Gender

repeal8t

Women, This State Hates Us.

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&white&
or cead mile failte, are you here for the torture?
&white&
In case you had managed to misremember
how much our country hates us
along comes another woman needing shelter;
because someone transgressed against her
she needs help from us, just for the moment
until all this is behind her,
and do we make her welcome?
Does she get the help she needs? Ah
you know the answer: does she hell-
this country hates the likes of her
this country rapes the likes of her,
we will leave her with her bodily integrity in tatters
while psychiatrists fight it out about her psyche
and noone will ask her opinion
on what’s to be done with her
she is not considered sentient
and our state penetrates her
over and over and over-
&white&
this woman will be incorporated as evidence
in a poisonous debate that skims over how
very many ways the state we’ve built
is willing to degrade us, she will get a code name
and become a touchstone, something (not someone)
that we can talk about in concerned tones
on Marion Finucane and we will shake our heads
and say it’s clear now that our state hates us
as if we hadn’t always known it
as if we haven’t always felt it
as if it hasn’t been the subtext of our paths
through life to womanhood-
&white&
men friends it’s clear now too,
that if you are so inclined you could rape us,
and in all but a few cases you’d serve no sentence
not only that lads but here in our little Ireland
you could impregnate us, force a conception
that we played no part in, then you could
sit back and wait for our institutions
to force motherhood upon us
and they’ll do it- they’ve proved it
even if they have to perforate our mouths with tubes
and force feed us, even if they have to sedate us
then slice our wombs open with surgical knives,
they can and obviously will do it
and deep down we always knew this:
we knew Savita Halappanavar
we knew the Kerry Babies
we knew of lonely deaths on wet nights in Granard
and the A,B, C, and X cases
&white&
and the fortunate amongst us,
the ones with resources know what ferry terminals
look like at night time and how much it costs
to raise a child in all sorts of currencies,
we know whether we are or are not up for it
there should be no shame in that but here, well,
we must keep it secret because of how much
our state hates us, when we make love
we take the risk of ending up in hospital
in a country where if you’re a pregnant woman
‘state care’ is an oxymoron, it’s a shame to say
that as long as we have the capacity
to bear children, Ireland is not a safe place for us;
women, rise up, this country hates us
it’s long past time we changed it
enough is way too much this time.
&white&
&white&
Referendum now – repeal the 8th Amendment.

Sarah Clancy

Image from a video of a protest which took place on Wednesday the 20th of August at the Spire in O’Connell St, Dublin. Courtesy of USI and Paula Geraghty.

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Gas, Gender, and Ideology: Reflections on a Prime Time Debate

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As I sat in the audience of a Prime Time feature on Irish gas and oil (RTÉ, March 11, 2014), I wondered what I was doing there. I’m probably not the first person to ponder their attendance on such an occasion but it was a unique thought for me as I’ve been interested in the topic of Irish gas and oil for over 8 years. I’d also spent nearly 4 years conducting extensive research into the Irish state’s management of its gas and oil as the basis of my PhD in Sociology.

So why was I questioning my participation in the audience? This narrative piece explains why and illustrates how a seemingly innocuous event like a television debate can reveal issues of gender inequality, differing ideologies,  and questions of knowledge and ‘experts’, while problematising how the mainstream media frames discourse surrounding matters of public concern.

My reflection on the experience began with the question of why I wasn’t given the opportunity to participate in the debate. After all I’ve carried out comprehensive research into the subject of Irish gas and oil based on extensive documentary research, case studies, observations and interviews with 30 key stakeholders (including former Ministers, current and former senior civil servants, politicians, oil industry personnel, media, civil society, people affected by the Corrib gas conflict, and trade unionists).  I’d also assisted some of the other speakers with their publications. For example, I co-edited a new book by Own Our Oil (2014), contributed to Shell to Sea’s Liquid Assets (2012), and co-authored Optimising Ireland’s Oil and Gas Resources (SIPTU, 2011).

