Okay, here is part 1 of all the things that I am able to remember from 2012. Either I remembered it, or was reminded of it by reading my old tweets. I tried to pick things that had a deeper cultural relevance that I noticed, rather than just being a list of stuff that came out or happened. Also a lot of shit happened so I’m not going to get everything in. But here is what Bank Holiday Tuesday remembers
Everyone dressed as Slenderman for Halloween. 2012 will go down in history as a very difficult year and you could see echoes of this all through pop culture. Our collective consciousness was fixated on the approaching Mayan Apocalypse date with a kind of gallows humour. Slenderman became a widely known character in 2012, after spending time building up steam on message boards, youtube and in general internet counter culture.
I think this surge in popularity can be attributed to two things- our approaching sense of dread, uncertainty and doom, and THAT FUCKING GAME. I don’t think there is a university aged person in Ireland now who hasn’t played that game while wankered at a house party with all your friends around you screaming DON’T GO IN THE BUILDING! He’ll sneak up behind you OH MY GOD THE CHAIR’S BEEN MOVED.
In all seriousness, I do think the Slender man’s popularity as the horror mascot of the 2010s is telling of our anxieties and fears as a generation, and perhaps also of the stagnation of the horror film industry. The next iconic horror character after Samara from the Ring movies (remember when Samara from the ring movies was a ‘thing?’ remember throwing all your hair in front of your face and whispering ‘seven daaaaays’? good times) Doesn’t come from a schlock slasher horror or a remake of Japanese suspense- Slenderman didn’t come from any work at all; he originated on a horror message board (Slendy is page 3,hilariously) and was then adopted into various works such a Marble Hornets and… that fucking game. It’s a public domain, open source free shared horror template!
So with all this in mind, a million tall skinny guys went as Slendy for Halloween, with mixed results. My top award goes to Danny who honestly scared the bejesus out of me with his costume. Everyone else, I will offer the wisdom; a morph suit does not a cosmic horror make.
Barrack Obama was re-elected but do I really need to include it on my review in detail? It all played out like a really forced media game, with people insisting ‘ooooh no it’s gonna be really close, seriously!!!’ when the stats really showed otherwise. Bouncing back from what I personally think was a voodoo magic sabotaged performance in the first debate, Obama pretty much stormed it beyond Fox News and conservative talk radio in the states, mostly because Paul Ryan and Mittens are just so. fucking. WEIRD. No really, Paul Ryan is really scary looking and I would not have wanted him to be the vice Prez. Now with a looming debt crisis and without the idealism of change behind him, Obama has a very rough second term to ride out.
It was a good year for feminism in a strange way, considering we had so much complete and utter fucking bullshit to contend with. The GOP candidate Todd Akin started off with some incredibly bone headed comments about rape and how rape victims rarely get pregnant because the body has magic rape detection powers that repel the evil sperm- if only this were true. Cue more comments from other GOP candidates about how ‘some girls rape easy’ and the shitstorm caused by health insurance providers possibly being made to include birth control as part of their healthcare plans. Apparently sex is now a lifestyle choice, and avoiding pregnancy for medical reasons can ONLY be done via no sex. Weird. Also weird is the idea that the pill is solely birth control when often it’s used for regulation of hormones.
Chris Brown Left twitter, leaving in his wake the need for another terrible celebrity to lol at, and a shitload of misogynistic abuse leveled at the female comic whose sparring with Brown seemed to be what fucked him off Twitter. I will confess to never wading into the Chris Brown pool because I’d feel like a hypocrite and an elitist, because I listen to Ike turner, John lennon, Phil Spektor and many others who have done terrible, terrible things to women without much sign of remorse. I would say I don’t take much stock in Chris Brown as an artist and in his music, he is absolutely hideous both with general misogynistic bullshit and with constant backhanded references to his violence and all it paints for me is the picture of an entirely unapologetic guy. I will never ever like Chris brown. What a jerk.
