In last week’s Bank Holiday Tuesday, I tackled one of the big issues- how Christmas needs to fuck off and leave me alone for at least another two weeks.
The Student Standard is Maynooth’s independent news source and for some unearthly reason have given me a weekly column.
I wish for Christmas to leave me alone.
Look, it’s not that I don’t love Christmas, guys. I love it the way I love music festivals. I love the whole four day ceremony of it – the little traditions everyone has.
For festivals there’s tent packing, hat buying, and running around Tesco Clare Hall with your best friend and a trolley filling it with what I now know to be horrible alcopops. There’s learning new swear words as you set up your tent, the pitiful look of solidarity when you announce you’re off to use the loo, there’s wailing in your sodden tent after Florence and the Machine because your wellies are leaking and your coat’s soaked through. Then through your own ingenuity you fashion a new one out of a bin liner and then rip it off hulk style during Muse. I love festivals.
For Christmas there’s my mother’s best friend’s visit the day before Christmas Eve to drop off our presents. There are 2 cards in the post from my aunties in Belfast and Wales which once always contained strange, exotic money. There’s the Christmas eve morning fry up in my grandmothers house and then the one and only mass that I attend all year round, just so I can hear a choir belt out ‘O Holy Night’. I love Christmas.
HOWEVER, it’s only the latter that I am now expected to enjoy spread out over ten weeks of adverts, music, films and fattening food. Nobody has ever asked me to spend two and a half months squatting in a field in Kildare living out of a pink tent just so I can listen to Gossip/Twin Headed Wolf/Get wasted and have a moon painted on my face. Of course not! We have all sanely agreed that ‘Festival season’ lasts from May-August and that nobody really gets pepped up for their chosen weekend until the week before. You NEVER have a pre-flatlake buzz that lasts eight weeks. A thing I like about festivals is that they are 3 days of concentrated fun.
Now people tell me (often while rolling their eyes, as is their wont when talking to a self-identified “feminist” with inverted commas) that it’s just a marketing strategy- The companies and shops just want people to get spending! It’s harmless! You don’t have to opt in! Well yes I do have to opt in because at every turn I see my friends playing the music, watching the films and putting up the decorations that should only belong between the 17th of December and the 6th of January. When I take umbrage with this I am told I’m a scrooge, but I’m honestly not. I just want us all to… chill. Relax. Save up all the Christmas cheer for another three weeks, then let it all out in a three day electric picnic secret garden BURST of happiness.
Can you imagine what a nightmare it is having kids in town right now? Seeing the lights, the music, thinking Christmas must be TOMORROW! My mother, who once queued for five hours just so my brothers and I could see ‘the best Santa’ in Switzers, says it’s a nightmare. Kids just don’t understand that it is actually still a month away. They’ll look at you, puzzled when you explain this and go “but why are the decorations up? That’s SILLY.” Yes, hypothetical child. That is silly. One of the few saving graces of RTÉ, in my opinion is their refusal to play any Christmas music until the 8th of December (the other is their refusal to get ‘glamour’ weather girls and instead stick with meteorologists. I am a big Evelyn Cusack/Jean Byrne fan). I take the same issue with all this pre-Christmas buzz that I had when girls in my year at school organized a ‘pre debs’ night out in January. HOW, I asked, through a mouthful of crisps probably, “HOW can you have a PRE-Debs? Debs is a DEBUT. It’s your DEBUT. EVERYONE SHUT UP ABOUT IT UNTIL NEXT SEPTEMBER RAAAWRRGH”. I just can’t deal with out of season festivities.
So I’m sorry guys, Christmas can – to use the most refined and parliamentary of language – fuck right off until it’s actually time for it. You don’t have to opt into the capitalist system, man- You don’t have to buy stupid ornaments and selection boxes half price! You don’t have to do anything just because it’s there! DON’T PLAY INTO WHAT THE MAN WANTS. PUT THAT MARKS AND SPENCER CHRISTMAS LOG DOWN NOW. I MEAN IT. This is a corporate fat cat party that I am checking out of in the same way I checked out of big massive fuck off music festivals like Oxegen after the ‘sobbing panic attack in a bin bag’ episode of 2010.
Niamh ‘I wear stupid jumpers all year around’ Keoghan
I am so hot for feminist men.
