The F Word and You: Anna McCarthy

What does feminism mean to you?

Feminism means a number of things to me. It means a movement, a history, an attitude, and a way of being and a way of achieving change. Essentially it’s about erasing the obvious barriers to gender inequality and more especially the not so obvious ones. More broadly it’s about personal freedom and seeking not to inhibit anyone else’s personal freedom.

When did you realise you were a feminist?

My mother didn’t exactly label herself a feminist or an activist but she spoke about and pointed out inequality to me from a young age. She protested against the marriage ban in the civil service in her own personal way. Listening to the conversations and debates about political and social issues around the dinner table definitely made me more aware of the various social dialogues. I don’t think there was ever one moment when I realised I was a feminist, I think was always one. ‘Briseann an dúchas’ I guess. I think once oppression, in its various forms, is pointed out to you, you can’t stop noticing it. It’s pervasive.

What issue/area is the most important to you? 

It’s very hard to distill down to one issue. I think the area that could have the most impact on our society is that of child-care. We need to have a subsidised system of quality child-care. We also need to look at measures to make working life more parent-friendly and address the default position that women are the primary/best care-givers for children. As an LGBT activist I’m also concerned about the inclusion of a diversity of gender identities and gender expressions in society at large, within feminism and within the LGBT movement. Rigid gender roles, expectations and stereotypes hurt and limit everyone in our society.

What do you say to people who say “I’m not a feminist but….”

A couple of years ago I spoke with some people who didn’t want to describe themselves as ‘gay’ because the label had too many stereotypes associated with it or had negative connotations for them. Of course it’s absolutely their right to self-identify however they choose but I couldn’t help but wonder, why not fight to dispell those stereotypes and prejudices instead of looking for a new word? The problem isn’t the word; the problem is most likely the reason you don’t want to use it in the first place.

Where do you see the feminist movement going in the future?

Wherever it goes I hope it goes there quickly! There has been a lot of change but we’re still having many of the same debates about contraception, the ‘X’ Case, women’s representation in politics, public life and the media. I hope the movement achieves momentum and makes progress in all of these areas and that we can eventually get to a point when gender is an unremarkable, inconsequential, though perhaps vaguely interesting aspect of a person’s identity.

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