The Year in Misogyny (Irish Edition)

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Content note: rape, violence against women, anti-choice rhetoric, misogyny

It’s that time of year when we’re all casting our minds back over the last 12 months and reflecting on the highs and lows, and what we’ve learned as we’ve gone along. I’ve been looking back at my bookmarks, blog posts and tumblr scribblings and have been struck by how depressingly far Irish society still has to go in terms of achieving equality. Here are (in no particular order) some examples of the misogyny that made women fume this year.

The Slane Girl Controversy: The last few days of summer were dominated by discussion of this infamous Slane photo. I wrote at the time about the horrible slut-shaming double standard at play here, as did others. On a more positive note, the #slanegirlsolidarity tag was flooded with messages of support, and ‘I’m Spartacus’ type statements from other women who could empathise with the girl’s plight. 

The Irish Justice System: It seemed that hardly a week went by in 2013 without reading about a case of violence against women or girls that saw the attacker walk free, or face minimal sanctions. One horrifying case that was heard in Ennis court back in November involved a man attacking a woman in her own home with a metal  bar, who would walk away a free man, despite admitting his guilt. One judge, Martin Nolan has attained quite a reputation for his handling of similar cases, as a quick browse of the depressing ”judge of the day” tag on broadsheet.ie will attest. An Cailin Rua wrote a masterful piece on this very topic that I urge you all to read.

Rape Culture: This entry and the previous one are interchangeable in many respects. Rape culture is a term used to describe how society creates a hostile environment for rape victims, and often engages in apologism for perpetrators. There were several examples that I could pluck from the Irish media in 2013, but none exemplifies rape culture more so than the case of John Murray, the former Lord Mayor of Cork, and the priest who hijacked a funeral to urge the congregation to offer prayers that he would be cleared of sexual assault charges. We see this scenario time and time again; a powerful or wealthy man commits a sexually violent crime, and everyone from the clergy to the judiciary to the general public leaps to their defence, emphasising their family status and reputation,  with little regard for the feelings of the victim.

Anti-choice Nastiness: The last year has seen the anti-choice movement sinking to lower and lower odious depths. Youth Defence, as ever, have been central to proceedings, with antics ranging from the utterly hideous (the truck in question was parked close to a rape crisis centre) to the surreal (via OireachtasRetort’s tumblr). As legislation became increasingly likely and abortion once again became the subject of increased public debate, a succession of campaigners and politicians appeared on current affairs shows and proceeded to show their asses. It was the year of “abortion mills” and other choice epithets, as exemplified by Peter Mathew’s now infamous appearance on Vincent Browne. Thankfully, some light relief came in the form of this beautifully observed anti-choice bingo card and the Tara Flynn sketch ‘Judge, Jury and Obstetrician’.  

Our Abortion Laws (still): Legislating for the X case finally became a reality this summer (only 21 years on) with the passing of  the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. However, for many advocates of reproductive rights, it was a somewhat bittersweet occasion, the horrific section 22,  which recommends a jail sentence of FOURTEEN YEARS for those who have terminations outside of the law and the fact that the bill simply does not go far enough. Irish people will still be travelling to the UK and elsewhere in their droves, and until the reprehensible Eighth Amendment is removed, nothing will change in a meaningful way.

We’ve come a long way, but it’s clear we have a long, long way to go. Ireland, do better in 2014.

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On the media and domestic violence

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Content note: domestic violence, victim blaming, fat shaming

At this point, everyone will be aware of the horrific photos of Nigella Lawson being attacked by her husband, Charles Saatchi. The response on my Twitter feed and blogs I regularly read was one of horror and revulsion, both at the abuse and the despicable human beings who saw fit to stand by and take photos rather than intervene. However, with depressing predictability, clueless “journalists” and commentators have been outdoing each other in terms of

In his column, The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade treated the matter as a private affair between a married couple, suggesting that was merely “deeply embarrassing for her and, even more so, for her husband.” Greenslade even saw fit to include a misogynistic, fat-shaming joke about “feeding frenzies”.

The Evening Standard, for its part, published an “exclusive” statement from Saatchi, uncritically reporting it as “a playful tiff”. Fucking hell, I knew that the Standard was a rag, but to GIVE A PLATFORM FOR AN ABUSER TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF WHEN HE SHOULD BE DOING SO TO POLICE? How vile. How utterly sickening and dismissive of violence toward women.

Perhaps the most vile media response I’ve seen was that of Dee Dee Dunleavy of Australian radio station 3AW693, who called for Nigella to “make a stand on domestic violence” if she wanted women to buy her books.

Wow.

So let me get this, straight, Dee Dee. Nigella Lawson is the victim of a violent abuser, and yet the onus is on *her* to be the bigger person here? Have you got the faintest clue what domestic violence is? Why are you letting Saatchi off the hook here?

This is victim blaming. This is misogyny.

Violence against women is at epidemic proportions. Every single week, women are dying at the hands of partners or former partners. In homes across the country, women are living in fear, and yet the response of the world at large seems to be somewhere between “Ah, leave them to it, it’s their business” and “Why doesn’t she just leave that bastard?” Both are equally wrong-headed and damaging, and yet the mainstream media are perpetuating this culture by their coverage of this topic.

As something of an antidote to this awfulness, I strongly recommend the following excellent reads:

Having A Domestic by Sarah for Fanny.ie

This piece by Roe McDermott, also at Fanny

An excellent piece by The Pervocracy, “Why Does She Stay With That jerk?” on why people stay with violent partners.