God, it’s ridiculous.
There is just something about a guy who actually sees your views as something not to be eye rolled out, or made fun of outright. It is dead sexy to be considered as an actual intellectual equal. It makes me do a little ‘hnnnnnnngh’ sound when I think about it. I am so hot for any man who understands that there is a relevance to what I have to say and what I think about the experiences I’ve had. It is so devastating attractive when I am viewed as a partner in crime (‘crime’ here meaning ‘sexy things’) and not as an object.
It makes me hot for them. I want to shag guys who apply the Bedchel test to films.
In that age old (i.e. from about 2009) debate, ‘can men be feminists?’ All I can ever say is OF COURSE. OF COURSE men of this generation are feminists. They are the sons of working women- the telephonists and receptionists and university lecturers and all the rest. They are the product of an age transformed by the women’s movement- not even the organised movement, just the basic idea that WOMEN ARE NOT PROPERTY. I am big on that.
I am hot on men who do not consider me to be their property.
I am hot for men who are pro choice, and agree that in the abortion debate, the two genders are coming at it from very different perspectives and that, in the end, it is me who has to actually *have* an abortion. I am very pleased when men say that women have more of a say in abortion policy. I like men who don’t think it’s silly that I want to keep my name if I ever get married and don’t bullshit me about it being ‘nice for a family to have the same name!’ I am hot for men who understand that it’s not a battle and it’s not man VS woman.
I am very hot for it not being a battle.
I am hot for men who understand that periods are just a fact of my existence, and are nothing to be grossed out by. I am attracted to sympathetic nods of solidarity when a week is lost to cramps and hysterical sobbing. I am turned on by guys who don’t think women are just naturally ‘more emotional’ when debating. I am very, very hot for men who know women can be just as funny as other men.
I am hot for men who accept that they can’t tell me what to do with my uterus.
I am also very hot indeed on men who aren’t just saying things to impress me. I am very into the idea of debating, of discussing and in being talked to like a grown up. I don’t like guys who roll their eyes when I say ‘I’m a feminist’. It does not make me hot for them when they scoff and go ‘of course I think women are equal- I’m just not a feminist.’ This is okay for them to say- There is hope for them. In a culture of free speech, it is okay with being critical of feminism- heck, I have my own problems with some aspects of feminist theory under the big umberella of ideas that is ‘FEMINISM’ with a captial F. It is okay for them to not call themselves feminist.
I am hot for respect. I am well hot for good humour.
But I am so hot for men who say they are feminists.
I am so hot for feminist men.
Niamh ‘I am also hot for cardigans’ Keoghan
So I’ve been at this little dog and pony show for a little while now- Since September I’ve managed to carve out a little niche for myself in the Maynooth social scene as what I like to call ‘a really shit Caitlin Moran knock off” writing columns and reviews for the Student Standard. Hey, there was a market there for the taking. So I’m getting something of a… ‘group of people who read my blogs/columns/tweets’ and some of these people are beginning to give me lovely feedback- I received what I am calling, very shyly and modestly, my first ever ‘fan letter’ in the form of a blog reply and a few people have come up to me in Maynooth telling me they enjoyed my columns, to keep it up, etc etc. Most humbling for me was the response to my blog about the vigil for Savita Hallapanavar, which was universally lovely and touching. ANYWAY. Now that this blog has more than 2000 views (2008 after my last refresh) I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for giving me any moment of your time or consideration. That this blog- essentially just me wanking on about my period and other such nonsense- would get any views at all, let alone replies and compliments is deeply humbling for me. That anyone would consider my writing something not only worth reading but also worthy of commenting on frankly blows my fucking mind. And those of you who say ‘TMI NIAMH OMG!’ all I can say is challenge accepted.
Here’s a picture of me pulling my patented ‘sexy face’ as a token of my deep appreciation for you all.
Niamh ‘I am starting to run out of ideas for these middle names’ Keoghan
Bank Holiday Tuesday, originally published on The Student Standard. In it, I try to get people to stop discussing body hair, ironically by discussing body hair.
