In the wake of Jemma O’Leary’s interesting column ‘Ultra-Feminism is Eroding Our Values’ on the university times website, a lot of people asked the question just what is an Ultra-feminist? Well I’d like to take up this mantel and proudly declare myself an ultra feminist. I claim it not because I think all the lowly men-folk in this world ought to be made slaves that carry me around like Cleopatra and feed me grapes for the rest of my life, but because I am a screaming, raving, hardcore fan of feminist theory. I’d just like in the spirit of sisterly debate to rebut a few points Ms. O’Leary made in her piece. I promise that I’ll try not to oppress anyone too hard under the hard sole of my Doc Martens and sexual liberation.
I just really like critical theories that point at the world we live in and go ‘hey, here’s some stuff that seems RIDDLED with problems. Can we get some maintenance guys in to look at this? There’s a light bulb gone in the gender relations department.’ Feminism is essentially a strand of critical theory- It was created, generally, by people looking around, seeing that there is a whole world of stuff to examine through the prism of gender (or class, or race, or whatever) and went with it. That’s all. Much as I would love to think that feminism has become so influential in the corridors of power that it could even approach being an oppressive force, I don’t think that’s true sadly. In a country that doesn’t even have free right to choice for it’s citizens and less than 10% of the parliament is represented by women, I don’t think Ms O’Leary has a strong case.
Ms O’Leary also talks about how she, in her personal opinion, thinks feminism has gone ‘far enough.’ Well, I think I can agree with her in so far as it’s done wonders for women like us- both university students, both from presumably comfortable backgrounds. She’s right that generally speaking, we’re doing okay. We get to sit around in seminar rooms and read about all this stuff and decide for ourselves what we’d like. We have protection in employment, pretty good maternity leave ahead of us and anything that we need that our country doesn’t offer to us, we can pay to travel out of Ireland to get it (we also have the freedom to travel wherever we like without suspicion, as western ladies) Yeah, We white middle class western ladies have it pretty sweet.
It’s like Lucinda Creighton when she spoke of how proud she was to be an Irish woman, and how she thinks it’s a grand county to be a lady in. Well, it’s great if you’re university educated, middle class, in a well paying job and don’t have to look beyond your own experiences for things. If my and Jemma’s experiences were the sole barometer by which we measured how all 3.5 billion odd women in the world were getting on, I might agree that we ought to tone the feminism down a tad. Perhaps.
But it’s not. We live in a world where class, gender, sexuality and race all intersect in fascinating ways to create the accepted structures of power. That’s how you get cases like Slanegirl- Variously described by the delightfuls on twitter as a ‘skanger’, a ‘knacker’, a ‘dirtbird’ and a good old fashioned slut. It’s not that all the feminists were crowding around to defend this girl to the hilt; it’s that in the face of a torrent of online abuse and mirth at the picture of a public sex act, it was the girl getting all these names thrown at her. The man in this story was ‘a pure lad’ a ‘lucky bastard’ or a ‘dirty fucker’- but there was still a sort of shrugging ‘eh… fair play’ reaction to his part in the act. The girl was the dirt bird. It goes back to all these double standards we have about sexuality, and the roles we give people in sex. Which while we’re at it, sucks for everyone.
Women are told by society that sex is a chore and something that needs to be endured to please men. Men are also told this and that reinforces the idea that women need to be sort of coaxed into the act. Like they’re an easily spooked pony, you must always approach a lady from the side. I’ll also point out that the entire field of masculinities is a feminist critique of the expectations placed on men by a gender binary and how deeply screwed up it is. Just look at the absolute goldmine of essays on breaking bad and masculinities recently. The expectations placed on dude by the patriarchy are crushing for the men who don’t easily fit into them. Personally, I strive for a feminism that allows us all to shag without shame and with respect for each other.
