herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Colette Fitzpatrick: Put down this paper and feel your breasts

If you're a woman reading this article, you have a one in 12 chance of getting breast cancer. Those aren't great odds, no matter how young and fit you are.

If you're over the age of 50, got your period at an early age, gave birth for the first time later in life or never at all, drink or have a family history of breast cancer, you're at an even greater risk.

This week I interviewed a woman who is dying. Sue McDermott was in the shower when she found the lump in her breast nearly five years ago. Two years later her doctors told her that her breast cancer was terminal. Sue is living on borrowed time. But she has a fierce spirit. Stubborn as hell. Indomitable. She's as brave as a lion and is getting busy with living.

Punch

She even laughed about how she got a moustache when her hair grew back after losing it during chemo.

I went home that night after speaking to Sue trying to get my head around what it would be like to be told that you are dying. How hearing it would be like a sucker punch to the gut. How having to tell the people that you love might be even harder, than hearing it yourself.

I examined my breasts, which truthfully I hadn't done in ages. Just doing that would be the single biggest factor in my survival if I found a lump; early diagnosis is vital.

If you're a woman reading this article, put the paper down and check your breasts. Right now. It might just save your life.

Why can't I call myself 'ambitious' without being labelled a bitchy Anna wintour-style, ball-breaking wagon?

Ambition. It's a dirty word when it comes to women. Attach it to a man's aspirations for his career and it's a signal he's on his game and focused with a fire in his belly to succeed.

Describe a woman as ambitious and you're more or less implying she's a brazen she-devil with a moral compass so far out of line, she'll walk over anyone and do anything to get where she wants.

Bitchy

When the adjective is used to describe female colleagues of mine in the media game, it mostly always comes with a negative connotation. It implies a cold-hearted virago; a bitchy Anna Wintour-style ball-breaking wagon. I understand the rules of this game and when doing interviews, I have always been careful not to describe myself as ambitious, lest I be portrayed as a harridan.

Fuzzy

When asked if I was, I always felt the need to qualify, to skirt around, to steer the conversation towards anything but the future.

As a woman in the media you're just supposed to sort of fall into promotions and positions, without it ever having entered your warm, fuzzy persona that you'd like to climb up that ladder, hammer in hand, to break that glass ceiling.

Don't be so foolish as to wear it on your sleeve that you always wanted to edit a newspaper, produce or present a programme.

Never, ever be so gauche as to actually admit that you would like to earn plenty of money and would enjoy the trappings of power and respect that come with being at the top of the career ladder.

Research published this week reveals that when it comes to our careers, we appear to be less ambitious than our male colleagues.

Apparently our 'softer side' means we're more likely to earn less and place more of a value on success in our personal lives as opposed to in work.

Placing more emphasis on having a great home and family life is one thing but when you're doing the same job as a male colleague but being paid less because you're 'too soft' to ask for more money sounds like astonishing self-sabotage to me.

Forgot

How in God's name are we meant to change antediluvian, male-dominated organisations if you're the one buying into double standards? Are you just going to accept that you work in the office that equality forgot? That sounds suspiciously like it comes from the same stable as 'it's ok to cry, play dumb and appear unthreatening' in work.

There's a Facebook page called Real Ambitious Women. Its mission statement has a quote from Helen Keller.

"One cannot consent to creep when one has an impulse to soar." Pathetically, just 225 people 'like' this page. But sure who in their right mind would create a page about women containing that word 'ambition'?

At the risk of sounding all Oprah, why not reclaim the word 'ambition', grow a pair of laithroidi, get a brass neck and make a start by asking for more money. You are worth it.

Nicola Roberts, you are such a big fake

NICOLA Roberts of Girls Aloud fame used to at least look real. Now she's succumbed to the lure of 'fake' just like the rest of them, sporting hair extensions recently. Can someone please give all these girls a fake lash, fake nail and fake hair extension-ectomy.

HAS Mary Byrne got an unfair advantage because Tesco has taken out ads to support her? Please. All the contestants have supporters and every little helps. Oh and apologies to publicans, but Saturday nights from here on in are on the couch, in front of the X Factor.

DIDN'T Eamon Gilmore use to fight elections on a 'No service charges' platform? Now he's saying he 'favours' water charges ...

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