Happy international Women’s day! Wow ladies, a whole day. It’s like the oppression never even happened and isn’t still happening! No but seriously, on this day I’d like to take time to answer a few questions that I’ve heard recently about Feminism and to respond to some frequent critiques of feminism that I hear and would like to address. Oh, and to answer the most commonm question I hear every International women’s day; International men’s day is on the 19th of November. It’s also international white middle class man day EVERY DAY OF THE FUCKING YEAR. Stop being a smartarse.
Do feminists hate men?
Okay, so firstly let’s talk about what feminism is exactly. A lot of people assume that it’s a hard and fast philosophy that all feminists agree on and never debate amongst themselves. It’s much more like marxism or any other political theory- just that, a *theory* that everybody has a grand old time debating about. Feminists agree and disagree on plenty of things. Just because one woman who called herself feminist told you this one time that all sex is rape does NOT mean all feminists agree with that. There are feminists like me who are staunchly pro choice and there are others who argue that abortion damages women- I don’t agree, in fact I’ll disagree to the bitter end, but the basic fact is this-
Feminism is the idea that gender doesn’t define a person, who they are or what they’re good at. It’s about empowering women to take control of their bodies and lives, and to not feel inferior to anyone.
But do feminists hate men? Well, I certainly don’t. I have two brothers and a dad that I love very much, not to mention my two uncles, my grandfather, my five cousins and countless male friends. I like men so much sometimes I even FANCY some of them. Not the ones I’m related to. That would be weird. But yeah, I don’t hate men. And I know men don’t hate me. Not really. Germaine Greer and some second wave feminists might disagree and say that all men secretly subconsciously hate women because society has programmed them that way but I take a more chilled out look. Guys get totally fucked over by society’s notions of gender.
So do you support men’s rights too?
OBVS LIKE. I so do. I believe in gender equality. Feminism is all about the gender equality. I’m not saying you’ll never see a feminist argue against that because like I said, anything goes, but generally we’re good with men having rights. If men didn’t have rights, we wouldn’t have them either because hey, we want to be equal. Thing is, a lot of critique of feminism from a men’s rights perspective misunderstands what feminism wants to do.
My dad and brothers as working class men find it incredibly difficult to express emotion through any conduit other than anger. My Dad has admitted to me ‘Ah no, I can’t cry. I cry on the inside.’ There’s a reason the suicide rate among young men is so high, and it’s not feminism- it’s the standards we still judge men by; expecting them to be tough, and stoic, and virile. Be the breadwinner and if you’re not able to support a wife and family on your own, you fail as a man. This is all the stuff that feminism is opposed to- it’s opposed to the idea that men have to fit into any sort of prescribed gender role. It argues that just as women can be tough and ballsy, men can be caring and nurturing and neither option is better or worse than the other. A major argument I hear in critique of feminism is that fathers have very few rights in relation to custody of their children. And let me put my hands up right now and say this- I think fathers should have equal right to custody of their kids. It’s the old assumption that men aren’t carers and women are, and I don’t like it. I don’t for one second deny that men get totally gypped by custody law. Feminism wants to make custody law fairer too- We don’t want to go back 150 years when men were given sole automatic custody of their children and nor do we want the burden of childcare to inevitably be a woman’s job. Equality for all! Feminism is a synonym for ‘gender equality.’ The only reason I don’t go around calling myself a ‘Gender Equalist’ is because it’s too clumsy a term and there’s also nothing wrong with the word ‘Feminism.’ It doesn’t alienate dudes at all. Dudes be my brothers. Dudes suffer from this screwed up idea of gender too. I think a major problem with the whole ‘mens rights’ thing is that while well meaning, they tend to misinterprete feminism as being just blind misandry- they seem to envision rights as a finitie resource and asking for more of them for women means men losing a bit, but that’s not it. Mens and Women’s rights are all important. Nobody’s fighting here. We’re all friends.
In conclusion- Everybody is my bro, I don’t hate men.