I just question what ‘values’ Ultra Feminism is eroding and why they’re such a great idea anyway. Why is that value that sex is basically dirty and gross and people are gross for doing it something that needs to be protected from erosion by the sea walls of patriarchy? Why does the value that women ought not to criticise or speak up but rather elegantly and gracefully take it on the chin something that ought to be preserved? Ms. O’Leary doesn’t make a decent case for this at all. The entire idea of Critical theory is that it challenges these norms and forces us to examine them. It’s the similar to Marxist critique of capitalism- just because you have a few problems with the way the world works doesn’t mean every single Marxist is out there tearing it down. Feminists simply point out inconsistencies in our social world. That can be uncomfortable for us all- being forced to acknowledge our own privileges and biases- but it’s important work and it certainly doesn’t need to tone it down.
Let’s call a spade a spade here- O’Leary isn’t talking about the erosion of ‘values.’ She’s talking about the erosion of norms, and not making such a hot case for why they’re so great in the first place.
Really at the end of the day, Ms. O’Leary is saying people are ‘ultra fems’ (I do love this term, and hope that she won’t mind me nicking it for my own purposes in future) are out of control because they dare to criticise. ‘Critical’ is a very loaded word when it comes to women. All their lives women are cautioned against being a shrew or a nag, or being too loud. Being ‘Critical’ is kind of code for ‘being a bitch’ or ‘thinking too much into these things.’ But when you really examine feminist theory- And I mean get a cup of tea, a pack of biscuits and really sit down to get to grips with it- you’ll find a multitude of voices.
It’s not a monolithic structure with ONE opinion, that opinion being CRUSH THE MEN. There are actually lots of ideas and opinions about lots of things- about body image and policing, about gender roles, about Trans women, about race, about class- and yes, some of these theses don’t include a disclaimer that says ‘by the way we recognise that men aren’t all pigs, some of them are rad.’ That goes without saying. You’re not going to get much out of feminism if you just read The Second Sex and How to be a woman then dust off your hands and declare it all a bit of a faff (although I do recommend reading both as an excellent articulation of basic theory and a silly but enjoyable memoir respectively). If you look at the wealth of feminist literature out there- From the big guns of the 70s like Greer and Dworkin right through to the bloggers and activists of today, you’ll see a lot of variety and lot of discussion.
So yeah, I don’t think Ms O’Leary is, as she so elegantly put it ‘a cold-hearted bitch.’ I think she’s a little blinkered, possibly a bit sheltered to the wider field of feminist theory and activism. I think she probably forgets that she, like me, grew up in the age immediately prior to camera phones being carried by every person in Ireland connected constantly to twitter and Facebook. We both had our teens played out in relative, blissful privacy and all our moments of ill judgement or drunken revelry were carried out away from social media and only the stuff of mere rumour. I think in short that she’s being a little judgemental in writing a piece that writes off an entire field of critical thought as going ‘a bit too far’.
Sorry if you were expecting me to smash a table or scream ‘INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY’ at you for a few paragraphs. That’s not how the Ultra Femmo rolls.
Niamh ‘Battle cry of the Ultra Femmo’ Keoghan
I have an illness that’s stuck on shop demo. Since last Thursday I have had a sore throat, fever, dizziness, nausea, motherfucking partial blindness, aches and pains, shivers, cold sweats, a chesty cough and a congested nose. I haven’t been able to do much except lie in my bed, cry and occasionally roll over and beg for someone to make me tea.
Obviously in this state, I haven’t been able to write anything so it’s lucky for me that I had a guest writer lined up! This Blog all about why Feminism facilitates rather than impedes people getting laid is all the more relevant now considering the recent totally rational backlash to feminist ideas surrounding consent, masculinity and sexuality. We seem to be in a bit of a series at the moment, discussing why feminism is not at all anti man or anti sex. Of course, seeing as my own sexual activity is a bit limited, I thought I should call in the services of someone with a bit more experience in the matter.
