What does feminism mean to you?
It means equality and fairness between the sexes. Neither sex is superior to the other, and we are different (although I would question how much of that is biologically determined, as opposed to socialisation) and I think every baby girl born today deserves the same chances and opportunities as every baby boy.
When did you realise you were a feminist?
I don’t know if there was an exact moment. When I was younger I had the image of feminists being dour and humourless, but I was always very aware of gender issues from an early age. I remember having to write an essay on women’s rights in 5th year and I was surprised how strongly I felt about it. Then I worked in a very male environment for three years and I was constantly being patronised and harassed. That really clinched it; I realised that feminist issues are far from dead.
What issue/area is the most important to you?
Probably the whole area of sexuality. The sexual double standard drives me bananas. The fact that a woman is called a slut for having the same amount of sexual partners as a man is so wrong. I once was memorably called a slut for not sleeping with a man. Things have moved on but still change is slow. The shaming of rape victims and the paltry sentences their attackers receive is something else I feel strongly about. For example, Julian Assange- everyone assumes the women are making it up because they think he’s a ‘great’ man. Well, what if they aren’t? There have been a number of things lately- George Galloway’s statement about Assange, Todd Akin’s ‘legitimate rape’ comments- make me feel as if things are going backwards.
Another issue of concern is abortion. Ireland needs to drag its head out of the sand about this. The exportation of this problem has gone on for far too long.
I’m concerned as well for younger men, who seem to have grown increasingly misogynistic. I think greater sex education is vital but I’m not too confident that will be delivered on.
What do you say to people who say “I’m not a feminist but….”
But you are a feminist. If you want men and women to be equal, you are.
I used to have a bit of that feeling myself. I don’t agree with a lot of feminist theorists, and I disliked the denigration of traditional femininity and men, but you can still be a feminist and not agree with someone like Andrea Dworkin, or shave your legs, or even prefer Bill Clinton over Hilary.
Where do you see the feminist movement going in the future?
In Ireland I hope feminism continues to focus on the abortion issue as it is not going away. I think there should be more focus on the sentences rapists receive. I hope internationally that there is a greater feminist influence in the third world and the middle east. Women abroad are denied rights that we in the west have now had for generations and that is so wrong. So hopefully, women in the likes of Saudi Arabia will get their own wave of feminism. It will be difficult, as we have seen in Ireland and other western countries, attitudes are very deeply ingrained. But I hope things will improve for women globally.
I also hope that there is a greater understanding between the genders. Men do get a raw deal at times and they are our fathers, brothers, sons, boyfriends and husbands. How corny- I just want everyone to get along!