Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Irish Meeja and more on McWilliams

He’s just gotten the spare opinion columnist job in the Independent – bad move I’d say for the Indo; an expensive one at that, I’m sure!
What’s he supposed to be? The conservative – fiscal or social? The intellectual – the one who reads other people’s stuff or the one who comes up with ideas?
The extraordinaire?
The Independent needs to mark its place in the changing daily paper market that will continue to provide serious challenges for it. The Irish Times is fine the way it is – if you’re looking for comfortable consensus on issues you’ll find it there with a few well known exceptions.
McWilliams just gives the Indo some supposed brain candy (even though there are a number of Irish women, myself included who like the eye candy).
I don’t know what you know about the Irish daily paper market, and I know very little, but unless the Indo provide a decent conservative replacement, they’ll have lose a section of the public who like to be challenged to their new competitors.

Despite my previous post, I’ll probably do the odd post over Christmas….

Thrusdays and Thursdays!

From the new blog of the American Chesterton Society My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday. GK Chesterton

Despite agreeing with Chesterton on loads and loads of things, I must say I do prefer Thursday to Wednesday.
For no reason. But Thursday seems to be the final fling before the weekend but with the added security net of knowing you've Friday to pick up the bits that fall through.

This is probably the last post from me before the Christmas unless this internet connection improves and I bother jotting down my thoughts on my last read - Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs (which was really good btw!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

David McWilliams = The Paddy David Brooks???

I wasn’t going to bother with McWilliams’s new book “The Pope’s Children” until a friend of mine suggested that his ideas were very similar to David Brook’s analysis of Bobos In Paradise.
I read Brooks a few years ago and didn’t really remember much of the comic sociologist in detail until I started reading the Dubliner economist, lecturer and broadcaster extraordinaire (as he modestly described himself on the dust jacket)
The first few chapters are full of gushing statistics – we drink more, have more sex, work more, earn more, pay more, buy more cat food than anyone else. I felt vaguely breathless after reading it.
McWilliams point about the Commentariat (the meeja) not telling the good news stories of our economic success is reflected in the seemingly paradoxical high ratings we give our lives rings home.
Then McWilliams enters full blown soundbite, down at the pub with the lads having a few scoops mode and starts making up new words.
The Wonderbra effect and Midnight at the Olympia School of Economics rule in McWilliam’s Ireland. Wonderbra pushed us all together and upwards. Midnight at the Olympia was all about McWilliams sitting happily with his warm beer before the fella in front stood up and then David had to stand up too. The other fella’s girlfriend got up on his shoulders so McWilliams had to throw his girl up on his shoulders too. Basically it’s the economics of envy – but it’s all blurred.
We get the “Kells Angels” who live in Deckland in the Babybelt and raise their Destiny Child in the Expectocracy. These are the builders of our houses and the Celtic Tiger (which apparently McWilliams didn’t coin – and has waited this long to set that one straight)
We have Damien the DIY enthusiast spotted in Woodies, the tabloid delivery man, the bouncy castle salesman, the Eastern European women who work in Spar and then the cutting edge of Ireland today – the communion lunch in Joel’s on the Naas road. All these species, native to the new housing estates surrounding the M50 were described with 3 or 4 one liners where 1 would have sufficed.
Eventually we get onto the panoply of those who don’t really fit in – the Rural Nostalgists at the Ceifin Conference; the Carrot Juice Contrarians at the Organic Farmers’ market and the Economic Enquirers, all of whom are opposed to Decklanders.
And finally McWilliam’s piece de résistance – the HiCos.
It is here that McWilliams lives – the Hibernian Cosmopolitans. Those Irish people who cherish their Irishness while embracing the international influences that their global trotting lifestyle as economic emigrants and gap year travels brought. They’re professionals who don’t flaunt the wealth that they’ve amassed from the cells in their heads and the letters after their names.
The vulgar Deckland spending on new luxuries, like decks, sun holidays, new porches, kitchen extensions and identically groomed front gardens is anathema to the HiCo whose tasteful appreciation of the joys of the high end necessity marks them a cut above the rest. (As does their music snobbery!)
The HiCos are the Irish version of Bobos – the bourgeois bohemians. They come from the same place and have the same a la carte values – a mix of free spirited hippy and a seriously clued in high end, high spending, high taste consumer.
Like Brooks, McWilliams investigates the seedy underworld of the Irish Times Wedding Announcements (Brooks checked out the NYT and came to the same conclusions) and finds that people from houses that don’t have numbers marry people from houses that don’t have numbers – it’s here that the HiCos reside. Unless you’re an academic and can only afford to do up an old council house.
Let’s be honest, the Decklanders probably make up a tiny proportion of the 35,000 who bought his book in recent weeks – they’re reading the Star, as McWilliams, the intrepid explorer of the world beyond the Red Cow roundabout tells us repeatedly. The HiCos will chortle their way through the books, probably on the look out for those little tell tale signs of Deckland to ensure they’re never actually confused with those sort of people.
I’ll admit that I’m probably a baby HiCo (born 1983) without the gaelscoil fetish – don’t like the oul gaelige but will more than likely have 3 year olds playing the Boys of Bluehill in a family ceili band beside my mega Aga and small truck sized refrigerator.
I missed something from this book – not just the index (why write a factual book if you’re not going to give us at least an index) but the part that was the analysis of how these seemingly disparate groups are interacting and will interact. Not just why the social landscape snapshot taken at Christmas 2006 came about, but where it’s going and what it means politically and socially.
Many have made the argument that while Brooks’ analysis was spot-on for the Clintons and the 90s, 9/11 changed the political scene in the States – it was suddenly more serious and less about culture wars and the welcoming political centre with its comfy Starbucks couches.
McWilliams analysis is similarly time restrictive but without the thoughtful depth of Brooks.
I put down the book feeling bereft of an index and a bottom line. I like my books to have at least 1 bottom line. Anyone who has been walking around Ireland for the last few years with their eyes open (and 3 researchers and all the Big Bite crew) could probably have written this book. McWilliams describes us with a breezy and bright style that satisfies as you wait for the punch line but then kinda fizzles out into the night.
McWilliams said he wants to write the book entitled “…”  (couldn’t find the page again because there was no index – something to do with property) but perhaps he should start with the “Pope’s Children – Now That You Know Who They Are, Let’s Try and Understand Them”.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Weird Habits meme....

I’ve been memed by Winds and Breezes.
So my top 5 weird habits are ….

  1. Probably the most annoying to everyone who knows me – when I’m asked a question I’ll answer with “Pardon?” and then precede to answer the question (usually simultaneously with the question being repeated). I’ve been doing for ages – I remember one of my national school teachers giving out to me about it. I get particularly bad when I’m reading or on the computer – I’ll often say pardon, they’ll repeat and I’ll answer about 10 minutes later. My sister and flatmate really really hate it. I’ve tried to change, honest I have – but with very little success to date.

  2. I can get very evangelical about new music I have, or artists that friends don’t like but I do. This leads to impromptu sessions where I play them music – tell them how excellent it is and then cut it off after about a minute because I want them to listen to something else (which is equally as excellent).

  3. This is occupation specific – the classical way for a doctor to percuss someone’s abdomen/chest is to tap twice (you have to press the middle phalanx of your middle finger of your left hand hard against the patient and then tap with the pulpy tip of your middle finger of your right hand and the action is all about the elbow – or so I’m told). I tap 3 times and this means I will never be an excellent classical clinician. I might however, still become a good doctor. The other occupation specific weird habit that I have is that I love the way those anti-infection alcohol rubs dries on your hands – so much so that when I’m bored on a ward round, I’ll put on loads and then feel it dry.

  4. There are some things I just don’t touch - Dublin Bus poles and money.
Dublin Bus poles - not for infection reasons (but if I think about it for too long, I get queasy) but for their greasy and slightly warm texture. It’s disgusting so I never touch them. I believe I look as elegant as a gazelle, swaying gracefully in the breeze as the bus screeches to a stop. Eyewitnesses may disagree.
I don’t like real money. I’m quite fond of abstract money – the money in my bank account for example but I detest actual coinage and notes. Coins especially. I hate touching them – this is magnified in restraints – I hate to see money on the table where I’ve just eaten.
  1. I stick my tongue out subconsciously when I play the violin. I’m grand playing the piano but my tongue does a funny thing when I play the violin. And my upper lip curls when I see or touch lettuce. This has only started in the last few years but it is a very strange feeling and I discovered during my pre-exam-comfort-food addiction to colcannon that kale has the same effect on me.

I’m going to meme
Kevin (mainly because I told the little sister who’s doing the Leaving to check out his posts on the auld English paper – she’s very impressed!)

