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Monthly Archives: May 2014

#YesAllWomen: What difference does it make?

Finola Meredith has a piece in The Irish Times today bemoaning the #yesallwomen hashtag on twitter. When I saw the headline “The Twitter surge #YesAllWomen is a useless weapon against endemic misogyny” I laughed. What’s a better weapon? An Irish Times feature with a Breda O’Brien riposte the following day?

May the liberal force of Fintan O’Toole be strong in you, Irish Times Columnists.

Meredith’s issue with the hashtag is that she believes that tweeting that is about as useful as going outside in the street and shouting “sexist men are bastards” and it will make no difference. Tempted as I am to go and stand outside Coppers this Saturday night to disprove her point (Just imagine the real life “NOT ALL MEN!!” screams you’d hear afterwards), there is an important point hidden in here concerning major media outlets that dominate, such as The Irish Times, who have a role in shaping political discourse; as John Waters has said before, he does not write for an online audience, which he has referred to as the “lurking mob.” The reason people like John Waters don’t like social media, and other writers perpetually undermine it, is because twitter and social media platforms are a bit too democratic for their liking. They don’t get to dictate the content, or delete the straight-up unpalatable, or too-critical-of-government/themelves comments afterwards.

Dismissing and undermining those who take to twitter, positions those who are lucky enough to get an opinion piece in a broadsheet as being the only ones capable of articulating the voice of those who are oppressed. Opening up the prospect of an individual having the ability to coherently narrate their own oppression would compromise the legitimacy of the mainstream media approved writer’s position as The Harbinger of Official Truth, which opens up questions about the mainstream media’s role in the replication of oppressions.

Meredith states that “…it’s true that there’s barely a woman alive who couldn’t come up with an example of sexist behaviour she has encountered…we could all add something to this list…” but then later goes on to say that there is an issue with the hashtag’s “authenticity” asking “how do we know they are telling the truth?”

Right. So we can really all add something to the #yesallwomen list, but writers in turn will take to the national press to question whether in fact, we are actually just making it all up in the first place.

For the benefit of the (paper of) record – we are not.

This action is exactly the type of “ancient urge to shut women up” or “to silence them completely” that Meredith bemoans in her opinion piece  – which will have a readership of thousands. If a woman cannot publicly tweet her experience of being groped without her truthfulness being questioned, then what makes people think she could report if she was raped or beaten.

It’s a silencing wolf dressed in feminist’s clothing.

Meredith believes that unless these campaigns are sustained and developed, they are useless. For a start, #YesAllWomen started last week. Give us a chance. It had 250,000 tweets in the first 24 hours – that’s far more people than will ever read a single Irish Times column. Women who may never have considered the connection between the microagressions we suffer, misogyny, and patriarchal society read and participated in those tweets.

They are seeing the connections between the unwanted hand on your arse in a nightclub that other men condone, and the man who murders a woman because she says she’s pregnant, dumps her body in a barrel and flies to New York to try and get busy with his ex-girlfriend. And between the man who calls a woman a slut for rejecting him on OK Cupid, and the man who decides to shoot women because they rejected him in a forum outside of the internet. There is a broad spectrum of violence against women, and if others make those connections, while happening to “blow off steam” at the same time, that is a very useful thing in terms of naming the problem of misogyny in order to address it. Online misogyny is the same as offline misogyny, it’s just the medium we combat it in is different. The internet, despite what the Irish Times would like us to believe, is still real life.

And to be fair to feminists and activists and ordinary women who have participated in the #yesallwomen dialogue, there’s more chance of the world remaining “blithely indifferent” after an Irish Times piece that undermines women and questions the veracity of their experiences than after a hashtag conversation starter that has had over a million tweets since Friday night.

 

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We need to talk about Tubridy.

Listening to Ryan Tubridy is annoying in the same way that stepping on a bit of lego is annoying. It happens, it’s irritating and sore for a little while, then you forget about it and go about the rest of your day. But if you got up and stepped on a piece of lego at 9am every weekday morning it would, no doubt, begin to have an impact. It would eventually start to leave a bruise, kind of how his insidious daily sexism has an impact on the people listening to it. Repeated everyday, it eventually leaves a mark.

