Pussy Hats in Ireland

A spectre is haunting Ireland, the spectre of liberal feminism.  The most recent anti-woman outburst from this sector was their abject rejection of wearing pussy hats to protest against Trump when he announced his intention to visits this country in November. Now this visit seems unlikely but the reaction to the announcement is still worth considering for what it reveals about the limitations of liberal feminism.

Never mind that women around the globe wore these hats as an easily recognisable symbol of international sisterhood and solidarity, in Ireland we don’t do that sort of thing.

We are repeatedly told by the bright stars leading this movement that ‘Our Feminism’ is different.  ‘Our Feminism’ is inclusive and extraordinary in its capacity to embrace the women who need it most. It celebrates prostitution as a career option for plucky young women.  It gleefully offers womanhood to anyone who wants to claim it.  ‘Our Feminism’ leaves no man behind.

So, if  Trump was to visit Ireland, how would we show our disgust for his blatant misogyny?  Would we stand with the international sisterhood?  Of course not.  ‘Our Feminism’ is too special for that.  We’d take him down a peg or two with flowers,  yellow flowers.  Lots and lots of yellow flowers.

How did the top ladies of ‘Our Feminism’ hit on this incredible suggestion?  For those unfamiliar with the symbolism of yellow flowers in Ireland, aka the entire world, I will explain.

In the mid-eighties, the body of an infant washed up on a beach in Kerry.  At the same time, a woman gave birth on the family farm and buried her stillborn child in a field. This woman was accused of murdering the baby on the beach and when her own child was found, the case against her, which should have ended there and then, escalated instead.

In a mind-boggling display of misogyny, the state pursued her and the case was put that she had been pregnant by two different men simultaneously, had given birth to both infants around the same time and had killed them.  Finally, a year later, a tribunal was set up to investigate the Garda handling of this case,  to examine how she was accused of absurdities and pursed beyond reason.  But instead of delivering some measure of justice, the tribunal put the woman under the microscope.  A room full of men in suits pored over all aspects of her sex life, her menstrual cycle, her uterus, for days and days.

As this case progressed, women became outraged and started sending her yellow flowers to show their solidarity. My mother sent some, her neighbour sent some.  They were not rabid feminists they were women who were disgusted with how the female body itself was being put on trial through the suffering of one individual.  It felt like every woman in Ireland was standing with their accused sister.  It felt like every woman in Ireland understood what it was like to be in the presence of men in suits, men in collars, lingering on the shame of the female body, relishing the power they claimed over it.

The yellow flowers represent a moment of solidarity for women in Ireland.

When Trump boasted about grabbing women by the pussy another symbol of female solidarity was born.  The hats were immediately and unequivocally recognised as a symbol of the common understanding of women all over the world.  Of the knowledge, we hold, that our bodies are simultaneously the site of male sexual gratification and male brutality.

Objection arose almost immediately.  By highlighting the fact that our bodies are central to the oppression women endure under the patriarchal system, we were failing those men who claimed womanhood. Because some men would rather be regarded as women, it was no longer ‘feminist’ to refer to the female body in any way.   The very site of our oppression could no longer be spoken about.

The organisers of some Women’s Marches took this absurd reasoning on and denounced the hats.  Women around the world wore them anyway.  The pussy hat endured as a symbol of international sisterhood.

When we got our chance to show our sisters everywhere that we stand with them, that vile male predatory entitlement will not go unchallenged in Ireland, what did ‘Our Feminism’ do?  It pulled back to its insular, nationalistic outlook. Desperate that some men might be offended, it denounced the hats.  (It also claimed that women who are not white are somehow excluded if the hat is pink, but that’s a whole other set of delusions.)

Instead of pussy hats, the women of Ireland were encouraged to go with the yellow flowers.  Because we know what they mean and we like to wallow in matters the rest of the world doesn’t understand. Because liberal feminism’s biggest flaw is that it includes that which will devour it.  Because its leaders in Ireland have no understanding of the political significance of international solidarity.  Because ‘Our Feminism’ can’t see the irony of denouncing one symbol that represents the exploitation of the female body and lauding another symbol that does exactly the same thing.

