration. Paul Henry has provided us with one today.

Henry caused controversy on his tv/radio show by expressing his view that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be campaigning on ‘the first woman president’ card. The NZ Herald reported that Henry said: “Why, if feminism has come so far, does she feel the need to highlight the fact that she’s a woman? Shouldn’t she be selling herself on the fact that she’s the best person, the right person, for the job, no matter what her sex?” Henry went on to say that other high profile females had “fallen into the same trap” – including Helen Clark’s bid to become the Secretary General of the United Nations. Henry continued with, “Don’t these women realise feminism has come further than they have?”

The Human Rights Commission countered Paul Henry’s view by declaring his attitude towards feminism as “wrong”. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue took aim at Henry’s comments and wrote this letter:

Dear Paul,

You are wrong. Feminism hasn’t come further than Hillary Clinton and Helen Clark, feminism will only ever go as far as they and other women go.

On your show today you argued that feminism has come further than Clinton and Clark, two women who are campaigning respectively for roles as the United States President and Secretary General of the United Nations. Clinton has voiced her ambition to become the first woman US President and you saw this as an outdated thing to say. It isn’t.

Feminism is a belief that gender should not limit anyone’s chances at life and quite frankly people are deluded if they believe women currently get the same opportunities as men to make it in business, politics and the like.

If we have come as far as you say we have why has female representation in our Parliament been stuck at around 30% since the first MMP election in 1996? Why did it even go backwards at the 2014 election? Why is the percentage of female directors on the NZX listed companies a paltry 14%? Why is it that there is a persistent mean pay gender gap in the labour market of around 14 %?

Only yesterday lawyer and international public servant Vicky Robertson was announced as the Ministry for the Environment’s new chief executive, however the headline just described her as a “Former Hockey Player”. I can’t help but wonder if this headline would have been the same if she were a man.

There is a lot of work to be done.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Jackie Blue

EEO Commissioner

Column Task

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I have added the column task and supporting material to Google Classroom as requested. It has been heartening to see how many of you are working on your English studies in the break. Message me if you need further information or help.

Check out this post to find out more on writing a column and go here and here for a couple of columns to read.

Zombie Nouns

Few mistakes sour good writing like nominalizations, or, as Helen Sword likes to call them, zombie nouns. Zombie nouns transform simple and straightforward prose into verbose and often confusing writing. Keep your nouns away from the elongating nominalizations! A really interesting watch.

Jack Tame: Society strengthened because of Fred Phelps


There has been lots and lots of comment on the death of Westboro Baptist Church preacher Fred Phelps this week. Jack Tame at the New Zealand Herald is one of the many people that has given his thoughts and his short piece of opinion writing is worth looking at for ideas on how to discuss controversial people/events. In his writing, Tame makes no bones about his loathing of Phelps,

“I hated Fred Phelps when I first saw him on TV. He stirred in me the same loathing as when watching white supremacists in Christchurch. I’m ashamed to say I actually daydreamed of he and his crazies being subjected to physical pain.”

However,  he is able to then lead his discussion to one about free speech and how people like Phelps, “show us just how ridiculous racism and bigotry are”.

Check out more opinion pieces on Phelps below:

Fred Phelps doesn’t deserve your grave dancing: let’s forgive and forget his hate

Hate and How to Overcome It: How Should We Respond to the Tragic Death of Fred Phelps?

Controversial Column


We have discussed that column writers can challenge and provoke readers. This is the case with a recent column by Deborah Hill Cone which discusses the death of Charlotte Dawson. Her column, ‘It wasn’t just depression that claimed Charlotte’ has upset a number of readers as you will see if you read the comments. You can read the column and the comments here.

Joe Bennett: My friend’s lonely death


In this column Joe Bennett reflects on the death of an old friend and then moves to a wider issue. Bennett makes us consider whether present laws regarding assisted suicide for the terminally ill are right. Read the whole column here.

I was going to write about the arrest of Justin Bieber. But I’ve just learned how a friend and former teacher died, and Bieber has shrunk from view.

Valerie taught me at university 35 years ago. I was studying English, though studying may be overstating it. In my first week I went to five lectures, but in the next three years I went to none. So my only appointment in any given week was an hour with my academic supervisor.

I had several of these in my first two terms. There was a nervous medievalist in slip-on shoes; a renaissance scholar who burned incense in her room; an idle modernist who purported to teach critical theory but who rarely read a book and never read my essays. I didn’t get on with any of them, and they, perhaps more pertinently, did not get on with me.

In my third term I was farmed out to Valerie. We got on so well that she remained my supervisor for the next two years and a friend for the next 30.