Today in Irish Patriarchy

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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.

 

 

Why Won’t They Leave Us Alone?

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Today, the discussion on my timeline has centred on two things; this excellent piece by the Irish Examiner’s Colette Browne, and this utterly repellent Kickstarter project, that dispenses advice on sexually abusing and harassing women in public masked as dating advice. 

In her article, Browne recounted situations that are sadly all too familiar to many of the women reading it, myself included. 

The time a man in a pub grabbed my hand and placed it on his crotch because he wanted me to feel his erection and “see what I had done to him”. The time I was on a deserted train carriage when a man, sitting opposite from me, began to masturbate. I stood up and got out at the next stop. There was the time I went to a friend’s house party and, having gone to sleep in a spare box room, woke up in the middle of the night to find a man in bed with me with his hand up my top.

 

As the post was shared, most of the men I follow reacted with horror, but for the women, the sentiment was slightly different; revulsion, yes, but also weariness and exasperation. 

Browne tweeted that this was the typical reaction. Many women said that they had had similar experiences, and regretted not doing anything about it at the time.

A particular incident that stands out for me occurred Arthur’s Day 2011, as I was shopping in Penneys in Galway. It was about 4.30 or 5, and I was queuing at the till. Two young guys, clearly already pretty obviously drunk, sidled up behind me, and one of them proceeded to grope my breast. From this remove, I’m frustrated with myself. I’m annoyed that I didn’t drop my purchases and dispense a swift kick to the balls to the little prick, or roar for security or DO ANYTHING, apart from standing rigid in the queue, silently paying and slinking off home. I’m incredibly introverted by nature; I’ll cross the road if I’m out for a walk and see a group of more than two coming in the opposite direction, so I’m averse to confrontation.

While that was an outstanding incidence, micro-aggressions occur on a regular basis while out in clubs or bars. I’ve had my arse groped countless times while in queues or ordering at bars. I’ve had my glasses pulled off and hair pieces, etc. grabbed at. I once had a man follow me and pull my hair when I refused to engage with him. A more minor irritation, but a particular bugbear of mine is being told to ‘smile’. Urgh. What do these men want, do they think that I’ve been put on this earth to greet their very presence with delight? That we should be permanently wearing rictus grins for their amusement? 

This events, these micro-aggressions take place time and time again, and virtually any women you talk to will recognise these scenarios. It seems that simply being out and about is an act of extreme audacity, and that this sleazy harassment is the tax we pay for it.

I’m tired of it.

These are our streets aswell.