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No more than she deserves

No more than she deserves

In a country which voted overwhelmingly only a few months ago to return ownership of our bodies to us, it was dispiriting, though not surprising, to watch the mob turn on a young homeless Traveller mother, Margaret Cash, for the crimes of being young, a mother, a Traveller, a woman and homeless. The mob has spoken, and it has decreed that she has too many children (though it has failed to specify which exactly of her children should not have been born), that she is in some way to blame for her circumstances (though the housing and rental crisis is in no way of her making), that she should have taken the housing options she was offered (though she could not afford them, had no way of getting to them, and indeed in one case they could not take all of her children with her).  The mob would presumably let them all rot on the benches of Tallaght garda station indefinitely. The mob also does not give a toss that Margaret Cash’s children are listening while it bays that they should not exist.

Why is it that we can talk about “the housing crisis” or “the homelessness crisis” in the media as one under which people are suffering, yet when a mother in pure desperation shares a photo of the straits her children and her family are in, she is torn apart for it? Are people that desperate to believe it couldn’t happen to them that they will peer through every tiny chink into a family’s life through Facebook posts and deem them unworthy and undeserving on this tiny, one-sided, skewed angle of perception? That is surely a part of it, but there is a darker truth here too. The habit of misogyny and of blaming women and mothers for their societally created and enforced suffering is one that has long been pervasive in Ireland. However much you may like to believe that your Together for Yes twibbon frees you of the need to interrogate any of your beliefs about women – especially mothers –  if you believe that you have the right to a say in anyone else’s reproductive decisions, particularly in the wake of their being already made, you are a part of Ireland’s misogyny problem.

Let me be perfectly clear; if you are one of those people who last week thought or said or posted or tweeted or commented that Margaret Cash had surely some part to play in sleeping in a garda station along with her children, you are one of those people who would have said the same about the mothers and the children in the Magdalen laundries and the Mother and Baby homes. If you believe that it is in any way acceptable for you to suggest going through Margaret Cash’s Facebook posts in response to a family being so utterly failed by the society they live in that they are forced to resort to trusting to a policing force that automatically sees their ethnic grouping, including their children, as criminals, to house them, you are one of those that would have looked straight at those women walking together with shorn heads in ragged uniforms down the main streets of Ireland’s towns and never seen anything amiss.

To want a home in which to have and raise children, and to be supported by society in so doing, is a perfectly feminist ideal and to suggest otherwise is pure misogyny. The work of having and raising children is work of value on which society depends; indeed without the work of mothers in growing, birthing and raising our children society as we know it would end within a generation. This is not a new feminist ideal; it has been widespread since the Wages for Housework international campaign of the 1970s. Most of the demands of the Wages for Housework campaign (paid maternity and parental leave, women’s right to work outside the home, equal pay, and social welfare supports) have passed into the accepted needs of society as a whole and are taken entirely for granted as part and parcel of our fought-for and hard-won rights in feminist circles. There is however one area that hasn’t yet been assimilated into society; the concept that the work within one’s own home, of raising one’s own children, of contributing to society the thing it needs most to keep going, should be paid work. That a mother’s work is valuable because it has a price; not worthless because it is of no monetary value.

The reason this vital part of the Wages for Housework campaign did not succeed as its other demands did? Simple; ‘business’ (by which I mean of course capitalism) does not directly benefit from it in the same way that the opening up of a new supply of workers (mothers) to the workforce does. Capitalism requires that this work not be seen as ‘real’ work; that it be done silently and alone without pay, that one employee who wants to have a family must have another person in the home doing the unpaid labour of caring for that employee and the family. Without that person and their unpaid labour the edifice of capitalism begins to shudder, to be seen as the imprisoning behemoth it is, beneath the weight of which all of us are being slowly crushed.

Margaret Cash and her children are today’s sacrifice to Ireland’s continued worship of the combined gods of capitalism and misogyny. We cannot continue like this; leaving the children of ‘undeserving’ mothers to be trodden underfoot by the rest of society, nor can we continue to declare the system is not broken beyond repair in the face of the growing thousands without homes and safe places to stay while the massive landlords that are banks and the vulture funds are given tax break and bailout hand over fist. In much the same way that we reclaimed ownership of our bodies, so too is a movement where we seize back our basic, fully achievable right to homes and safe shelter the only way from here. The ongoing refusal of the State to provide for our obvious needs while women and families suffer and die is an all too familiar echo of the decades gone past. We know they would not have listened to us then had we not risen up and made them. It’s time to make them listen again





About Sinéad Redmond

Angry feminist, pro-choice & maternity rights activist, software engineer. Mother of a beautiful little girl. Enjoys ruining feminism for everyone.

14 responses »

  1. Pingback: No more than she deserves — Feminist Ire | mumstandsup

  2. I absolutely loved this piece, thank you Sinéad. You must have read Marilyn Waring’s book ‘If Women Counted’? I love that book too.
    And of course we are about to encounter government machinations as they attempt to remove the recognition of abstract value of the woman/home worker from the constitution…..

  3. Yes, such a powerful and true piece. Capitalism aside, and I totally agree with what you have to say, but there is always, under the surface, an inherent blaming of women for any social problems that emerge from sexual, reproduction or childcare issues. the referendum, wonderful as it was has not changed this. She has too many children… she should be having the child and not aborting it… she should be caring for the child if she had it… she should be more aware of what she wears….the list goes on. Nothing in the Facebook posts about any responsibility on behalf of the father/s. Nothing about choice! Or lack of choice for women in Irish society!

