Today in Irish Patriarchy

Standard

Three news stories that dominated my newsfeeds today show just how far Irish society has to go before it can dismantle the patriarchy that still runs through this place like letters through a stick of rock.

The last few days have seen a shameful outpouring of online misogyny following the uploading of the Slane photo. A young woman has been slut-shamed and subjected to unbelievably vile abuse by dozens of strangers, much to detriment of her own mental health. I’ve already expressed my thoughts on this here, so I’m don’t have much left to say on the subject, other than express my utter disgust and contempt at the fact that in this day and age, a young girl needs to be hospitalised for being seen as somehow less than human.

The second story is that of the 17-year-old girl who took a sexual harassment case against her former employers. The girl was subjected to a horrendous levels of sexual harassment:

She started work in June 2008 and was told not to speak to her mother, who worked in the same Dublin store. She alleged that two supervisors started making inappropriate sexual remarks to her.

They told her: “You are only letting on to be a little Virgin Mary to your mammy, we know what you really are,” and: “You are nothing but a little hypocrite, you little Virgin Mary.”

She alleged that the two supervisors taunted her at work by asking whether she was a virgin and whether or not she was performing oral sex. They also told her mother that her daughter would come home pregnant from her holidays.

This story of male sexual entitlement, intimidation and misogyny is sadly all too common in Irish workplaces.

The concurrence of the Slane story and the “Virgin Mary” store also is a perfect illustration of the bullshit virgin/whore dichotomy, a girl can only be a dirty slut or a frigid prude, but in neither case is deserving of any respect. 

The final story that made my blood boil today was that of a UL student, Úna Roddy, who was refused the pill by her family doctor.  The paternalistic attitude of the doctor was enraging, but sadly unsurprising. 

Dr X began by assuming I had a boyfriend if I wanted to go on the pill, when in fact my relationship status is none of his business or anybody else’s. He didn’t seem to understand the fact that this is the 21st century and my contraception and my relationship status are two completely unrelated things. He then went on to declare that “co habiting” (he made little quotation marks with his hands) couples had a higher rate of break ups than married couples. He also threw in the fact that ‘fellas’ often experience so much they don’t know what to settle for. Aside from the fact that I’m not something to settle for, it really didn’t seem to register that I was having sex because I wanted to – not because my imaginary boyfriend did.

That this kind of archaic moralism can trump a woman’s right to self-determination and bodily autonomy is utterly depressing and an affront to us all. 

Why, in TWENTY FUCKING THIRTEEN is a hashtag like #slanegirlsolidarity still necessary? Why can’t a woman do a day’s work without being harassed? Why can’t a young woman avail of basic healthcare without being lectured and patronised? The answer is simple folks-patriarchy. 

Patriarchy. Misogyny. These aren’t swear words, folks. Recognise them for what they are, and don’t let anyone dare tell you that feminism is no longer necessary.

 

 

Advertisements

A Summer of Shaming

Standard

Content Note: misogyny, slut shaming

Sometimes, I get complacent and think that Irish society has progressed. Sometimes I think that we have moved on, and dispensed with the old hang-ups about sex and sexuality, women’s sexuality in particular. However, a couple of events that unfolded over the last few weeks have reminded me that the reality, sadly, is otherwise.

The most recent incident,  the one that motivated me to write this blog, is the circulation of the so-called ‘Slane girl’ photo. The photo, which features a young woman performing oral sex, supposedly taken at the Eminem gig at Slane, appeared on social media on Sunday, accompanied with slut-shaming commentary, to the tune of “Her parents must be so proud”. With depressing predictability, most of the negative comments were directed at the girl, not the male recipient, and, tellingly, little ire was directed at the people who disseminated the photo for no ostensible reason other than humiliating its subjects for a few cheap laughs. A notable example was this misogynistic shit-bit from FM104 presenter Jeremy Dixon. Whatever your views are about the nature of the act in question, the publication of this image and the online fallout is a damning indictment of certain sectors of Irish society -cruel, immature and misogynistic. Many people I follow on Twitter (who I’m relieved to say were mostly sympathetic to the girl’s plight) commented on the youth of the participants, and warned that what we are dealing with here is child porn. This may well be the case, and if so, the “photographers”, and every single person who shared the photo are complicit in a child sexual abuse crime, all in the name of demeaning a young woman for a bit of late summer entertainment.