Online bullying is the sad new way people are terrible to one another now, with several heavily reported young deaths by suicide linked to online harassment. To throw my hat into the ring on what is a very sad and controversial topic, I have to say that I’ve always argued it’s not the technology that’s the problem, it’s the attitudes prevailing in society. The big problem people have with the internet is that it is essentially anonymous, and it is claimed that this encourages downright sadistic and unpleasant things to be said and done to people. I have to argue that people talked shit and said horrible things to me when I was 12, before facebook and even before bebo. back then, they got to me by sending text messages and making phone calls- teenagers will always utilize technology to be brutal to one another, and in the adult word we seem to have entirely forgotten harassing phone calls and letters. This isn’t a new thing, and it isn’t going to be solved by censorship or legislation.
In a broader sense, I’m kind of disturbed by this obsession we all have with understanding why someone took their life- the media seems determined to connect it with one single influence when in reality the victims of suicide have many different reasons and factors effecting their ability to think straight and seek help. It’s a terrible complicated mental health crisis and we can’t keep catching our heels on scapegoats.
The Olympics and Paralympics blew everybody’s minds mostly because I don’t think people were expecting much. It had some pretty bad pre talk, but the thunderous opening ceremony directed by Danny Boyle let you know this was the real fucking deal. Mostly due to Tom Daley representing team GB the diving events had a lot of popularity (and now there’s a celebrity diving competition on ITV1 next year!). I took great personal pleasure from the extensive coverage of the men’s gymnastics. (Team GB Gymnastics squad, I’ll see you in my dreams)
Katie Taylor inspiration-bombed all of Ireland with her amazing Gold Medal performance (I watched her final fight through my fingers) and the rest of the Irish team put in a fucking fantastic Olympics, our best performance since 1956. Cian O’Connor redeemed himself after the stripping of his 2004 gold by claiming bronze here and Rob Heffernan came agonizingly close to a bronze for Ireland in the bafflingly intense and amusing spot of race walking. Ireland’s Paralympians continued the inspiration-parade, being fucking fantastic setting world records and the like. I’m still a bit sad that it’s gone, tbh.
The question ‘You don’t agree with abortion, do you?’ Made dinners in older relatives homes excruciatingly awkward for many this year, as the mother of all throw downs sparked off again. led most visibly by Clare Daly of the ULA and Sinead Redmond, a righteously pissed off pregnant woman the campaign for action on the X case was launched this year. Youth Defence reared their charming heads again with a billboard campaign around Irish cities that showed torn stolen istock photos and 18 week scans reading ‘Abortion tears her life apart.’ Following this, the posters were vandalized, criticized and generally just written off as the sort of bullshit YD like to go on with.
When Savita Halappanavar died the game seemed to change. Previously on the fence onlookers marched on government buildings, the Catholic church made statements, people squabbled over the numbers attending rallies and in the midst of all this the media had no idea where to turn.
Interesting to me was the reaction to the story that asked people to give Praveem Halappanavar, Savita’s widower, his privacy. Enda Kenny was quoted as saying ‘we must remember that a man’s wife has died.’ The political set seemed confounded by what to do when Mr. Halappanavar made it clear he wasn’t going away and doesn’t want a respectful silence over this issue. They got really confused when Mr. Halappanavar Insisted he wouldn’t co-operate with a HSE led investigation that included several Galway based doctors on it’s panel.
Pro Choice groups called for the X case to finally be legislated for, while Pro Life groups wrung their hands over things like the ‘suicide clause’ not being included in any legislation (Although I do wonder why any woman would fake being suicidal to get an abortion as opposed to the much easier option of, oh I don’t know, GETTING THE BOAT TO ENGLAND). Now as the year closes it does so with the news that legislation for abortion in line with the X case ruling will be introduced, governed by regulations.
The age of X Factor seems to be ending, as James Arthur only managed to squeak number 2 for Christmas. Overall it seems we’re getting a bit tired of the polished pop reality star- even X Factor USA was won by a 40 year old country singer, and Britain’s Got Talent by a teenage girl with a dancing dog. Glee popularized ‘Somebody that I used to know’ to the point where it became the smash indie hit of the summer, along with fun’s ‘we are young’ and Adele continuing her charts dominance. Glee has slipped from cultural juggernaunt with some modicum of critical acclaim into the realm of the cheesy melodrama it used to parody.