The lack of engagement didn’t make sense , particularly as during the equivalent of an hour of telephone conversations spanning two days, a Prime Time researcher had made it clear that the editorial team “really want[ed]” me there. While they couldn’t guarantee that I would have the opportunity to speak during the debate, it seemed most likely that I would be asked to contribute.

Indeed, this researcher and I agreed 3 key areas that I would highlight during my planned input: issues surrounding the control and ownership of Irish gas and oil, or  in plainer terms the privatisation of Irish hydrocarbons in exchange for one of the lowest rates of government take in the world; the absence of mechanisms for consultation or developing consent of communities for oil and gas developments; and fragmented and unsuitable permission systems as most evident in the Corrib gas debacle. I’d planned to locate these 3 topics within a broader statement around how the Irish state’s approach to the management of its gas and oil is fundamentally flawed and that the proposed review of Irish fiscal terms by Wood Mackenzie is insufficient to address the deficiencies inherent to the state’s model of hydrocarbon management.

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Bishop Accuses Spanish Women of Holocaust

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I joined the International Women’s Day march in Valencia on Saturday night. Sources estimate between 10,000 and 20,000 people turned out for the event, from my perspective about 40 percent of those marching were men. Valencia is Spain’s third largest city, after Marid and Barcelona, where marches also took place. This day is usually a day of celebration of women in history and society as well as a chance to draw some attention back to the gender inequalities still present in work and pay. However, yesterday’s event also provided an opportunity to demonstrate the anger and exasperation building up around the new anti-abortion law being carried through the Spanish parliament by the conservative Partido Popular.

The proposal would overturn a very recent law (2010) that legalises abortion on demand in the first trimester, meaning that rape or a serious threat to the woman’s health – currently the conditions for abortion in the second trimester – would have to be proven by anyone seeking an abortion. I have read that somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of the Spanish people oppose this bill. I’m not sure how accurate that is but the big turnout across Spanish cities for what is normally a fun family event was telling. The day before the protests I attended an assembly of women from the trade union Comisiones Obreras. The hall was filled with about 200 women and was brimming with anger. In one of the opening speeches tribute was paid to a lady called Concha Carretero who died on January 1st this year at the age of 95. Carretero’s story, as I grasped it in my broken Spanish, reminds me of the potency behind the word often used at Spanish protests – indignada.

Carretero, born in 1918, was first imprisoned when Franco’s army entered Madrid in 1939. Arrested after attending a meeting of the Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (United Socialist Youth) on her first night in prison, she was beaten and electrocuted and made to clean up the blood of her fellow captives. Lying unconscious after a beating on the night of August 4th, 1939 her cellmates, thirteen women, were taken and executed by firing squad. Almost a year later, Carretero was released only to be quickly re-arrested. This time she avoided freezing to death when stripped naked and doused in buckets of cold water by exercising all night in her cell. By then Carretero’s father, an anarchist, had been found dead on the street, and her mother, who had suffered a serious injury when a lift fell on top of her while cleaning in the dark shaft, slept unbeknownst to her daughter under the archways of the prison where she was held. Not long after her release Carretero’s husband and father of her first child was arrested and shot by firing squad. Carretero’s crime had been her involvement and work with the Republican army, making clothes and minding the children of men and women on the front during the Civil War. But more than that it had been to dare challenge the might and divine authority of fascist Spain. Going on to re-marry and have five more children, Carretero attended the Almudena cemetery in Madrid every year to mark the anniversary of the execution of her thirteen cell mates, the Thirteen Roses, and every year she called for the “Third Republic”. (Further info here: Fallece Concha Carretero, compañera de las trece rosas rojas, by Gustavo Vidal Manzanares, nuevatribuna.es).

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Uterus Strike

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This is a translation of an article by Beatriz Preciado, originally published in Público on 29th January 2013, regarding the Partido Popular’s anti-abortion legislation.