I’ll let them know tomorrow….
This is the rule - The first player of this game starts with the topic “five weird habits of yourself,” and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals. Don’t forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says “You are tagged” (assuming they take comments) and tell them to read yours.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

You maybe a binman but you’re not rubbish

The tennyboppers bleeding thumbs have their reward – Shayne won XFactor by 1.2%.
The title is from the presenter’s parting words to Andy.
Was out all evening so just got home for the results – and the trip to the CD factory.
The CD factory bit is really pushing it.
Now changing to Strictly Come Dancing – both shows really got their money’s worth from the long ad breaks and delayed sequences.
SCD winners Darren and Lilia – I not a ballroom dancing expert – in fact I can barely lep around a nightclub if you call that dancing – but I thought Colin and Zoe were better – but what do I know?
10 million voted for X Factor. 5 million voted for SCD (1,500,000 million raised for Children in Need)
Is it the power of celebrity – a direct connection from your text message to the fate of some startstruck hopeful?
Is it the feeling of community? The knowledge that the nameless neighbours are probably texting as well.
Is it the feeling of empowerment? That you know much as Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne and have as much right to share your knowledge as everyone else.

Despite all the messing with the Conway Sisters, Louis Walsh could have a Christmas number 1 with Shayne. Bloody showbiz – there’s no justice.

I’ve just gotten 4 text messages from an hour ago – did all the telly voting swamp the network???

Friday, December 16, 2005

I tried to be open minded. Honestly I did.

But I still am uncomfortable with this (even though it's none of my business - but then again is anything on this blog? ;-0)
Enrique Iglesias to be a dad again at 90 'My wife wanted it and I owed it to her,' he explained. 'It was an act of generosity towards her. I leave her part of my blood, of my life. I need her so much that I said to her 'here, this is what you wanted for when I am gone'.
In fairness he doesn't look 90....but still.....

This is kinda gross so beware....

From the medical blog A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure comes a very good round up on a procedure that I first read about in a gynae reference book in the Rotunda library and I can still remember how stunned I felt.
I can understand how in some cultures (especially Muslim) how some women need it to literally save their lives but it's completely excessive for everyone else.
After I read about it, I asked a few classmates at coffee had they heard about it. (Yes, be glad you don't have morning coffee with medical students!) One American girl had through a friend of a friend who became a born again Christian and felt she needed it (it's not only associated with that anyway)
Which is totally beside, or even against, the point of chastity.
Anyway - read about it if you want - it's not really a suitable Christmas present despite the first woman interviewed in the article.


Iraqi Elections

In response to Richard's post at Freedom Institute, I feel I should mention my joy at the Iraqi elections.
Richard asks How serious are Irish commentators in their support for Iraqi democracy? - not very would be the answer.
I meant to link to Iraq the Model yesterday as they were doing minute by minute updates. But I was catering for my sister's 21st birthday party - which was enjoyed by all, including yours truly despite being exhausted and stressed - the mulled wine was the only thing completely finished. I've never seen so many actuary students eat so little.
So my breakfast this morning was pineapple cheesecake (from Brenda Costigan's "Anything I can do"), squidy chocolate log (from Delia Smith's "Complete Cookery Course") and homemade gaucamole (from Neven MacGuire's book "Cooking for Family and Friends - which was fab!) and nachos.
My dinner will be quiche, chocolate brownies and fudge sauce and potato salad (again from Nevin) and more nachos, Celebrations and white and red wine!

Teenage Sex causes Depression in Girls?

Was looking something else up and came accross this article entitled "Which Comes First in Adolescence—Sex and Drugs or Depression?" from October's American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The research is based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the US and looks at depression and the risk behaviours of sex and drugs.
From the conclusion of the article -
"Depression is a complex problem that is determined by both proximal and distal biological and experiential factors.The present analyses provide strong evidence to support the hypothesis that adolescent sex and drug behaviors may play a causal or mediating role in the development of adolescent depressive disorders. Our findings, based on nationally representative data, are consistent with longitudinal studies indicating that adolescent substance use contributes to depression. Our results also add new evidence that patterns of sex and drug behaviors during adolescence pose depression risks, particularly for girls. Further, present findings do not support the theory that youth initiate sex and drug behaviors to "self-medicate" depression.
Previous examinations of adolescent depression, and attempts to explain gender differences in depression prevalence, have not systematically considered sexual experimentation and drug use. Instead, earlier work has focused primarily on hormonal and morphologic changes related to puberty, and psychological/affective reactions to these physical changes and to other life events. Our findings, however, indicate that experimentation with substance use and sexual activity play an important role in depression, regardless of pubertal timing or status. They also offer insight into sex differences in depression. For females, even modest involvement in substance use and sexual experimentation elevates depression risk. In contrast, boys show little added risk with experimental behavior, but binge drinking and frequent use of marijuana contribute substantial risk.
Our findings are consistent with theoretical perspectives suggesting that girls' greater interpersonal sensitivity contributes to higher levels of interpersonal stress during adolescence. "

I have posted about sex education before, and whether or not it's actually the most useful and effective away of disseminating information about responsible sexual practices.
Research like this begs the question - should sex education be more about delayed onset of sexual activity and empowered decision making than simply "here's a condom - use it"???


Death Cab come to Europe but skip us....

How mean is that.
Death cab for cutie play lots of other European venues but avoid Ireland.
They played here in 2001, but I hadn't heard of them at that stage.
I suppose we're quite lucky to get a lot of the smaller acts playing in Ireland, but DCFC is quite the disappointment.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Down with this sort of thing....

When I get over this side of Christmas (as I heard someone on the Luas say this morning) I''m going to start a consitutional referendum campaign to have Crazy Frog and associated franchises included in the Offences against the Person Act...or do I start lobbying politicans??? I think it's a legislative matter - I'll have it all sorted out by the time I get the leaflets printed.
Was powerwalking down Henry Street trying to buy Christmas fairy lights for my sister's 21st birthday party tommorrow night when a Henry street stall seller said to me "did you hear the Crazy Frog teddy? Only 5euro" She then shoved the aforementioned piece of s**** in my face and squeezed its poisonous belly. (**** just in case my mother ever reads this blog - even though she's not aware of its existence)
What is it with the Crazy Frog? I posted on it before and that was a long time ago.
Are we so devoid of taste as a nation that we are reduced to buying Crazy Frog teddies? And flashing lights picture/clocks of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart (the other 5euro bargains on Henry St)?
Or maybe after 3 years on the Northsoide I'm still not fully integrated?

If you're still interested in the whole feminism debate thing....

check out these posts about feminism, anti feminism and the feminism smorgasbord....from Protein Wisdom and Cathy Young.
Sinead at Sigla is still keeping an eye on the Irish version....(which I think is much better!)


I really don't want to get into the war but.....

I don't want to get into one of those massive war discussions - while being neither a neo-con trigger happy warmonger nor a Bush apologist I had/have no problem with the Iraq war. At this stage I need several double vodkas to entertain an earnest anti-war friend trying to convince me I'm wrong (and I don't really drink at all). Maybe I'm too proud admit I'm wrong but I'm still underwhelmed by the arguments.
Recent events (Harold Pinter and Cindy Sheehan on tour in Dublin) brought to mind this article by Victor Hanson I read a few weeks ago.
We took no oil - the price in fact skyrocketed after we invaded Iraq. We did not do Israel's bidding; in fact, it left Gaza after we went into Iraq and elections followed on the West Bank. We did not want perpetual hegemony - in fact, we got out of Saudi Arabia, used the minimum amount of troops possible, and will leave Iraq anytime its consensual government so decrees. And we did not expropriate Arab resources, but, in fact, poured billions of dollars into Iraq to jumpstart its new consensual government in the greatest foreign aid infusion of the age.
In short, every day the American people should have been reminded of, and congratulated on, their country's singular idealism, its tireless effort to reject the cynical realism of the past, and its near lone effort to make terrible sacrifices to offer the dispossessed Shia and Kurds something better than the exploitation and near genocide of the past - and how all that alone will enhance the long-term security of the United States.
That goal was what the U.S. military ended up so brilliantly fighting for - and what the American public rarely heard. The moral onus should have always been on the critics of the war. They should have been forced to explain why it was wrong to remove a fascist mass murderer, why it was wrong to stay rather than letting the country sink into Lebanon-like chaos, and why it was wrong not to abandon brave women, Kurds, and Shia who only wished for the chance of freedom.