Whew, way too much happened this year, fucking hell. I’ll see you in part 2
Niamh ‘There will be awards at the end of all this’ Keoghan
The Hobbit:An unexpected Journey and Peter Jackson’s attempt to stretch out a 300 page book over 3 films. The film is a hoot, but it’s frustrating- the pacing is just terrible. It’s unforgivable. Last night a party a friend of mine said the beauty of the Hobbit is that it’s Peter Jackson celebrating the previous trilogy, and doing that again.
Let me say to this, BITCH PLEASE. Peter Jackson, you are allowed celebrate JACK SHIT about your masterpieces. That’s like me writing fan fic of my own novel. That’s bullshit. The Hobbit is a very different story to the Lord of the Rings- Essentially, it’s a heist movie written as a jaunty quest. The parts of the Hobbit that work best are the moments where it’s lighter, funnier and softer than the Lord of the Rings. This isn’t supposed to be three movies long. This isn’t supposed to be epic and about the fate of the world. It’s supposed to be one guy on an adventure with some dudes, with HINTS towards a larger world and story behind it.
This is a terrible trend I have noticed. Ladies and Gentlenerds, we have become a spoiled race. There is money in our fare, and the industry, hereafter referred to as ‘the man’ know this. They know we will shell out 15 euros a pop to see our beloved stories played out in iSense 3D with an advanced 48 framerate, from a premier seat. The Man knows we’re going to buy the overpriced box set with seven hours of special features and surround sound. They also know that we’re likely to illegally download the fucker for free once good DVD rips become available. They even know we’ll buy the special edition director’s cut DVD.
Since Harry Potter Deathly Hallows was split in two, studios have been slicing films willy nilly, in the knowledge that they will bump up their harvest crop. There is a concentrated effort to get bums back into seats again after six months to cream a little bit out of you, considering the rise in illegal downloads. This is, to me, really problematic. It feels like I’m complaining about a good thing. How can I not like getting MORE HOBBIT? Surely having 2 movies to finish Deathly Hallows was better than rushing it? What’s my problem?
The problem is that some stories need 3 movies, and some need 1. Some stories can be told in one book, while others need seven doorstoppers to get them done. All of these are valid, and they’re all good- The Sally Lockhart Quartet is a brilliant 3 books (and one pretty good book…), while Neverwhere is one cracker. V for Vendetta is a classic collected in one single edition now, while Sandman needed 13 volumes. The problem is that The Hobbit is one book. It only needed 2 films, and that was if you put in EVERYTHING. If you threw the kitchen sink and a massive dance party scene in, you’d still only have two movies. Jackson’s included bits from the apendices in this film, but it feels hollow. He did the same in the Lord of the Rings with the Arwen/Aragorn subplot, but there it worked because it was contextual. Most of the story runs along the same timeline as the main plot, and concerns one of the lead characters. It doesn’t feel clunky or too out of place- it’s a quest after all, and Aragorn’s subplot of wanting to get with Liv Tyler informs his later determination to take back his crown. It totally works there.
In the Hobbit however, it’s just there for padding. There was clearly no critical eye or care given to what mattered and what didn’t. It was just all thrown in. It’s an attempt to create a trilogy on the scale of the original films with the same aesthetic and vision but in trying so hard to be The Lord of the Rings, it scuttles so much of what could have made it a new beast. I don’t want to see the Lord of the Rings- I have a 12 hour long, 6 DVD boxset of the entire extended cuts, with 5 different commentaries. I don’t want Peter Jackson to pay tribute to his masterpiece- I want him to make the goddamn Hobbit!
Even bringing back the old guard- Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett- for such substantial roles kills off any hope of attaching to the new cast. They seem to be trying to make James Nesbitt ‘happen’ as a wacky sidekick, but then he’s sidelined off so Hugo Weaving can rush in. the attempt to put The Hobbit on the scale of the original trilogy makes it fucking impossible to try and see it as anything new, which is a problem. Thoren Oakenshield is painfully boring and brooding. When it was Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn doing the same schtick it was compelling, but here it left me cold. Martin Freeman is fantastic, as is Andy Serkis. their Riddles in the Dark scene is fantastic.