Our Guest Blogger is a noted sex positive feminist, erotic writer and enjoyer of sex who very kindly sent me on this post explaining how by furthering the cause of feminism, you are likely to get laid a lot more.
Hello, lovely readers of BHT! It’s very exciting be here, talking to you, hoping I might be able to entertain you for a few hundred words.
I’ve had too many conversations with straight horny college boys [henceforth SHCBs] – and read about too many other conversation with SHCBs – who complain about feminism in one breath and complain about not getting laid as often as they’d like in the next. Anti-feminist SHCBs probably don’t make up a huge percentage of this blog’s (lovely, charming, intelligent, sexy) readership, but if there are any lurking – and for the amusement of the rest of you – I would like to offer up a primer on why SHCBs should like and indeed vocally support feminism.
[Note for all the already-feminists: all of the things I’m talking about have vastly huger consequences for women than they do for SHCBs, obviously, and please don’t think I’m trivialising that. But “what about the menz?!!?” is a frequent if stupid complaint and “the world doesn’t in fact revolve around you” is a fact some SHCBs struggle to understand. So here’s an alternative response.]
FEMINISM GETS YOU LAID MORE
Reason #1: Feminism makes it safer for us to respond to you hitting on us (and for us to hit on you)
There’s no cute way of putting it: if I flirt with someone at a party, decide I’m not interested, and then later on they rape me, there is a 5% chance that person will ever be convicted. There is a pretty decent chance that anything I say about their actions won’t be believed, and if they boast about getting with me, their friends will congratulate them.
This kind of puts me off flirting with people at parties.
Anti-feminist SHCBs complain – frequently – about women falsely alleging rape. But believing and supporting rape victims, as well as squashing anyone who says things like “a no is just a yes that needs some persuasion” or catchier, rhymier versions of that complete bullshit, is a great way to reduce the number of rapes. If “rape” is eliminated as a possible outcome of “hitting on cute SHCB” then I will be a whole lot more likely to ask SHCBs if I can buy them a drink.
Reason #2: Feminism does not like transactional sex
If I can buy them a drink? Me, a lady-type, buying a boy-type a drink? Isn’t that all back to front and terribly modern and think of the children etc?
By “transactional sex” I do not mean prostitution. I mean the faux-prostitution of “you buy me dinner, I give you a blow job.” Where sex is something that men want and women endure in exchange for something else.
This is not a good approach. I mean, I like having people buy me dinner because I am a poor student, but there’s no dinner/blow job causation here. Sex happens when both parties want sex, not when one party has spent the required amount of money. Maybe this doesn’t mean more sex, always. But it means sex where both people want to have sex because having sex is fun and enjoyable, not because stuff has been bought. Isn’t that way better? And less expensive?
Reason #3: Feminism does like contraceptive choice
You know what else is expensive? A baby.
If having a baby was a possible consequence of having someone put their penis in my vagina – if I could not get condoms in every corner shop and my preferred brand of the pill for €10/month and the morning after pill for €40 and if all that lot fails then an abortion an affordable Ryanair flight away – if all of that did not exist, I would not be letting anyone put a penis in my vagina. I probably wouldn’t let anyone put a penis near my vagina. I would probably start exclusively dating ladies, in case the proximity of a penis tempted me.
Really, “an abortion an affordable Ryanair flight away” is not good enough (I am lucky enough to be able a) to afford it and b) to be an EU citizen and thus able to come and go as I please – there are a lot of women in Ireland not in that situation), but it has been a long, hard, feminist struggle for all the rest of it as well. Wanting to put your penis in a vagina while wanting to restrict what the vagina-haver does with the consequences of that penis-putting is… my kindest option here is “optimistic.”
Reason #4: Feminism does not like body policing
SHCBs, hands up if you fancy this hypothetical woman: size 8, tallish, able-bodied, white, DD boobs, blonde hair down to her nipples, mostly hairless below the neck, no stretch marks, spots or general standard-issue crinkly bits.
