I read an article in one of our national newspapers listing thirty women that the reader “needs to know”. Thirty Irish women worth watching were described, all beautiful, all accomplished.
These women are going places and are worthy of the nation’s watchful eye. Powerful women, CEO’s, business women, famous women like the stunning Ruth Negga, sportswomen too were included on the list.
I’ve watched women like these. I’ve been inspired by them, I still am.
Several years ago, I became a full-time parent. Only then did I start to see something else. I started to see someone else.
I see you. The woman who is not watched by or will ever feature in a national newspaper.
I see you. The stay-at-home-Mum who “doesn’t work”. You breastfeed your baby and chase your toddler around all day and somehow still manage to put a home-made meal on the table at dinner time.
I see you. The carer of your elderly parent. You drive your Mother to all her appointments, you coordinate her treatments and medications. You run from the geriatric ward of the hospital to collect your children from school.
I see you. The Mother who works tirelessly to fund-raise for much needed resources at the local primary school. You raised the money to pay for the computers that my children use every day at school.
I see you. Your children are at school now and you have some time to yourself. You volunteer with a children’s charity. You were there to entertain my children the last time we had to wait three hours to see a doctor at the A&E department.
I see you. The Mother of the autistic child. You fight for everything your child needs, none of it comes easy. You endure months of gruelling form-filling, endless questions from experts and personal reflections. You will do what it takes to have your child properly assessed. You have a path worn up and down to the school to meet with class and resource teachers. You are tired.
I see you. Your children are now raised, they are adults. You want your daughter to have the career of her dreams, the one you never had. She has a huge mortgage and cannot afford the extortionate childcare fees. You want the best for your family and if that means taking care of your grandchildren for little or no pay, you do it.
Women of Ireland you are unsung heroes. You have endured Magdalene laundries, Mother and baby homes, forced adoptions, limited access to reproductive healthcare and contraception. Yet you are still there to care for the young and the old.
I see you. Today I celebrate you.
We have a goldfish who actually fakes his own death. He floats belly-up at the top of the tank. Every morning.
This upsets the little people at a critical time of the day. I tell them he’s faking and he’ll be fine by dinner time.
That’s how cruel I am “you don’t even care about the fish, you just want us to get ready for school”. I own it, that’s my main aim in the morning, getting them fed and to school on time.
Roll on bedtime, when we feed the fish. Faker-Fish is suddenly alive, he eats his dinner like an aqueous undead.
I remind everyone to remember Faker Fish is fine and no need to worry if same should happen tomorrow morning.
Next morning Faker Fish is up to his old tricks again. We appear to trapped in an Aquatic version of Groundhog day as the same conversation is revisited. Only this time I’m the cruellest Mother ever.
“Maybe” says my seven year-old, “he’s actually dead, but faking life”…
Faker Fish is swimming dangerously close to the edge with me.
Fifty shades is back on the screen. This time around the fantasy is even more extraordinary. Marriage is now on the table.
Violent yet safe sex leading to a secure relationship and marriage. Hmm.
With over 100 million books sold, in 51 different languages, this is a popular story.
The books don’t aspire to be high calibre literature. It would seem that the unique selling point is the depiction of BDSM in a context that is appealing to women.
If you’re curious about kinky sex these books will give you a thrill. I’m guessing that many readers have never seen a butt plug or discussed the joys of anal sex with a female friend over coffee.
E.L. James lays it all out for us, the nipple clamps, the contract, the slave-master relationship revealed. The whole thing packaged neatly with a pink ribbon of romance and a sprinkling of love. How sweet. Bondage and romance, what more could a girl want?
But when the kinky sex is subtracted from this story what’s left is a pretty drab relationship. The bondage really is just a red herring.
It could even be argued that there is a disturbing aspect to this narrative.
In the first instalment of the Fifty Shades series we meet the handsome Mr Grey. The man who wants to begin a relationship with a written contract. Lovely.
Mr Grey wants a contractual partner for sex. He wants a woman who will come to his home on weekends. The way most of us would order a Chinese take-away on a Saturday night. After sex, Mr Grey does not wish to share a bed or even a room with his partner. No embraces or late night chats. There will be no dates, no flowers.
In this context, how relevant is the actual type of sex on offer? Let’s not kid ourselves – if you’re being used for sex you’re being used.
