If it’s not your identity, it’s your privilege

It’s funny when a straight, white man denounces the three-word descriptor as unfair because those are not the words he would personally choose to describe himself. Talk about missing the point – or helping to hammer it home. That’s exactly what privilege is: the identities that are so deeply accepted as societal norms that they become invisible. I didn’t grow up introducing myself as a straight, white, middle class person either. Why would I? Nine out of ten of my friends ticked all those boxes too. Woman, though – I describe myself as that on the regular. People who take issue with identity politics tend not to like the way we use the word ‘privilege’. I’d be happy to use a different word; I just don’t know of one that...

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Police brutality and punching down

I was standing in the airport security queue at Heathrow Airport when a group of middle-aged women started laughing, indiscreetly, at a trans woman just in front of me in the queue; and I wanted to say something, yet I didn’t want to cause a scene, didn’t want to make the experience any worse for the woman in front of me than it already was. Then we approached the security belt and staff started laughing and pointing, even less discreetly than the women had done, and I couldn’t contain the rage. I ended up telling them off; I ended up in tears, shaking. The woman informed me that she was fine – this was her everyday life, after all. She was used to it. With hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t the security staff that broke me. With...

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Why have kids if you don’t want to spend time with them?

A few days ago, I snapped at a friend I haven’t spoken to in years. It was on Facebook, which I guess just makes it less surprising and more pathetic, but anyway, I did*. She put up an article entitled ‘Why have kids if you don’t want to spend time with them?’ and I thought ‘finally a piece that rips that stupid question to threads!’ and clicked on it. But the article did no such thing; it was just another entitled article describing the selfish behaviour of parents who put themselves first sometimes, who want ‘me time’, who don’t cherish every moment with their children enough. It’s worth talking about the choices we make and how they impact on our children. Actually, it’s crucial that we do. It’s important that...

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Down Syndrome, reproductive choices and the need for a social welfare state

On January 2nd, the Irish Times reported that Irish women have been advised to start having babies younger. The contextual hypocrisy aside (think housing crisis, sky-high childcare costs, poorly paid graduate jobs – the list goes on), one aspect of the story jumped out: Dr. Fishel, of a Dublin IVF fertility clinic, said that Down Syndrome occurs in one of 700 pregnancies in women aged 32, while the same figure for women ten years older is one in 67, and 70-80% of a 40-year-old woman’s eggs have a chromosomal abnormality. Why it’s important? Because Irish women aren’t having enough babies to keep society going with our ageing population. We need to keep producing healthy, productive sprogs. Last weekend, Down Syndrome appeared in...

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Normalising hate speech – on John Berger, the Irish Times, and the recontextualisation of meanings

I watched the first episode of Ways of Seeing, the BBC John Berger mini-series from 1972, last night. Explaining how images are given new meanings in different contexts, carrying ideological biases depending on their presentation and contextualisation, Berger ends the episode with a warning: “But remember that I am controlling, and using for my own purposes, the means of reproduction needed for these programmes. The images may be like words – but there is no dialogue yet. You cannot reply to me. […] You receive images and meanings, which are arranged. I hope you will consider what I arrange – but be sceptical of it.” The alt-right article and glossary* by Nicholas Pell published yesterday in the Irish Times has been called many...

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A feminist childcare model – and mammies doing it wrong

“Children of working mothers have better social and everyday skills,” read an Irish Times headline last week. A few days later, The Guardian reported on another study suggesting that mothers should spend as much time with their children as they can afford, and went with the headline “Child’s cognitive skills linked to time spent with mother”. Such is the game of pitting mothers against each other: you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. This of course is nothing new; the stream of new studies seems never-ending, and media loves reporting on them – likely because new mothers never fail to fall for the clickbait, desperate for some sort of evidence that they’re doing something right in this most difficult job...

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On ‘whataboutery’, echo chambers, freedom of speech and playing the devil’s advocate – or: Why can’t we all just get along?

As someone who is regularly accused of hiding in an echo chamber of angry feminists patting each other on the back, I thought I’d write to those of you who accuse me of that, who think that I’m not doing feminism right. If you’ve ever thought that I’ve been too angry, that I’ve been wrong to disengage myself from a discussion, that I’ve overreacted to a seemingly innocent statement, that I haven’t tried hard enough to convince the other side – this is for you. Please read it. First of all, I want to highlight that all of the below has been written about beautifully and powerfully and poignantly many times before; but that’s the thing with the echo chamber, isn’t it, that those important articles may well have hit a wall...

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On The Niall Boylan Show and getting ignorant answers to ignorant questions

Is the general public “right to be angry at the sense of entitlement” of a homeless, pregnant mother-of-two in temporary hotel accommodation? asked The Niall Boylan Show on Facebook the other day. Linking to screen grabs of a journal.ie article about the woman and a selection of comments on the same, the radio show noted that Laura from Cork was “not getting a huge amount of sympathetic thumbs up” on the site. Cue the radio show’s Facebook fans telling Laura to “close [her] fucking fanny”, stop having more kids and start looking after the ones she already has, get a job, and start paying for a living. Her “sense of entitlement”, of course, is never questioned – that’s already been established by the question...

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On reproductive justice, the failures of neoliberalism, and why ‘choice’ is complicated

It’s a funny one, the word ‘choice’. I spend so much of my time promoting it, explaining it, demanding it – yet whenever I stop to really think about it, I realise that it’s a word I’d much prefer not to have to embrace. For as long as laissez-faire or economic liberalism has existed, ‘choice’ has been one of its most important buzzwords, second only to ‘freedom’. In fact, the Swedes, keen on optimising language to become its most functional and least wasteful, would talk about a combination of the two: ‘valfrihet’ – freedom of choice. In the name of freedom of choice, neoliberalism has torn down many a welfare state in the hope that the free market, as an invisible hand, would bring us all greater utility by way...

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I oppose irresponsible programming – not free speech

So The Late Late Show decided to book Katie Hopkins – British tabloid columnist, vocal Trump supporter and bigoted racist extraordinaire – to fly over from England to discuss the context and outcome of the US election. RTÉ received over 1,000 complaints in little over a day, but the complainants were quickly labelled smug and opposed to democratic, basic free speech, and accused of – wait for it – denying Hopkins a platform. Let’s be very clear about one thing: this has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with poor programming. “RTÉ, as the national public service broadcaster, shall reflect the democratic, social and cultural values of Irish society and the need to preserve media pluralism,” reads the...

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