That’s OK, I think she could be hot too.
Now take your hands down if you would sleep with a woman who did NOT match that description.
I really hope there aren’t any hypothetical hands staying up. If there are, lads, I have news for you, you’re not going to get laid very often.
Our culture is really good at making women who don’t match up to all or most of those criteria feel shitty about themselves. That sort of feeling shitty about themselves that results in “No sex with the lights on in case he sees my crinkly bits” or “I’d love a shag, but I haven’t shaved my legs in a couple of days so I told my SHCB that I was busy tonight.” This is colossally sucky for all concerned. Obviously body policing occurs for men too. But the amount of things on their bodies that women are supposed to care about – and feel insecure about – is ridiculous. SHCBs, when you say that women with armpit hair are gross, 1) you’re shitty human beings but 2) consider how much your boner would actually care.
Reason #5: Feminism does not like slut-shaming
“Why won’t any of these disgusting dirty sluts sleep with me?!”
This one should be self-evident. If someone will think less of me for sleeping with them, I am not going to sleep with them. If someone is going to insult me for sleeping with them, I am not going to sleep with them. If someone is going to mock me with their mates for sleeping with them, I am not going to sleep with them.
I’m kind of a slut. I use slut to mean “person who has a lot of sex” and I use it in a neutral/positive way. But I don’t fuck anyone who uses it in a negative way. Because I only sleep with people who like me, and someone who casts a moral or social judgement on women who have a lot of sex does not like me.
You know, I could go on. If the average woman didn’t have to work 13.9% longer to earn the same amount as the average man, maybe she would have more average time to have some average sex with him. Maybe I would have been having sex with SHCBs more often this past year if I hadn’t needed to go on so many sodding marches for the sake of basic bodily autonomy! Sex with SHCBs is a LOT more fun than standing in the rain chanting “never again,” but I direct you to reason #3. There are a whole load more things I could list here, but frankly rewriting feminism as a movement to get SHCBs laid more becomes depressing if you keep it up for too long.
Feminism! Good for women, good for horny college boys who want to get laid more often. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming. Over and out.
Niamh ‘I’m Niamh Keoghan and I approve this message’ Keoghan
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
RTÉ are hilarious. An entire hour or so was dedicated to his Popiness calling it off- personally, I think he should be made carry this papacy to term (Joke courtesy of @emjb but too good not to include here) and understand that if he didn’t want to be a pope, then he shouldn’t have become a priest in the first place. I mean, I’m not trying to be judgemental, I support his decision, but you know… I still judge him. Anyone with a bit of life experience would
But yeah, I find myself not able to wring much comedy out of the Pope resigning. I did try. I made a cup of coffee and sat down at the computer to make some LOLZ about his special pope chair and the special pope hat that makes him infallible as long as he’s in the chair and has the hat on, the dresses, the fact that he looks like emperor palpatine, his German-ness, and I tried to write a long thesis on why I should be crowned the Ultra pope- I’d be fifty feet tall like a power rangers bad guy and stamp on St Peters- but all my efforts at humour fell flat.
Irish people have been pretty playful about the papacy thing, as we always are about matters of the catholic church; that kind of self deprecating, eye rolling father ted style ‘sure where would you be without it’ kind of humour. I think the main reason Father Ted is watchable is because it is brutally satirical- pointing out the hypocrisy of the 1990s catholic church. It was from an era just prior to the Ryan report and the really massive child rape scandals, so I’m not sure how it would look if it was made today.
But I can’t make lolz out of the pope, because the Catholic Church is, to me, just too screwed up an institution. I can’t laugh about the silly hats and the robes and the cardinals having a piss up when just last week I found out the state I’m a citizen of was complicit in the slavery of thousands of women over 70 years at the hands of religious orders. Just three years ago my best friend spoke up in a religion class to question our male religion teacher on the very obvious bias against abortion in the lesson we were having on morality. When I was seventeen the speaker who came to talk to us about ‘the facts of life’ dropped her voice in the middle of a presentation about the rhythm method of contraception and told us ‘girls, I used this method, and I have three children, so just… consider that.’ It’s an institution in Ireland that consistently discouraged me from being loud, from having opinions, from having agency. Look even now, I’m trying to be light hearted and I can’t! I need a different topic.