Locked within individualistic neoliberal fiction, we live with the naive sensation that our body belongs to us, that it is our most intimate property. However, the management of the greater part of our organs is under the aegis of various governmental and economic entities. Of all the bodily organs, it has been undoubtedly the uterus that has been the object of the greatest political and economic expropriation. As a cavity that potentially allows for gestation,the uterus is not a private organ, but a biopolitical space of exception, to which the norms that regulate the rest of our anatomical cavities do not apply. As a space of exception, the uterus resembles the refugee camp or the prison more than it does the liver or the lung.

The body of women contains within it a public space, whose jurisdiction is fought over not only by religious and political powers, but also medical, pharmaceutical and agri-food industries.Hence, as historian Joan Scott points out, women have spent a long time in a situation of “paradoxical citizenship”: if as human bodies they belong to the democratic community of free citizens, as bodies with potentially gestating uteruses, they lose their autonomy and become objects of intense surveillance and political control. Every woman carries within her a laboratory of the Nation-State upon whose management depends the purity of the national ethnos. For the past forty years, feminism has carried out, in the West, a process of decolonisation of the uterus. But the contemporary situation in Spain shows us that not only is this process unfinished, but it is fragile and can be easily revoked.

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A Bridge for Rosie

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An article on Rosie Hackett and the naming of the Marlborough street bridge by Angelina Cox, Jeni Gartland, & Lisa Connell.

The bridges arching over the sleepy river Liffey project the memories of cherished historical and cultural figures; the Butt Bridge, named after the founder of the Home Rule movement in Ireland; the Grattan Bridge, named after Henry Grattan, an 18th century Irish politician, the Sean O’Casey Bridge, named after the enlightened dramatist, and the Fr. Mathew Bridge, named after Fr. Theobold Mathew, an teetotaller priest from the 18th century.  Every bridge in Dublin city centre is named after an important historical or cultural figure and every bridge in Dublin city centre is named after a man.

The practice of naming streets, bridges and other landmarks after cherished historical and cultural figures is an important form of recognition for their contributions. Lamentably, however, women’s contributions to historic struggles for independence, the trade union movement, the arts and culture have not received elucidation in Dublin city’s landscape.

The Marlborough Street Bridge is presently under construction. The naming of this new bridge is a timely opportunity to redress the gender imbalance projected in the architecture and infrastructure of Dublin city centre

The job of christening the bridge falls to Dublin city council which has produced a shortlist of five names; including two women – Rosie Hackett and Kay Mills. Given the bridge is located near Liberty Hall, naming the bridge in memory of Rosie Hackett, who lived and worked in the area, seems most fitting. 

Born in 1892, Rosie dedicated her life to the trade union movement and struggle for workers’ rights.

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11-07-201315-29-12

An Irish Prayer

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An Irish Prayer
After Charles Cotton’s 17th Century Poem “The Litany”
 ssss
From soft-bodied, suited snails who smile
and slither through shining corridors,
through the slick paw of justice,
through the smudged subtext
of the daily papers, through
the precious pennies of our savings accounts -
from their slippery, silvery trail
Deliver us.
 sssss
From the public Punch and Judy show
starring Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael
and only You, God, know what role Labour plays
(but we can imagine them all backstage
after the shouting's done for the day,
cosying up for pints for which we've paid)
but please Deliver us.
dddd 
From the couches of our apathy, from
our conditioned inferiority, from
our muttering religiosity, from
our slack-jawed gullibility, from
our yawning inequality, from
our paralysing futility, from
our grotesque lack of accountability -
Deliver our country, Lord
Deliver us!
ssss

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10-07-2013_1_thumb

Repression in the Name of Rescue: The Oireachtas Justice Committee’s Sex Work Proposals

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Wendy Lyon of Feminist Ire on the barely noticed draconian measures recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality to be included in the forthcoming legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex.