This is what comes of confusing femininity with womanhood. This is what comes of having no real understanding of the feminist cause.


Leave Us Alone, Yes, I’m Talking to You, TiMs.

Lesbians are women who are sexually attracted to other women.  This attraction is based on biology and that fact is not going to change, no matter how much mansplaining we are subjected to by TiMs and transmaidens.

TiM’s claims that a woman is an entity in which a feminine gender resides and that entity can have a male body just as readily as a female one.  Lesbian desire for the female form says otherwise.  (so does reality).  Gender based attraction just does not work.  I am never, ever going to be attracted to a person claiming womanhood on the basis of how they feel.  I don’t find male bodies attractive.  I don’t want to be intimate with one,  and I never will.

TiMs expect me to refer to myself as a ‘cis’ lesbian.  Well, let’s look at how that would work. If I was a ‘cis’ lesbian then a man who calls himself a woman but is sexually attracted to women has to be a ‘trans’ lesbian.  Now, bear with me, this ‘trans’ lesbian fancies a woman.  If she is straight and they have a relationship.  She is now what, a straight woman in a lesbian relationship with a penised person?  He is what, a ‘trans’ lesbian in a relationship with a straight woman?  Seriously, if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s a straight relationship.

If the ‘trans’ lesbian’s female partner is a lesbian, well, she’s not.  It’s a straight relationship.  If the ‘trans’ lesbian’s partner is male, it’s a gay male relationship.

I can hear the roar, Queer! Genderfluid! Genderqueer! Gender Non- conforming and on and on and on. Anything, everything, to mask the fact that there is no such thing as a lesbian relationship with a penis in it. There is no such thing as a lady-dick.  You cannot get pregnant in a lesbian relationship without planning.

Lesbians are not attracted to men.  If they were, there wouldn’t be any lesbians.  We’d all be straight or bi.

But we are not allowed to say this anymore. We are being told we are not lesbian but ‘queer’ a word once used to describe lesbians and gays which is now a catch-all for having sex with men no matter who you are. We are being criticized for not ‘exploring the possibility’,  for refusing to ‘expand the boundaries’ or put more bluntly,  for not accommodating the spiralling nonsense that is trans theory butting up against lesbian sexuality.  We are supposed to just switch to loving the penis because the man wielding it has a fetish about being female.

Long have we been subjected to the jibes of straight men.  “You just need to meet the right man.”  “All you need is a good f**k!”  And here it is again.  Same shit under a new banner. But the difference this time is that large portions of what used to be the LGBT community are backing the TiMs. The big hitters of our own media don’t support us. They no longer advocate for lesbians to be allowed to love only women.

We are supposed to sit down, shut up and listen to men telling us about the new arrangements.  And there in the centre of the whole circus is the penis, that most important of dangly things that the world is supposed to revolve around.

Well, my world isn’t ever going to be organised around straight male sexuality.  Biology matters to me and to a hell of a lot of other people.



Votes For Women!

It had been a rallying cry for decades. Through marches, beatings, prison, hunger-strikes, force-feeding, even death in the case of  Emily Davison.  Through derision, punishment, hate and slander that cry rang out.  At meetings, outside parliament, on the streets, on the doorstep, wherever people gathered, the suffragettes were there and the cry was always the same, simple utterance, Votes for Women!   The fight was a long and bitter one. Finally, Lloyd George’s government capitulated.

This year marks the centenary of the introduction of women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom and, hence, in Ireland. Looking back from our time it is hard to appreciate the depth of the sacrifice and the personal cost of the commitment our sisters held so steadfastly to. So, here at Author, Author we plan to write about the women who won that right for us.  Over the next twelve months, we will highlight the contribution of some of the women who stepped out of their homes, reached for the hands of their sisters and changed history.