So can men be feminists?
Totes. Feminist men, as I have discussed elsewhere at length, men who respect me as a person and as an equal are rad. I was being humourous obviously, but there really is no subsitute for genuine respect and support.
Are all feminist lesbians?
No. I am a noted man-lover, as are many others. Of course there are lots of lesbians who are feminists too, not to mention lots of gay men and trans men and women. One of the big challenges to feminism at the moment is supporting and accepting trans women (i.e. people who were born as psyically male but transitioned to living as a woman). Again, early second wave feminism (Which was the 1960s radical movement that is most people’s go to image for feminism- think angry bra burners and shouty women) Was quite unpleasant about trans women and men, but it’s moved on since then. Feminism has also now had to become intersectional- which means basically that it doesn’t fight against the massive monolith of PATRIARCHY anymore (when you hear me joking about ‘crushing patriarchy’ it’s usually slightly toungue in cheek) because although there is a patriarchal order to the world, women are oppressed for a lot of different reasons- My experiences are very different to a black woman, or a muslim women, or a woman not from europe. It’s also very different from the experiences of working class women or women who live in poverty- In these cases it’s often racism and class constraints oppressing women and their experience of sexism is marked by these things also.
So it’s not enough to just rail against ‘teh menz’ anymore. We have to understand that it’s all a bit more complex, and that systems of oppression are wildly different depending on location, race, class, gender assignment and sexuality.
So are not all feminists shouty and angry?
Well, some are. I know a lot of women who are currently very angry about lack of legislation for abortion in any circumstance in Ireland. That makes me quite angry too. A lot of women are angry at being told not to dress too provocatively or drink too much in order to avoid being raped, as if the responsibility is on us not to be raped rather than on the rapist not to rape. I’m angry that people like David Quinn can pontificate about sexuality and abortion to teenage girls and that in my lifetime women were incarcerated in industrial laundries. I’m angry that women are deprived of choice in this country, and that young mothers and single mothers are often still stigmatized and sneered at. It makes me all very sad, and very angry. In fact, a lot of this general background anger is the reason I got back into writing after a long break. But I’m also by nature an optimist, and I was raised with manners and politeness on me, so generally I try not to get shouty. I’m not good at being angry- some people are fabulous at it and they do well, but it’s not my style. I prefer to be a comedian and to make my point via humour. I think making sexism and misogyny look silly with a single zinger is worth twenty angry blog posts. That’s just my style.
So yeah, I think all feminists have anger in them, particularly in Ireland right now. Not all shouty though (Although there’s nothing wrong with being shouty- there is plenty to shout about), some of us do better with humour as an outlet for the rage.
Dont’ you already *have* equal rights?
Nominally, maybe. But some burdens fall unequally on the shoulders of women. Things like childcare, which as we’ve discussed, is unfair to mothers and fathers. Women are also still asked things like ‘what were you wearing’ when they report that they’ve been raped. In some cases, a woman’s sexual history has been used to throw out rape trials. Women still get objectified in comics and games in a way men never are. Most of the ‘objectification’ men go through in games- the super muscled hot heroes- that people site to me as an example of ‘men are treated bad too!’ are really wish fulfillment roles for guys to play as. I refuse to accept that you’ll see a page three spread of a guy with his cock out any time soon. All I’m saying is that you don’t just roll up feminism when you’ve got legislation. You have to keep pushing at thousands of years of society having certain ideas about women and their capabilities. That’s all.
So what makes me a feminist?
Basically if you’ve ever been made feel ashamed of having or wanting sex, or of dressing a particular way, or if you’ve ever just felt really uncomfortable with the way you or your friends/relatives are treated because they’re women, or felt that women are held to a higher standard and half to work twice as hard to be considered half as good, or been accused of ‘getting hysterical’ when you’re just trying to debate a point, yeah. That’s all the bullshit feminism deals with and tries to critique. You’re a feminist. It doesn’t mean you hate men or agree with every dumb thin Caitlin Moran says on twitter, it doesn’t mean you punch the air and go ‘FUCK YEAH!’ when Julie Burchill says prostitutes should be shot as collabarators with the partiarchal regieme, and it doesn’t mean you have to be anything other than what you want to be. It justs means you want to do your own thing, and for everyone else to get off your tits about it.