Earlier in the summer, another supposed scandal of a sexual nature blew up on the internet. A woman allegedly engaged in a threesome with two Irish rugby players, and was forced to temporarily leave the country as she was subjected to a deluge of vitriolic abuse online as content of a private conversation disclosing the identities of the participants went public. The bile she received, much like the girl in the Slane photo, was misogynistic in nature. The Sunday Independent revelled in the non-controversy, carrying the story an incredible four weeks in a row, one occasion carrying a typically eye-rolling admonishing piece by Eilis O’ Hanlon for good measure. In a particularly galling move , PR consultant Max Clifford offered his two cents, essentially placing responsibility solely at the woman’s doorstep.

Ugly as both episodes were, they were instructive as to the attitudes that are still prevalent in Irish society. Women are still shamed for their sexual choices, whereas the part that the men play in sexual encounters that capture public attention is either overlooked or lauded. It is, to some minds, inconceivable that a woman could possibly want to engage in some frivolous sex, commitment-free sex and move on with their lives the next day. Our radio friend’s tweet may have been repulsive, but it was revealing-this behaviour is not seen as womanly. The lack of empathy with the young women at the centre of these controversies is dismaying; their online notoriety is seen as just desserts for their actions.

Another implication that frequently popped up was that these girls had no “self-respect”. This is a baseless claim that only truly makes sense if you believe that a woman’s self worth is tied in entirely with her sexuality, and the amount of sexual experience she has. Do I think that a woman who has lots of sex can also have self respect? Absolutely! This can be further enabled by establishing a consent culture and implementing effective sex education, so people can be empowered to explore their sexuality in a safe manner, free from coercion. We also have to recognise this moralising over women’s bedroom exploits for what it is-old fashioned sexism and misogyny.

One Night Stands-an antidote to the College Times

Standard

TW: misogyny and rape culture

Everyone is by now familiar with that College Times piece. It  seems to have disappeared from the site, with this inept nonpology in its place, although this Journal.ie piece gives a good flavour of the content, and there’s a screenshot here. The article is breathtaking in terms of its misogyny, and is steeped in rape culture.  It describes sex in terms of “predators” and “prey”, advocates sexual harassment, and advises the reader to get women inebriated in order to engage in (non-consensual) sex. The writer also suggests targeting a woman who has “low self-esteem and potential daddy issues”. This vile piece is indicative of so many horrible aspects of our culture-misogyny, rape culture, lack of respect for personal autonomy and slut-shaming.

First of all, let’s call sex with a person who is so intoxicated they are unable to give their consent what it is-rape. Non consensual sex is rape-period. That the College Times is selling this as some kind playful “lad bantz” is appallingly irresponsible and dangerous.

The article also reifies horrible, problematic tropes about women and sexuality. The notion of women as “prey” for men undermines our own bodily autonomy and sexual agency, not to mention being incredibly heteronormative. Also disturbing is the exhortation to seek out women with “low self-esteem and potential daddy issues”. I deeply resent the contention that if a woman enjoys no-strings sex she must (a) have low self-esteem (b) be somehow emotionally damaged.

As I’ve said multiple times, we in Ireland really need a sex-positive alternative to both pearl-clutching moralism & UniLad style “woarrgh, SMASH IT!” bullshit. Believe it or not, MOST WOMEN ENJOY SEX. Yes, despite what our bullshit, slut-shaming patriarchal Madonna/whore dichotomy culture dictates, some woman do like to have no strings attached sex with a hot guy or girl, and then move on with their lives afterwards.

Feminist objections to attitudes like the ones put forward in this article aren’t based on prudery, they’re based on a desire to establish respect for women’s autonomy, end rape culture and work towards equality. We need to develop a consent culture, where mutual respect for bodily autonomy is paramount. As Pervocracy writes,

I don’t want to limit it to sex.  A consent culture is one in which mutual consent is part of social life as well.

This is not about restricting people’s sex lives. This is absolutely not about putting your genitals in cold storage and joining some kind of enclosed religious order. If anything, restrictive sexual mores are what led to this situation in the first place. I want adults to be able to communicate like adults, as equals on a mutual footing. I want to end sexual stigma. As I said in a Twitter conversation earlier today, I want a culture where women carrying condoms on a night out is considered as normal as carrying lip balm.

So, to finish I’m going to offer some one-night stand advice for humans?

  • Find someone attractive that you want to have sex with.
  • Make sure that you communicate with them *exactly* what you want, and that they are cool with it.
  • Remember, consent is an ongoing practice. Be sure that they are clear and firmly comfortable with what is happening every step of the way.
  • Go forth and have sexy sex!