One of the reasons Lord of the Rings films were so important is because they were huge. In 2001, people were blown away it. The scale, the ambition, the fact that it seemed to have a real talent and artistry behind it. It pretty much defined the 2000s in film for me. They were something utterly new and jaw dropping. I first watched the trilogy in 2008 on a shitty portable DVD player while lying in bed, and the Balrog blew me away. Helms deep was stunning. Shelob, Moria, the entire creation of Gollum who was the first ever completely integrated motion capture performed character in a live action film. The forced perspective that makes me believe that Elijah Wood actually is only 3’9 and therefore shocks me when I see he’s actually a fully grown man. It just blows me away. It’s a beautiful, frightening, ambitious fantastic trilogy that changed the world of film.
I’ve always wanted to have a ‘trademark thing’ that is mine. I’ve tried nicknames but none really catch on considering my name is un-nick-nameable. I’ve tried hair, but ‘fluffy and b’fringed’ isn’t really an expression of identity. It’s just the way my hair grows. Unless there’s a bit shaved out of it, it’s hardly a statement. So I find myself stuck for trademarks. How is one to find an expression of self that is absolutely theirs?
When one is in college, it’s easy to understand how hoodies have become the uniform of choice- it’s invaluable to have a quick extra layer of warmth to add or remove as the changing climate of a lecture theatre will demand. JH1 in Maynooth gets rolling fucking fogs somedays and TH2 is a sweatbox. I have a nice selection of hoodies- a Drama one, a Literary and Debating one and a GAP one. They’re nice but they’re all a bit… meh. There’s nothing very ‘Niamh’ about a hoodie, I began to realise. They make me look boated, and they’re just kind of boring. They feel uncomfortable on me. But lecture theatres are chilly and I need some form of warmth.
Another side effect of my recent downsizing is that I am freezing cold all the bloody time. A whole layer of body fat keeping me insulated and slow moving is now eradicated. Happily, I’ve begun to amass quite a collection of what has clearly been my trademark all along- My mother’s hand-knitted Aran Jumpers!
Recently I’ve heard a lot of people speak about their non-belief in god, and how they feel a bit sad they’ve lost their faith. They observe those of faith with a kind of longing. ‘I wish I could believe.’ they’ll fret. ‘I wish I could believe the way they do.’ I seem to hear this a lot around Christmas time, with all the cribs, the mulled wine, the carols and the family feeling. It’s easier at this time than any other to feel like you’re missing out by not believing in God or religion. I’m not one of these people. I LOL’d so hard at the news that the Pope had joined twitter that I ruptured something.
Now, let me say outright I’m not getting at anybody for their religious beliefs- as sacred as sacraments are to some, so is their freedom to believe in what they like to me. I know good Christians, good Muslims, good Unitarians and a load of good wishy-washy non-denominational people with a spiritual bent. I’m cool with religious people. It just really isn’t for me. It isn’t for me for the following simple reasons- when I was religious, I wasn’t very good at it. I’m bad at Catholicism, full stop. Here are the list of things that made me a bad Catholic.
I’m not good at being told what to do.
I don’t like the taste of communion host.
Incense makes me sneezey
I used to try and take the baby Jesus out of the crib and use him in my dolly’s games
I have masturbated many times a week since 2008
I love eating chicken on a Friday.
I was a practicing-ish Catholic until 2010. I went to Mass pretty often. I believed that generally, God had my back. Even as I drifted from Catholicism, I had my own personal relationship with god. I had a firm faith in the afterlife.
You can trace my split with the Catholic church back to the early days of 2000, when I had a massive nervous breakdown in Second class. When I was in second class I made my first Holy communion and so we were taught by Sr.Dympna, a nun who was a very cool old lady but also very firm. She was old school in a nice way; big on handwriting, sums, nature and common sense. Being as I was bold as brass, completely disorganized, scruffy and unfocused she had a lot to work on. In fairness to her, she saw my potential, which many of my later teachers didn’t. We once had a class inspection by a Christian Brother.