Niamh ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ Keoghan
Lately, on my wanders through this world, I’ve encountered a strange phenomenon in Ireland and the discussion around feminism. This is when I throw up one of my feminist cards- like talking about rape culture, or casual misogyny, or consent- I’m usually rebuffed with ‘well what about the MEN? Men get oppressed by sexism TOO, you know?’ And this makes me sad. Because most of the people who say this are very cool, groovy, right on people who are concerned with justice and fairness. We’re on the same page, guys. We shouldn’t be fighting! But most alarming to me in the ‘mens rights’ camp is one John Waters, who has been on my radar for a long time. Oh Mister Waters. I used to read you column in the Irish Daily Mail back when I was a baby writer. You taught me more about writing than anyone else- I just didn’t do whatever you did. Lately he’s got a gig trotting onto various radio shows and wailing against feminism and women’s rights as infringing on the rights of men.
Now, Mister Waters is absolutely, 100% right in saying that men are oppressed. Try getting married to your male partner or adopting a child to raise together or indeed, even try walking around town at night holding hands. You’re pretty certain to get a shit storm of abuse. Also rather oppressed is the Trans man, who some feminists have said very mean things about and who a lot of people will still be really resistant to accepting. Oh, if you’re a working class man or a man with a mental illness, you’re likely to get shit too. If you’re a man from the travelling community you’re probably getting a fair bit of ‘we have the right to refuse admission’ off bouncers and dying about 10 years earlier than your settled peers. So yes, men are oppressed.
But the men that are decidedly NOT oppressed are ones like John Waters and David Quinn. Middle class, comfortably employed, conservative, catholic broadsheet columnists are doing pretty okay in this country. You’re not being oppressed on the basis of your religion or your gender. If you’ve been interned without trial for simply being a catholic well then you’re totally being oppressed, but somebody talking about the massive industrial scale slavery that religious orders ran or the institutional rape that was covered and perpetrated by the Catholic church isn’t. If I have to as a feminist deal with the stupid shit Caitlin Moran has said on twitter then you guys have to deal with the criticism of your religion’s hierarchy.
I should probably point out here that I have heaps of what is now fashionably called ‘privilege’. I’m white, straight, comfortably supported financially by my parents and studying at university. I get misogynistic comments and sexist bullshit but it’s usually of a sort that doesn’t ruin my life or severely impede my liberty. I get a little bit more bother for being outspokenly atheist and left wing than I do about being a woman, generally.
That being said, I do get some strange comments. When I’m told to cover up and not get drunk in order to avoid getting raped- guys, why doesn’t this attitude to rape bother you more? I give out about rape culture and a lot of guys take offence to the idea that women are always victims and men are always the rapists. But this ‘look after yourself and avoid dressing a certain way’ is so insulting. It basically says the men can’t control themselves- that if given the slightest chance, they would rape a woman for showing skin or being vulnerable. It reduces men to animals unable of control or restraint or respect for bodily autonomy. I think about the men I know- the kindest and most polite gentlemen you’d ever meet- and I know that’s wrong.
But yknow, women do get oppressed and in Ireland, we were fucking chronic for it. In my lifetime, there were Magdalene women imprisoned in laundries. Women had to sneak over the border to get contraception and sneak it back. The original premises of the Irish family planning association had a back exit just in case they were raided. Information about abortion- not even the procedure itself but information about it- was banned from distribution. Women weren’t even trusted to make their own decisions about their bodies with all the relevant information and options. Symphesiotomies happened until 1986. In the same year a fifteen year old girl gave birth and died in a grotto in Longford. People see Nell McCafferty on telly and roll their eyes. I get hounded for expressing the apparently radical opinion that I should have a voice.