It’s Richard III I feel the worst for, you know. You spend five hundred years under ground after your grisly murder (in Leicester no less). Then some young upstart named Will Shakespeare writes a play that solidifies you as only the baddest mother fucker who ever walked the earth and you go down in history as a twisted crazy tyrant, and then worst of all, someone builds a carpark on top of you. A carpark for a tesco, no less. I can think of no worse a humiliation than to have my resting place disturbed by a budget supermarket chain. If all this wasn’t bad enough only a few days later the horse meat scandal properly broke and twitter, the papers and everyone else had a new story to wring lolz out of. THEN Beyonce blew up the super bowl. THEN the Pope announced he was resigning. Jesus, there was so much. If there is a god and he is planning this shit, last week definitely proves he on the side of the satirists. Maybe God is actually just a celestial Alan Bennett. Think of all the horses that were technically in that tesco next to Richard III all along. All he needed to do was test for them.
Niamh ‘The Pope can’t handle me’ Keoghan
You know, I’ve been at this for a few months, and consensus seems to be that I’m pretty…. ‘Honest.’ Yeah, I get told I’m ‘honest’ a lot. A few people have seemed a bit uncomfortable with the amount that I share, and I’m kind of surprised about that. Really? I didn’t realise I shared *that* much. I certainly find it really difficult to talk about things that I actually am a bit insecure about- I’ve chickened out on pieces about my body image, self loathing and depression, not to mention today’s topic, periods. I think I’ve tried to write this about five times, with varying slants and approaches. Here is my big confessional; everything you ever wanted to know about periods.
I will never get those purple pants back
It was actually 10 years ago that I got my first period. I was 10, which is pretty young. In fairness to younger me, who I often chastise for being a melodramatic, uneasy girl, I took it like a total pro. After the initial shock of my mother explaining it to me, calmly and carefully in our kitchen, eyes darting to the door to make sure my younger brother wasn’t ear wigging, that for the next 40 years, I’d start bleeding for a week, and not to be scared or upset when it started. A few months later, I started getting tummy aches- the very first cramps that have since become the routine of my month.
I do have a distinct memory from the night before it started, getting into bed thinking ‘I reckon it’ll start tonight.’ and sure enough, when I woke up, I felt an unpleasant wetness in my pyjamas, and wriggled my pants down to investigate. The first time you see the stain, it’s quite visceral. It was dark, rich, and had soaked a circular patch into my purple underpants. I stared at it for a minute, feeling a bit dizzy. It was a Friday morning, around 6AM. I was too shy to say ‘I got my period’ to my mother, so I went downstairs in my pyjamas clutching the stained pants in my hand, and showed her.
All in all, it wasn’t too bad. Mam showed me where the pads lived (she’d already explained how they worked so I was a total pro with the wings) and then, after some hesitation gave me the day off school. I sat in my pyjamas watching cartoons eating cereal. I didn’t have any of the later cramps, emotions or unpleasantness that my period would bring along with it. The next I thought about it was the next week, when my granny took my hand as we walked home from school. ‘Your mammy tells me you’ve joined the ranks of womanhood’ she says pointedly.
‘Eh, yeah, I guess I did.’ I reply primly.