I’m sure underneath it all Ryan Tubridy is a nice person but his brand of entertainment is about as amusing as a dose of thrush. Then again, his show is not aimed at me. It’s aimed at people who think that a Carry On Celtic Tiger smarmy sense of humour is funny. What is problematic is that other, quite reasonable, people listen to it too. He has a massive platform to promote his views which range from slut-shaming women; to thinking that women should find being harassed in the street a compliment; comparing public breastfeeding to urinating in the street; and he once gave a platform to a man convicted of domestic violence so that he could demonstrate his super-machoness by telling said abuser he would break his legs if he ever did that to any of his women. No you wouldn’t Ryan. When people know that women are being beaten by their husbands, they don’t intervene. They save the big-man talk for the pub, or their radio show. Performing that brand of masculinity generally doesn’t happen if men have to follow through. Were his comments on breastfeeding and street harassment fair to women? No. Was his interview with an abuser entertaining? Edgy? Informative? A learning experience? No. It was just shit.

Today Ryan Tubridy on his 2FM show started advertising for entrants to a pageant. It’s not the usual pageant based on tiaras, glitter, fake eyelashes, tits, arse and stillettos; this one is based on ‘personality.’ Except this is only half true because according to the 2FM blurb, the contestants of Miss Personality go to the Miss Ireland final where they will wear swimwear during a ‘closed door judging’ session. It’s also unclear why it’s only the chosen few who get to objectify entrants and not the public at large. ‘Closed door judging’ sounds like something that would have cropped up during the Operation Yewtree investigations. Anyway, during this, the contestants are allowed wear kaftans or sarongs if they wish, “if someone wants to cover up, they absolutely can.” Presumably the subtext of this is that if you’re over a size 8 you can still apply. Unfortunately I still can’t enter as the flux capacitor in my time machine to bring me back to 1965 is broken. In other parts of the contest, Miss Personality must wear evening wear. Because we all know that the best way of showing off your personality is in a flattering evening dress. I always find wearing something backless and with a boat neckline shows off my sparkling wit and charm best.

Joking aside, 2FM has a listenership of hundreds of thousands, and casual sexism and reducing women to the sum of their kaftans or bikinis, there to be judged by Ryan Tubridy and his Miss Ireland pals, isn’t just harmless fun. The women who have complained about this aren’t whinging killjoys. This competition isn’t a coup for feminism because women are supposedly judged on their personalities. Women are being brought in to a room to be judged. Even if the swimsuits and evening wear weren’t a part of it, women are still being judged by standards set by men. Not only do we now have to achieve a particular patriarchal body standard, we have to ensure that we have a sunny disposition too. It’s lazy, tired old sexism that should die in the entertainment dustbin of history along with Love Thy Neighbour and the last season of Battlestar Galactica.

This is no condemnation of the women who might want to enter Miss Personality, or Miss Ireland or the Rose of Tralee or the Lovely Girls competition or whatever. Women are taught from childhood that beauty and what you look like are core essentials of womanhood and femininity, and we are here to be judged, so why wouldn’t a woman want to compete in that arena? This is no different because it has the word ‘personality’ in the title; the second you dictate what a woman should wear in this competition, it’s the same as every other pageant; ultimately it’s about how physically appealing she is, it’s just this time, you need to be a bit of a laugh as well as having nice tits. Oh and you can’t be married or have a child to enter, because presumably childbirth and a non-intact hymen have too much of a negative impact on your ‘personality.’ Or maybe it would just make a woman appear too human.

Ryan Tubridy might come across as harmless, like an embarrassing uncle telling “get back in the kitchen” jokes at a wedding that everyone is too polite to tackle. But this pageant and those jokes are another microaggression of sexism that women have to face. Men aren’t being judged here. We are told by Ryan and people like him to laugh it off. It was a joke. It is meant to be funny and if we complain, we just don’t get it.

But there are too many its that we are expected to laugh off by the likes of Ryan Tubridy, with his massive platform. Of course, they are not intended to hurt women, and that’s why it’s socially awkward to tackle the embarrassing uncle – no one wants to make a scene or be the buzzkill. And Tubridy’s interview with a person who inflicted domestic violence was surely not meant to hurt women – but it did. It hurt the women who have been on the receiving end of domestic abuse who have never been given a platform to tell their story. The it of comparing women breastfeeding to urinating shames women and hurts them. The it of Miss Personality validates the gendered basis of the ‘get back in the kitchen’ jokes. The totality of the its demean women despite how well intentioned they might have been. Everyday the jokes, the casual sexism and the judging of women continues, women’s inequality is continued. So Ryan, if you happen to be reading this, it’s irritating and I would like for it to stop.