Privilege is something I’m still learning about. I’ve done some research (do yours here: 'Male Privilege Checklist', 'White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack', and 'On privilege and what we can do about it') and I will do more. In the meantime, I wanted to share my recent experience of asking someone else to check their privilege. I was inspired by their response…
I was listening to a lecture on classism as part of a professional training course. The lecturer discussed how some systems we might expect to increase social mobility actually perpetuate social stratification. So far, so feminist.
The other theme covered was professional responsibility. As participants in these systems that perpetuate inequalities, it was our responsibility as professionals to be constantly reflecting on and critiquing them. How else would they evolve?
I was recently misfortunate enough to spend some time as an inpatient in hospital. While I was there, I was captive audience for RTÉ, who to my horror still give two days of prime time TV coverage to the over-hyped, insipid beauty pageant that is the Rose of Tralee.
My reasons for disliking the Rose of Tralee are far from original. It’s a beauty contest, sexist nonsense, nothing more to it than the “lovely girls competition” that was parodied excellently on Father Ted. The girls get dressed up, laugh prettily at the male host’s witless jokes, and recite a poem about how much they love their homeland before, demure and docile, they waltz off the stage. The Rose of Tralee website, of course, oversells the event, claiming that “A Rose reflects the intelligence, compassion and independence of modern Irish women,” and “represents the collective aspirations, social responsibilities and ambitions of young women.” To any woman who is intelligent, independent, compassionate and has meaningful aspirations, this is downright insulting and condescending. If any of the “Roses” were endowed with wonderful, inspiring qualities, they were given no chance to display them. They stood on stage while the male host delivered tired “look at all these lovely girls” clichés, and simpered while they patiently waited to get a word in edgeways.
A few days ago on Twitter I noticed a phrase that was starting to crop up. It was the hashtag “Inspiring Women”. People were tweeting the names and histories of women who inspired them. Some of the women were overtly feminist, while others were leaders or pioneers in their particular field. I started to wonder who I could pinpoint as my own feminist inspiration. There was no clear key moment when I began to identify as feminist. I thought maybe it stemmed from my interest in the music of Destiny's Child in my younger years. I enjoyed their lyrics espousing female financial and emotional empowerment. Looking back on it now it seems hard to argue the relevance of these things to a 12 year old living in a pink and white bedroom lovingly furnished by their parents. But I felt that I could identify with the songs anyway, and their image of female friendship and fun.
On Saturday 29th, Irish Feminist Network will be marching at Dublin’s 30th anniversary of the Pride parade for two important reasons- to celebrate everything bisexual, transgender, lesbian and gay people have gained in Ireland as well as to still fight for the safety, dignity and rights of those who can’t fully live their lives in the gender and/or sexuality they are comfortable with both within this State and around the world.
Pride is the result of decades of hard work and solidarity by people who wanted social change to arrive in Ireland, not just overseas. That hard work is still being done today by various individuals and community groups.
It can’t be forgotten that same-sex relationships were banned up until 1993 and every year, there’s so many people who leave the country so that family and friends don’t know of their sexual / gender identity or have lost close ties to people they trusted when they came out to them. A lot of us still struggle with our gender or sexual identity either in the educational system, our culture, our religion, the region we reside in as well as other factors that makes it difficult for a lot of children and adults to just be who they are.
The proposed new bill regulating abortion in Ireland falls far short of serious reform, which can only be brought about through changes to the Irish Constitution, writes Clara Fischer
This week, the Irish parliament is debating new abortion legislation, to be enacted before the parliamentary summer break. For anybody familiar with the now infamous Savita Halappanavar case, this should instinctively come as welcome news. Naturally, one would assume that the death of a woman in an Irish hospital – who was denied an abortion despite already miscarrying – should cause moral revulsion and spur Irish legislators into action to prevent such needless tragedy in the future. Moral revulsion there was, with people all over Ireland coming out to protest, holding vigils, sharing their own stories of pregnancies gone wrong, of hurt inflicted by a system that romanticises women as mothers, but turns its back in moments of crisis. And yet, almost eight months later, the Irish government is proposing a law that does nothing to prevent another scenario like the fateful one endured by Ms. Halappanavar.
It’s one of the defining moments in Irish history. A tight-lipped, proud in defeat Padraic Pearse stands stiffly in front of an almost farcically relaxed General Lowe. It was Easter Monday 1916 and the leader of a disastrous uprising had surrendered unconditionally after just four days. It’s a good photograph but there is one thing very, very odd about it. There are three people but eight feet. Elizabeth O’Farrell was actively involved in the 1916 uprising and stood proudly by Padraic Pearse’s side as he delivered his surrender. However, the conservative media of the time didn’t think it was appropriate for a woman to be seen outside the home and erased her from the photograph, but left out – or left in – a tiny pair of details. Nurse O’Farrell’s disembodied feet remain in one of our best known historical photographs as a reminder of all our forgotten heroines.
This is the centenary of the year that gave us our trade unions. Led by James “Big Jim” Larkin, the workers organised and went on general strike for better pay and conditions. The employers then united and locked-out all of their unionised workers. The dispute went on for four months and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU) is usually the only group to be credited for the events of 1913. But if behind every great man there is an even greater woman, it follows that behind every army, or union, of great men, there must be an army of greater women.
At least 80,000 people killed. Children detained and tortured. Civilian populations targeted. Bread queues bombed. Rape as a weapon of war…
Each of these snippets is enough to make the blood boil. Unless we’ve heard them before… unless we’re warned that accompanying reports may be ‘unverified’… unless we’re too concerned with our own insular issues… unless these atrocities happen in one of those places where women wear hijabs and deaths are approximate numbers, devoid of names or faces.
One of our supporters has written a letter to the editor of the Irish Independent:
"To the Editor of the Irish Independent,
While using your website for my daily news update a sub-heading on the menu took my attention.
Clicking on it, it brought me to a page titled ‘independentwoman.ie’.
As a 19-year-old Irish female I feel the need to question this website and its placement on the Independent website. The website includes celebrity news, fashion, beauty, diet and ‘Love&Sex’. I am sure there are many women who would love these topics but they are not for me. In relation to women I’m interested in women’s rights, women in business and in sport. None of this is featured on the website in front of me. If I had wanted to read the topics provided I would have clicked on Lifestyle.
On Friday, Broadsheet.ie featured an opinion piece about abortion that was published in the Wexford People newspaper last week. While the article has received national attention and astute criticism from the Broadsheet readership, discussions of a woman’s right to choose in forums such as this are a case of preaching to the converted.
The Wexford People should be made aware that opinion pieces such as Walsh’s are not simply inflammatory and biased, but derogatory and potentially damaging to women.
Walsh believes that the availability of abortion ‘on demand’ could create a situation where “women could be free to have an abortion in all circumstances if they unexpectedly became pregnant. For example, a woman might be due to go on an exclusive foreign holiday but an unexpected pregnancy could interfere with her plan and how she might look on the beach. Or there could be an unexpected pregnancy in the run up to a family wedding, ruining the chances of fitting into a very expensive dress.”
On Friday, the Criminal Justice (Sexual Services) (Amendment) Bill was introduced to the Dáil. This bill, if it is passed, will criminalise the purchase of sex from prostitutes. Thomas Pringle TD certainly has strong feelings about it, attesting that “gender equality is not achievable while women are for sale,” and that “when people make a conscious decision to purchase the body of another human being to do with it what they see fit, that is unacceptable human behaviour, which should not be tolerated or accepted as the norm”.
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