When our heroine Anna asks what’s in it for her, the delightful reply from Christian Grey is “me”.
We all know someone who fell for this trap. A woman who is emotionally attached to a man she sleeps with because sex is the only way she can be with him. E.L. James, uses the distraction of whips, feathers and a red room to make this situation seem exotic and romantic. The trouble is, it’s not.
The heroine submits (excuse the pun) to the sex in the hope of being rewarded with a healthy fulfilling relationship. The greatest fantasy of all is not the handsome rich and intelligent character of Mr Grey. It is the dangerous idea that an exploitative self-serving relationship like the one being offered by Christian Grey could eventually lead to a happy marriage.
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the author of Venus in Furs, wrote that a woman “can only be (a man’s) slave or his despot, but never his companion. This she can become only when she has the same rights as he and is his equal in education and work”. Very forward-thinking for a man in the year 1870.
Yet here we are in the year 2017 when a woman can achieve companionship with a man through equal rights in education and work. One hundred million of those women aren’t interested. They buy into a franchise with a hero who doesn’t want a female companion but rather a slave. A heroine who submits because it’s the only way she can get her man.
What is so attractive about Christian Grey that his lame offer of a sub-standard relationship with absolutely no emotional value-for-money appeals to women?
Strength. Christian Grey’s strength of character is the answer. This attraction signals the death of the metro man, who is now extinct. No longer the appreciation of a man keeping in touch with his feminine side. No more the desire for a man who expresses his emotions and shows an interest fashion and personal grooming. He is a social fossil. Dead. The man’s man is back.
The appeal of Christian Grey lies in his self-assured, confident and independent ways. Here is a man who can think for himself, make his own decisions and money. He knows himself and knows what he wants. He is the ultimate alpha male and perhaps too much of a novelty for the 21st century woman.
Haven’t we seen an almost complete U-turn in the attitudes towards men and women in mainstream media and advertising? It’s no longer acceptable to portray women as helpless, weak or dumb. The image of the 1950’s apron-wearing blonde is not well worn by modern women.
But what about the image of the dumb man? You know the one I mean, the man who can’t multi-task, never listens and is perennially wrong? That image is all-too prevalent.
Parents of young toddlers who enjoy the children’s cartoon Peppa Pig know what I mean. In the classic family life of young Peppa Pig, Daddy Pig is ridiculous. Daddy Pig is chronically misled, repeating one misdemeanour after another only to be corrected by the all-knowing, all-wise Mummy Pig. In effect Daddy Pig is reduced to the level of the third child in the family. He is not a grown-up on equal terms with his wife.
This derogatory portrayal of men is widespread and damaging, to both men and women. As young girls continue to outperform boys in school exams and at university a new gender gap might be developing.
Young girls of the Peppa Pig generation can surely not be expected to have high expectations of a husband. Cue the novelty and appeal of a character like Christian Grey. A man who takes charge, a man who likes to be in charge. Clearly, he has the edge over the fumbling fool many woman see depicted in the media.
As far back as 1983 social scientists Marcia Guttentag and Paul F. Secord described the “man-deficit” among college-educated young people. Could the gender ratios of college graduates be a factor in women lowering their relationship standards?
In his book “Date-Onomics: How dating became a lopsided numbers game” Jon Birger explains that college educated women outnumber their male counterparts in the US. Birger points to the fact that 1981 was the last year that more men graduated from four-year university degree programs. Since then, it’s more and more women graduating every year.
Manhattan has 60 percent more female college graduates than male between the ages of 22-29. Bad news if you’re a young educated lady who seeks to be in a relationship with a man with a similar level of education. Very bad news if you believe in the principle of relationship equality. Could it be a shortage of available men, or a dearth of finding the good ones?
As the plot of Fifty Shades unfolds we see that there are no men available to match Christian Grey’s focus, strength and confidence. The other male characters who compete for Anna’s attention appear immature and unable to handle themselves, the Daddy Pigs of this world. So, Anna does what any modern girl might do, she settles.
Anna, like many women is so desperate to have a partner of equal strength to her own that she’ll take him on any terms. A partner of equal strength in a relationship of unequal terms.
Equality of the sexes is dead and gone, says E.L James, it’s in the grave.
