This is a good read for anyone interested in women’s rights in general, and particularly the rights of women in Ireland.
Recently, I tuned into Irish radio station 2FM to listen to Anthea McTeirnan, editor of the Irish Times cultural supplement, speak about the Irish Feminist Network’s sell-out conference on activism. A wild goose myself, I was eager to hear about all the goodly feministing going down in Dublin.
2FM’s Colm Hayes begins by asking McTeirnan why feminism is a dirty word. McTeirnan gracefully dodges the thinly veiled insult, explaining feminism’s relevance to modern Ireland. At this point, the producers of the show see that they aren’t getting the level of irrational ranting they’d expected from one of them feminists, so they find someone with opposing views to join the discussion.
Enter “Patricia”, a listener whose only credential for going head to head with McTeirnan is that she’s not a feminist. She explains that inequality is all in women’s heads, before asking her opponent if she’s married. McTeirnan is stunned into near silence. Realising, perhaps, that Patricia might not be fully equipped with a rational argument against feminist activism, RTÉ brings another voice into the conversation. Enter “Oisín”, an arts student. Oisín learned about feminism in his critical theories course. He explains that the reason feminism is a dirty word is post-feminism. “Are you a post-feminist?” Hayes asks Patricia. “No, no,” she replies. “I’m not ANY sort of a feminist!”
Clearly, Irish feminism faces many of the same obstacles as the movement in the UK – namely, a lack of popular awareness of feminism’s egalitarian underpinnings and an unwillingness to countenance the reality of gender inequality. And, just like in the UK, Ireland has seen a resurgence in feminist activism over the last few years. However, Irish feminists have very specific cultural and political battles to fight – they are, in some ways, climbing higher mountains than their British femmie comrades.
A few facts: as it is not possible to choose to terminate a pregnancy in Ireland, thousands of Irish women make their way to Britain and mainland Europe each year to have abortions (but, sure, we’ll just ignore that, will we lads?) Article 41.2 ofBunreacht na hÉireann, the Irish constitution, still enshrines the place of the woman within the home (I’m not making this up). Only 15% of the Dáil is female, placing Ireland an embarrassing 79th out of 134 countries in terms of female parliamentary representation. Austerity is battering Irish citizens in many ways, but, as women make up 72% of the country’s public sector employees, . [Read more: guardian]