When I was seven I was very sensitive to bad smells. And that day, the classroom stank of a vegetable stench. It was everywhere- it was sort of like raw onion. I still remember the feel of it in my nostrils, choking me. It was the most horrible thing I’d ever smelled. Even now 13 years later when I get a hint of that smell I gag. It was in my throat and up my nose and giving me a migraine. I could hardly breathe.
Of course, when you’re seven and you can’t cope with something, you naturally have a little freak out. I didn’t know where that smell was coming from- I actually think it might have been an onion bulb that the class had in a jar of water, growing the roots- but my tearful cries of ‘the smell! It’s such a bad smell!’ were interpreted by Sr.D as the seven year old saying ‘the christian brother is smelly!’ My mother was spoken to sternly outside the door when she picked me up early for a dentist’s appointment- the nun was disgusted that I would insult a christian brother by calling him smelly, or indeed calling the room he was in smelly!
That’s where it began.
I went into town today, to finally buy my first pair of doc martens. I was going to buy cherry red ones, but in the end I wimped out and went for black. The red is just… too much. You have to be very confident and badass to pull off boots that are going to clash with basically everything, but not clash so much that it looks obvious. There is an art to the cherry red docs. I went with black. After treating myself to lunch, I headed home and rang ahead to let them know I was nigh. ‘Oh yes, I’m just up in Donaghmede.’ says mum. ‘Your dad’s setting up his new telly so steer clear of the sitting room. Da can get awfully cranky when he’s setting up new toys.
Long has it been the same dance- The new toy will be brought home- a long lineage of televisions, VCR players, DVD players, radios, computers and stereos. Each time my dad stares bewildered at the landscape of increasingly complex and digital gadgets. He is a mechanical man at heart. His diagnosis for our slow dial up internet connection was that all the emails were getting ‘stuck in the wires’. So increasingly, he has to take time and care in setting things up. I like taking time and care too, but usually it is a bit frustrating to watch him because hey, I’m a child of the future. I grew up on computers and the internet. I carry a small computer around in my pocket, when you think about it. What I’m saying is, I speak the language. Maybe not very well, but I can get by, order a coffee and buy a train ticket. By contrast, my dad can’t even say ‘thank you.’ My brothers are the same, and in their eagerness to get the toy up and running, they tend to rush dad a bit. Prod him. My dad is a cranky man. he doesn’t like being prodded.
So usually when the new toy arrives that begins hours and hours of snapping, snarling, barking and alpha male posturing as the three men in my house each attempt to out-tech the other- My brothers squabble and try to outdo one another and both gang up on dad. It’s a nightmare. It all gets a bit tense.
I had been expecting roaring when I got home from town so I popped into him to make sure nobody was dead. Dad was alone, halfway through the set up on this spanking new telly. He had just clicked through to the wifi set up. ‘Ah jaysus what’s this?’ ‘Oh that’s the wifi code, dad.’ I say reasonably.’Let me get my laptop and I’ll fetch the code. For the next twenty minutes, my dad and I cordially set up the new telly between us, passing remote controls between us, clicking back and forth until all the settings were correct. Not a voice was raised, not a mistake was made. It was all very nice and gentle. Before long the match was on and dad was happy.
My brother came down from his room just as setup was finished, and within ten seconds of being in the room the barking had begun. Two and half hours later, the sound system is still not working and both the men are hoarse. They won’t even pass the remote control to one another without a screaming match.
So in conclusion- let me help with set up more often.
Niamh ‘I am basically the Pocahontas of Raheny’ Keoghan
This the first interview I ever conducted. Sínead Kennedy is a lecturer in NUI Maynooth and a spokesperson for the pro choice campaign. She’s a member of the United Left Alliance and, as I told her TO HER FACE, is a bit of a badass. I am still scarlet that I managed to call my interviewee a ‘badass’ within the first ten seconds of the interview. I’d put my serious journalist face on for nothing!