Last month, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality announced its support for legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex. While this received some media coverage, little notice was taken of the related recommendations put forward simultaneously by the Committee – some of which are frankly draconian. These include the following: 

  • “An offence of recklessly permitting a premises to be used for the purposes of prostitution”. Although a sex worker who operates alone out of a premise is committing no crime under either the present or proposed legislation, this would effectively criminalise indoor commercial sex by penalising a landlord who fails to act against it. According to a report commissioned by the City of Oslo, a similar provision in Norway’s penal code (enforced under the ominously-named “Operation Homeless”) has led to the eviction of sex workers from their flats, and makes them less likely to contact police about crimes committed against them lest the police then threaten their landlords. It has also led to the racial profiling by landlords of “nationality groups associated with prostitution”, who now find it difficult to rent premises and must depend on third parties to secure accommodation for them. 
  • “power for An Garda Síochána to have disabled or vested in them any telephone number in use in the State that is suspected on reasonable grounds of being used for the purposes of prostitution”. This provision could cut off sex workers’ access to communication by phone – which would affect them in all aspects of their life, not merely their sex work activity. (While many sex workers use one phone for personal calls and one phone for business, it’s unlikely the Gardaí could easily distinguish between the two unless they were prepared to listen in to all calls made or received by a suspected sex worker – a civil liberties breach reminiscent of the Snowden revelations.) Denying sex workers the right to use telephones could also have adverse effects for their safety, by making it impossible for them to use “ugly mugs” schemes that alert them to dangerous clients, or preventing them calling for help if attacked. 
  • “that the accessing of web sites – whether located in the State or abroad – that advertise prostitution in the State should be treated in the same way as accessing sites that advertise or distribute child pornography”. Leaving aside the question of whether it is appropriate to treat seeking out sex from an at least potentially consenting adult as comparable to seeking out abuse of a child, this proposal makes no distinction between those who seek out sex and those who advertise it. Thus, sex workers themselves could be liable to prosecution (and presumably placement on the sex offenders’ registry) by accessing these sites for the purpose of advertising. Outreach health and social service workers who engage with sex workers through these sites, as well as sex industry researchers, would also be affected. It goes without saying that this proposal would require a significant expansion of the apparatus already in place to monitor Irish internet usage. 

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SelmaJames

Audio: “How can women defeat austerity?” Selma James’ Talk at Maynooth, 13 March 2013

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“How can women defeat austerity?” – Selma James at Maynooth, 13 March 2013

An MA Community Education, Equality and Social Activism podcast, available on the Community Education, Equality and Social Activism (CEESA) website here.

Founder of the Wages for Housework campaign and coordinator of the Global Women's Strike, Selma James brought a lifetime of movement experience to bear in this electrifying talk. Asked to speak to organisers' needs in the current crisis, she spoke to a roomful of 30 activists and researchers passionately, clearly and incisively for an hour without notes.

To understand austerity, we have to understand the struggles which gave birth to the welfare state, the poverty which went before it and the attacks it has been under since the 1970s, and the first part of her talk tackled these themes. In the second part she discussed the weaknesses of movements since that time in responding to the attacks: how NGOisation has demobilised movements and left them dependent on funders, far-left parties try to substitute themselves for popular action while social-democratic parties simply represent a slower attack on people's basic needs. In the third and final part she discussed the urgency of building a broader movement which does not see class and gender, anti-racism or environmental survival, as separate and opposed issues. A lively and engaged discussion followed.

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SelmaJames

DEFENDING CARING AND WELFARE IN CARELESS TIMES – Selma James at UCD

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PRAXIS and Equality Studies are proud to announce that a Communiversity event will take place on Tuesday March 12th 2013 2.30 – 4.30pm E114, UCD Newman (Arts) Building where renowned activist and author Selma James will address the theme DEFENDING CARING AND WELFARE IN CARELESS TIMES. The event comes at a time when austerity policies, triggered by the global economic meltdown, are devastating already-burdened communities. In particular, the rights and entitlements hard-won over the years by carers, overwhelmingly women, are being senselessly eroded. Despite all of this, care work and other work that women must do for the survival of families and communities continues, unabated and uncelebrated.

Selma James is known for coining the phrase “unwaged” in the 1970s to describe the unremunerated care work done almost universally by women. She continues to address these and other inequalities in her work, and information on her new book Sex, Race and Class, The Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952-2011, is available at the end of this press release. She is co-author of the women's movement classic The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community. James founded the International Wages for Housework Campaign and is coordinator of the Global Women's Strike. She is also the widow and former colleague of influential historian CLR James.

