Black Leggings



Black Leggings

Compelled to tell this tale of woe

Take heed fellow aficionados

Of black leggings

95% viscose, ergo

(as a young lady foolishly assumed);

Seamless with no knickers.

Resist, desist, pull up your pantaloons

embrace your VPL, your BFF

‘cause on a sunny day

solid black ain’t so solid

when you view it from the back.

Austerity Hits Women Hardest, why am I not surprised #budget15 #dail

The Great Gatsby. F.Scott Fitzgerald.

The Great Gatsby. F.Scott Fitzgerald. ©

I find the reports in the National papers very disingenuous today. Apparently cuts in Child Benefit of 25% over the past five years have resulted in gender income imbalances, with women, surprise surprise, coming out the worst.

These are the same media outlets that five years ago provided a simple narrative for the public; that all women fell into one of two categories;

Category one spent child benefit on booze and cigarettes (based an advertisement by a Centra store for low cost alcohol on child benefit day);

Category two put child benefit payments into trust funds for their children (based on the testimony of two guests on the Pat Kenny show in 2009).

The child benefit allowance was cut, ‘and so it should be‘, screamed the masses.

Anecdotal stories plagued the media, especially phone-in shows like Joe Duffy; “I see them every month, twisted by four o’clock in the afternoon“, one caller would recount, “boxes of fags under the arms“.

The media narrative in 2009 was this; the nation was disgusted with mothers and the shenanigans they got up to every month. This gave the government an opportunity  to proceed with cuts to child benefit.

Most ordinary women, mothers, I know, were perplexed. I was perplexed.

Each month, child benefit allowance has and tries now to cover clothing, foot-ware, stocking the freezer, stocking the larder cupboard, paying back credit union loans for Christmas and school expenses (one of the most continually, financially draining aspects of raising children).

The cuts to child benefit predominantly had the result of less spending in local towns, forcing small shops to reduce staff, or in extreme circumstances; close altogether (Let’s face it, if you have €60 to feed a family for a week, you are not going to go buy a loaf of bread locally for €2.70 when a discount supermarket sells them at €0.69).

Yes, women have suffered hardest with austerity; financially, but also mentally, physically and emotionally. They have lost family members to suicide, they remain the lowest paid workers in the country, and face ridicule if they choose either freely, or economically to stay home and raise their children (if someone meets you for the first time and asks you what you do and you reply, ‘I’m a mother’, watch the confusion on their face, it just seems that focusing on raising your children rather than paying someone else to do it, is an alien concept!)

I’ll leave you with this interesting piece of trivia to ponder;  the word ‘hussy’, derived from the word housewife, why?

noun: hussy; plural noun: hussies
  1. an impudent or immoral girl or woman.
    “that brazen little hussy!”
    synonyms: minx, madam, coquette, tease, seductress, Lolita, Jezebel; More

late Middle English: contraction of housewife (the original sense); the current sense dates from the mid 17th century.

Ladies Day #Afghanistan #Aintree

We all know the world is filled billions of individual lives. Their value and worth, I would argue equal, though as observed by George Orwell in Animal Farm; some are more equal than others.

I was struck this morning by the start contrast between two tweets that appeared on my timeline, one above the other.
One glam gal was heading to the races, beside a tweet detailing the mortal risk Afghan women take to vote and resist the Taliban. A real dichotomy of female experience, this day.


The Parable of the Woman and the Housework

Wooden Spoons

Some wooden spoons after I begrudgingly washed them.

Housework in a busy house is like pissing against the wind. Some compulsive cleaners solve this problem by getting up early or staying up late, or not going to bed at all. There are suburban myths, doing the rounds, of ladies vacuuming carpets before breakfast and dusting late into the night. These stories are passed from mother to daughter and amongst friends at children’s birthday parties.
I once heard, on a tea break in work some years ago, of a woman who did all her housework on a Saturday. She saved everything for that one day. Every Saturday morning, she would sit down with a cup of tea, a slice of toast and drop an ecstasy tablet. Four hours later the vacuuming, dusting, mopping, washing and ironing would be all done.
My personal favourite, for its’ simplicity, is the woman who would spray a can of pledge in the hallway just before her husband would walk in the front door, genius.
Last week, staring into the half full box of washing powder I resented the little white and blue grains of slave dust. That was before Karma intervened and the washing machine broke. Now I am sentenced to dissolving them in the sink full of warm water, until the repair person (likely a man) arrives.
I feel I should be grateful to all the men over the years who have invented gadgets and gizmos to assist their women folk. No doubt when asked to lend a hand, what with equality and all that, they responded by taking to their drawing boards instead of drying the dishes as they were asked.
For the tall lad with the grey hair, obsessed with suction and the bloke who invented the self-wringing mop for his wife, my insincere gratitude. The list probably goes on, but I won’t complain cause I’ve three uniforms to hand wash and Karma might be listening.

