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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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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