Really what John Waters and David Quinn are afraid of isn’t being oppressed. They’re afraid of losing the position of power and privilege that the Irish catholic male has held since 1922. They don’t like women speaking out because they then lose the ‘right’ to speak for them, act for them and make decisions for them. They wail oppression when the old taboos are broken- when we criticize the church openly and bitterly, as it should be criticized as an institution. You can’t claim to speak for ALMIGHTY GOD and ask us to lay off when your massive rape ring is uncovered. That’s insulting to your members, your followers and insulting to everyone else.
Women don’t always just get oppressed for being ‘the women.’ Often it’s influenced by race, by ethnic background, by social or economic status. One of the challenges of feminism now is how we collate all these different little bullshit things and kick them down. But whatever the complications and challenges of the movement, You simply can’t ask women to get back in the box. It’s arrogant. Please stop politely and reasonably asking to be treated as something more than a baby and cake dispenser, because you’re oppressing John Waters. Stop politely and reasonably asking for reform so that childcare and custody are equally shared between parents. Stop politely and reasonably asking for equal marriage and gay rights. Stop politely and reasonably asking to change things, because it’s making John Waters feel challenged. Yeah.
I’ll get right on that.
Niamh ‘crushing you with the boot of my polite requests for fairness’ Keoghan
This column originally appeared on the StudentStandard.ie on 26th February, 2013. Additional editing by Keith Broni.
I think everybody likes breasts. Who wouldn’t? They are providers of food, arousal and can be all-in-all aesthetically pleasing. Let me just make that clear: I’m very pro-breast. I am a tits-positive feminist. But also increasingly, I feel like I have less and less ownership of my girlies. Generally when I see jokes made about boobs, they’re all made by definite non-breast owners. Like Seth McFarlane who had a whole song dedicated to lady bits at the Oscars. Unless Tina Fey and Amy Poehler had a song dedicated to the cock when they did the Golden Globes, I am going to absolutely 100% file this under ‘sexist bullshit’ (McFarlane was also heaps of unfunny overall, but lets just focus this on tits).
I’ll concede the point that tits are just a lot more aesthetically pleasing than penises (up for debate but generally, I mean), but that still doesn’t condone their massive overuse in media, marketing and advertising. And alarmingly, I don’t feel like I’m in control of mine a lot of the time. They are disembodied from me: my disembodied tits, if you will. Floating just separate from the rest of me, two ghostly orbs to be objectified. Both slagged and admired.
Often I have reflected, while lounging in the bath pouring water over my head from a plastic jug because our showerhead doesn’t work, that my girls are a good reflection of who I am. They’re a bit lopsided and awkward, but they dress up nicely (in a nice bra they can be killer). They’re a bit small but they’re also resilient and determined. Essentially, my breasts are just some plucky kids trying to make their way in a crazy mixed up world. I can empathise with their struggle. But sometimes even though breasts are everywhere in our culture, I often feel like my girls are not my own. I feel like they’re out there in the public realm despite the fact they live here, under my shirt and very few (very lucky may I add) people actually see them.
I see a lot of dudes making the breast-related humour and breasts being used to sell to them. I read the A Song of Ice and Fire series (on which the Game of Thrones HBO series is based) and have often noted how Daenerys Targaryen seems to be extremely aware of what her tits are doing at any particular moment. Are they swollen, bouncing, swaying gently in the breeze? Doing their accounts for the year? Sometimes the way they are described is as if they’re like a little principality beyond the rest of her body: sharing a landmass but also a state unto themselves. This is a mistake a lot of guys make about breasts: they assume that ladies are super aware of what they’re doing at all times. I think a lot of guys assume tits are the same as their penis. Having to gently explain to a seventeen year old boy that no, squeezing them will not arouse a lady nor is it a particularly pleasant sensation was quite mortifying. It took the girls a full year to recover from the awkwardness of that ill-advised grabbing. [EDIT- After being told by a good griend that this seems to generalize a bit on what ladies like done in the boudoir, let me expand just a tiny bit on the story. I left this part out of the standard column because it is a reputable publication and not a place for my sexual misadvantures to be recorded- that’s what this blog is for. The unfortunate boy I was referring to here grabbed onto my girls as we had an awkward, unpleasant shift in an alleyway out his back garden. He, not being schooled in the ways of actual subtlety or indeed, basic human biology, sort of kneaded my girls the way you’d test a melon for ripeness or a piece of bread for freshness, and then asked the immortal question- ‘Are you gonna come?’ No. No, aimlessly poking at a girls boobs is not the way to make the vast majority of women orgasm. This is also the boy who could not locate my vagina while his hand was up my skirt. ANYWAY. Poor boy. Left my girls in a state of trauma for years.]