It's probably mean just to leave this comment hanging here, but a friend described Pinter as "the Ian Paisley of the anti-war movement, but without the elegance". Reading his speech does kinda concur with that assessment, as dismissive as it is!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Motherhood not the career of Gold Diggas

While Kayne West spells Gold Digger like so, not like Digga, I still can't make out a word he's singing about. Which is grand, given I'm not at all fond of hip-hop music. It bores me easily.
But Amalia Miller, an American economist has done research on motherhood and she finds that gold digging it ain't.
So, if you have your first child at 24 instead of 25, you're giving up 10 percent of your lifetime earnings. The wage hit comes in two pieces. There's an immediate drop, followed by a slower rate of growth—right up to the day you retire. So, a 34-year-old woman with a 10-year-old child will (again on average) get smaller percentage raises on a smaller base salary than an otherwise identical woman with a 9-year-old. Each year of delayed childbirth compounds these benefits, at least for women in their 20s. Once you're in your 30s, there's far less reward for continued delay.
I like this kind of research but is earning 10% less a good enough reason to delay childbearing into your 30s when fertility and IVF becomes a real issue?
I'm not saying that everyone should take a trip to their local maternity hospital a few months after graduation, but the economic benefits of delayed motherhood hardly outweighs the other drawbacks.


Abortion and Mental Health

A new study from Norway followed 120 women following abortion (80) and miscarriage (40) for 5 years and found that while women who miscarried at more short term emotional reactions, women who had an abortion had more longterm and more atypical reactions including avoidance and feelings of guilt and shame.
After Abortion, a blog that focuses on this kind of research says that this particular study is getting more media coverage than other similar ones and Emily says she's gonna think about why.
My guess is that it's a reflection of the vast number of women who have had abortions over the last 30 years and how their pain, grief and mixed emotions have been the taboo of the sexual revolution. Hard facts on the emotional and psychological effects of anything, especially abortion, are difficult to find. Some pro-choice advocates refuse to accept that many women have anything but great joy following abortion. Regardless of these abstractions, women continue to have abortions, not knowing that emotional upheaval is a real possibility for many years to come.
The Telegraph have an editorial that everyone should read.

If we find this surprising, that in itself is a reflection of how imperfectly we understand abortion. The politicisation of the debate means that it is usually only unfashionable pro-life activists who point out its psychological dangers, and they are rarely given a proper hearing. Meanwhile, the Family Planning Association continues to insist that "there is no evidence to suggest that abortion directly causes psychological trauma".

The Oslo research exposes the absolute fatuity of that last claim. Abortion, like miscarriage, involves the loss of a baby; unlike miscarriage, the loss is the result of a conscious decision. And the operation itself, as Germaine Greer has taken to reminding her fellow feminists, is a gruesome one. No wonder that a fifth of women continue to feel depression, shame or guilt.

At this point we should stress that those feelings may be (and probably are) inappropriate. This newspaper has never offered a view on the morality of abortion per se. What is blindingly obvious is that women who are suffering as a result of an abortion need psychological help. Yet - in a society that offers counselling to anyone who has watched a distressing episode of EastEnders - such help is hard to obtain.

"We don't see that many women for post-abortion counselling," says the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Why? Because they do not need it? Or because they have been assured that abortion is a mere "procedure", tantamount to contraception?

In the short term, more post-abortion counselling is needed. In the long term, the need for it should be reduced by a change in the law. The current limit of 24 weeks is appallingly high; yet Tony Blair, a practising Christian, has opposed efforts to reduce it even slightly. It is he, rather than women who have been pressurised into having abortions, who should feel ashamed.

Both Cura and Life in Ireland provide post-abortion counselling and both organisations have had to step up their services in this regard due to increased demand.


New Template and Toe Curling

I don't know what possessed me but approximately 3 hours ago I decided to change the template of this blog. Disillusioned Lefty's cool new picture inspired me and I decided that I want a picture too.
Well 3 hours later, there are loads of problems still.....
I deleted the other members of the blog - becuase they never even read it anymore let alone post and then tried to get rid of the second "About me" in the sidebar. I can't do it - any suggestions?
For some reason the Bloglines blogroll is a different size.....
And I haven't found a picture I like to put on.
And I started defrosting my fridge becuase the Tesco delivery people were coming. Now the fridge is not defrosted - all its former inhabitants strewn about the kitchen and the dining room table full of stuff that I bought for my sister's 21st on Thursday and I've just discovered that they've replaced coriander with thyme (just becuase they're herbs doesn't mean they're interchangeable) and the 2 cases of Blossom Hill that we bought to make loads of mulled wine is actually half white, half red......
Aaaaaarrrggghhh.....and the only reason I'm home is that I slept it out and missed my 3 things today - which were from 730 to 1030.
My toes have started curling in the way they tend to do when I get frustrated.
Any blogger template quick fixes?

C'mon People - it's just a sparrow!

BBC News report on the sparrow that was shot after knocking down 23,000 dominoes that were part of world record attempt.
If you're like me, you will be wondering why this a news story - it's just a sparrow.
Well, in the Netherlands, a sparrow is never just a sparrow.
In fact, justice was served for this sparrow's death - his/her killer was fined 170euros for the crime. Check out the website in remembrance of the sparrow. My Dutch is fairly non-existent but I don't think that this a humourous website....
The little dead birdie will be displayed in Rotterdam's Natural History Museum.

Simon and Garfunkel in their "Wednesday Morning at 3a.m." album have a similar tribute to a sparrow - probably an ancestor of the noble Dutch sparrow that was sacrificed cruelly on the altar of dominoes.

Who will love a little Sparrow?
Will no one write her eulogy?
"I will," said the Earth,
"For all I've created returns unto me,
From dust were ye made and dust ye shall be."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christina Hoff Sommers on Maureen Dowd

Christina Hoff Sommers reviews Dowd's new book - Are Men Neccesary?
Beth at Brocilli for Breakfast reviewed it a few weeks ago too.
Hoff Sommer's book "Who Stole Feminism?" is a must read for anyone interested in feminist issues.
Her review is excellent.
To the extent that Are Men Necessary? has a grand thesis, it is that feminism has been a colossal failure. Dowd says, "The triumph of feminism would last a nanosecond while the backlash lasted forty years." But Dowd gets this wrong. There are different schools of feminism. Some succeeded, others failed. It is certainly true that the "a woman-needs-a-man-like-a-fish-needs-a-bicycle" feminism that Gloria Steinem inspired did not last. (Though it certainly had more than its 15 minutes of fame.) But there is a calmer and saner equality-of-opportunity feminism that has been an abiding success in the very decades Dowd claims feminism languished. Hasn't she noticed that American women are among the freest and most liberated in the world? Women are now approaching parity with men in law school, business school, and medical school. More women than men go to college.

Equality feminism, which goes back to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, has certainly lasted longer than a nanosecond. And try as they might, Susan Faludi, Naomi Wolf, and their like-minded sisters cannot point to a genuine backlash. What is Dowd's evidence for it?

For Dowd, the smoking gun is the "fact" that even in this new millennium, men prefer women who are less intelligent and less accomplished than themselves for mates. Feminism promised to change this state of affairs, says Dowd, but it failed. The smarter and more successful a woman is, the less her chances are for finding true love.

UPDATE - The Anchoress has just finished the book too.
I love this line - You’ve been too long naval-gazing, too long in the throes of a mental masturbation that seemed unable to find release. Consider Are Men Necessary? your primal scream sans-orgasm or whatever, and for crying out loud, CHANGE THE SUBJECT.
Then she gives Dowd some advice on writing other things....


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ironing Women Bloggers and Farmer Underrepresention in the Blogosphere

