Misogyny, Double-Standards and Witch-Hunts

As a woman, Ireland is not a great place to be. Not just because of the patriarchal hierarchy but because of the blatant denials that the patriarchal hierarchy exists in the first place. I’ve been giving this quite a bit of thought lately – not least because I am a woman and I have two daughters. I’ve also been thinking about it in the context of this workshop that I’ve designed and am offering at the end of the month.

Part of the problem with Ireland’s peculiar brand of misogyny is a constant denial that it exists. Or the mansplainers telling us that, really, we women have a grand old time of it in Ireland. For example, a doctor told me a few months ago that ‘the feminisation of medicine is a real, documented thing’. I tried to argue that, no it’s not really; that medicine is still patriarchal, but he was having none of it.

‘Look, the facts don’t lie. There are more women entering medicine than men. In a few years, a male doctor will be a rarity,’ he lamented, while with that one phrase – ‘I’m not going to argue about it with you’ – doing what the patriarchy does best, shutting women up and dismissing their arguments (or even their right to argue) while insisting on having the last word.

The problem, as I see it, with this doctor’s assertion is that more women in medicine does not a more feminised medical establishment make. Sadly. As women, we share a deep and real problem; we live in a world created by and for men. We are desperately trying to to fit into a society that values its creators – men – more than it values us. Men make the rules and we, as women, desperately try to live by them. Men create the rules we work by, the rules we play by, the rules we love by. They set the bar that we try to reach. In politics and across all professions – the standards, the expectations, and the rules are set by men.

The doctor I was talking to a few months ago had missed the point; that there are more women in a profession does not make it more ‘feminine’ or more ‘feminised’ – it just means that there are more women trying harder to play and succeed at, a man’s game. Even in so-called ‘female’ professions – teaching and nursing for example – while there may be more women in these professions, they don’t get promoted as often as men. Why? Because it’s a man’s world and we’re trying to operate within it.

Today, I’m thinking in particular about the current witch-hunt against midwife Philomena Canning.  (I think the term ‘witch hunt’ is very apt in this case as midwives were often burnt at the stake because of their women-centred care and their reputations as wise women.) So far, the best article in mainstream media was written by Michael Clifford in the Irish Examiner. You can read it here. (And, yes, I am aware that Michael is a man – but it is possible for men to be feminists!)

This is where the double-standards bit comes in: A number of mothers and children have died under the ‘care’ of the HSE recently – you can read about them here, here, here, here, here, here and here. And these are just a few of the ones that I’m aware of. Not one of the medical people involved in these cases has had their insurance revoked, their livelihoods threatened, their reputations smeared, or their practice suspended. Even though they were directly implicated in the deaths of women and/or children. Unlike Philomena Canning, who is not political, and who is passionately focused on women, babies and their care. No one has ever made a complaint about Philomena and the care she provided them and their families in her 31 years of practice. No one. Ever. In 31 years. That’s some record. Could it be that the HSE is threatened by women who put women first?

Courage in Woman is often mistaken

Germain Greer summed things up rather succinctly when she told the Irish Examiner that “Women still have very little power. They still have to become men. They can’t make real things happen for themselves in the workplace. Or it’s still extremely difficult. If they get stroppy, they’re removed. They can’t get real redress when they’re wronged. They can’t get redress anywhere.”

If you fancy doing something to support women, babies, families, human rights, Philomena Canning and the 25 women who are booked to give birth under her care in the coming 7 months, you can sign this petition. I believe there is to be a rally at the gates of the Dáil on the 8th of October, but I can’t find any details to link to, unfortunately. If you have more information on that rally, please post the in comments, or email me so I can add a link.

Update: Thanks to the lovely Heike Eberwein, I can now add that link – Rally in Support of Philomena Canning.


A First World Problem

Look, I know it’s completely a first world problem, and (truth be told) I’m slightly embarrassed to be even admitting this one, but…..

I’m not entirely sure what you’re supposed to do on holiday. Are you supposed to chill out and do nothing? And if so – isn’t that a bit of a waste? Couldn’t you do nothing at home, and save a few bob?!  Or, are you supposed to do everything that it is possible to do in the area where you are? Should a visitor to Dublin, for example, trot around every museum, every library, and set foot in to every pub with literary associations – with a side trip to Glendalough and Newgrange thrown in for good measure? Or is it enough to stroll down a few streets, pop in to a few shops and soak up the atmosphere? Is it enough just to be  in a place – or should you feel guilty if you’re not doing a place as well?

Laughing in the pool at the Hollandse Club, 1st Night

Is it enough just to be in a different place, eating food that’s a bit different and enjoying weather that’s a bit different to what you’d get at home? Or are you letting yourself down and missing a whole slew of opportunities if you’re not out biting every cherry that presents itself?  Of course, I am aware that, as we age what we want from a holiday changes, too: A gaggle of 18 year-olds in Ibiza is going to want vastly different things from that holiday than a multi-generational family in the same place. A pair of honey-mooners in Bali is also going to want different things from the island than four 19 year-olds on a gap year. But will the four 19 year-olds want the same thing as each other? Is it even reasonable to expect them to?

I don’t really have much of a history of holidays – although I’ve travelled a fair bit. As children, we were never brought abroad and holidays were a week or a fortnight in a caravan in Wexford or a house in Mayo. There, I just did pretty much what I did at home – read, went for walks and day-dreamed. The change of scenery was enough. As an adult, I’ve travelled a fair bit, but it’s usually been work-related or for extended periods, so it didn’t feel like a ‘holiday’. When I lived in Asia, trips back to Europe didn’t count as holidays, and trips anywhere else were dictated by my former husbands, so I had little say about either where we went or what we did when we got there. My girls and I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit in the past few years, but we tend to go on city breaks and visit the museums, the galleries and a few shops in our destination cities. We’re also very lucky to have friends in a number of interesting places who open their homes to us – which means a different (lovelier) experience of a place entirely.

It’s October now, and the organised among you are already plotting where to go for a winter break or – if you’re really organised – where you’ll be next summer. But what are your plans beyond destination? Are you going to do or just be?

Pic: My girls in the pool on holiday earlier this year.