Category Archives: Feminism
Inspired by Michael Moore’s list of 5 things to do to bring about change, here’s a little list for those of us living in Ireland, although most of them apply worldwide:
1. Inform yourself. That means reading a newspaper/watching the news/not relying on what others tell you
2. Make sure you are on the electoral register. You can do this at checktheregister.ie If you aren’t on the register you can’t vote. Our political system isn’t perfect (none is) but rest assured the mainstream parties will always get their vote out so show that they don’t represent you (if indeed that is the case)
3. Find out who your elected representatives are. That is your TD’s, MEP’s and local councillors. We have Senators too but most of us don’t get the opportunity to vote for them……..
You can do this at whoismytd.com Once you know who they are, contact them about things that concern you.
4. If you were annoyed/disgusted/angered that Enda Kenny congratulated Donald Trump on his election on behalf of the Irish people, then tell him so. His email is email@example.com, Twitter @EndaKennyTD, or Facebook Enda Kenny use the hashtag #notinmyname if you want
5. Boycott the Late Late tonight (Fri 11 Nov) or at least the segment featuring a certain guest, and don’t tweet/Facebook about.. That person thrives on publicity and being starved of it will drive her mad. And tell RTE what you are doing. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @RTELateLateShow
Here in the Republic of Ireland we have a general election looming. It was finally declared this morning and will take place on Friday February 26th. Consequently I will be glued to the TV on Sat 27th, Sun 28th and quite possibly Mon 29th depending on how long it takes for all the counts to be concluded and the results finally known. (For readers unfamiliar with our system, we have multi seat constituencies and vote by proportional representation so it can take awhile. For political nerds like me that’s part of the fun.)
Along with the various candidates clamouring for our attention and promising us the sun, the moon and the stars, or least promising that they aren’t as bad as the other lot, a number of organisations have campaigns running either asking candidates to make various pledges or asking voters to highlight the issues that matter to them. Reading through some of these made me think about the issues that will decide how I use my vote this month. I WILL use my vote – I have voted in every election I have been eligible to vote in – but as yet, I am uncertain which way it will go.
In an attempt to tease out some of my thinking, I’m going to look at some of the issues/ideas/ways in which my vote might be influenced. A lot of psephologists and political analysts talk about there being certain ‘types’ of vote – so what kind of voter am I?
I’m a woman. I’ve often wondered if there really IS such a thing as ‘the woman’s vote’. It implies that women will vote the same way or at least be influenced by the same issues when deciding how to vote. I don’t know if that has ever been true. The National Women’s Council of Ireland have asked candidates to sign up to their Breakthrough Manifesto for Women, all of which I agree with. At time of writing none of the candidates declared for my constituency of Meath West have signed up for this. I know women who will not agree with all of the points in this manifesto, but we are all women voters – so is there really a ‘women’s vote’? Should a woman vote for a candidate simply because she is a woman? No – there are some women candidates who, if they were running in my constituency, I would not give any vote to, because their policies and beliefs are so far removed from mine that they would not be representing me.
I have a child with special needs, and am her carer. This will be one of the biggest deciding factors for me when using my vote. I wholeheartedly support the Disable Inequality campaign to end discrimination for people living with a disability. In case you think such discrimination does not exist, ask yourself do people with disabilities have the same access to education, training and employment as everyone else? (The answer is no by the way). Ask yourself, do people with disabilities struggle financially? (That’s a yes – the burden of paying for extra heating, housing aids and transport means many families with a member with a disability are struggling) This week when the country has been shocked by the terrible story of alleged abuse of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, Inclusion Ireland has released its manifesto for the election. It makes sobering reading.
I’m middle aged (and proud of it! Think of the alternative!) – is there a particular voting trend or voting appeal that should apply to me? I can’t think of one. Does being 44 (nearly 45) mean I think and hence vote a particular way?