It’s like we all love tits, but they’re public property so we’re not allowed own them. The sort of tits you see exposed (in mainstream non-porn media anyway) are a very specific kind of tit. Usually white, not too big but not too small. Kate Winslet and Emilia Clarke are both famous owners of great tits and I’m struck by how similar they are. Again not too big, small or ethnic. Just your good garden variety, well-proportioned, English breast: the sort you’d grow in a garden or buy from an organic farmer’s market. They are the golden ratio of boob.
Because most things are advertised to the heterosexual white male, the power and appeal of the boobs are placed solely in their hands. I’m not allowed to make jokes about tits aimed at other women. How many comments are there going to be about this very column calling it ‘brave’ or ‘honest’ or indeed ‘fucking disgusting’ when ALL I’M DOING is talking about these poor beleaguered breasts that I’ve been hitching along for the ride since they arrived from the puberty fairy in 2004? This isn’t bravery: it’s just me owning me bleedin’ body, lads.
Tell me anyone who doesn’t like breasts? Straight men and lesbians of course like them and within consensual jolly sexy times they are a wonderful thing to share. Children like them because food and the often overlooked fact that they make a lovely soft pillow with built in mother’s heartbeat to fall asleep to. Gay men and straight girls can appreciate tits for their aesthetic qualities: how they look in bras, how they move and how women can just rock them. I know there’s a whole spectrum of people I’m leaving out here but I still stand by my point: give me a person of any gender or sexual identity and I will give you back a person who can appreciate breasts. Of course individuals can not like breasts, but what I’m saying is, we’re generally living in a pro-tits world. But maybe we’re just a bit boob drunk, and we need to lay off them for a bit. Maybe we need to get off everyone’s tits, collectively.
We also need to discard the idea of the ‘perfect tits’. It’s a fallacy and we’re only limiting ourselves. We need OWNERSHIP. We need a revolution in private ownership of the breasts. I now implore you all, as I oft implore, to stand on a chair/table/raised platform, grab your breasts through your shirt with both hands and scream “THESE ARE MY GIRLS AND I WILL HAVE AGENCY OVER THEM.” We need to reclaim our girls, ladies. It’s okay for us to share them with our partners and our children and everything, but we need to do so with the firm conviction that they are OUR girls.
The world gotta understand that there are ours; that we are sole purveyors and monopolists of breast. We need to topple this empire of the golden ratio. I want to see everyone with ownership over their respective girls: big, small, black, white, working class or high society. But always owned and operated solely by the body they’re attached to. I’m calling this social movement pro-tits feminism. Say it with me now (if you’re still standing on that chair/table/raised platform so much the better) loud and proud: I AM A PRO TITS FEMINIST!