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Rally For X: March 4th, Dublin Castle, Assemble 6pm, Central Bank, Dame St

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Rally For X
March 4th is the eve of the 21st anniversary of the X ruling. EU health ministers will be in Dublin Castle that day. Come and demand that Ireland’s Health Minister takes action to protect women’s lives.
Assemble 6pm, Central Bank
March to Dublin Castle

Call on your TDs to support X legislation.
Come to the activist meeting: 8pm, Wed, March 13th, Teachers Club, Parnell Sq, Dublin.

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01-02-2013 11-45-41

The McAleese Report on the Magdalene Laundries (2013)

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Yesterday the McAleese report on the Magdalene Laundries was published. Like many others, I expected that the report would be a whitewash. Why did I expect that?

Martin McAleese is the husband of former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. She was chosen for election by reactionary forces who sought to undo the advances achieved during the presidency of Mary Robinson, who was seen by them as a left-wing president who sought to advance dangerous causes such as feminism (she had been a highly successful feminist lawyer before her election). For an interesting insight into the selection process within Fianna Fáil read this article.

During her tenure she made many appearances at Catholic Church events. Her most controversial moment came, typically enough, when she took communion in an Anglican Church of Ireland cathedral. That her only controversial action should be theological is characteristic of her presidency which was marked by outward expressions of piety.

In 2010, then President McAleese gave the opening lecture at a conference of the right-wing Italian Catholic movement Comunione e Liberazione in Rimini, Italy. This is how The Italian correspondent of The Irish Times described that organisation:

“Founded in 1954 by Italian Monsignor Luigi Giussani, Comunione e Liberazione (CL) is, to some extent, an Italian version of the influential Spanish lay movement, Opus Dei, although it has no formal connections with Opus Dei. Throughout its history, it has received both public and tacit support from at least three popes – Paul VI, John Paul II and the current pope, Benedict XVI.

The current papal household is run by consecrated members (Memores Domini) of CL. Generally perceived as right-wing, conservative and integrationalist, CL has often been politically active in Italy. In the 1970s, the movement played a prominent part in failed campaigns to prevent the legalisation of both abortion and divorce. CL has always counted important shakers and makers among its public supporters, including most notably the seven-times prime minister Giulio Andreotti.”

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A_Puer

Savita Halappanavar and the Doctor’s Plague

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When my sister was born my mother began to haemorrhage badly and was in danger of bleeding to death. My father and my aunt (a nurse who qualified in England) pleaded with the doctor to carry out a hysterectomy – then the only treatment. He refused on the grounds that a hysterectomy would prevent her having future children. In effect it would be a form of contraception. When my father threatened to take him to court he held out both hands and said, ‘Mr Wall, these hands were blessed by the Pope’. Nevertheless, under threat of legal action, he buried his conscientious objections and did the deed and saved my mother’s life. This was more than fifty years ago.

The recent denial, in similar circumstances, of appropriate treatment to Savita Halappanavar by staff at University Hospital Galway and her subsequent death from septicaemia has caused much controversy here and abroad, not least in her home country where the India Times ran a headline that said: ‘Ireland Murders Pregnant Indian Dentist’. It is, I think, a fair accusation.

There are a few things I would like to say on the matter.

Firstly, what Savita Halappanavar died of – septicaemia – used to be called ‘puerperal fever’ and puerperal fever was nicknamed the ‘doctor’s plague’. It resulted from the increasing tendency to medicalise childbirth from the 15th century onwards. By contrast, incidence of puerperal fever was much lower for traditional births where midwives attended women in their own homes. In other words, for many centuries it was more dangerous to give birth in a hospital than at home. Puerperal fever achieved it’s ‘plague’ status because of the presence of large numbers of women giving birth at the same time in a factory-type situation – and, significantly, the handling of their bodies by men, namely doctors. It was not a plague that affected doctor’s but one that they created. In that sense it was truly ‘the doctor’s plague’.

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