I live in rural Ireland, on the edge of a small town with a rural hinterland. I am not originally from rural Ireland but have chosen to settle and raise our daughter here. That surely implies a commitment to rural Ireland, I could have just as easily chosen to live in a large town or city. I have no connection to farming, I don’t follow GAA (ok I like to see Meath win), I’m tired of hearing about ‘blow-ins’ who don’t understand the community they live in. Surely a community is not something set in aspic, surely it changes and adapts to those who live in it whether or not their families have lived there for generations. Those who wish to represent rural communities would do well to remember that these communities are not homogenous. Yes, many of the so-called rural issues are important to me – better public transport, the effects of the economic downturn and how long it is taking to see the promised upturn in some areas, employment, migration etc. But these are not the only things that will determine how my vote is used.
I want full equality in education, and support the campaign by Education Equality for the ending of all religious discrimination in State-funded schools. I would be delighted if the Education Equality campaign would also look at the issue of special schools and religious ethos.
To sum up then, I’m a middle aged woman living in rural Ireland with a child with special needs. I want to see full equality in our education system, an end to the inhumane system of direct provision and the repeal of the 8th Amendment. I care about where our food comes from and what we are doing to our planet. I’m not motivated by the acquisition of wealth and am passionate about making our history and heritage something that can be appreciated and cherished by all. What kind of voter am I then? I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that voters don’t fit into easy little boxes for canvassers and pollsters to tick off. We are more complex and have a range of issues that will affect our votes.
So, candidates of Meath West, what can you do to win my vote? You have 24 days including today and polling day. It’s over to you!
I don’t know where to begin or even what I want to say. Like so many others I feel utterly useless today. Here in the privileged bloated West we have seen a picture of a little boy, a beautiful little boy lying face down. He looks utterly relaxed, his hands turned palm up, his wee feet stretched out. I’ve seen my own beautiful child lying in a similar position so many times. The difference is she was in her cot and then later in her bed, or on our sofa. Safe and warm in her own home. But that wee boy is lying on a beach in Turkey and he is dead. He drowned as a refugee trying to escape to safety. His brother and his mum died along with him.
But what can I do? That’s a question many people ask themselves about all the pain and suffering we see in our world. Can I stop the refugee crisis? No, of course not. Can I go to help? Apart from the fact that a well meaning but untrained volunteer is the last thing that refugees need in their faces, my own family circumstances mean I can’t travel to Syria or to Lebanon or to Calais or to any of the many many other places around the world where my neighbours need help. I can donate money to various charitable organisations, I knit hats and jumpers for a little charity in Turkey that helps Syrian refugees in camps there. I can help organise collections of much needed items in my local community and get them to people who can get them to Calais. I can organise grocery shopping for the women’s refuge in my county. I can go to coffee mornings to help children with illnesses and disabilities. I can do all of these things and I try to.
I wonder is the most important thing the one that in many ways is the easiest to do. I can and will bear witness. I will not turn away when I see these pictures. I do and will continue to get angry, to question, to ask, to read, to listen, to think and to learn about why such things are happening and what we as a world can do to help our sisters and brothers. I encourage, no I implore everyone reading this to do the same. Don’t turn away and bury yourself in a superficial world of entertainment, so called reality TV, celebrity happenings and other amusing stuff. Yes that all has a place but don’t ignore what is happening in the world. Don’t think you can’t do anything. You can. You can bear witness. You can get angry and demand answers. You can let those in power know that you are watching. For those of you in Ireland, you can sign this petition and demand that our Government allow more than a few hundred refugees in to our country.
I cry every time I see that picture of little Aylan Kurdi. And then I get annoyed with myself and vow not to cry any more, my tears are useless, they don’t achieve anything. Then I realise that the day I stop crying for the wrongs and injustices in this world is a bad bad day.
Members of the Irish Parenting Bloggers have come together in a blog-hop to share their thoughts on the current crisis and to let people know what they can do to help. Click on the link below to read our posts and please feel free to spread the word by sharing on social media platforms using the hashtag #ReadFeelAct.
If you want to do something to help, here are a few suggestions:
- Sign the petition to ask the Irish Government to do more to help. Just click here. For anyone in the UK you can sign a similar petition here.