Niamh ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ Keoghan
I hate the friendzone. I hate the word. It’s a shockingly clever concept- a catch all term for shaming women who turn a guy down, or decline their romantic advances, or just plain don’t want a relationship. It has a close connection to the concept of ‘leading one on” wherein a woman is oft accused of stringing a hapless everydude into her web with those feminine wiles only to cut him off cruelly for her own amusement. Most troubling for me is how women have started to use these terms I’ve heard girls say ”’he friend zoned me” or ”I wish he hadn’t led me on”. Hell, I’ve used these terms because there are out there people who will mess you around a little bit, and flirt outrageously. But these people aren’t friendzoning you. And generally this is a guy on girl trope- Some of parlance has begun to creep into lady talk, but it’s an institutional of hetrerosexual men to begin with. (Note- Not all straight men are ‘Nice Guys’in the way I describe them here. I have a lot of male friends and I’m not hating on the menfolk at all, just commenting on something I’ve experienced. Blah, I don’t hate men, these sexist concepts hurt men too, whatever x)
They might be kind of dick, but they’re not friendzoning you because and this may shock you so hold onto your hats and assort beverages the friendzone doesn’t exist. Sorry everyone. It’s just not real. I’ve seen women get messed around by men and men messed around by women, and I’ve never seen evidence of a real life friendzone. I did do a bit of research I stood around while my friends talked about relationships, and have also been in a few disastarous ones, and been on either side of the ‘let’s be friends’ equation. It’s also linked to another concept- that of Nice Guyism that we’ll talk about and discuss why it’s really fucking creepy. Bad romance is my specialist topic- so let’s talk the friendzone.
In the zone
In basic parlence, the ‘friendzone’ is where men who have romantic and sexual notions on a woman are placed when those women declined their advances- ususally with a phrase like ‘I don’t want to mess up our friendship’or ”Í don’t think of you that way’or ‘I love you!… as a friend!’ The zone is the purgatory men go to when women selfishly withold the sex that they are entitled to. Because hey, why does that girl have to be such a bitch and turn you down? You’re a nice guy, you treat her really well, you’re always interested and looking out for her. But okay. Here’s the thing nice guys- Somebody being nice to me is my BASIC prerequisite for continuing to even associate with someone. A guy being polite, courteous and listening to me is my baseline for being his friend- It’s not some magical perk that will automatically make me spit out a sexy time token, and that’s what it’s really about at the end of the day.
And further, the whole nice guy… thing is a bit creepy to be on the receiving end of. Lads, we know when you’re genuinely being nice and when your interest is forced only to make us think you’re nice. I have plenty of male friends who have little to no interest in hearing me discuss the finer points of my as yet unfinished novel, and in return I have no interest in hearing about the details of their record collection. You don’t have to take boundless interest in every single thing I care to mention or be involved in; all encompassing adoration and undying interest are as unsettling to receive as it sounds. It’s not nice. It makes me feel like I’m living in a world of plastic automatic yes men, all poking my ego until sexy time coupons pop out.
The scary thing is when men, after frantic and endless prodding, delude themselves into thinking a sexy time token HAS popped out, and that they ARE entitled to more of me than I am willing to give. That’s when I politely decline, and they scream, with arms thrown to heaven ”’FRIENDZOOOOOOOOONED!”
Sexy Time Tokens
I know I’m the last person that should be complaining about romantic attention heck, usually I’m complaining that nobody’s into me and how much that sucks. But the opposite extreme is scary and unpleasant. I was trying to quantify what makes one a ‘nice guy’ in the sex coupon seeking way I just described, and I have a very handy litmus test to discern between genuinely nice people, and ‘nice guys’-
If asked to give you some space to think and breath, a genuine person will do just that, and back off. They might be confused sure, or hurt or think you’re being dramatic, but they will still give you the space you’ve asked for and respect your feelings. A Nice Guy however, will ignore your requests for space and continue to bombard you with increasingly false-sounding declarations that they will understand and listen to you. They’ll completely ignore the fundamental point of what you’ve asked, and continue to steamroll you. And that’s the point of the Nice Guy, and the Friendzone.
In this whole unpleasant scenario, the woman is just an object to the nice guy. His feelings and his ego are the important things. It doesn’t matter how scared or uninterested or even hostile the object is, she still owes him something; He can wrap it up as a relationship, but in the end, the object becomes his possession, and in that possession there are obligations the object must fill. And if you refuse to play the game, check out and decline the thrilling chance to become an object?