Let me introduce you to, or reacquaint you with, Charlotte Despard.  This extraordinary woman was born in 1844 and during the course of the next ninety-five years was to engage, head on with the major movements and upheavals of her time.  A slim, fiery figure who fought for the urban poor in London in the 1870’s, joined Kier Hardy’s Labour Party, met Eleanor Marks, Gandhi and of course, the Pankhursts.  In the 1930’s she was still galvanising the crowds in Trafalgar Square in Anti-Franco rallies.

Charlotte French was born into a wealthy family. She was apt to run away to explore beyond the gates of her family’s estate she was always curious about the world and the people who inhabited it.  In 1870 she married Maximillian Carden Despard.  When he died twenty years later, she made the decision to dedicate her life and energy to working for the poor.  She moved to London and set up clinics, clubs and centres to address the poverty of the working class. She immersed herself in political theory and emerged a dedicated socialist.  The hardships endured by the poor women she now lived among made a lasting impact.  In a speech in 1910, Charlett Despard said:

“Fundamentally all social and political questions are economic. With equal wages, the male worker would no longer fear that his female colleague might put him out of a job, and ‘men and women will unite to effect a complete transformation to the industrial environment… A woman needs economic independence to live as an equal with her husband. It is indeed deplorable that the work of the wife and mother is not rewarded. I hope that the time will come when it is illegal for this strenuous form of industry to be unremunerated.”

Below are a couple of photos from her long career.  Interestingly both appear to be from the same spot in Trafalgar Square in London.

Charlott Despard Early T Sq

Not sure what point our girl is hammering home here. But it seems to be in support of a Socialist rally.


This is from an anti-fascist rally in the 1930’s.  (Isn’t she wonderous!) Notice at least one woman is now out and about at political rallies.

In 1906 Charlotte joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) run by Emmeline Pankhurst and her Daughters, Christabel and Sylvia. She had this to say about joining the movement:

 “I had sought and found comradeship of some sort with men. I had marched with great processions of the unemployed. I had stood on the platforms of Labour men and Socialists. I had tried to stir up the people to a sense of shame about the misery of their homes, and the degradation of their women and children. I had listened with sympathy to fiery denunciations of Governments and the Capitalist systems to which they belong. Amongst all these experiences, I had not found what I met on the threshold of this young, vigorous Union of Hearts.”

Charlotte took up the cause of women’s suffrage with imagination and vigour.  Fearless in defence of her sisters when the police moved in, she was arrested three times.  She was unstoppable and inexhaustible.  However, she and others became frustrated at the undemocratic nature of the WSPU and left to form the Women’s Franchise League (WFL).   The WFL sought suffrage for all women, unlike the WSPU which campaigned to extend the vote to women of property in line with the right of propertied men.

Charl D with banner

Charlotte marching with her sisters.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914, the WSPU immediately ceased campaigning and Emmeline Pankhurst urged her members to help the war effort, in whatever way they could, including, from 1916, supporting conscription drives.  In contrast, Charlotte Despard was a pacifist who spoke against the war and conscription.  Oddly enough, her brother, John French, was the head of the British Army and Commander in Cheif on the disastrous Western Front.

Immediately after the war, Lloyd George’s government introduced the Representation of the People Act which granted the vote to propertied women over thirty.  At the same time, it extended suffrage to include all men over twenty-one.  Working-class women would have to wait for another decade before they could go to the ballot box. It wasn’t what Charlotte Despard had fought for but it was a start.


Charlotte and Maud Gonne outside Mountjoy prison in Dublin in 1920 supporting republican prisoners. Delighted to add here that my granny was there at that time too.  She told us often enough that she spent her honeymoon outside the prison trying to get word of her cousin, Jack, who was lifted by the Black and Tans (military thugs).

By 1918 Charlotte was spending more and more time in Ireland, the birthplace of her father.  The country was gripped by rebellion as the struggle for independence from Britain intensified.  Charlotte threw herself into the fight.  She supported the union movement in their bitter battle with employers in Dublin.  She continued her work for the poor.

