How I cried my way to a free smear test

I started International Women’s Day by having a smear test. I guess in some twisted, far-fetched way, it is a form of self-care, after all. In many ways, today was far from an ideal day for me to do this thing – not because it’s International Women’s Day, but because it’s my monthly deadline in work, a day I when I’m responsible for quality checking in excess of 120 pages of printed content, all while responding in a reasonably diplomatic way to more or less concerned emails from a number of other people invested in the content of said 120-plus pages. This monthly deadline, needless to say, is typically preceded by two or three equally full-on days, causing me to enter what one could refer to as print-deadline mode – a...

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Angry in company

The question was posed many times in the past few months: What will we do with all this time when we repeal? Rest, was one of the obvious answers from many: sleep for a week, rest for a month, take a year of just living. These were women who had spent every free moment talking and thinking about the campaign; mothers with ulcers and babies who didn’t sleep, who in spite of it all drove around the towns of Ireland distributing leaflets, recorded video tutorials and messaging workshops while minding sick children, spoke at events with babies in slings and hanging off their breasts; women who have been at this for decades, since before the 8th amendment was inserted in the first place; students who don’t yet have the right to vote but...

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Whom do you trust?

We’ve heard it all before: a man brutally murders a woman, and everyone’s in shock. Perhaps after the debate that followed the reporting of the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons by her husband a couple of years ago, journalists and editors are thinking twice, even thrice before publishing praise of Mark Hennessy, the man now found to have strangled the young Jastine Valdez to death in Wicklow. But no editor can make the words of locals go away, describing him as a “quiet man”, a “normal fellow”, “a normal dad” from “a well-respected family”. Of course he wasn’t all that normal. Married with kids, sure – but convicted of abusive behaviour and due in court for drink driving, crashing into vehicles and leaving...

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Change or no change – let’s talk about fears

I want to talk to you about your fears. I know you’re torn. I know you agree that there are exceptional circumstances that make abortion acceptable – circumstances where you’re willing to concede, despite the fact that your gut tells you it’s wrong. I know that you feel that abortion should be a last resort, and you fear that the government’s proposed legislation fails to acknowledge that. I won’t judge you. You’re not alone. But what if I was to tell you that maybe you don’t need to feel so torn? Hear me out – respectfully, non-judgementally. Because I actually do think there’s a middle ground here. I think that you agree with abortion in cases of rape. Do you? Do you empathise with the girl who’s been violated so...

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Love thy neighbour

She’s a lovely woman. She often stops by to chat when she’s on her way somewhere and my two sons are playing in the front garden. She tells me they’re adorable, such a gift. And she’s right – they are a gift. She means it in a slightly different way to how I see it, of course; she thinks of them as gifts from God. But we agree that they’re a blessing, if in a non-religious sense for me. When we first moved in, she asked if we were renting or had bought. She wanted to know if we were truly settling, I guess. She told us she’d grown up around the corner, one of 11 siblings. They’re tiny houses, even tinier back then. Eleven of them! That would’ve been cosy – at best. And she loves the area, loves seeing new families...

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Toy guns and toxic masculinity

Pow pow! I struggle to get the boys, just gone three and five, to stay in their seats. The boy behind them on the bus has a toy gun and is pretending to shoot his sister, then aiming the weapon at strangers in the street outside. Pow pow pow! We never allowed our lads to play with guns. They build weapons of Lego, chew their toast into what just about resembles a pistol, and they use their hands; I can’t control their imagination, nor would I want to. But buying plastic imitations of the tools of war, intended to kill – that’s where I draw a big, fat line. I know I’m in the minority here, and even in literature the verdict is still out on the benefits and dangers of playing with guns. Kids make sense of the world through play; how...

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No woman is an island

“Happiness is within,” they say. Within you, within that cup of herbal tea and a gratitude journal and deep, deep breaths. You should try yoga. We’ll all have our 15 minutes of fame – if we just find that strength within. We’ll all be somebody, more than just selfless mothers – we’ll make our lives into works of art, copyrighted, patented, and with no one to thank but ourselves. One for the gratitude journal: we’re safe from floods and earthquakes. But calm as the waters may be, the 8th ships us across the Irish Sea, sweeping secret upon secret under a rug woven of intricate age-old lies. “I’m drowning in post-natal depression,” says one, as another numbs guilt with a bottle of Tesco’s Finest. A third perfects the...

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To the woman who told me all my child needed was a hug

You came into our lives at about 8.10am this morning. I was standing outside my house, my youngest kid kitted out and ready to go, his older brother screaming hysterically at the top of his lungs, quite possibly waking every single person in Drumcondra our side of Griffith Park. See, he didn’t want to go to school by scooter. “Awww,” you said, tilted your head and looked at my son, and I ignored you. “Give him a hug,” you said then, with a tone that struck the perfect balance between empathy and demand. If my morning had started off in a bad way, it shot up on the crappy-morning metre at this exact moment, but I kept ignoring you. You couldn’t know that I’d had no more than four hours of very broken sleep, that I had a...

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So you think you were hired on merit? Gender quotas and the perception gap

‘So, I guess you support gender quotas too, then?’ I’m sure I’ll have to fend off heaps of pantsuit accusations for writing this post, but a colleague asked, and I’m not going to turn down the chance to explain why yes, indeed, I do support gender quotas. I think the thing that makes gender quotas hard for some liberals to stomach is that, in contrast to issues like bodily autonomy and ending violence against women, they don’t seem quite as immediately right and fair. If equality is what we want, surely we should be treating everyone equally? Cue that illustration that’s been doing the rounds lately, explaining how the word ‘equality’ can in and of itself be a tad problematic: if social justice is what we’re after...

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Infighting on the left and a real left-wing alternative

Oh, the infighting on the left. If only they could get along and get their act together, and maybe they’d achieve something. In the aftermath of #coponcomrades, and after a couple of years of complete lack of consensus around Corbyn’s Labour leadership in the UK, it is easy to feel like the infighting on the left has become a pet peeve of many, interestingly especially those who aren’t actually that far out on the left. And I’m starting to feel frustrated by it. Not the infighting, that is – but the opinions. As things stand in Ireland, billionaire business man Denis O’Brien is the owner of Communicorp and significant minority shareholder of INM, the companies that control significant media outlets including the Irish...

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