My period is not dirty
Girls, can we all stand on our chairs (or in my case, my bed, where I’m typing from) and say out loud ‘Periods are not dirty’? Because they aren’t- not really, they’re a bit messy and can smell, but they’re not infectious or liable to make you ill upon contact with another period-haver. It’s a fallacy I often see- People comparing Menstruation to pooing or weeing. In reality apart from taking place nearby where pooing and weeing occur, periods are nothing like it. Mostly I hear men make this comparison- ‘You’d be grossed out if I talked about having a shit, wouldn’t you?’ This ignores two things-
1-I live with brothers, and therefore hear men talk about poo all the time [So much that I got into the habit of announcing ‘I have to pee’ when in company, which is very embarrassing.] It is so much more common to see jokes about it in media too- There are poop jokes all over TV; when’s the last time you saw a period joke on a kid’s show?
2- There is nothing like a period. Okay, men, let’s get this out of the way. I will never ever know what it’s like to be kicked in the nuts, but I accept it bloody hurts. In the same vein, you won’t ever really know what it’s like to bleed for a week and not die. Menstruation is a common experience, but not a universal one- Some women have them, some don’t, and men never will.
On the whole, I’ve always maintained that the things we use to hide the fact that we’re menstruating are the real dirty things here. On it’s own, period blood is at it’s most offensive, slightly smelly and scary looking (The first time there were clots in mine, I actually had to have a little cry at how horrifying my body was being). But I will attest that the smell of an over flowing bin of disposed soiled sanitary products smells SO MUCH worse. The smell of old sanitary pad is overpoweringly bad. Tampons have the even more horrifying side effect of potentially poisoning you.
The worst thing I ever heard when I was at school
Because I was a bit young donning my menstruation sombrero, I was already having them for a year before we got ‘the talk’ about hygiene when we were in school. Mam had mentioned tampons to me, but didn’t really explain much about them beyond ‘they go in you, and they’re a bit harder to use until you’re older.’ So I didn’t really know anything about them. It was during this talk which included mild mannered things like ‘remember to wipe and freshen up when you’ve had a wee’ I learned about tampons and toxic shock syndrome.
Basically it’s the worst fucking buzz ever. Tampons are coated in bleach and then put into hard plastic applicators that you jam into yourself for up to four hours. They dry your vagina out by absorbing the fuck out of everything in there- blood, mucus, general vagina-fluids doing their vagina-fluid job, stopping you being dry. They are COATED in BLEACH. The lady explained how they can’t get ‘lost’ up there (A sincere worry of 12 year old pre-menstrual girls. Actually hell, I was worried about that until I was 16) and in the same breath, cautioned that if left in for too long, You could go into septic shock and be poisoned by your own rancid sanitary product.
I could not deal with this information. I could die? If I forgot about a cotton bud? I have let PLANTS sitting on my desk right next to me wither from lack of water. My Chia pet died because I forgot to replace the water! How can I be expected to remember to remove things! Oh dear god! Basically everything about it scared me so badly that I can’t look at tampons without getting very upset indeed.
I got cramps in my back and I ain’t afraid to show it, show it, show it.
I really, really hate it when people blame my hormones for making me emotional and cranky. Like, again, this is something I don’t think guys generally understand. Maybe I’m totally wrong in saying this but in general guys don’t have to deal with massive shifts in their hormone levels on a monthly (sometimes weekly) basis. It affects all women differently. Everyone has their own crazy unhappy side effects to periods. Mine began to emerge around the age of 14- for the first three years, I was too busy dealing with the irregular pattern and getting used to the sight of blood to really notice anything else, but it started to get bad.
Mam had knowingly never told me that periods can make you moody and irrational, thinking that I’d use it as an excuse to be bitchy. But it came anyway, a horrible wave of anxiety and depression. I’m prone to excess anxiety anyway, and I go on highs and lows all the time, but nothing like the dark places I go to when I’m on the rag. For a while when I was very overweight, the dark days got so bad that I was genuinely worried about some of my thoughts. Adding to this problem was the pain.