The Student Standard is NUI Maynooth’s independent News site
Much has been said about hair and women. Much of it, my friends, is bullshit. Even my icon and all around hilarious person Caitlin Moran gets a bit… weird about the subject of hair and what you do with it. It’s a debate up there with ‘what do you do when a man holds open the door’ in terms of silly things us white middle class feminists have to worry about. So what’s the deal with hair? Women shave, wax, veet, bleach and outright burn that shit off with electrolysis. What’s the right standpoint to take on all this grooming and pruning? What am I as a strident young feminist and empowered lady to do about leg, underarm, and facial hair? In honour of Movember, a month-long love letter to dodgy facial hair, I examine this topic.
Some will tell you you must exorcise ALL HAIR from any place it might crop up that is not held exclusively on your scalp. These are, to use the polite term, complete nutters. They are your lasering-the-nethers, bleaching-the-upper-lip, red-rash-of-death people that police their bodily hair vigilantly. They’ here meaning women’s magazines, beauty tips websites and that monolith of neurotic ironic feminist porn, COSMO. This is one end of the extreme and yeah, it’s pretty bizarre to me. That anyone could expect me to maintain that level of grooming all over my body is a bit… nuts. I mean, The height of ‘making an effort’ for me is putting on a bit of eyeshadow and maybe painting my nails. I’m just not bothered doing it. I personally feel more comfortable with a curl of arm hair here, a shock of fur there. That’s just me though.
On the other end of the scale, you get people who say never get rid of hair ANYWHERE. DON’T TOUCH THOSE ARMPITS. LEAVE YOUR LEGS ALONE. I can see the validity of this. I like the defiant middle finger getting stuck to normative ideas of what a woman should look like. I myself mightily enjoy not having to spend money waxing my vagina and I’m perfectly happy to let a forest cultivate there. But in the end is telling a woman ‘don’t do this to your body’ liberating her in any way? This is the difficulty I have with it. I think piercings are weird and freaky, I wouldn’t get one myself. But am I really going to approach another woman and tell her ‘do not do this thing you have decided as an adult to do’? No!
When I asked Facebook the question of body hair, a friend commented that body hair and what she does with it is an area ‘I most wish popular culture would keep out of.’ that’s the bottom line here, I think. Magazines, stop shaming ladies for being hairy. Hairy ladies, don’t shame your sisters if they want to be not hairy. Do men have to worry about this shit? Certainly not- they just shave every morning and be done with it. It’s cool if they want to have a beard or be clean shaven. I wax my facial hair – a layer of white blond bristly hairs that cover my chin and get itchy and annoying. So I get rid of them because I want to and they annoy me. Nobody in the last 8 or so years has commented on my facial hair; it is entirely for me and my grooming. I don’t shave my legs because black tights hide all sins and who is honestly bothered but on the other paw, my other friend said of waxing her downstairs ‘sometimes it’s nice to have a breeze down there.’
I once got word of a woman who, in solidarity with her partner’s Movember ‘stache, stopped shaving altogether for the duration of the month. After posting this on Facebook, a man commented that he’d rather get testicular cancer than sleep with a hairy woman. That’s bullshit. It is also bullshit for Caitlin Moran to call out women for waxing their nethers. Much as I admire CatMo, you can’t tell women waxing down there is ‘wrong’ somehow. All that’s ‘wrong’ is someone telling a woman how what she has to do to herself to feel ‘normal.’ Caitlin Moran (if you happen to be reading this CatMo, I love you, I respect you as a writer) slagging off women for waxing down there is as bad as a jerk slagging off women for being hairy. In both cases it’s imposing what you think is right on someone’s body. That don’t fly with me.
This is totally one of those issues we just need not talk about. It’s nobody’s business what you do with your body. A mean boyfriend shouldn’t tell you to wax yourself when you don’t want to and a friend shouldn’t feel entitled to shame you when you want to get waxed. It’s all what you want to do. There are plenty of places I love having hair- I am immensely proud of my magnificent sideburns. They are a better effort than most men could muster. When I tie back my hair they are a sight to behold. I like have bushy eyebrows, and hairy legs. I don’t like having hair under my arms or on my chin. It’s my decision to remove the hair from these places. Having autonomy over your own body works both ways. Nobody tells you what to do. It’s the bias seems to tip in favour of non-hairy ladies in pop culture, but women, take solace in this. Do whatever you like. Pierce your ear and ring a charm bracelet through that sucker, shave your hair off and get ‘CUNT LIFE’ tattooed on your scalp, be skinny, be curvy, have hair, don’t have hair – do what YOU want to do to feel comfortable and good looking. And everyone else can just get out of your pants about it.