During the War of Independence when the British threw everything they had at us, John French, Charlotte’s brother, (remember the Western Front?) was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ie the highest representative of the crown.  While he embarked on a campaign of intimidation and cruelty, she toured the country documenting the atrocities of his soldiers and police officers.

Maud Gonne (much more on her in a later piece) who was herself an extraordinary woman recalled their shared activities and how they sailed through roadblocks to carry on their revolutionary activities.

 ‘With her, I was able to visit places I should never have been able to get to alone… it was amusing to see the puzzled expressions on the faces of the officers … when Mrs Despard said she was the Viceroy’s sister’.

Charlotte Despard was a talented and inspiring leader.  She had an impressive grasp of the politics of her day and she fought tirelessly to make the changes she thought necessary so that we, the women and men of later generations could enjoy lives of equality and fulfilment.  We may not have achieved all she would have liked for us but it wasn’t for lack of trying on her part. We owe her a debt of gratitude. Thank you, Charlotte Despard.

Suffragettes postering

Women fighting for our right to vote.

Poisoned Letter

Some people in Ireland wrote a really nasty open letter to British women who intend to come here and speak on an issue that is vital to our interests.  If you are unfamiliar with it you can read it here.

Owen Jones, among others, thinks it’s great.  But it is not a great letter it is a really bad letter full of, let’s say, inaccuracies.  It is unnecessarily hateful and makes claims it cannot support. And this is without even getting into the TiMs debate.

First.  They say  ‘..we are Irish feminism.’ When they are absolutely not. How can one group with one point of view claim to be ‘Irish feminism’. At best this is a semantic blunder but one that enables them to grab a grandiose platform, to which they are not entitled.

Second.  They say that British feminists have never supported us. Where do I start?  There have been marches and protests for Repeal in London and Glasgow recently. Are they only supported by Irish women? I doubt it. I’ve seen British women wearing Repeal necklaces.  When I lived in London some of the issues British feminists supported were, the X Case (raped Irish teenager denied right to travel for abortion), Dunnes Stores Strikers, Strip Searches (used to degrade Irish women republican prisoners), Prevention of Terrorism Act, Support for Irish women travelling for abortion. To claim none of this ever happened is disingenuous and mean-spirited.

Third.  The letter claims that Irish feminism has been shaped by the struggle against colonialism and I agree that this is a big factor for those women living under occupation in the six counties, particularly during the war. But in the twenty-six counties, our feminism was shaped by living in an Irish Catholic Theocracy that was formed with the acquiescence of an Irish, conservative, patriarchal, woman-hating brand of politics that took root after the Civil War.  How could you possibly talk about the formation of Irish feminism and ignore the Catholic church?

The manner in which they address ‘British feminists’ is designed to evoke notions of stuck up, white,  imperialist women who know nothing about Irish issues and care even less.  What it actually demonstrates is smug ignorance.  It ignores the multi-racial complexities of British feminism, the intersectional realities lived by working-class feminists in Britain and the connectedness and supportiveness of world-wide feminism.

Having identified themselves as ‘Irish feminism’  (..”we are Irish feminism.”), they go on to say, “we don’t want it in Ireland”.  They say the speakers are  “not welcome in Ireland”, when, actually, where a lot of feminists are concerned, they are very welcome.  This makes a nonsense of the signatories claims that a) they don’t claim to speak for all women and b) that they are not trying to shut down debate.

This letter is nothing to celebrate. Those who cheer its circulation are supporting a document that is full of fabrications, falsehoods and misrepresentation.  It is petty and mean and seeks to elevate the authors by crushing the truth and shaping feminist history into a platform that suits their ignorant agenda.


The More Things Change…

On this day in 1984, a fifteen-year-old girl left her school, in Granard, Co. Longford, Ireland. She never returned.  Hours later a group of boys on their way home from school discovered her.  She was lying, near death from shock and cold, under a statue of the Blessed Virgin where she had given birth and her stillborn infant son was wrapped in her coat.  She died soon after reaching the hospital.