Oh my god. I don’t like to think of myself as a mimsy- I soldier on when I feel sick, or at least I try to. It’s hard to describe the pain because I’m so accustomed to the sensation now. Firstly, imagine feeling constipated. Then add a gnawing, constant, hot pain in your lower back. then tense every muscle in your lower body and stomach. That’s sort of what it feels like. To be frank for a moment, period cramps are basically the uterus contracting and pushing out the old lining, and it fucking hurts. Other women I know vomit, and others just get weepy or angry, but those are my things. I get anxious, sore and deeply depressed.
I live tweet my Codeine high
The pains got so severe that basic paracetamol wasn’t helping at all, so we went to the chemist for something a bit more specialist. We were pointed in the direction of feminex, a pink-boxed painkiller designed to get at cramps. Does anyone else find the packaging of ‘woman pain killers’ in pink boxes a bit brilliant? I love the campy neon pink of panadol woman, gender norms be dammed. That’s what box I want my meds to come in. Anyway, Feminex is a fucking trip- Codeine, caffeine and the stern advice not to become addicted.
I was like a fairy. It took the pain away, but also left me with a nervous, drunken high. My heart was racing from the caffeine and my head was light from codeine. I wrote some amusingly out there facebook posts, tweeted my hysteria and then crashed, sleeping for 15 hours. I did the same basic routine every time I had a bad period. I still have the box of Feminex somewhere, but I stick to Panadol woman now. I get a bit too happy on Feminex. It’s a trip.
The absolute worst thing I ever learned was that the best natural painkiller for cramps is in fact orgasm. It completely un-clenches tensed muscles and gives you a rush of happy hormones. I will never, ever forgive the universe for designing me with the ability to remove this pain by doing the one thing I really don’t feel like doing at that time.
I am sorry I am so obsessed with my period you guys
And so considering this- that it’s a monthly source of pain both emotional and physical- I hope it’s easier to understand why I go on about it so much. I mean, all the effort that goes into concealing it is ludicrous. Jokes about menstruation are still considered really far out unless they’re jokes about women being all irrational and weepy on their periods, which I point out kind of dis empowers them. You never see jokes about menstrual blood, or cramps, really. People still bristle unhappily when periods are mentioned, even in passing.
I try to be really super delicate when I talk about them- well, not here, but in company. In company, I call it ‘lady pains’, trying to avoid even the mention of the C word. It can’t be a thing of horror for me anymore. It never has been, really. Since the age of 11, I haven’t the luxury of being grossed out. I, like a good deal of women, just have to get on with it. I have to get on with the maintenance and the smells and the countless pairs of nice pants ruined by bloodstains that never really wash out, no matter how much cold water you rinse with.
So that’s the deal. If I have to live the next 30 years bleeding once a week, I’m allowed crack jokes about it. It’s my little way of taking control and agency over myself. It’s uncomfortable and at times difficult to keep in line, but it’s my body. I’m genuinely sorry if that makes people uncomfortable, or if it’s being too honest. So yes, ladies. Everyone up on their chair/bed/ottoman
‘We all got periods, yo!’ Say loud n’ proud.
Niamh ‘I bleed out my vagina and y’all gotta deal with that’ Keoghan
Bank Holiday Tuesday, originally published on The Student Standard. In it, I try to get people to stop discussing body hair, ironically by discussing body hair.
The Student Standard is NUI Maynooth’s independent News site
Much has been said about hair and women. Much of it, my friends, is bullshit. Even my icon and all around hilarious person Caitlin Moran gets a bit… weird about the subject of hair and what you do with it. It’s a debate up there with ‘what do you do when a man holds open the door’ in terms of silly things us white middle class feminists have to worry about. So what’s the deal with hair? Women shave, wax, veet, bleach and outright burn that shit off with electrolysis. What’s the right standpoint to take on all this grooming and pruning? What am I as a strident young feminist and empowered lady to do about leg, underarm, and facial hair? In honour of Movember, a month-long love letter to dodgy facial hair, I examine this topic.