Niamh ‘Everyone shut up now please’ Keoghan
I went to the doctor with cripplingly bad period cramps. I wanted the pill so the pain that stopped me in my tracks every month would stop. So I trotted along to the doctor, in a hoodie that I assumed made me look okay. I explained to her the pains, the crushing depression I felt, the irrational anxiety and the general discomfort that was beginning to effect my work. She nodded, and then briskly glanced me over. She said the worst thing I’ve ever heard.
‘I wouldn’t be happy putting you on the pill with your weight.’
The bottom dropped out of my stomach. The fact that she had this doubt from only glancing at me was the worst part. To confirm her suspicion she weighed me and took my height. I was 5 foot 3 and I was 14 stone, 5 and a half pounds.
She kept using the word ‘obese’. my BMI was 34. I was too overweight- too obese- to get the pill. She asked me if I needed the pill for contraception (Who the fuck would bed me when I’m this huge was my first upset thought) and I replied no, I only wanted it for my period. All I wanted was the pain to stop. My weight was something else. Help me with my immediate problem, please. Make the horrible dark depression and the knot of worry in my chest go away. Make my hormones behave. The two major problems of my life- the loud and immediate one of crippling hormonal imbalance and the silent, unspoken problem of my weight- had clashed in mid air and sent me spinning. The doctor began to quiz me about my diet and all the charisma and wit just leaked out of me, all my words were lost. I just wanted to cry. She wrote me out a prescription for painkillers and handed me some pamphlets on weight loss.
I managed to make it to the bench outside the medical centre and dial my mother before I cracked and burst into tears. Haltingly, I managed to explain to my mum what happened- In the confused final moments of my appointment as I tried to hold in the wave of tears the doctor had forgotten to give me my painkiller prescription, so here I sat- 14 stone 5 and a half pounds, five foot three, empty handed and heartbroken. Not only was my periods problem still unsolved but the other, previously silent problem, had lunged at my jugular. My mortal fear has always been that I will someday become so obese I won’t be able to move. Since the age of 11, I have consistently gotten heavier and heavier and never managed to put weight off.
6 Things I learned marching to the Vigil for Savita Hallapanavar.
Savita died of septicemia in Galway University hospital after suffering a prolonged miscarriage over 3 days. After 1 day she requested the pregnancy be terminated but as a fetal heartbeat was detected, this request was refused. This reflects Ireland’s legal limbo over what to do in a case such as this- Doctors are reported to have told Savita and her husband that nothing could be done while the fetus still had a heartbeat and that ‘this is a catholic country.’ about 10-15,000 people marched and held a vigil today in Dublin to express outrage at her needless death, and to pressure the government into legislating for the X case. The X case was a supreme court ruling that entitles a woman to a termination if there is a real and substantial risk to her life. Here are some things I learned today
Bank Holiday Tuesday published on the 13th of November, reflecting on the Children’s rights referendum that took place the Saturday before. Despite support from all major political parties and children’s charities, controversies over the biased nature of the publications (finally upheld by the supreme court) and confusion as to what the amendment would actually do led to a stunningly low turnout- less than 40% of the electorate – and an incredibly narrow victory for the ‘yes’ side.
The original column can be found here
With one of the lowest turnouts in the history of the State, it’s safe to say the experimental Saturday ballot has failed miserably. Guys, we are officially not allowed complain about being disenfranchised as students anymore because we seem to have blown it quite badly. Less than 40% of the electorate came out on Saturday to vote and there are reports of ballots being spoiled with ‘Free Sean Quinn’ slogans. As a nation, Irish people don’t trust the state, the government or the church. And who could blame us?