The women blogger/feminism debate is still going on. Sinead at Sigla has been keeping an eye on the proceedings and has all the links– it’s kinda hard to follow it all.
I’m not going to say much more on it at the moment than I already have in 4 posts – check out these posts (and here) anyway if you’re interested.
That being said, ironing appears to play a rather large role in some of the posts. In the interests of full disclosure, I really hate ironing. I can’t do it and never really iron my clothes – I’ve perfected the art of hand smoothing. My sister will iron anything that she believes is overly creased on me; but lots of blouses and the like slip through her crease radar and to be honest, ironing really doesn’t make that much difference. Maybe ironing ability is genetic – my mother hates ironing too. At home, we’ve had a housekeeper all my life and my mother insists that it’s the thing she does first, just in case she has to leave early or something – the ironing will be done.
Sinead’s original post that started this whole discussion about feminism focuses on the representation of a certain part of society (women) in the Irish blogworld – I think my post brought feminism in to it. Anyway, while I hadn’t noticed the presence/absence of women bloggers particularly and now I know loads more, but on reflection, there is one area of society that seems completely absent from the blogosphere = farmers.
While the Farmer’s Journal has a strong online presence (as do Macra), there is no mention of blog on their site and I can’t find a farming blog at irishblogs or planetoftheblogs.
Why am I interested in farming blogs?
Well, I’m a farmer’s daughter and it is only recently that I realised that none of my friends have a clue about farming. I told a few friends at coffee one morning that our first lamb of the season was born in the 1st week of November. This is really early for my father’s flock – normally the first is born on St Stephen’s Day with the rest coming mid January onwards. They are still looking at me a little funny – I was so excited about this surprising development that I started talking to them about the balance to be struck between having the lambs early to capitalise on the better prices and the hardships of the winter. I then started telling them the differences between lambing and human birth (yes, I should have stopped talking waaay before then)
My sister is in a similar situation but her friends think her farming background is hilarious and gave her a present of the new Macra charity calendar for cancer “Boys and their Toys” – it features nude farmers with hay bales, tractors and the like protecting their decency. We didn’t like the calendar for loads of reasons – among them being the whole nude farmer thing and also that the farmers featured were really young, skinny and reminiscent of heroin chic models.
The other thing about being a farmer’s daughter who’s interested in “the land” is that I’ve whole conversations latent in my head that will never be resurrected in Renards or the pubs on Dawson Street.
I can talk at length about cattle prices; meat factories – and which ones grade well; which fluke prevention is best and I know my Massey Fergusson from my Zetor and my John Deere. I’ve even driven a Massy Ferguson with a GPS system (owned by my uncle).  My father is probably most proud of me for being a “good judge of a beast”.  I even have a favourite breed of cattle and sheep.  I still go to the Mart at home where farmers come up to me and compliment me for being a “fine big strong girl” (while they mean well, being compared to a heifer is not a compliment). I can even talk about farming in the olden times - my father inherited 2 elderly workmen who worked with his father and they’ve only recently retired – I know loads about hay trashing and making cocks of hay from them. And also how bad everything from 1970 on is – especially slurry tanks and silage bales.
My youth is punctuated by pet lambs, most of whom died and I cried over their little swollen stomachs – those who survived abandoned my company once they grew out of their bottles and then joined their lamb friends. Once a week every March/April I would turn up to school an hour late because I would’ve spent the morning running around the fields with our inept but earnest sheepdog , loading up lambs for the factory. My summers for the most part were spent on the bog, or picking stones, or helping with the hay/silage making or painting gates. I’d say my father is the only farmer in the country who had his slatted sheds power hosed and re-painted every summer.
I’ve taken a day off every year for years to go to National Ploughing Championships where I love the tractors and the stock – especially the muscly brawny Belgian Blues and the cute Aberdeen Anguses. I’ve even won baking and jam competitions at both the county show and the Tullamore show – the ultimate in farmer’s daughter credentials.
While my father used to have to drag me kicking and screaming to help out around the farm I now look forward to helping out when I go home. I do everything from feeding the cattle in the slatted sheds, to fencing, to helping out with the testing, tagging, dehorning, castrating to lambing. And I really enjoy it.
Farming and rural life is worlds away from most other professions. There are no bosses, no promotions, no corporate ladders, no commutes, no fixed hours, and no colleagues but there are autumn mornings where your breath smokes up in front of your face and your wellies get heavier with each step as the muck piles up on them. And there are little lonely lambs in November who live in our walled orchard instead of the field as Daddy thinks he’ll get eaten by foxes out on his own and have no one to frolic with except his mother who is content to saunter around slowly on her own.
And there are nights interrupted by calving cows and weak lambs. But in all these things is a great satisfaction and simple pleasures.
And all I want is a farming blogger who’ll document all this and more!

My mention of James Blunt in my last post probably has dented any “cool musico” credibility that I have, so now I’ve no hesitation in sharing one of my favourite country singers, Kenny Chesney with you.
From his album Everywhere We Go -
She thinks my tractor's sexy
It really turns her on
She's always staring at me
While I'm chuggin along
She likes the way it's pullin' while we're tillin' up the land
She's even kind of crazy 'bout my farmer's tan
She's the only one who really understands what gets me
She thinks my tractor's sexy


Saturday, December 10, 2005

How can the Public be Soooo Wrong?

The great unwashed were unforgivably wrong on 2 counts tonight.
Both incidents of grievous stupidity developed on ITV.
Watched the X Factor. Brenda was the best as she has been every week.
Then I watched Record of the Year 2005. Westlife's You Raise Me Up won. The other songs were Daniel Powter's Bad Day; James Blunt's Beautiful; McFly and Black Eyed Peas.
Both my favourites (Brenda and James Blunt) were voted off.
It's appalling - I'm nearly beginning to doubt the sanity of universal franchise.
How on earth could Brenda lose to the non-descript Shayne (what's with how it how he spells Shane?) and the insufferable Journey South?
As for Westlife - You Raise Me Up is one of those songs destined to be sung at the offertory procession of weddings - this is not the song that changes the nation. I don't need to see anymore ads that talk about how families are re-uniting and crotchedy animal-haters adopting puppies after hearing it. Every version I've heard of it is roughly the same. My favourite is probably Brian Kennedy's on the Secret Garden's last album.
The main thing is that Blunt lost. I really love his song. I even bought the album. I know it's mainstream pulpy mush but the romantic in me just wants someone to fall in love with the angel in me on the subway.... (no, don't feel compelled to dash my illusions)
Watching Strictly Come Dancing now. Hope Zoe Ball and her guy stay in. Their waltz was amazing.
Perhaps I should have voted myself instead of ranting. Or maybe even find something better to do on a Saturday night than watch television and eat Domino's pizza which didn't include the crust dunkin' dip - my favourite bit. Life is so tough sometimes.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

how to debate on blogs....

From Scot Adam's Dilbert blog.
Omit key words. For example, if someone says that people can’t eat rocks, accuse the person of being stupid for suggesting that people can’t eat. Bonus points for arguing that some people CAN eat pebbles if they try hard enough.

Use the intellectual laziness card. For example, if someone says that ice is cold, recommend that he take graduate courses in chemistry and meteorology before jumping to stupid conclusions that display a complete ignorance of the complexity of ice.

The comments are quite funny as well.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Interview with Wolf Parade

From Pitchfork.
They still haven't given up their day jobs! Indie music rock and roll people, buy their album.

Pitchfork: Have you been able to quit your day jobs?

Arlen: Not really. I mean, Hadji's going to school right now-- he's an English Lit Masters student, so he's trying to work out being on tour and being in school at the same time. And I have a job, but it's kind of flexible work. Same with Dan. Yeah, we'll still probably have to go back to our day jobs

Perhaps it's as the Saw Doctors said, if this is rock and roll, I want my old job back.


Alternatives to Embryonic Stem Cell Research

National Review interviews William Hurlbut, a Stanford bioethicist, about altered nuclear transfer - an alternative way of getting stem cells, without the ethical problems of using embryonic stem cells.
I met Dr Hurlbut in Dublin a few years ago - he is a really thoughtful guy - he sent me a load of books and articles that we talked about.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! Deregulate Ticketmaster.

How could you NOT go see any band with such an exuberant name?
Just purchased my tickets on ticketmasterfor CYHSY!
I'm really bad at keeping personal resolutions - I had decided that I was not going to buy tickets for any of the small gigs I go to - the whelans and villages of this little town - from ticketmaster because they rip you off and you can get them cheaper at the venue. Example:Tift Merritt was 21.50 on ticketmaster plus 2euro while at the door we were charged 20euro. (just realised that my 4 year old IBM Thinkpad does not have the euro sign key. What have I been doing that I just notice it now???)
But then I met a classmate today who also enjoys indie/altcountry music and he told me that CYHSY was in ticketmaster's hot events and Tom Dunne got into a big text discussion with him about Tift Merritt and CYHSY, who were edging toward being voted Pet Sounds best album of the year last night. (He voted for Tift in Dunne's "Love of the Year" - mainly because she was, and I quote "hot". He claims that he loves the album though. Dunne never heard of her. Shame Tom. Shame. Shame on me too really, as I never listen to the radio.) I was bit premature with my top 19. CYHSY deserve a mention, even though I feel it'll be more of a 2006 album than a 2005.
All this CYHSY hype frightened me and the fear won out over principle. Especially as I hate missing ticket sales for concerts and then facing the guilt/desperation that is involved in deciding to get them through "other channels". Like Jose Gonzalez (the guy from the Sony Bravia ad) is all sold out for the Village on Monday.
So ticketmaster has won this time. And will win the next time I want to see a big act.
Why doesn't someone else get on the online ticket selling thing? I really hate the powerless feeling I get when tickets slip away from me and that blasted credit card fee.
The other question that's keeping me up at night is Josh Rouse or the Proclaimers Thursday???? A friend has extra tickets for the Proclaimers, who will be fun; or Josh Rouse, who I've seen before and is just playing the Village with his guitar????
Forget feminism, these are the difficulties faced by the modern girl - a cute dark haired blue eyed sensitive American singer-songwriter or 2 bespectacled craggy Scottish guys who's hike 500 miles in trench coats just to get drunk next me??? :-)
Anyway, get your Clap Your Hands Say Yeah tickets NOW before it's too late.....and buy the album for the stockings of any cool people you know.