Some will tell you you must exorcise ALL HAIR from any place it might crop up that is not held exclusively on your scalp. These are, to use the polite term, complete nutters. They are your lasering-the-nethers, bleaching-the-upper-lip, red-rash-of-death people that police their bodily hair vigilantly. They’ here meaning women’s magazines, beauty tips websites and that monolith of neurotic ironic feminist porn, COSMO. This is one end of the extreme and yeah, it’s pretty bizarre to me. That anyone could expect me to maintain that level of grooming all over my body is a bit… nuts. I mean, The height of ‘making an effort’ for me is putting on a bit of eyeshadow and maybe painting my nails. I’m just not bothered doing it. I personally feel more comfortable with a curl of arm hair here, a shock of fur there. That’s just me though.
On the other end of the scale, you get people who say never get rid of hair ANYWHERE. DON’T TOUCH THOSE ARMPITS. LEAVE YOUR LEGS ALONE. I can see the validity of this. I like the defiant middle finger getting stuck to normative ideas of what a woman should look like. I myself mightily enjoy not having to spend money waxing my vagina and I’m perfectly happy to let a forest cultivate there. But in the end is telling a woman ‘don’t do this to your body’ liberating her in any way? This is the difficulty I have with it. I think piercings are weird and freaky, I wouldn’t get one myself. But am I really going to approach another woman and tell her ‘do not do this thing you have decided as an adult to do’? No!
When I asked Facebook the question of body hair, a friend commented that body hair and what she does with it is an area ‘I most wish popular culture would keep out of.’ that’s the bottom line here, I think. Magazines, stop shaming ladies for being hairy. Hairy ladies, don’t shame your sisters if they want to be not hairy. Do men have to worry about this shit? Certainly not- they just shave every morning and be done with it. It’s cool if they want to have a beard or be clean shaven. I wax my facial hair – a layer of white blond bristly hairs that cover my chin and get itchy and annoying. So I get rid of them because I want to and they annoy me. Nobody in the last 8 or so years has commented on my facial hair; it is entirely for me and my grooming. I don’t shave my legs because black tights hide all sins and who is honestly bothered but on the other paw, my other friend said of waxing her downstairs ‘sometimes it’s nice to have a breeze down there.’
I once got word of a woman who, in solidarity with her partner’s Movember ‘stache, stopped shaving altogether for the duration of the month. After posting this on Facebook, a man commented that he’d rather get testicular cancer than sleep with a hairy woman. That’s bullshit. It is also bullshit for Caitlin Moran to call out women for waxing their nethers. Much as I admire CatMo, you can’t tell women waxing down there is ‘wrong’ somehow. All that’s ‘wrong’ is someone telling a woman how what she has to do to herself to feel ‘normal.’ Caitlin Moran (if you happen to be reading this CatMo, I love you, I respect you as a writer) slagging off women for waxing down there is as bad as a jerk slagging off women for being hairy. In both cases it’s imposing what you think is right on someone’s body. That don’t fly with me.
This is totally one of those issues we just need not talk about. It’s nobody’s business what you do with your body. A mean boyfriend shouldn’t tell you to wax yourself when you don’t want to and a friend shouldn’t feel entitled to shame you when you want to get waxed. It’s all what you want to do. There are plenty of places I love having hair- I am immensely proud of my magnificent sideburns. They are a better effort than most men could muster. When I tie back my hair they are a sight to behold. I like have bushy eyebrows, and hairy legs. I don’t like having hair under my arms or on my chin. It’s my decision to remove the hair from these places. Having autonomy over your own body works both ways. Nobody tells you what to do. It’s the bias seems to tip in favour of non-hairy ladies in pop culture, but women, take solace in this. Do whatever you like. Pierce your ear and ring a charm bracelet through that sucker, shave your hair off and get ‘CUNT LIFE’ tattooed on your scalp, be skinny, be curvy, have hair, don’t have hair – do what YOU want to do to feel comfortable and good looking. And everyone else can just get out of your pants about it.
Niamh ‘Everyone shut up now please’ Keoghan