Women’s Representation


“Women ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily governed without any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government”
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797).

When I first read the above quote I couldn’t believe the date beneath it, it could well have come from an opinion piece on gender quotas in one of the National newspapers in 2012, rather than an 18th century feminist 250 years ago.

I discovered Mary while researching political dissenters and was instantly intrigued. She was an admirer of the French Revolution, and following Thomas Paine’s ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Men’ in 1790, she shed new light with her own publication, ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman‘ in 1792. This is one of the earliest works on feminism and was written in just 6 weeks.

You can access the book here.

So while the Irish Constitutional Convention votes to alter ‘women in home’ clause, much to the jubilation and celebration of politicians and political commentators, after the State was found to be complicit in sending young girls to Magdalene Launderies, excuse me if I don’t get too excited.

A Brief Study of Women’s Participation in Irish Politics, using a comparative approach

The issue of citizenship, citizenship rights and responsibilities is the concern of every modern state.  As I compose this piece in 2012, there are currently two states governing four Irish provinces with a combined population of just under 6.5 million citizens on one island. One of these states actively excluded communities, leading to a lack of equality and the denial of citizenship rights including civil, political, social and cultural. A lot of work has been undertaken to improve citizenship rights including;

  • Civil – which relate to freedom of the person, freedom of speech, thought and faith. Freedom to own property and the right to justice.
  • Political – the right to participate in political processes including voting in elections.
  • Social – the right to live a civilised life with the right to economic welfare and security
  • Cultural – recognition of national and ethnic diversity including special rights for representation.

Differentiated citizenship is applicable to different groups, including women. The recent role of women in Irish politics famously began with the election of Countess Markievicz in 1918 to Parliament in London. She did not take up her seat and concentrated her efforts in forming the first Dáil. It was following a long campaign (thanks to Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington and supporters), in 1918, Women over the age of 30 who owned property were given the right to vote and later in 1922, all women over the age of 21 got the vote (1928 in Britain after the violent suffrage campaign). Through citizenship and rights such as the right to vote, the state acknowledges it’s responsibility to those citizens who become, in an ideal system, active participants, influencing public discourse.

If we look at some of our neighbours in Europe it becomes clear that the inclusion of women in the Dáil in the early 20th century was ahead of its time, especially in contrast to France, which only gave women the vote in 1944. The Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland) were and are largely involved in a more active citizenship, with Denmark giving women the right to vote in 1915 without the need for the violent suffrage movement. Theses countries have put gender equality at the fore of their political goals, incorporating at various stages quota systems to encourage more female participation. Interestingly, in Denmark, it was at the request of young female party members that the quota system was abandoned as it had served it’s purpose with the Nordic countries such as Sweden, topping the tables until 2003 when Rwanda over took Sweden with almost 49% female parliament members.

The most recent Women in Parliament study in October 2012 maps the percentage participation of women in parliaments across the world. As you would expect countries like Sweden are near the top (fourth at 44.7%), Rwanda has stayed at the top spot at 56.3% with Andorra and Cuba close behind. But what of Irish women in politics, surely with such a crucial role from the beginning, gender equality wouldn’t even need to be worked at, and it hasn’t been!. Although women did not get the vote in France until 22 years after Irish women, France sits 38th with 26.9% female participation. The Republic of Ireland is way down the list, sitting at 91st position (15.1%).  So by comparing these figures what do we learn?

By using a comparative approach we can look at how government policy, over time, improves gender equality . Comparison of various systems and policies and their results may help us to understand how the modern state can recognise diversity and actively encourage integration through participation. France, a fellow republic, passed a constitutional amendment in 1999 and an electorial law in 2000 regulating the proportion of women candidates in local, regional and European elections.Of course there were objections to this form of parity, mainly through worries that it would lead to  the under representation of other ethnic groups.

Comparing countries and policies does have limitations, and every state operates within its own specific parameters, but by comparing empirical research we can pick up worrying trends of inequality, mapping them over time and analysing whether policy changes have any effect. In Ireland, however , with gender quotas only coming on line in the near future, it appears that Ireland has become at least 20 years behind some of our neighbours in addressing the specific issue of gender inequality and female under representation in the Oireachtas. This is a worrying situation, especially if you consider that women outnumber men by 43, 864 overall in this state (2011 census).