Civil Partnership = Saviour of Traditional Heterosexual Marriage????

From Civitas blog.

The legal recognition of same-sex relationships is being construed by some, as the end of the traditional, heterosexual, nuclear family and the beginning of seamless diversity. This is a crude analysis. If there is anything truly transformative about the Civil Partnerships Act - and projections suggest that take-up will be relatively low - it lies in a new willingness on the part of the government to acknowledge the benefits of stability and commitment. This comes as a surprise in light of the government's reluctance to endorse marriage.

So perhaps the Civil Partnerships Act will enable the government to abandon its ‘diversity embracing’ agenda without feeling politically incorrect, allowing it to actively invest in stable, legally recognised, relationships.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if a purported threat to traditional matrimony in fact proved to be its political saviour?

Sex Education a Disaster???

Melanie Phillips discusses sex education and finds that it hasn't really worked. It's certainly something we should be thinking about in Ireland too as our teen pregnancy rate is not decreasing and STDs are reaching epidemic proportions.

During the past decade, school sex education programmes promoting a "safe sex" message have hugely expanded. Government-funded services advise on how to have sex, where to get the morning-after pill and how to spot sexually transmitted diseases. Girls as young as 13 are even being offered sex advice by text message; they tap in questions on their mobile phones and receive answers from sexual health workers.
Yet all this has not brought down the rate of sexual activity; far from it. The more such value-free sex education and contraceptive advice is given to children, the more their sexual activity increases. And the earlier in their lives this encouragement is provided, the earlier their sexual activity takes place.
This is because adult values are being loaded onto children who are too emotionally immature to cope with them. Teaching children that premature sex is permitted, appropriate and fun encourages them to try it out. This is hardly rocket science.
To believe that teaching them to link sex to "relationships" will make them behave responsibly is simply risible. A "relationship" is a concept that is so slippery as to be meaningless. It belongs to the world of TV soaps, which is about the level of reality that defines so many teenage - and a dismaying number of adult - sexual encounters to which the notion of permanent commitment is entirely foreign.
The increase in sexual promiscuity among children and teenagers is not due to ignorance but to the deliberate destruction of the notion of respectability. Not only are official blind eyes turned to enforcing the legal age of consent, but sex education actually targets under-age children.
Moral guidance is nowhere. Instead, sex education seeks to "clarify" the child's own values. But children need clear boundaries of behaviour. Treating them as if they have adult values is to abandon and even abuse them.

Beware - using your iPod could kill your finger

From the Guardian
iPod finger is similar to the pain sometimes caused by excessive text messaging on mobile phones, or by playing videogames too vigorously. Users control their iPod by sliding a thumb around a touch-sensitive wheel on the front of the music players. Some patients have reported soreness in the hands, and in some cases even problems with moving their elbows and necks.

Apple refused to comment on the claims, but with millions of iPods having been sold around the world, and the pace of MP3 player sales increasing every week, experts are suggesting that buyers make sure they do not overuse their digits.

It's not really Apple's fault now, is it?
My trusty pink iPod is still going strong after nearly 2 years - despite the 40GB being pretty much full. I'm planning to upgrade to the 60GB but only when my one starts to die. The battery still lasts for 4-5 hours but for some reason it sometimes gives songs the wrong name.
The main thing, though, is that my fingers are fine. Maybe the secret is in using the remote. Or as Pat Kenny called it on the Late Late Toy Show, the "controller".


Monday, December 05, 2005

Ricky Gervais's new podcast

At Guardian Unlimited.
The man's a genius. But you knew that already.

The Big Bite and Feminism

Just came in on an afternoon off and switched on d’telly. David McWilliam’s Big Bite is discussing Mary Robinson’s statement about educated women taking time out of their careers to raise their children as a cop out.
David McWilliams raises the point about ESRI study women earn less than men but also work less hours.
He had Helen Sheehan, lecturer in DCU and Harry McGee (father and journalist) on the one side of the couch and Brenda Power (journalist and mother) and Brenda Raggert (mother of 5 and involved with the ICA) on the other.

Sheehan was the greying feminist of the bunch who thoroughly agreed with Robinson. Women have a responsibility to do the work of the wider world to the best of their ability and are Letting themselves down, letting other women down and letting society down by leaving the world of work.
But what really upsets her are women with children not yet born (like moi) and who are already talking about giving up work. She’s disgusted with students of hers who say things like they’d rather be good mother than good journalist.
Sheehan gets last word on show by lamenting that young women don’t realise how hard these opportunities have been won.

Brenda Power was my heroine on this show – I agreed with her completely. Unlike Sheehan who thinks that educated women have an obligation to toil away, Power makes the point that obligation element of education is quite small and that education is about making us happy fulfilled complete people. She also attacks the narrow definition of female fulfilment which involves being like a man, working like a man and contributing to society in male fashion.
McWilliams made the point that many women now in their 30s never expected to have the urge to actually raise their children now are.
Power makes point that there will always be a trade off; sacrifices will always have to be made for women to work or not work.

Harry McGee didn’t really say much of substance. He did however mention hierarchy of women in society – which I totally agree with. Educated women have these choices but our insistence on the need for women to be equal in the workforce has left many poorer women with no other choice but to work – they’re unable to make the choice that they many desire – to spend time with their children.
He also mentions how many men as well as women are deciding that some things are more important than just making money. McWilliams also says that many women look at corporate ladder and just don’t want to keep going. This is good thing, people! Women are making decisions for themselves in their own lives and are perfectly happy with this situation.

Brenda Raggert makes the point that most important thing in society is rearing of next generation and also that for most women taking time out of workforce is only a temporary thing.
It is this notion that the gender feminists tried to turn on its head. That the only way to effect power in society was in the world of work. Previous generations believed that the “hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” and that the care of the future generation of citizens is perhaps the most vital thing in civilised society.
Sheehan and the other feminists of her generation may whinge about how awfully callous young women are abandoning them in their middle age, but the reality is that young women view their equality as part of the basic framework of a civil, democratic society. They do not consider their personal lives as part of a greater female crusade against the current structure of society. They do not think that they’ve any special responsibility to other women. (Well, I don’t anyway!)
The idea of equality is no longer radical. This is perhaps the greatest victory for modern human beings.
Women are now faced with the choices that their mothers did not make, and they fail to see what is so awful about raising their own children, while not working or working part time.
As McWilliams pointed out having large families is now part of being really swanky and posh.
This is on of the reasons I abandoned the notion of feminism – what was once considered a beautiful part of being female, the ability to be a mother and actually spend time with your children has now been relegated to the preserve of the wealthy, a bit like having your own helicopter.
I’m going to end with a quote from Danielle Crittenden’s book – “What our mothers didn’t tell us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman.”
“I’d like to think that an enlightened society is not one in which all its economic and cultural forces combine to encourage women to deposit their children in state crèches and walk away without a backward glance. And if I’m right, then any solution must begin with the recognition that women need help getting away from the workforce to be with their young children and not, as current advocates would have it, in subsidizing day care to free Mom to go to work to pay taxes to fund childcare.”


To continue the "Feminism debate"....