The interview was written for the Student Standard, which is Maynooth’s only independant news source. I am a massive hack for the Standard, do check it out! It’s made with love. <3
I would like to thank Sínead, who was very friendly, reasonable and generous with her time in giving me this interview.
It’s been 20 years since the X case ruling and in that time seven successive governments have not introduced legislation clarifying the legal position of abortion. At the start of this year, the United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly introduced a bill that would provide for the ruling in the X case. That bill has now been voted down twice, and people are getting angry, none more so than the Pro Choice movement which has recently seen a huge surge in public support. From a small march of under 5,000 people just a few months ago to the massive march of 15,000 after the death of Savita Halappanavar, the debate has shifted up a gear. With accusations of cowardice on the part of Fine Gael and particularly the Labour Party, mysterious automated anti abortion phone calls, Praveem Hallapanavar sticking it to a HSE led enquiry (and at time of writing, preparing to bring his case to the European court of human rights) a spasming media old and new following the story day by day there is a wick of change that has been ignited. In the midst of all of this, a few speakers keep re-appearing – Breda O’Brien of the Iona Institute, William Binchy, David Quinn and Íde Nic Mhathúna (who was chastised on Indian Television) on the pro life side and Clare Daly, Ruth Coppinger, Sínead Redmond and Sínead Kennedy on the pro choice side. Sínead Kennedy is a lecturer in Maynooth’s English Department and agreed to an interview with me.
I suppose I should begin by asking what you made of last night’s verdict [Clare Daly’s second attempt at passing legislation for the X case on Wednesday the 28th of November]?
“It was very disappointing – that was the first thing about it. It wasn’t maybe entirely unexpected as it became clear during the course of the day that Labour were not prepared to vote for it. But the fact is that this is the second time that it has gone before the Dail and it’s the second time it’s been voted down and literally 30 days earlier a woman had died. It seemed it should have been treated as a matter of some urgency and the fact that it wasn’t just shows what these politicians are. Because being realistic, we are talking about another six months before we see legislation. And given the fact that a woman has died because of the lack of legal clarity, it just seemed disgraceful.”
I’ve been keeping up with the Labour Party and what they’ve had to say. From what I’ve read, they’re saying that without the support of Fine Gael, the bill was going to be defeated anyway and if they had voted yes, the government would have collapsed and the wait would be even longer. What would you say to that? Labour have also claimed that they are the only party to have included legislation for X in their manifestos in 2011.
“This is always the excuse for not doing anything: we can’t make it too radical or push too hard. I’m putting the emphasis on the Labour Party but there is an onus on Fine Gael too to vote for this. This government has a responsibility to act. But my fear would be that in the attempt to pacify the pro-choice elements of Labour and the anti-choice elements of Fine Gael you’d end up with some sort of compromise that means you have a very weak piece of legislation that would not provide an effective legal protection for women.”
We then moved to discussing Sínead’s involvement with choice advocacy through the years, starting with her memories of the original X Case in 1992.
“Well, I remember the X case. I was about 12 or so and I remember it really had an impact on me. The fact that she was 14 seemed so close to my age and my sisters. It was one of those things that had an impact on everyone our age. It was a huge story at the time, I suppose now many people don’t remember it. So when I was in college, the C case came about and I didn’t want to see this again and got involved in the campaign. Ever since then I’ve been campaigning on the issue. We campaigned for action on the C case and nothing happened and there was a referendum in 2002 to reverse the X decision which we campaigned against. This year, the twentieth anniversary of X, we decided this couldn’t be allowed to continue, so we started up a campaign called Action on X. Clare Daly in the United Left Alliance (and I am also a member of the United Left Alliance) brought forward a bill in April so we began to work on that. And then there were those horrific Youth Defence posters over the summer to shame women and I was so inspired by the response of mainly young women who spontaneously organised. Sínead Redmond organised a Facebook page entitled ‘Unlike Youth Defence I trust women to decide”, this amazing thing; and they had this protest outside the dail, it was all these young angry women saying who said we will not be shamed, we are proud and we are feminist, we believe in choice and our rights and we won’t be shamed by conservative elements like youth defence. That led to the March for Choice and we had begun to set up a campaign when sadly, Savita Halappanavar died.