Saint Patrick gets a lot of attention both in Ireland and around the world. But what of Ireland’s other patron saint, Brigid?
February 1st is St Brigid’s day, an inclusive feast that can and has been celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike.
Indeed, this feast pre-dates the Christianisation of Ireland. Before there were any saints in Ireland people were celebrating this day and this woman.
The ancient Celts called February 1st Imbolc, it was one of four seasonal Gaelic feasts (the other three being Samhain, Bealtaine and Lughnasagh).
Imbolc was an auspicious day for the ancient people of Ireland going back at least two thousand years. The feast marks the end of the winter and celebrates the first signs of Spring. Still in modern Ireland Spring is said to begin on February 1st.
There is a Neolithic (stone-age) passage tomb at Tara called The Mound of The Hostages. This tomb is very like the well-known Newgrange. On the morning of Imbolc this tomb is completely illuminated by the Spring sunshine as its tiny doorway aligns perfectly with the rising Spring sunshine.
The Mound of the Hostages tomb is magically illuminated by dawn sunshine at Imbolc and the Samhain. Thanks to Mary Gibbon of Newgrange Tours for this “inside” photo.
There can be no doubt that to the ancient people who orchestrated such an event, the beginning of February was a special time.
The word Imbolc comes from the Gaelic “i mbolg” or in the belly, most likely referring to pregnancy. This was a time of rebirth, regrowth and the lengthening of the daylight hours. With more daylight came more work. The farming communities were busy as the ewes were giving birth or already lactating. Within the household, it was customary to utilise the extra light to do a “Spring-clean” of the home.
Imbolc was a festival of hearth and home with tributes to the Goddess Brigid being an important part of the feast.
According to Irish mythology Brigid belonged to the Tuatha Dé Danann. She was the daughter of the Dagda or chief druid. The Tuatha Dé Danann is a collective term for the Gods of pre-Christian Ireland. Each member of the Tuatha was associated with a particular aspect of life or nature and thus became the God/Goddess of that event.
Brigid was the Mother Goddess of fertility, healing, poetry, smith craft, and midwifery. Naturally her feast day was Imbolc. Brigid was closely associated with sacred flames and holy wells.
When Ireland converted to Christianity many pagan traditions were carried over to the new faith. The Goddess Brigid became Saint Brigid.
The St Brigid’s cross is traditionally made of reeds and its origin is also thought to be pre-Christian. The woven square in the middle closely resembles the structure of the prehistoric sun cross.
The traditional St Brigid’s cross has become a symbol of Ireland. It can be mounted in an elegant frame or presented simply like the one here to make a thoughtful gift for friends and loved ones.
Thanks to World Prayer Gifts for sharing this photo.
Today in Ireland the St Brigid’s cross makes the perfect gift to a family who have recently welcomed a new arrival or moved into a new home. When placed above the doorway, the cross is thought to confer protection to the home and those within.
Since 1995, Irish teenage girls have been drinking as much and sometimes more than their male counterparts, according to Alcohol Action Ireland.
That’s us ladies. The now late 30’s/early 40’s generation of women. We broke the trend and started consuming alcohol like no other generation of women before us.
Many of us are now Mothers. We drink at home, sometimes when the children are there.
Many of us are readers and/or writers of the female blogging community. We normalise our alcohol consumption with funny memes and Facebook posts.
We don’t hear the scary warnings from the medical community. Professor Frank Murry, president of the Royal College of Physicians spoke on RTE’s Radio Ireland last summer. His prognosis was rather stark. I found it hard to listen.
Many people are over-doing it with alcohol and don’t even realise it, he warned. Liver blood tests may not indicate how damaged your liver actually is.
Now for the really frightening part. You might think you’re fine, maybe a bit tired sometimes. According to Professor Murry, patients often arrive in hospital with severe liver damage having no idea what’s wrong with them and then they die.
While well-intended I suspect that this kind of communication may not be reaching the people who really need it.
If you’re anything like me, the thought of sudden liver failure followed by almost immediate death might actually drive you to drink.
So, in the midst of my dry January I am thinking more about benefits than risks. I’m focusing on what happens when I stop drinking. It’s this information that really motivates me to give up the bold stuff.
1. Better sleep.
Drinking makes us drowsy and fall asleep quickly. However a disturbed sleep is usually what follows. After consuming alcohol, the brain behaves the way it would normally when awake and resting. The result is poor quality sleep, often followed the next day by confusion and irritability.