Well, you’re just a frigid bitch who dumped that poor nice guy into the friendzone. You MONSTER.
Niamh ‘Offside in the friendzone’ Keoghan
Let me marshal my thoughts as best I can; I’ve just finished watching the Late Late Show debate on marriage equality, which I experienced first via the so called ‘river of bile’ on Twitter- a surprisingly moderate, inoffensive river all things considered although I do think calling Wendy a cunt and telling her to stick things up her fanny was unhelpful and immature- on the whole, twitter was being it’s usual twittery self. I think it says an awful lot of David Quinn blacklist of bile-y tweets mostly consisted of balanced, moderate comments and a kind of eye rolling disdain for the usual weak arguments against marriage equality. A few things did strike me about the debate hat I think I, as something of a feminist and general know it all, ought to clear up.
1. The ‘gender equality’ point
Both Darren and Wendy set forth this point; that in every other area of society be it in politics or business, we’re always striving for an equal number of men and women representing on boards and in government. The argument seemed to be that in these areas, there was a recognition that you needed both men and women for there to be fairness and equality, so why is it different when children are being raised? It was said that this notion of gender equality recognizes that men and women have different skills and approaches that are both valuable.
The thing is, that’s not what gender equality really stands for, or at least my conception of it. The idea is, quite radically, that gender doesn’t actually matter in these cases- that men and women can both do the same job equally well without difficulty. The problem emerges when there’s such a massive disparity in the gender balance of a company board or parliament- because if gender really, honestly wasn’t the issue, we’d have a 50/50 balance of men Vs Women. The whole basis of this is that like race, gender doesn’t actually tell you anything about the person. Women can be just as aggressive, stoic or tough as men, and men can be just as passive, emotional or sensitive as women. There’s nothing wrong with being whatever- people are simply people, their gender can inform their identity but it doesn’t define them.
2. Biological mammies and daddies are best
The first thing that strikes me about this entire argument is how insulting it is. To reduce the love I have for my parents- who have cared for me, protected me and given me a stable home for 20 years, loved me no matter what my difficulties have been- to reduce a relationship so complex and fulfilling to biology is woefully simplistic. I have a mother and father, but to reduce their roles in my life to simple cardboard cutouts of ”MAM’ and ‘DAD’ fitting into this narrow gender binary is ridiculous.
When I was a child, my father worked nights and my mother worked during the day in town. At the time I was sure that she basically owned a company and so was very happy mammy went to work in the day. Because my dad worked nights, I spent most of my day with him- we’d get up and watch sesame street, then we’d go in the buggy to town, or to the park, or to any number of places. My dad changed my nappy everywhere because there were no changing facilities outside of the ladies toilets in an era before parenting rooms, so he improvised, most famously on the grave of an archbishop.
My Dad is very stoic. He’s not a very touchy feely guy. He’s told me he loves me exactly once in his life- on the phone, after my mum had gently informed me that my grandmother, his mother, had passed away while I was on Holiday in Galway. He’s an old fashioned, Colm Meany in the commitments sort of Dad. He doesn’t say he loves me, but he certainly shows it- everything I’ve ever needed is provided for. I’ve never gone hungry or been cold or scared. He’s worked hours of overtime to pay for my education and my school trips. He was a very hands on father when I was a kid, sharing the parenting duties with my mother. As well as my mum and dad, I was cared for by two grandmothers who without fail babysat us four days a week when dad started working in the mornings again.
My mother worked in town full time for most of my childhood. When I was a little kid, she’d ring from her office in town once during the day, and then arrive home in a big beige 90s style rain mac, usually holding an umbrella and her handbag. On the weekends, she’d cook a spaghetti bolognese on Saturday and a roast on Sunday. We’d all go on outings- my mum, dad, brothers and usually my grandparents- together as a family.