The posters over the summer, showing torn pictures of both a sonogram picture and of a woman’s face came with the slogan ‘There is always a better option.’ Youth Defence, formed in 1992, are a controversial pro-life organisation operating in Ireland. The posters over the summer were for many younger people their first encounter with Youth Defence. I asked Sínead if she thought the story of Savita Halappanavar has become a game changer in this debate, like the X case was in 1992.
“That’s exactly how I’d put it. I think it has connected with people. Too long and too often the debates on abortion get caught up in these legal arguments and medical arguments; abstract theoretical arguments. I’m always struck that in these discussions women themselves are virtually absent; it’s like they’re just these disembodied wombs. So it’s like the women just become completely invisible. I think with the X case and Savita you’re presented with a case in all it’s complexity and all it’s human pain and tragedy and people respond in a human way. Because then they realise that these things are not abstract moral decisions; they’re made by real people. Obviously these are extreme cases; in terms of rape or in terms of risk to a woman’s life. But I also think it just shines a light on the struggle that ordinary women go through every day in making these decisions. Sometimes they are difficult decisions and sometimes they’re not but they are always a valid decision.”
The question of validity recurred in the course of our interview, when I asked for Sínead’s thoughts on the comments of Breda O’Brien, who was featured on the main evening news on the 18th of November stating that many pro-life activists felt ‘excluded’ from the marches and vigils held in the wake of Savita’s death. I asked Sínead to comment on the implicit statement here, and one that has been circulating around since the story broke; that the pro-choice lobby are exploiting the death of Savita Halappanavar for their campaign.
“Should the anti-abortionists be excluded? Absolutely they should be excluded. I mean it’s their campaigns that have put women’s lives like Savita at risk and I certainly reject any claim that we’ve exploited this. I think we need to look at the facts here. Praveem, Savita’s husband, contacted the pro choice group in Galway. He told her story- He decided to tell her story, and the first people he told her story to was not to newspapers, but to Galway Pro choice- why? Because he wanted to make sure that what happened to his wife would never happen again. I think that we have to salute his courage and determination- it’s a very brave thing to do to not only have the Irish media but in many ways the entire world media spotlight shone on you at a time of grief- I mean the man has lost his wife, and he’s been this incredibly powerful and articulate advocate for her, determined that she will receive justice. So I completely reject that. It’s just not true.”
I was curious to know what were some of the crazier things that Sínead has heard in nearly 20 years of involvement in pro-choice advocacy, and some of the stranger arguments against abortion. We ended up discussing the philosophical nightmare of contemplating non-existence. Sínead goes on to comment on the language used in debates about abortion. The question of ‘valid decisions’ returns here.
“Sometimes I get quite nasty misogynistic comments. But the best one is ‘what if your mother had aborted you?’ I always think that that is the most stupid. They always ask you this question and I find it slightly bizarre that the non-existent go around contemplating their own non-existence. I find this bizarre.
I think you have to not expect everybody starts from ‘I believe and support free safe legal abortion’ but most people if you ask them ‘well if a woman’s life is at risk, then can she have an abortion? Okay well what about her health? What about if she’s been raped or in the case of fetal abnormalities?’ Once you break down these absolutes you start asking the question ‘what is a valid decision?’ One thing that really irritates me is the language that is used. This idea of women demanding abortions and abortion on demand – this word, ‘on demand’. We never use this word for other medical procedures. We never talk abou people demanding to have their tonsils out, but somehow it’s appropriate to use here. The other thing I’ve heard about is the idea of the floodgates. This is the other term I keep hearing. It’s interesting that this is the same term you often hear used in Racist discourse when they’re talking about immigrants and talking about floods of immigrants- There’s a correlation between sexist and racist discourses as well. It’s important to pay attention to these kinds of questions as well.