So far I’ve been called foolish, witless, bad mannered, complacent, poorly educated with suspect intelligence with stereotyped, ill-informed, fanciful ungrateful opinions.
Fair enough – maybe I am and more.
Beth at Brocilli for Breakfast, Maura at Babblogue and Fiona at Mental Meanderings have all posted about my post on female bloggers and feminism below.
While Sinead’s original post on female bloggers didn’t address feminism as such, I brought up feminism simply because I think discussing women and their role in a specific area and the need for more women seems irrelevant to me and also in this case, I hadn’t noticed female bloggers in either their presence or absence.
My 2nd post was only snippets of notes from a talk I gave (I apologise for spelling/grammar errors which I just noticed) to fill in time before I got round to sitting down and replying properly. (which I’m know doing at 2am on Sunday – how’s that for a dedicated blogger?)
I really don’t know how to start answering the above claims, so defining feminism comes first. (Warning this will probably end up being a very long post – and will probably still be called all the things above!)
Yes, there are many definitions of feminism and even more denominations of feminism for one to pick and choose from. Feminist Utopia defines core feminism as the “theory that men and women should be equal politically, economically and socially.” By their definitions I’m probably a moderate feminist (This branch of feminism tends to be populated mostly by younger women or women who have not directly experienced discrimination. They tend to question the need for further effort, and think that feminism is no longer viable. They often view feminism as embarrassing (it's thought that this is the group most likely to espouse feminist ideas and thoughts while denying being "feminist"))
One book that formed my opinions on feminism was Christina Hoff Sommer’s book “Who Stole Feminism?”. In that she distinguishes between gender feminism (which is what I vehemently disagree with and is what my blogger critics would say I’ve stereotyped as all feminism) and equity feminism (about women having the same rights as men – the first wave of feminism) So I’m probably an equity feminist, then.
Another author whose book I’ve read on feminism is Cathy Young (Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality) and she’s just started a blog the Y Files – she discusses definitions of antifeminism. 1 given is antifeminist - someone who does not believe in the social or economic or political equality of men and women. I’m not an anti-feminist.
She includes an exercpt from the introduction to that book - Do I still consider myself a feminist? No, if feminism means believing that women in Western industrial nations today are "oppressed" or if it means "solidarity with women," as essayist Barbara Ehrenreich claimed on National Public Radio in 1994. Yes, if it means that men and women meet each other as equals, as individuals first and foremost; if we remember what British philosopher Janet Radcliffe Richards wrote more than fifteen years ago: "No feminist whose concern for women stems from a concern for justice in general can ever legitimately allow her only interest to be the advantage of women."
And I believe we still need a philosophy to guide us on the journey of an unprecedented transition: a philosophy that is not pro-woman (or pro-man) but pro-fairness; that stresses flexibility and more options for all; that encourages us to treat people, regardless of sex, as human beings. If sentimental traditionalism won't get us there, neither will the gender warfare that would destroy our common humanity in order to save it. I don't know if this philosophy should be called feminism or something else. But the biggest impediment to its development is what passes for feminism today.
Cathy Young then calls herself a “dissident feminist” – I suppose I could be one of those.
Apart from the stereotyped i-hate-men-and-think-everything-is-an-oppressive-patriachrical-conspiracy strand of feminism there is another type – the type that implies that to be feminist, one must be pro-choice. I am pro-life – a belief that I am comfortable explaining from a human rights equality point of view or a feminist one. Pro-life feminism is something that is not popular among most women’s groups – so much so that pro-life feminists were excluded from NOW (and then went on to form Feminists for Life) and even recently in the US, members of Democrats for Life, were exluded from the Democrats party conference, because they did not subscribe to the pro-choice vision of woman’s rights. Pro-life, pro-woman feminism is something I’ve posted on before and included this quote - If women must submit to abortion to preserve their lifestyle or career, their economic social status, they are pandering to a system devised and run by men for male convenience. Of all things which are done to women to fit them into a society dominated by men, abortion is the most violent invasion of their physical and psychic integrity. It is a deeper and more destructive assault than rape.... Accepting short-term solutions like abortion only delays the implementation of real reforms like decent maternity and paternity leaves, job protection, high-quality child care, community responsibility for dependent people of all ages, and recognition of the economic contribution of child-minders." - Daphne de Jong
I did have 1 particular encounter with a well known Irish feminist campaigner during 2002 referendum on abortion which served to highlight how integral the right to abortion is to the understanding of feminism – she asked me if I was raped, would I keep the baby?. From my point of view, then and now, as a woman who has thankfully never experienced any form of sexual violence, I believe that I would keep the baby – I can not see myself ending the life of an innocent person, regardless of the horrific circumstances of his/her birth. In response to my yes, she told me “enjoy the rape”. I was completely stunned by her response.  It’s probably wrong to generalise from this one incident, but her callous response crystalised for me, how far away I was from mainstream feminism.
So in summary, rather than classify my fairly critical view of modern feminism into about ten million categories which would look something like “pro-life-Catholic-fiscally conservative-dissident-moderate-equity feminist” who likes country music, I don’t call myself a feminist. Yes I believe that men and women are equal, but at this stage of the game, I think that’s taken as a pretty much standard view for all members of democracies everywhere.
I did say below that I hate feminism – yes, I do – I hate the man-hating, women-as-victims form of feminism which will not rest until their idea of equality has been achieved (for every man everywhere in society there should be a woman).
I also hate 2 things in discussions about women in power –
First – that we need parity on company boards, governmental agencies etc and that anything less is sexist. I posted a quote before from Gerardine Jones, the joint managing director of Dolmen Butler Briscoe where she siad in the Sunday Business Post that “She has 'no time whatsoever' for the view that there should be a certain quota of women on public boards. 'People should be on the boards of public companies if they have the skill and experience to be there, and for no other reason."
Second – that certain women are refused the public acclamation for being a woman who got somewhere if she doesn’t sign up to a full feminist agenda  - and if she’s anyway conservative, she might as well be a man – I posted about this before as well - A woman is not a "sister", practically not even a woman, if she dares deviate from the narrowly defined politically correct views that a group of feminist dinosaurs have decided on. Condaleeza Rice is a case in point. Apparently she was sucked into the vast right wing conspiracy, was brain washed and is now paraded around as a "token" woman in one of the most important jobs in the world to prove that Dubya doesn't hate all women. Perish the thought that she just might be have a brain of her own and is willing to use it. This kind of independent thinking in a female is enough to make any sensible feminist reach for her smelling salts.
I do apologise for my sarcastic generalisations, but the above opinion about Condi was articulated to me by a feminist friend. This is also the reason why I mentioned ovarian opinions below – radical feminism is predicated on the notion that women have the same political opinions – this is why political parties have women’s groups and the National Council for Women feel they’ve a mandate (womandate? Wimmindate?) to produce pre-election manifestos on behalf of Irish women.
Beth in her comments below says that “Feminism is NOT about men-hating ball-breakers and shoulder padded macho managers; moreover, feminism IS about the ongoing battle for egalitarianism between the genders which at its very core seeks to provide those women who you refer to as those 'left behind to sweep up the glass fragments' of the ceiling smashers, with equality of pay, access to the judicial system, property rights and sexual rights amongst others. I am a feminist and proud to say so. I do not wear dungarees, doc-maartens, nor am I a lesbian. I have never once monologued about my vagina, nor do my opinions come straight from my ovaries”
Fair enough – but the battle for egalitarianism between the genders is pretty much over now in the Western world now that women can go to college (more than men do) and get jobs wherever they want. Women also have equal access to justice and property. Any inequalities in access  that apply to women must also to apply to men of different social groups as well. Equality of access is what we all must strive for, for everyone, but equality of outcome is totally different – we should not measure women’s progress simply on statistics or the ability to show parity.
Women get paid the same for the same work done. Is there any Irish company that operates 2 different payroll rates? It’s the same rate, despite the difference in average pay overall, considered to be caused by the fact that feminism won, so to speak. Women can now choose to work what hours they want and also choose to make lifestyle decisions that are relevant to them with regard to promotions etc. They can also choose to work in the home – something that our very own Mary Robinson (who, while I consider her radical, would not be viewed as a waaay-out-there radical feminist) finds very disturbing – she views it as a “cop out”. She believes that it is very worrying that young educated women choose full time motherhood instead of “seeking to have society adjust to let them continue to fulfil their potential”.
As a young woman who will soon be receiving bank statements with “Dr” as the title, I plan to take substantial time out of my career to become a fulltime mother, I don’t find Robinson’s view of my future decision that friendly. In fact her comments only make me want to distance myself even more from feminism.
As for Beth’s comment about sexual rights, that’s not something I’m going to get into now, mainly because I’m waiting for my copy of Feminist Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy to arrive from amazon (check out Wendy Shalit’s review and the Slate’s book club) and I’ll tell you all about my opinions on the sexual landscape for young women when I review it. Suffice to say I think that it’s fantastic that women can be as much as a Samantha or as a Charlotte as they want, but we must take responsibility for many problems (STDs, teen pregnancy, pornography and the ever increasing sexualisation of women everywhere) that the sexual revolution brought as well.
I agree with Tom Wolfe in today’s Sunday Times about the “de-moralisation” of sex”. Which is covered in his latest novel I am Charlotte Simmons (It’s a really good read, but deserving of the worst sex scene writing award which it won) . “It was going to all these colleges that made me realise that sex has been de-moralised. And I really don’t think de-moralised sex is as much fun as good old evil sex.” Wolfe inclines to the belief that sexual repression is one of the most distinctive things about human beings; removing it, therefore, threatens our humanity.
A new site, modestyzone has been  set up by Wendy Shalit (and I really recommend her book Return to Modesty) and is well worth a read for those feminists among you who are interested in thinking about a new sexual ethic!
So to sum up!
My identity as a woman has nothing to do with me being a feminist.
Yes, my life would not have been possible without the sacrifices of feminists before me. Yes, I realise that much of what I take for granted, both in my philosophy and the opportunities I’ve had, are thanks to feminism and to the women who called themselves feminists and often made sacrifices like not getting married, or worked climbing career ladders while someone else watched their children grow up. Thanks to them, I can choose to do the opposite (watch my own children grow up if I ever have any!)
Should this gratitude extend to my incorporating feminism into my identity as woman, as a citizen, as nobody’s girlfriend at the moment, as someone’s future wife, as a blogger who despite suspect intellectual credentials has opinions on everything?
I think not. As saint commented elsewhere Just because the feminist movement achieved freedoms doesn't mean that women most be adoring femenists. Correct me if Im wrong the aim of the feminist movement was to give women the choice to do what they wished including not liking feminism.
I’m not a feminist. This may make the hate-poster-child for all feminists everywhere, but I’m fairly happy with my position.
Many feminists would view women who don’t call themselves feminists as enemies from their own ranks, whose defection is leaving parts of the front unwomanned (unmanned!). They fear that in through these little gaps the darkness will seep back. Women of all shapes and sizes have headed off into the world, (or back into the kitchen) to do their own thing, and these greying trailblazers are left holding the flames of feminist righteousness, facing down the retraction of universal suffrage, or the demolition of the creche or some other unthinkable anti-feminist act.
While this must be lonely and bewildering for feminists of all stripes, they should be celebrating. Women who might have abandoned the feminist identity are unlikely to abandon the comforts of the modern world nor the fundamental principles of equality and justice (which are not exclusive to feminism). If the threat arises, they are highly unlikely to be so drugged on the excitement of homemade pasta or so obsessed with their new bundles of joy to forget to stand up against any backward moves; they are unlikely to be so caught up in the independent dream of the perfect career to suddenly turn around and demand to be barred from the boardroom.
Feminism has come so far that women can afford to not to be one. Women can choose to not be one.
I have. I’m not a feminist. And 2,500 words into my longest post ever, I honestly hope that you all think that I least have that right.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