Bottom line- my parents both mucked in and got on with it. I wasn’t particularly aware of gender roles when I was a kid- if I cut my knee, I ran crying to either parent. As I got older and needed help with other problems, I gravitated towards two people- My mother, and my uncle Fran. My uncle is like me in personality, articulate and great at conversation. I don’t gravitate towards my mother because women are just naturally better at dealing with their daughter’s problems, I do it because my dad just happens to not be as easy to talk to. My brothers go to my mum with problems too, the same way if we have a wobbly desk we go to dad.
It’s not to say that they have set roles that are defined by their gender- they’re just two people primarily, who raised a family together. The really important thing that they gave us was stability- I never had any doubt that my parents were a team, and working together. It’s stability, not gender, that’s really important to a kid.
3.Marriage is only for makin’ babies
This obsession with kids being the only outcome of marriage kind of irks me. No it bloody isn’t. The primary function of marriage as a social institution? I would have imagined it had something to do with the people actually getting married and not just their potential offspring. This also discounts people unable to have children, or who just plain don’t want them. Again, reducing marriage to just being about biological reproduction is ridiculous. There’s also the question of adoption- Sometimes the sad fact is that biological parents aren’t capable of raising children alone or together, and that’s okay- kids get adopted all the time, and it doesn’t fundamentally distort them. I suppose it’s okay for them to be adopted by straight couples because then there can be a pretend biological bond, by Darren and Wendy’s logic.
To me, the biological argument is bullshit. It insults adoptees and children raised diligently and happily by step parents, grandparents and any of the other million grey areas there are in the world. The ‘protecting the children’ rhetoric also completely ignores the legal limbo that the children of gay parents now exist in, with only one official parent. It doesn’t make sense to me.
4. George Hook is kind of the man.
Has to be said because I have done mean impressions of him on many occasions and he was a total dude up on that podium.
5.They’re gonna ruin marriage for everyone
God you know, as a straight, cis female who wants to someday have children, I know exactly what will put me off marriage forever- two chicks being able to do it, amirite? I mean, what would be the actual point of getting marriage and having babies if the gays are going to come in and RUIN MY MARRIAGE? It’s just not bloody fair. An entire generation of straight women and men would be discouraged from getting legal protection and starting families because sure now EVERYONE can do it, it won’t be cool anymore. Or something. The opponents to marriage equality are never very clear about how that bit works…
The idea that my relationships are cheapened by somebody else’s just confuses me. I don’t care if gay people can marry- my ability to produce more of me doesn’t somehow make me a magical, sacred person capable of deep sorcery that my gay friends don’t have- it just makes me fertile, and I’m a lot more than that. My relationships, both romantic, platonic, meaningful and shallow, are all based on more than that.
In the end, marriage equality isn’t really just about kids, though that seems to be the way the debate is always framed. it’s also about legal protection, clarity and the reinforcement of the principle that it actually doesn’t matter what you choose to do with another consenting adult. The re appropriation of ‘gender equality’ for something that’s just reinforcing the very divisions we’re trying to remove is laughable, and David Quinn’s river of bile is probably the most rational, balanced thing ever posted to the Iona institutes website.
Niamh ‘did not get onto the rivers of bile list. devastated’ Keoghan
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
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.
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
So if you haven’t been around the internet lately, Todd Akin is running for the US Senate in Missouri and like many before him he decided to dip his toe in the deep end and try to justify banning abortion outright, even in cases of Rape. What’s staggering about his world view is that he’s had to lie to himself so much to fit into a cosy, easy philosophy. Because it’s easy to be anti abortion. It’s really goddamn easy. It’s really easy to believe that only women who really want to be pregnant, who have the means to have a child are the ones who get pregnant. It’s really easy to believe that even when a pregnancy is unexpected or not quite wanted that the woman will find the STRENGTH inside to just battle through and have her baby and everything will be happy. It’s really easy to say that when you’ve been legitimately raped you’re unlikely to get pregnant because somehow your body will magically shut down it’s processes, because of course no child would ever be made under circumstances so horrible, would they?