When asked about the recent statements made by the council of Bishops and Archbishop of Dublin Diamuird Martin on the ethics of abortion, Sínead was critical of the church’s continued patronage of health and education. We compared our experiences of catholic education- Separated by approximately 10 years, but both coloured by the church.
“Well, the idea that the Catholic church in Ireland can pontificate on any aspect of morality or can lecture anybody when we know the sort of horrific crimes they have been guilty of… If the church wants to make comments nobody can stop them, but what I object to is when the church begins to interfere in medical decisions and in the state. I think that’s a problem. I have no problem with what people choose to believe privately; I respect people who don’t agree with abortion – that’s their view and they’re entitled to it. Where I have a problem is when they try to impose their view on me and on other people. That’s the difficulty I have. I mean, if the church wants to, within it’s own religion say these things that’s fine, but when it begins to impact on other people who don’t share these beliefs then there’s a problem. I think there’s also a failure within Ireland to separate church and state. The fact that the church continue to play significant roles within health and education is a huge problem. I think until we get the church out of our hospitals and out of our schools we are going to continue to be contaminated by their influence.
In reponse to comments I made about being taught a very pro-life favouring religious syllabus at school:
“We got the ones on contraception; all the things that were wrong with condoms and the pill. And then you’d get the rythmn method- which was suitable only in marriage but it was apparently very very safe and [we were told] all these awful things that were going to happen if you used a condom or the pill.”
Finally, I asked Sínead two questions: did she think this government would legislate for the X case, and will there be access to free, safe, legal abortion in Ireland within the next ten years.
“I’d answer yes to both questions. I think this government will legislate because we’re going to make them, and if we don’t, we’re going to bring them down. If they do not act. There’s a huge campaign building and I think they’re going to come under enormous pressure to act. bI would also answer yes to the second question because I do think things are changing.I think the anti abortionists realise that. We need a twofold strategy; one is legislation for the X case. Not that I think [legislation for the X case alone] is enough, but because once you have legislation for X, for the first time in the history of the irish state, the terms under which abortion is legal in this country will be laid out in law and that is highly significant. I think that anti-abortionists realise that. I don’t think that they’re wrong in saying that it will bring abortion to Ireland, but obviously it only brings abortion for highly restricted circumstances and obviously there’s a lot of things it won’t address.
I think that there is momentum building to have a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment and I think that it is going to become a major political issue within the next year.”
Niamh ‘Serious journalist face’ Keoghan
Let me preface my latest feminist rant with a clarification- I am not hating on the menfolk here. Men, you are hysterical. You are a hoot. The funniest person in my life is my uncle Fran and he is indeed a man. The funniest person in existence- Eddie Izzard – is a man and so is Chris O’Dowd, Graham Linehan, Dermot Morgan, Dylan Moran, Woody Allen and Spike Milligan. All are hilarious and I am not for a second saying they aren’t. I love men, as my last blog detailed. There’s no denying that in the world of stand up comedy, men are far more present. It is a sausage party.
Something I’ve noticed cropping up a few times is the idea that men are somehow naturally funnier than women. This alarms me. This alarms me as a woman who has based a great deal of her life choice and identity around attempting to be funny. The idea seems to go that women, being less represented, by and large, in the world of ‘comedy’ are therefore just not as good at funnies as men.
Goodness, this alarms me.
I also do believe, quite staunchly that it is complete and utter fucking bullshit. It is- to use a word that oft makes people roll their eyes so hard they swoon like Victorian ladies- complete and utter PATRIARCHAL bullshit. Oh yeah. I used the P word. It’s patriarchal bullshit. Any way you look at it, I think it’s massively unfair to the entire female half of human existence to tell them that they’re not as good at cracking wise. I think it’s a bit of a fallacy. Let me explain. Some of you have already heard this blog spewed to you last night in Doyles simply because I have SO MUCH to rant about. There’s a twofold problem with the assumption-
1. The landscape of stand up comedy and panel shows
2. Women being discouraged from being ‘big’ in any sense, and the places where they feel comfortable being funny.