When Phillip Met Isabella....and me

I went to see the Phillip Treacy hat exhibition in Collins Barracks this afternoon. The hats are just so beautiful. I love hats – only part of fashion that I actually love enough to have a collection of hats! I own 2 Philip Treacy hats (both bought at BT’s sales!) and plan to own many many more.
I have never before left a museum exhibition wishing I was one of the people on display. I want to be Isabella Blow. Given that I realise that’s not going to happen anytime soon, I will settle for her hats.
The hats are magnificent – the Castle and the Ship are well known Philip Treacy icons but the rest are just so stunning. Check out pictures here, here and here.
While my Treacy hats are off the rack daily wear hats, I don’t like wearing them outside – mainly because I’m a student and I’m afraid to lose them but also because I love keeping them in their hatboxes which I suppose defeats the whole purpose of hats, but Isabella Blow even wears hers cycling. And she wore the David Beckham hat to Old Trafford and the amazing Gilbert and George hat to meet the firemen who had just put out a fire in her house. (This despite being mentioned in every website, I can’t actually find a picture of it)
While I was there a little boy asked his mother how people actually wore the hat he was looking at – the Pope hat – which is quite vertical and very tiny at the end that goes on your head – she told him they wear pins in their hair – he said that the wind would blow it away and it wouldn’t be very warm….Philip Treacy is most definitely not about practicality – just beauty.
I’ll probably visit the exhibition a few more times before it ends in February – just to drool and imagine myself waltzing up O’Connell St in this...
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Check out Philip Treacy’s site for Spring-Summer 2005. Winter 2005 is not up yet, but BTs have some lovely ones in which I am eying for the sales (unless anyone wants to buy me a Christmas present!) Also check out the new g hotel in Galway which he designed.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Feminists. And why I'm not one.

I was going to write a new post about feminism and my negative view of it, but I decided to post these excerpts from the notes of a talk I gave at a seminar a few years ago entitled from "Eve to Elle" (from Legally Blonde - the film was just out at the time). The seminar was called "can do, can you?" - the other speakers spoke about everything from volunteering to societal constructs - it was mainly attended by female college students.
I hope it explains my views a little better....check out those who disagree with me in the comments below, Fiona at mental meanderings and Damien Mulley (who started the whole thing off).

