My column in The Kerryman. 29 May, 2013
It’s not uncommon these days to hear young women disdain feminism. Dismissing it as an ideology for man-hating, joy-killing, angry extremists. What use is there for feminism now, when women have the vote, have jobs and can vomit on the street after a good night out, just like men? Sure they don’t even lock up single mothers anymore.
It’s easy to think that women have it made. Girls are excelling in school and in the universities. Plumb professions in Medicine, Dentistry and Law are increasingly dominated by woman. Respectable professions like Teaching, Nursing and Social Working are all but exclusively female. And ever so slowly, the upper echelons of academia are being infiltrated by smart and ambitious women.
Women live longer. Fewer women die by suicide than men. When separating from their husbands/boyfriends, women retain custody of the children, almost as if it is their exclusive right. At a glance, women are winning the War of the Sexes. Crushing we poor disempowered little frightened men. Surely Feminism would just be rubbing it in at this stage? They even have a gold medal for boxing.
And if feminism was merely about winning the right to vote and the right to act as stupid as stupid drunk men have always acted, then indeed, feminism has won. New livers and antibiotics for all in the sisterhood.
Feminism has barely scratched the surface of the violent inequality that afflicts women. Examples of this oppression can be dramatic. Gang rapes in India. They can be galling beyond bearing. An Australian woman in the Unites Arab Emirates, jailed for having sex outside marriage as she had been raped.
They can be uncomfortably close to home. The woman abducted in Limerick, who was repeatedly raped for almost a week. They can by too chilling to believe. Three women held as sex-slaves for ten years in America. A daughter in Austria, forced to live in a cellar as her father’s sex-slave.
And then there are the examples of such stupidity, one despairs. A Senatorial candidate in the USA claiming women who are ‘legitimately’ raped, can’t get pregnant. A Roman Catholic priest from Italy, saying women attract violent assaults because of how they dress and because they do not cook enough.
Then there are the dull stats. Only six of our 35 High Court Judges are women. Only 26 out of 166 TDs are women. Only two of the 15 members of the Cabinet are women. When it comes to money, among the top earners in Ireland, women make about 25% less than men. Which is understandable as women hold only a fraction of senior management positions and boardroom membership.
Then there are the insidious examples. The too thin and sexualised roles-models offered to girls. The not surprising fact that in the top 100 grossing films in America during 2012, less than 30% of the speaking parts were female.
Yes there has been progress in Ireland. Women are no longer the property of their male relatives. Woman can vote. Husbands may no longer rape their wives. Married women are no longer forced to give up their jobs. Single-mothers are no longer detained. That’s what Feminism has achieved so far. It will never eliminate all the injustices endured by women here and elsewhere, but at least it’s trying.
Forcing me to ask, if you’re not a feminist, then just what the hell are you?