Sleep is a mood stabiliser. When we are well-rested and fresh, every-day decisions and tasks become easier. Ditching the booze brings clarity and energy to our lives.
2. Weight loss.
In addition to the empty calories contained in our favourite drink (125 calories/glass of wine) alcohol increases our appetite. Studies show that women in particular, eat more when they drink.
One hour after the last drink our liver starts to work hard to metabolise and remove the alcohol from our bodies. The pancreas then produces extra insulin which in turn lowers blood sugar. And boom we’re hungry; but not for a fresh fruit salad or low-fat yogurt. We crave fat and carbohydrate. The people who run the local fish and chip shop already know about this phenomenon.
Swapping booze for will-power makes it much easier to control sugar cravings and stick to a healthy diet.
3. Better skin.
Women are the target market for a million and one skin-care products. Creams, lotions, face masks, multi-vitamin and herb extract supplements. Instead of adding something that costs money and has dubious science behind it, why not remove something that we know is not good for our skin?
It only takes a few days without alcohol to see an improvement in skin condition and a brighter complexion. Alcohol is a diuretic which means it increases fluid loss through urination and sweating. Cutting out alcohol improves hydration and can alleviate the symptoms of common skin conditions such as eczema and dandruff.
4. Improved liver function.
Drinking large volumes of alcohol, even for just a few days causes fat to accumulate in the liver. This condition is very common and has no symptoms. If not treated, fatty liver will lead to liver disease. The treatment is free. Stop drinking.
The liver is one of the most complex organs in the human body and it has an amazing capacity to regenerate and self-heal. If, you allow it.
Some sources, like the NHS advise that even giving up alcohol for two weeks can have a large impact on liver health.
Staff at New Scientist tested out the effect of dry January on their own livers. The results were incredible. After only one month without alcohol, participants had reduced their liver fat by 15-20%.
A healthy liver will boost immunity, metabolism and general vitality. Give it a chance and it will make your life healthier.
5. Money saved.
Drinking at home is definitely less costly than drinking out. However, popping an extra bottle or two of wine into the shopping trolley can mask how much we are actually spending on booze. Putting aside money that would normally be spent on drink and seeing how it adds up can really be an eye-opener. When we think about it, is it really money well spent?
If you’ve decided that dry January is not for you who can blame you. January is a tough month after the fun and frolics of Christmas.
But why not dry February? January might be the darkest month of the year but February is the shortest. A quiet month too, it’s really just a gateway month to March.
Ah March, that’s the one, Mother’s Day, St Patrick’s day, not to mention the rugby.
A lot of opportunity to enjoy a drink, if you’re so inclined.
In his acceptance speech at the Golden globes Ryan Gosling gave tribute to his “lady”, Eva Mendes.
It wasn’t a pretty image that Mr Gosling presented us with. He described how he was out “singing and dancing” while his wife was at home raising their daughter and pregnant.
Is it just me or was he brave to admit?
Narjas Zatat wrote in the British online edition of The Independent that Ryan Gosling’s remarks were sexist.
Eva Mendes, by “putting her career on the back burner for the sake of her husband’s” reflects the “structural inequality” of the workplace.
Perhaps there was a hint of the “behind every great man” about Gosling’s speech.
I think we are all weary of hearing this argument. Mainly because it does a disservice to both men and women.
The counter argument of course is that women have always been the ones to take on the more nurturing roles. But the notion that women are better carers is sexist. Sexual stereotyping is not good for either gender.
Eva Mendes wasn’t on the stage to speak for herself. We don’t really know what motivated her to make the career choices she made.
There could be truth in the idea that she put her career on hold so that Gosling could “further his own career” as suggested in The Independent.
I would like to suggest an alternative truth however. Could it be that Eva Mendes is not a victim of domestic inequality or sexism?
During the debate on sexual inequality some very important people have been forgotten.
Maybe Eve Mendez sacrificed her career not for her husband but for the benefit of her children.
Another bold suggestion. Maybe she did it for herself, because parenting your own children is the most rewarding and empowering experience that life can offer.
Maybe the real loser after all is Mr Gosling. The man who gave up the opportunity to raise his own children in favour of a “singing and dancing” career.