- There are numerous charities helping the refugees crossing the Mediterranean sea. Please, please donate even a few euro to Medecins Sans Frontieres, Amnesty International, or Trocaire.
- Alternatively, if you’d like to be part of a very worthy organised event the Irish Parenting Bloggers have organised a virtual coffee (or tea!) morning – check out and ‘like’ the Facebook Event page here – to help raise much needed funds for the Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity Campaign. On Friday, September 11 just pour yourself a cuppa; go to http://www.irelandcalaisfund.ml/ and make a donation to the fund (we suggest €5 per person but please give what you can) and upload a screenshot of your donation plus a pic of yourself enjoying your cuppa to your Facebook page or other social media channels and tell your followers all about it. Then just link to this event to encourage your friends and family to take part too.
Two years ago today a young woman died in University College Hospital Galway. Her name was Savita Halappanavar. The circumstances that led to her death are well known but still horrendous to read.(here and here)
I will never forget the morning of Nov 14 2012 when the story broke. I saw something about it on Twitter and turned on the radio to hear more. I vividly remember standing in my kitchen crying as I listened to the report of a young woman who had died because – as it was being reported – doctors refused to terminate her pregnancy even though her baby had died in utero. I remember getting my daughter ready for preschool that day and sending her off on the bus then spending the next hour online trying to grasp what had happened.
Memories of when I suffered a missed miscarriage myself in 2006 and had to have a D&C to ensure I did not develop an infection flooded my mind. I was treated well throughout and with gentleness and sensitivity. And yet it seemed that six years later another woman had died because her case was not handled the same way. How could this have happened?
A few days later I joined thousands of people to march in Dublin and hold a vigil to remember Savita and to show solidarity with her husband Praveen. People were angry, upset and vowed Never Again. It was an intensely moving experience.
As I travelled home from Dublin I was thinking of my time studying Irish Studies at Liverpool University in the 1990’s. It was the time of the X case which we followed with a sense of something approaching disbelief. In Liverpool we – and many many others – signed petitions, sent messages of support, held rallies and hoped this would never happen again. Obviously the circumstances of the X case and Savita’s case are different. But what remained the same was that women were being denied autonomy over their own bodies. Coming home I was shocked to think that 20 years after we had marched and protested over the X case, we were doing essentially the same again. And I vowed that night never to forget Savita. Or Miss X. Or Ann Lovett. Or the other numerous nameless women who had died as a result of my country’s policies on termination of pregnancy or as a result of societal attitudes towards pregnancy outside of marriage.
This morning I read in Sunday’s Observer (it often takes days for me to catch up with the papers) about Malalai Kakar and how a photograph of her is being misused – even abused – by a far right group in Britain. As I read the article I got steadily angrier. Malalai was a policewoman in Afghanistan. Just think about that for a minute. For most of us when we think of Afghanistan we probably think of repression, of women being denied any kind of equality, and I am not for one minute suggesting that Afghanistan is some kind of egalitarian paradise. But this woman – and others – working as a police officer was something to celebrate.
Malalai was killed by the Taliban in 2008. She had been warned by them to stop her police work and had received death threats. In an interview with a documentary film-maker she said “I am not forced to wear the burqa, my husband or the police force does not require it. I want to wear it because it gives me advantages.” You can see the picture that has been misused of her in the Observer article linked above. She is wearing a burqa and pointing a pistol. I can see how some might find that image disturbing or unsettling. The background to the photograph is that she threw the burqa over her police uniform at the last minute as she headed out as part of a police mission to free a kidnapped teenage girl. (Interesting piece about Feminism and the burqa here)
Malalai commanded a unit fighting crimes against women. She died for her work and her beliefs. She was not a terrorist. Yet now this image of her is being abused by a far-right group who describe themselves as both a patriotic political party (hmm, ok) and a street defence organisation. Now what exactly is that? It sounds like something scary and dangerous to me. People are entitled to different beliefs we say, but no way should such a group be allowed to tarnish the memory of Malalai Kakar and other courageous women like her. I am only one person, but today I remember Malalai Kakar’s bravery and honour her. Please do the same.