She would have passed friends, teachers and townspeople on her way to the grotto. She didn’t ask for help.  She couldn’t ask for help. That kid’s name was Ann Lovette and no one who was alive in Ireland at the time has ever forgotten her story.

The reaction was tidal.  Feminists were angry, outraged, horrified.  So were lots of other Irish people.  A bishop said her fate had more to do with her immaturity than anything else.  Ann’s story is now looked back on as a milestone in the social evolution of a country. He body became a marker for all of us.

Some male wanted that body, took that body.  As her belly grew over the months of her pregnancy no one commented on the changes.  She concealed her condition. She was one of nine siblings and lived with a mother and a father in a town of a thousand people but no one noticed the bulge in the body of Ann Lovett.  She was used and left to deal with the consequences in a society that was contemptuous of her situation.

That was the male-dominated church ridden Ireland of the 1980’s.

So much has changed.  Today, in Ireland, we have helplines, rape crisis centres, refuges, child-centred support,  supportive medical intervention in pregnancy,  (kind of, sometimes, still working on that).   We have equal pay, (well, actually still working on that too).  Point is, we have come a long way. Everything is better. Everything looks better anyway.

Now we pride ourselves on being forward-looking, liberal Europeans.  We can leave Ann Lovett’s tragic body with those of all the women and girls, who suffered and died becasue men used them.  We can leave behind the tiny bones of the babies that were buried in fields all over this country.  We’re not like that now.

Today men might use porn.  Boys might pressure girls to allow anal penetration, to send naked photos.  Women might be regularly murdered by their male partners. Prostitution might be rampant.  We might be constantly groomed to look like men want us to.  But it’s not the same.

We have theorized and postulated.  We have figured out that we are not the problem. Society is not the problem.  Men are the problem and it is the same.  Our bodies are still the site of exploitation, objectification and violence.  Men are still fixed on our physical form.  In our struggle for equality, much of our energies have had to go into support services because our bodies are so battered.

We know that legislation does not work.  Representation does not work. Nothing will work until we confront the secret life of men that is accommodated by other men, facilitated by the silent understanding that men have the right to consume the bodies of women and girls and to visit violence on those bodies.  In little ways,  – ‘give us a smile’.  In bigger ways – abuse and rape and in fatal ways –  from a child giving birth at a grotto to the average of ten women who are murdered every year by men known to them.



There is a storm on Jupiter that has been blowing for nearly two hundred years, or at least that’s how long we have been able to observe it from Earth.  It is a deep and terrifying force and it rages on and on.  Storms happen when balance is lost.  When the atmosphere is out of whack.  When something needs to be put right.  Getting the picture?

We have had plenty of political storms here on our little orb.  Revolutions to redistribute power, wars to turn the tide of fascism, civil rights movements to uproot racism.  None of these movements has ever delivered equality for women.

One hundred years ago in the UK and Ireland, women won the vote and the right to stand for parliamentary elections.  It was a long and difficult struggle.  That fight took over forty years.  Forty Years!

It was not until 2015 that all of the women ever elected in the UK outnumbered all the men in a single parliament.  That is not anywhere near balance.

Fifty years after the equal pay legislation, we still don’t have it.  Clearly, legislation is not delivering equality for us.  So how do we achieve balance?  What can we do when we look at all of the injustice, misrepresentation, violence, exploitation and oppression meeted out to women every day in every part of our planet?

We stand up.  We speak out.  We see our sister speaking out and we take her hand.  We form cells, groups that merge into bigger groups and movements. We talk and we keep talking, we shout and we keep shouting, we march and we keep marching.  We build bridges to reach each other.  We take every woman’s cause as our own. We stand in solidarity when one is attacked.

We make spaces for our sisters to speak.  We listen and we make the world around us listen.  We destroy the institutions that oppress us, we just tear them down and move on. We do not let the world shape our daughters to its own ends.  We do not let the little things pass.  We do not try to bring men with us.  We do not care how our anger sits with them.   We do not tolerate misogyny is any guise. We let our anger loose on the world and we do not shrink from its devastating impact.

We are the storm and we are raging and we will restore balance.