‘I’m sorry- I’m just so fucking pissed off.’ These were the words of an emotional speaker at the candlelit vigil held on Kildare street last night. I arrived at the last minute to witness what turned out to be a massive spontaneous gathering- Nearly 2000 people united in anger. I walked up nassau street and soon encountered a group of banner holders, being led along the street by a Garda outrider. Traffic had not been diverted and so a 46A was left abandoned beside the National Library, it’s lights switched off. The Garda outrider told us he was going to lead us around to Merrion Square because ‘there’s another protest on outside Kildare street, and I don’t want there to be trouble.’ Someone holding a banner asked ‘Is it because we’re pro choice and they’re pro life?’ Confusion erupted. the Garda didn’t know who was at Kildare street and was plainly attempting to avoid any sort of riot. A girl called her friends to ask where they were and proclaimed ‘Lads, they’re up here!’ and so we marched up Kildare street.
The Garda outrider was worried about violence, but this was the most quiet crowd I’d ever squeezed through- the kind of quiet, dignified outrage you only see once in a generation. The joyful, bright atmosphere of the march for Choice last month was well gone- this was silent, unending fury. People were holding candles- I happened upon a friend of mine who spoke of how shocking the case was, and I expressed my surprise at the turnout on such short notice. At a glance, there were more people here at this spur of the moment event than were at the March for choice. The shock at Wednesday’s news had brought people to their feet.
People stood on and listened as Clare Daly, Sinead Kennedy and others spoke but what was most striking were the moments of quiet that were only punctuated by cheers during speeches. When Sinead kennedy called for a sit in and for silence, a crowd of 2000 people sat in the middle of a main road and were silent. The only people left standing were press photographers and increasingly alarmed Gardai. 2000 people sat in silence. I will never forget it. I will never forget that silence, the kind you only experience when you are surrounded by two thousand people and nobody is speaking. I’ll never forget the candles and the deep, deep anger I could see in every face. Nobody was weeping or screaming but the scab had been cracked on this open wound in Irish society.
It’s not just Ireland that is reacting to this story. The Young Turks, Fox News, The Huffington Post, Reddit, The Guardian; Sky news was leading with the story of a young woman denied vital medical attention at a Galway hospital for a period yesterday. We’ve been called Medieval but this is a sadly modern form of cruelty. Before 1821 in fact the Catholic church allowed abortion up until ‘Quickening’- when the foetus’ movement was visible. The pro life movement has grown since the advent of sonography and ultrasound gave us more and more detailed images of the foetus developing. We can’t just call this an ancient problem. This is a legal and moral debate taken solely from our modern world.
The microphone was offered to anyone who wanted to speak- A young woman named Elle gave the quote that begins this column, after her voice cracked and she lost her breath. She called, as everyone else speaking did, on the people of Ireland to return on Saturday to another vigil at the Garden of remembrance. The meeting was dispersed quickly and traffic began to move along Kildare street again as if nothing had happened. The empty thin metal tins of spent tea lights littered the ground, and lit candles lined the railings of Leinster House.
Niamh ‘Just fucking legislate already’ Keoghan
Bank Holiday Tuesday is now a weekly opinion column on the Student Standard, a news website based in NUI Maynooth. This post is the debut column, entitled ‘Sex and the Campus’ and originally published on the 6th of November. Bank holiday Tuesday is published every (when else) Tuesday and can be found here along with my other writing for the Standard.
University campuses: where quite a lot of us are in and around when we take our first steps into the big bad world of taking all our clothes off and touching each other. The assumption is that everyone is ridin’, everyone will ride and everyone who isn’t ridin’ wants to ride. Ireland has had a pretty staggering jolt in sexual liberty, considering it’s only been twenty years since we de criminalised homosexuality and even more recently really begun to question the role that the church plays in our lives. Maynooth is a great place to witness the fault line running through Irish society right now; two different times and spaces separated neatly by the Kilcock Road.
On the South Campus we have an old Ireland that I would argue is struggling to remain relevant in the rapid secularization and liberalization of the outside world; a conservative island set against an increasingly hostile society. Moving past the library, the difference is almost farcical. To me, happiness is the simple fact that such a vibrant and cheerful LGBT community can exist in such close proximity to a Catholic seminary. On the North campus we have the fruits of a new Ireland – cautiously patting itself down and realizing it has limbs, and eyes and ears and a body it can move around in. Shrugging off the old cloistered shames of the past there is a real optimism about where we’re going as a people. Well okay, we’re all going to Australia after graduation… BUT we will be going with a good working knowledge of our own bodies and sexualities. The contrast is magnificent and something I take great joy in: Maynooth is now is as interesting as Trinity was in 1891 or UCD was in the 1960s. Maynooth is where you can see change blooming under your feet.
