ROARING FOR EQUALITY

International Women’s Day and I was invited by the National Women’s Council of Ireland to take part in their SOAPBOX event which took place in the middle of O Connell Street – just opposite the GPO.  A place famous for oration… some more glorious than others.  It’s also around the corner from some of Dublin’s most formidable women – the fruit sellers and traders of Moore Street, whose powers of making themselves heard over the din of the city is legendary.  I didn’t sell any bananas but I was honoured to take my few minutes on the soapbox.  Here is the text of what I roared!

Michael Harding wrote one of the most lyrical and beautiful columns I have ever read in the Irish Times last Tuesday.  It was called What I Love Most About Women Is Their Voices.  He began by saying that while his father was in the dining room talking about God, his mother was in the kitchen talking to another woman.  His father called it gossip – “what are you women gossiping about now?”  But Harding says “my father was full of ideas – but mother – full of stories – was always more real.”  He went on to say of women “They share a ‘knowing’ beyond words. …. They know things men don’t know.  They shelter men in the fabric of their knowing and they intuit a deeper universe when a man’s world is falling apart.”
It certainly is time that this world of man’s design fell apart.  It certainly is time for women to demand much more than just equality with men.  It is time for us to demand a new world; a world in which we can participate fully and as equals but a world which acknowledges that we are not men; a world where we can express our womanhood without fear that it will be perceived as weakness.
All women are heroes in my opinion.  We bleed every month which can often make us feel like crap but we carry on with our jobs, paid and unpaid, pretending all is fine as we pop another nurofen and dream of reaching home where we can fling ourselves on the sofa with a hot water bottle and a bar of chocolate.  I know menopausal women who suffer horrendous periods which are challenging in a practical as well as physical way – and they carry on working wearing black a lot and praying a lot that their super plus extra sanitary protection doesn’t let them down.  Would men be so silent if roles were reversed?  Would they hell? 
How many women are afraid to display photos of their kids on their desks in case it gives the game away.  How many women miss their new baby so much when they return to work after maternity leave that it causes physical pain?  How many women wish they could take a couple of years of reduced hour working  in order not to miss their children’s early years?  How many women hate that their children are in crèche from too early in the morning till too late in the evening?  And why do so few women articulate these feelings openly?
I know some men feel all these emotions too.. but today is about women.
How come we live in a modern and relatively wealthy country where we have unsafe maternity services and where we have so little choice in those services?  And how come we are not raising a holy racket about it?
But most of all how come we live in a country where the work of caring is so undervalued.  Our children are our most precious asset – both individually and nationally.  So how is it that the people who care for them are in general working for a minimum wage?   And of course this is equally true for those working in nursing homes – caring for our most vulnerable elderly. 
Care, that most traditional of women’s work, should not be left to either charities or the private sector.  Caring should be heavily subsidised by Government in the same way education is and should be run by professionals on a not for profit basis.
Michael Harding spoke of women’s voices.  And yet the day after his beautiful column appeared in the Irish Times, we heard that 1 in 3 women in the EU have suffered physical or sexual abuse.  The figure is 1 in 4 in Ireland.  That means women in our neighbourhoods, perhaps in our families, in our circle of friends have or perhaps still are, experiencing violence.  And yet they are largely silent.  There still exists a shame and stigma to admitting that our vulnerability, that which is part of being a woman has been cruelly and viciously exploited. 
But before we can change the world we must change ourselves.  As a women’s movement we must recognise that we women are as different as we are the same.  We don’t all necessarily want the same things.  Equality is essentially about choice.  The choice to be yourself.  It is vital that we recognise the right of each woman to make the choices that are right for her. And we need to support each other regardless of how we personally view those choices.  Ni neart go cur le cheile
We are 51% of the population and here we are marking an International Womens Day at an event organised by the National Women’s Council of Ireland.  I hope that some day our  grand daughters and great grand daughters can laugh at the madness of such a concept.
Michael Harding finished by saying that “women have been my compass, my anchor, the ground and the completness of my universe.  As I grow older they are the warp and weft of all my spiritual hope, because it was women’s eyes that saw Christ resurrected and it was women’s voices who sang the song of it – until they were silenced. 

It is time to break our silence.  It is time for us to sing our songs, to tell our stories, to support each other and demand the changes we need to fulfil our destiny to change the world.  Our men need us as women and our grand daughters are depending on us.  
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4 Comments

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  1. That was lovely Barbara. Thank you,

  2. My career is in childcare, I am paid a very poor wage. When the media quotes the national average wage, it is something I could not dream of ever making. I earn enough to get me by though, the USC was cruel though, it took away an extra 30 on my wage each week. I have many years of experience but now I'm being told I have to go back to college as I'm not qualified enough to be a team leader in a creche, even though previously I was the leader.
    Yes I could go back & train but I work in childcare & yes its important but I don't need to go back to college. I have the skills already I believe but I am being forced down the payscale(a pay scale meaning they now have an excuse to pay me minimum wage). This is being enforced by a woman minister, this is being enforced with the help of a quango, early childhood Ireland, all run by women. These so called upskilling courses are being thought by women lectures. These women are not defending my qualifications I have already achieved or more importantly my experience I have gained.
    So when the argument about quality childcare pops up & you agree the staff should be highly trained, remember the likes of me, being pushed out of a career I gave so much too.

  3. The usual feminist suspects popped up to mouth off for International Women's Day. And, as usual, there was not one positive comment about men from them proving that feminists really are man-haters. Men, to them, were bullies and/or rapists (those violence against women statistics got wildly exaggerated and twisted to fit their anti-male agendas). The Rape Crisis Centre says rapes are vastly under reported in Ireland, well if they're not reported, how do they know they even exist? It's a a guess and an exaggeration to keep the rape “crisis” going (an exaggeration in itself.) I have to post comments like this anonymously because I would be attacked from all sides for being a man who dares to have an opinion (yes, feminists are fascists who don't like freedom of speech) and financially ruined for giving it. Feminists have caused so many problems between men and women that I don't know where to start, everything men say or do is a problem, and, if females don't react the way feminists want, that's a problem too. Enough.

  4. I know of three women whom were raped & didn't report it. The first was a class mate when I was in sixth class, the second, a family member & the third a work colleague,all didn't report because of the shame they thought they woud bring to those around them. So I think your comment is silly.

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