  4. First off, I had a good laugh at your repeated use of the word “mob”, as if you and your other other Twitter/keyboard warriors aren’t a mob with your useless poor person opinions.

    Secondly, I had another good laugh at the “combined gods of capitalism and misogyny” bit. I see you have a hefty persecution complex, unsurprising really for the “feminist” mob.

    These are the facts;

    #1 Margaret Cash is 28 with 7 children.
    #2 She has no means of supporting her family. Whether she ever intended to work a day in her life is up for debate. 85% of travelers are unemployed.
    #3 She gets approximately €1,000 per month in child benefit FROM THE TAX PAYER. Another few hundred €€€ per week in dole money FROM THE TAX PAYER. I don’t even want to know what other benefits she gets, it would be depressing to know.

    You can feel bad for people like her all you want, but I and most other working class people will reserve our sympathy for other working class parents who struggle to survive every day, despite the welfare class like Margaret Cash hoovering up all the State support.

  5. Will Sinead give up her software job now to end capitalism?

  6. There is no homelessness crisis. There is an entitlement crisis driven by a lack of accountability and a blame anyone but me culture.

    Can you articulate how the Cashs have been failed by society as opposed to their mother, their father or multiple other family members who have not offered them a place to stay??

    Can you articulate what the Cash family have contributed to society?

  7. Another gobshite trying to spin the feminist angle to deflect criticism from this parasite. Here’s the fact and the only fact – Cash is a scumbag who has never, and will never contribute anything to this country, but feels “entitled” to earn more in benefits than most workers doing a 9-5 will ever see. That applies regardless of whether she is a female or a male – she is a welfare parasite and a drain on the state.

    And if you think for one second that anybody in their right mind (or employment because they are who pay for this leech) is going to rally to her cause?? You must be extremely naive, or extremely thick (maybe both). She is the “homeless crisis” personified – a disgusting sense of entitlement to something she does not and will never deserve. Real homeless are sleeping on the streets, not gaming their way to a “forever home”..

  8. Wonder did her children consent to being used in such a way?

  9. In regards to wages for housework. Considering most mothers are mothers 24/7 should we agree to pay them overtime when one of the children wakes up in the middle of the night? Would mothers be able to motion for a raise? based on condition of being a good and supportive mother, maybe school attendance can come into play here and alternatively should we then punish bad mothers by fining wages?

    Or hey here’s a novel idea, perhaps it would be better to not consider motherhood a job but a part of life and reasonable to think that mothers might actually want to have children like they have done for millions of years and not solely to pop out a baby for their wage packet.

    Wages for housework is probably one of the craziest things I have heard to come out of the radical feminists, I salute you.

  10. Sinead – Reading your post (and please forgive me for saying this) I was reminded of Christopher Hitchens’ definition of a left-wing-polemicist as being someone who always ascribes the worst-possible motives to the people with whom they disagree.

    Your post is fairly typical of much of the debate that surrounds social issues in that is characterised by ad hominem attacks and straw-man arguments. You accuse those with who you disagree of misogyny. You conflate criticism of Ms Cash with support for the Magdalen Laundries and racial profiling. You imply that this criticism is due to anti-Traveller bigotry.

    Certainly there were plenty of very ugly comments made about Ms Cash online. However I think a fairer synthesis of the vast majority of the negative commentary directed toward Ms Cash is simply that she was criticised for choosing to have far more children that she could reasonably hope to support and for displaying an attitude of entitlement when interviewed about her situation in the media.

    You claim that “[t]he work of having and raising children is work of value on which society depends”. This is a half-truth; society depends on people having children but does not depend on anyone who wants to having more children than they themselves can support.

    You argue that mothers should be paid for the work they do in the home. But who will pay mothers this money? From what source?

    Inevitably, having children you can’t provide for imposes a burden on other people. Is it not fair that those other people should be able to express their opinions about how much of a burden they are willing to carry?

    Many of Ms Cash’s online critics pointed out that they themselves had fewer children than they wanted because they couldn’t afford to do otherwise. They pointed out that they were leaving their house at 7am to drop their children to crèche before commuting long distances to work long hours. They pointed out that they pay a mortgage and crèche fees and do so having first paid tens of thousands of euro in taxes.

    Is it not understandable that they might object to seeing virtually all of their tax contribution go toward benefit payments for someone who seems to think it is their right to have all the children they want while someone else picks up the tab?

    One can take the view that Ms Cash should receive more support from the state. Equally, however, it is entirely reasonable – not hateful – to suggest that our social welfare system is and should be a short-term safety net and that welfare-dependency should be a last resort.

    One can claim that the state/society has a responsibility toward Ms Cash and her children. Equally, it is legitimate to argue that the greatest responsibility for providing for children should fall on the parents and that they should only become parents if and when they can reasonably expect to discharge that responsibility.

    There are arguable points on both sides of this issue. Obviously, you can have you own strongly held views but it would do your cause a greater service if you could support your position with arguments rather than name-calling and abuse.

  11. Stephanie bowler

    When feminists are being oppressed. Listen to the dismay.

  12. Hi this sums up how a lot of guys feel…

  13. Stephanie bowler

    This kind of feminism works for me…I mean it’s Piers Morgan…come on.😂


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