This contrast of values brings me to my current thought. Recently, I heard that during last year’s sexual health week (called KISS Week that year) there were some complaints about how the Students’ Union tackles sexual health. The complaint was namely that the Union does nothing to promote abstaining from sex as a viable option for students and instead pushes condoms into our hands and promotes safe sex as the only way to avoid STIs and pregnancy. As I surveyed my own haul of free condoms (a grand total of five from the SU and one from LGBTQ’s ‘Fab Pack’), this question played on my mind: are we too in your face about this whole ridin’ business?
I decided to put on my “serious journalist face” and conduct some research. Yup – I put up a status on Facebook, asking what they thought about the college’s approach and its effectiveness. ”(There is a) SERIOUS lack of information for women who have sex with women – it’s a real problem and has only been addressed through the LGBTQ society” said Christina Murphy, who graduated from NUIM last year and is former President of the LGBTQ society. ”The only criticism I would have would be regarding the staff in the Medical Centre, who I have always felt to be quite judgemental and intimidating regarding sexual health,” said Dean MacCearaín, who had praised the SU for the free availability of condoms and easy access to sexual health advice (and is current President of LGBTQ Society… My Facebook keeps amazing company!)
An interesting point came, as such points often do, from my friend Ruth who asked for the current situation to be considered in its context. We’re moving from a time where sex was absolutely taboo and not discussed at all to a time where choice and safety are absolutely vital. We’re also living a world where AIDS is still a reality. Ruth finished by saying she “would like to see more acknowledgement of the fact that people’s level of interest in sex is so varied.” And this is where my personal experience comes in.
I’m not sexually active. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever been? Does someone just come around and “switch you on” like they do the electric or gas? I’m not having sex mostly because I’m very lazy. I honestly just could not be arsed finding a person, getting my clothes off, buying condoms, putting music on and shaving my legs for a few jollies and a cuddle. As it is, I’m pretty happy with not going out of my way to do all that. It’d be just another thing to add to my list of things I need to do in a week. It’s not for any religious or spiritual reason that I refrain, nor is it from any desire to remain “pure”. I just haven’t got around to it yet. So what has my experience as an ostensibly abstinent person been?
I must say, the sexual health campaign week was a bit isolating. It just had nothing whatsoever to do with me. Condom magicians and STI information just has no use for someone who’s only major sexual relationship is with her right hand. It did play on my mind slightly, though. I did for a moment contemplate perhaps it was a bit odd that I wasn’t as interested in sex as perhaps I should be. This of course was me being, if I may use a refined phrase, a bit bullshitty about everything. It’s something that has no relevance for me right now… But just like Mass being held on South Campus in the Oratory is it having no relevance to me any reason for it not to take place?
This is my take on it. If I am ill-informed about abstinence – for instance if I don’t know oral sex “counts” as sex or whatever – I am far less likely to suffer dire consequences for my ignorance. Abstinence is refraining from an activity. You don’t need much more information or support other than “Oh, that’s grand. Well done, I guess.” However if I’m ill-informed about safe sex while practising it I could end up a) pregnant or b) very sore, itchy and potentially infertile, which I wouldn’t like. Promoting safe sex is so important because it has real, life-long implications for people’s health. Ruth made the point that ”[it] makes it clear that the educators/campaigners are sex positive and not using ‘be safe’ as a veiled ‘don’t do it’, which can’t be taken for granted in the context of sex education in schools.”
I don’t really know how you could offer abstinence as a viable option for someone. I mean fair enough if the person has decided that’s what they want but at a point in most people’s lives when their libido is peaking and they’re away from home for the first time I doubt it’s a very realistic one. I think the current Students’ Union strategy of promoting safe sex to the point of slight overkill is a far better one than the old ways of shame and secrecy. Openness and honesty about our most basic needs is what we really need to promote.
Niamh ‘Serious journalist face’ Keoghan
The Student Standard is Maynooth’s independent news source set up in 2012 by Keith Broni, current editor in chief.