How many of you would readily define yourself as a feminist without qualification? Who many of us would say – depending of the definition? And that’s the crux of the issue – depending of the definition.
Feminism is truly extraordinary in this regard – it has such a unique hold on our consciousness as women – we’re afraid to say no I’m not a feminist – we don’t want to discount the massively positive advances feminism has made in getting us to where we are. In polls in the USA over the last 10 years up to 2/3 of young women were reluctant to define themselves as feminist. Feminists of the 60s and 70s are horrified to think that their daughters while supporting the rights of women to participate in the workplace etc view feminism as something that’s not related to their personal lives, the very area that feminism affects us most.
Depending on the definition is something that ones hears quite regularly nowadays when women talk about feminism – we don’t go round always thinking about feminism and its objectives, we don’t hold weekly bra-burning bonfires but somehow it’s ingrained in our psyche as women in the 22nd century that feminism is something we should cling to.
The exact definition however is a different story – while we recognise the contribution of feminists in the past to bring women to this point in history, most of us don’t embrace the label feminist without some uneasiness.
There is no question that feminism as an ideology has permeated our consciousness in the last 40 years especially becoming an important cultural force.
There is no denying that many of the reforms brought thanks to the political agitating of the early feminists – the right of women to vote, to own property, to participate in the workforce are absolutely necessary and I certainly couldn’t imagine my life without them!
With the 60s and 70s a new wave of feminism emerged – the sexual revolution – a new “woman’s lib” which could have been as easily orchestrated by Hugh Hefner of the Playboy empire!
Freedom for the prosaic and stifling life of the home was promised through free love. The oral contraceptive pill effectively separated children from sex – irreversibly changing the perception of sex – from the procreative to the purely pleasurable changing the context of sex from within a loving, stable and committed relationship to a fleeting physical encounter and changing the expectation of sex for women – instead of mating with her husband for life who would father her children and enable her to fulfil her potential as a mother and as a woman to hoping that he won’t roll over in the morning and tell her that she’s crap in bed.
The sexual revolution promised a new freedom and discovery of self--it was a time when psychology became mainstream and the notions of psychological growth, freedom, and personal exploration came of age. In hopes of "getting in touch with their inner selves" women embraced psychology, the priority of feelings over reason, and rejected the constraints of objective morality, resulting the 4 deadly D’s as described by Mary Ann Glendon – divorce, destitution, disrespect for unpaid work in the home and disadvantages in work for taking time out for family as well as less stable families, teen promiscuity, pregnancy, easy abortion, a culture of individualism and selfishness, devaluing of womanhood and motherhood, isolation, and the tendency to use others as a means to fulfil one's own selfish ends.
An important feature of this psychological revolution was that the self is considered in dualistic terms, the thinking, desiring, conscious self is separated from a person's biological self. It’s just sex – it’s just physical.
Interestingly enough, from a psychological point of view the dualistic perspective is fatally flawed, a fact confirmed by real life experiences. The human person is a human person. She is not just a soul captured inside a body. Intuitively, we all know this. A person's body is part of and expresses the reality of who she is.
Bizarrely enough, modern day feminism while obsessed with rape don’t seem to realise their inherent contradiction in advocating sex without bounds - when a woman is raped, it is the whole person of the woman that suffers, not just the biological body. The mind reacts, consciously and unconsciously, and the soul as well. Healing the memories, mind, and spirit often takes far longer than healing the wounded body. It wasn’t just a physical encounter.
Ms Cosmo Girl now armed with a military ops like manual with neatly numbered instructions on how to get a man into your bed, how to please him and thus keep him. How quickly we moved from being the pursued in the world of romance to the necessity of equipping ourselves with techniques to prove our sexual shelf-life.
In essence, the sexual revolution gave men all the advantage.
By removing the traditional protective context of sex, women were stripped of their feminine armour and the new “free love” left women in the situation described excellently by Danielle Crittenden in “What Our Mothers didn’t tell us – Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman”
“In Freidan’s time, the problem was that too many people failed to see that while women were women, they were also human, and they were being denied the ability to express and fulfil their human potential outside the home. The modern problem with no name is, I believe, exactly the reverse of the old one. While we now recognize that women are human, we blind ourselves to the fact that we are also women.”
Feminism in the 1980s and 1990s kept moving.
As more and more women broke through glass ceilings – many were left with long term scars.
“I am childless and angry. Angry that I was foolish enough to the take the word of my feminist mothers as gospel. Angry that I was daft enough to believe that female fulfilment came with a leather briefcase” Virginia Hausegger, ABC Australia, Anchorwoman.
The notion expressed by Gloria Steinem that “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” is in contradiction to what most women go to the cinema for – in the recent years Sleepless in Seattle, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, You've Got Mail, Kate and Leopold, Sweet Home Alabama, Maid in Manhattan, Notting Hill, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding haven’t been about single women wanting to live their lives in a commitment-free sex career-is-everything world. It’s the exact opposite.
Meanwhile women started making choices which favoured family life – the root of the much touted statistic that women make less than men. Equal work for equal pay is only applicable when equal hours are worked, equal experience attained and the choices made by women to avoid high stress management positions or professions (eg surgeons) is not a reflection of bias against women but the positive and welcome ability of women to choose what suits them.
The feminist mantra used to be “We don’t just want a bigger slice of the pie we want a different pie”
To a certain extent that has being abandoned by the feminist establishment – a different pie in terms of work and life isn’t wanted – it’s about being men in skirts and beating men at all their own games, in recent years, the game have moved to the pub as the “ladette ”proved. Choosing the life affirming and important role of spending time with growing children often comes at a career and financial disadvantage to women and this is not what worries feminists – it’s that women chose time off to begin with. At some point women stopped being activists and just got on with it – degrees, careers, family etc -they chose to fill their lives with the activities they wanted.
But feminists continued agitating so much so that modern day feminism is alien to experience of everyday women.
Men are the official enemy. They rape us, beat us in our homes, oppress us in the workplace – every situation in a woman’s life can be feminised - that is victimised.
Now more than ever is the stereotype of the weak woman unable to hack it reinforced by those sisters claiming to speak for all. The reason most women continue to associate with men, the spawn of Satan, is that they’ve internalised the system of patriachrial oppression that they don’t and can’t know any different until we’re all reconditioned.
Another interesting feature of modern feminists is that they insist on the welfare state, as it’s called in the USA. Some people use the term “nanny” state to describe government that seeks to interfere and play a role in all areas of our lives – feminists believe that “it takes a village” to raise children, as Hillary Clinton put it, including psychologists, social workers, doctors, nannies, etc. While all these people have a role, it is very peripheral; parents should be first and foremost in the raising of their children. Feminists exalt single motherhood, and expect the “daddy state” to step in. “Liberal patriarchs” have become acceptable to women. We’re all victims anyway, why bother take responsibility for your own life when the daddy state can do it for you?
Academic departments are now in most Western universities, dedicated to the study of women. But they’re busy feminising words, like history to herstory, because as women, we find every instance of the word man to be deeply insulting and painful. Again, we’re victims, unable to cope on our own – so the sisterhood will fix it for us. The fact that fewer women are interested in science and maths is another problem that the sisterhood want to fix - women come to most knowledge by intuition and men found out most information about science by using yucky stuff like logic and experimentation. So we need to need to emphasise “female ways of knowing”. We need to reconstruct the world from a female standpoint. That is of course the feminist point of view – we need a new knowledge because we’re basically not good enough to get the “male way”.
What we really need to do is to reclaim “the freedom to enjoy equal education, equal opportunities, equal rights, and to be treated as men are – as ordinary people on their own merits and not as a special tribe” Irish Murdoch.
I’m trying to move up to Elle the main character in Legally Blonde!
Elle goes to Harvard to study law – in the original logically legal way and from a professor who believes in the inherent structure and form of the legal system.
She’s a fashion major from California who wants her boyfriend back – who’s gone to Harvard with half-baked political ambitions – she’s a Marilyn and he needs to marry a Jackie!
She comes up against all the problems faced by modern women – hard to find a good manicure, a cheating boyfriend, sexual harassment, and the anti-female nature of knowledge. Instead of setting up a support group to explore her feelings and bitch about the men who want to keep her barefoot and pregnant and rape her when she’s not looking – she doesn’t whinge.
She starts studying – writing essays, reading big books, wins a prestigious position in a law firm where a middle aged white heterosexual male (the Devil Incarnate as per feminist gospel) makes a move on her – she protests and walks out.
Handling everything with dignity and glaring hot-pink-ness.
Elle doesn’t have her feminist consciousness raised – she’s just an ordinary girl who works for what she wants, does manicures with friends, loses her boyfriend and marries a gentleman shortly after graduation and manages to win an important court case with her knowledge of perms.
And does all this with a whiff of Clinique Happy (what I’m wearing now) pink Manolo Blahnik stilettos and is very comfortable in her female skin.
Admittedly, if I had to spend much time with her I’d probably have a breakdown or an inferiority complex but as a post-feminist icon she rocks.
She doesn’t grow a beard or talk about menstruation as a major feminist concern as many do; she’s unashamedly fond of men and expects a high standard of behaviour from them.
Not to go on and on and on about the West Wing as some of you have probably heard me do but I think this exchange sums up the relative unimportance of modern feminism.
Sam, the deputy White House director of communications compliments Ainsley Hayes, a the White House Counsel, on how well she looks in an evening dress.
“Hayes, you could make a good dog break his leash,"
Celia, a temp office worker then tells Sam that his comments demeaned Ainsley.
Celia then tells Ainsley “I’m surprised that you're willing to let your sexuality diminish your power.”
Ainsley: “I don't even know what that means. And I think you think I'm made out of candy gloss, Celia. If somebody says something that offends you, tell them, but all women don't have to think alike.
I like it when the guys tease me. It's an inadvertent show of respect I'm on the team and I don't mind it when it gets sexual and you know what, I like sex.
I don't think whatever sexuality I am have diminishes my power. I think it enhances it.”
Celia: And what kind of feminism do you call that?
Ainsley: My kind.
Celia: It's called lipstick feminism. I call it stiletto feminism.Isn't the point the Sam wouldn't be able to find another way to be chummy with a woman who wasn't sexually appealing.
Ainsley: He would be able to but that isn't the point. The point is that sexual revolution tends to get in the way of actual revolution, nonsense issues distract attention away from real ones: Pay equity, child care, honest to god sexual harassment, and in this case, a speech in front of the UN General assembly, so stop trying to take the fun out of my day. With that, I'm going to get a cup cake.
And that’s what I’m going to wrap up with – that the sexual and feminist revolution gets in the way of the actual revolution.
The theme of this seminar is “can do, do u?” so I feel I should end with something practical –
If someone asks me if I’m a feminist – I say no, I’m most definitely not a feminist.
Maybe I’m a little extreme but it’s no harm to distance yourself from something you don’t believe in.
We need to start defining what we mean by feminism and if it doesn’t match up to the so-called feminist agenda well why are we calling ourselves feminists?????
Practical policy issues need to be introduced into this country to improve the lot of families. The impact of women working with young children has not be given due attention in this country and we need to hurry up and get initiatives like parental leave, flexible time arrangements, varied career paths which allow women to move in and out of the workforce as it suits them, we need to support the choices made by women in terms of career and family and that includes the validation of the work done by women in the home.
Most of us here are college students so these are peripheral issues to most of our lives at the moment – but I believe that we shouldn’t be afraid of our femininity – we’ve the freedom to say yes to casual sex, the freedom to postpone pregnancy to whenever we want, the freedom not to get married and not suffer stigma for it, the freedom to pursue independence, the freedom to work wherever and at whatever we want.
But we now need to reclaim the freedom to save sex for commitment, to be fertile, to get married whenever we want and expect it to be “til death do us part”, the freedom to be dependent on other people (men included) and the freedom to stop and start work for family reasons and still have a career.
But most of all we need to reclaim the freedom to be feminine.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

I'll have 1 of those, 2 of them and a new face!

French surgeons performed the first face transplant on a 38 year old woman at the weekend whose face was ravaged by dogs.
The RCS has working party on it and their report is here.
I'm a medical student with only 15 weeks to go before I'm a doctor and it's stories like this that just make me want to become a super-surgeon-woman who does such amazing things. That is, until I go to my 7.30 am tutorial in the morning and realise that temporary defuntioning colostomies aren't really that interesting. But playstation games are and according to the surgeon who presented at this week's grand rounds, we'd better be good at them if we want to become surgeons as most operations will be performed laproscopically in the future (through the keyhole!). That being said, I don't think I can fluff out of my surgical finals by telling them the reason I don't know all the causes of abdominal pain is because I finished all of the levels in Grand Theft Auto and therefore am well able to perform lap right hemicolectomies.
I've never actually played a playstation. My cousins used to have a sega and I was really bad at Sonic the Hedgehog.
A facial transplant sounds increasingly like something I'll never get to do!