herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Colette Fitzpatrick: A female TD who stands up for her principles? Well, the cheek of her

Averil Power
Averil Power
Being a working mum is a juggling act
Big Brother Jade
Same-sex marriage celebrations

There are a number of words that seem mostly to be used to describe women - flounces, hormonal, shrill, bossy, highly strung, bubbly, catty, high maintenance, bitchy.

Think about it. When did a man ever flounce out of a room because he was hormonal or highly strung? When was someone with the XY chromosome ever called catty?

There's another word used more to describe women - vindictive. It was one of the words used to describe Senator Averil Power's comments this week by her former boss Micheal Martin.

"Vindictive" is an emotive word, conjuring up images of someone who is spiteful. Like all politicians, Micheal Martin knows about soundbites, word gymnastics and political-ese. He would have thought very carefully about how to describe Averil Power. And he settled on that word.

There's no doubt that Averil Power put the boot into Martin. But there is a marked contrast between the language they both used. She described him as "not being an effective leader". She didn't describe any individual as "cynical and cowardly", a phrase she used to describe the party's approach to the marriage referendum.

It was he who used the more emotional "vindictive".

Now Power's former colleagues have the knives out for her. It's hard not to imagine Old Testament-style fury in Fianna Fail HQ at "the cheek of her" for doing what she did.

The scene last Tuesday as Fianna Fail TD Bobby Aylward returned to the Dail was like that poster for Reservoir Dogs - all men, striding along, like a stag party, with the tag line "let's go to work".

Going to work in an office like one from Mad Men.

All political parties have a "women problem", so the Government lashed out a quota system for the next general election.

Thirty per cent of candidates must be female. Of course they're all struggling because no one thought to actually tackle the reasons why women aren't going into politics. Until that happens, quotas will be little more than just optics.

Unfortunately, we're inured to the sexism displayed this week. In 1992, Taoiseach Albert Reynolds responded to heckles from Fine Gael's Nora Owen by remarking: "That's women for you."

In 2010, Brian Cowen told then-Labour leader Eamon Gilmore he should try to "rein her in now and again", referring to Joan Burton. In 2011, Mick Wallace called Mary Mitchell O'Connor "Miss Piggy". In 2013, Tom Barry hauled party colleague Aine Collins on to his lap in the Dail.

Averil Power herself previously described Labour's Pat Rabbitte as having an "Andy Gray approach to women" after she alleged he made sexist comments about her and her colleague Mary Fitzpatrick. See, it's cross-party sexism.

So why should we be surprised to see another bad week for women in politics? It's just male politicians living down to our expectations - again.

 

You think working mums will bring down society? Think again

Good news this week for the "Can Women Have It All?" Chronicles. According to new research, there are significant benefits for children growing up with mothers who work outside the home. 

A study by the Harvard Business School shows that girls really benefit in such cases, with the daughters of working mothers completing more years of education. They were therefore more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles and earn more - 23pc more than those raised by stay-at-home mothers.

It gets better. While the men raised by working mothers have similar earnings to those raised by stay-at-home mums, they spent more time on household chores and childcare - seven-and-a-half more hours a week on childcare and 25 more minutes on housework.

It's even better for Irish working mammies. The effect was strongest in countries in which there was a bigger divide in opinions about the role of women and in countries with conservative gender attitudes.

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It was smallest in countries where there was widespread acceptance of working women.

While I have no doubt that some stay-at-home mothers are rolling their eyes at this research, saying 'Yeah, you working mothers convince yourselves that your children are better off in the hands of an exhausted minimum-wage creche worker, rather than your own', this is not the first study to lift the millstone of guilt from working mothers.

Prof Heather Joshi's recent research at the Institute of Education showed that there is zero effect on the cognitive and literacy scores, or the emotions and behaviour, of children of working mothers because their mums work.

The best thing about such studies is that they are bucking the trend. Women earning more and men working more around the home? Who'd have thought?

 

Big Brother Jade is simply TV gold

I hope Dublin girl Jade Martina Lynch survives the eviction she is up for tonight on Big Brother on TV3. Although she's making enemies, Jade Martina is fantastic television. She caused the whole house to be sanctioned at the weekend when she was caught talking about nominations with Nick, and has made enemies with the twins and Eileen.

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Jade Martina Lynch

Although I can't stand that awful baby voice that she does, this is the girl who gave us polyamory. That's the practice, desire, or acceptance of intimate relationships that are not exclusive with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships, with knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Who knows what could happen next?

She's TV gold.

 

Fancy a full Irish wedding, folks?

In one of the smartest moves since Ireland said 'yes' to gay marriage last week, Discover Ireland has created a video that sells the country as the ultimate destination for gay weddings.

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As the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote, it makes marketing sense. Except you'd have to remind all those planning to come here that the weather is risky, even in summer.

And if you want to go full, deep Irish wedding, it will have to be only beef or salmon on the menu, the DJ must play Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer, you can only send rude invites with diktats such as "cash gifts only" and "no Coast or Karen Millen", there must be bets on the length of the speech and there'll have to be a couple of odd relations there, elbowing the younger guests and saying: "You'll be next."

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