Mercille On Monday

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From top: Chairperson of Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) Ann Marie Gill, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald at a DRCC event last year; Dr Julien Mercille

Is Enda Kenny a feminist?

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

Enda Kenny’s speechwriter wrote a piece in yesterday’s Sunday Independent declaring her boss a “feminist intellectual” and that he “went the extra mile to help women and do them justice”.

The article is so poorly written that it offers one more clue as to why Fine Gael did so badly in the election.

The speechwriter, Miriam O’Callaghan (not RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan)  “admire[s] his compassion, his insight, his ordinariness, his warmth, his feminism and huge intellect”.

Is Enda Kenny a feminist? And what is a feminist anyway? I’ll define it for this piece simply as someone who is in favour of improving conditions for women as a matter of principle.

Therefore, a feminist can be a man or a woman (that will be obvious to feminists, but it’s still misunderstood in public debate). Conversely, anti-feminists can also be either men or women.

So is Enda Kenny as feminist? Well, no he’s not. It’s easy to see that he hasn’t done much at all to improve conditions for women in this country. Let’s look at a few examples (there are many more, of course).

First, abortion rights are still a scandal Abortion is criminalised even in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal impairment, as Amnesty International explains . T

he 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act leaves this restrictive legal framework largely intact. As a result, Ireland is still an outlier—an island of conservatism within a European sea of liberalism.

Second, a number of austerity cuts have affected women negatively. Cuts to the lone parents’ payments implemented by Joan Burton’s department hit women disproportionately.

Another cut that I think represents very well the way in which this government has mistreated women is the overall 21% cut to the Rape Crisis Centres between 2008 and 2014. That’s called a direct attack on women.

In Ireland, 87% of victims of rape or sexual violence are women or girls. If you’re not a feminist yet, that statistic alone should make you one. And what about the perpetrators of those crimes? 98% are men.

But few care: try to find a single story in the media documenting in detail the cuts to the Rape Crisis Centres. The only ones I’m aware of are my own, published on Broadsheet and in the Irish Times. To this day, I have not received a single request for a media appearance or interview to talk about those things.

Third, there are fundamental issues, such as the fact that in Ireland, the gender “pay gap” is 14%. This means that on average, for one hour of work, women in Ireland are paid 14% less than men (the data is based on surveys of employees at companies with 10 or more employees—so it doesn’t include women who don’t work).

Those who think that it’s not too bad should consider that this means that women work on average seven weeks per year “for free” compared to men. And according to the available data, the gender pay gap has been widening over the last few years of austerity.

Moreover, if we look at the “earnings gap” faced by women, it is 35% (this compares the annual earnings of men and women, and so considers the fact that women on average work fewer hours and have a lower employment rate, for example because they interrupt their career to take care of children).

There are many causes for this pay gap. According to the European Commission, they include: “Management and supervisory positions are overwhelmingly held by men”; “men are more often promoted than women, and paid better as a consequence”; “less than 4% of CEOs are women”; “women spend more time than men on important unpaid tasks, such as household work and caring for children or relatives”; “pay discrimination, while illegal, continues to contribute to the gender pay gap”.

To my knowledge, the gender pay gap was not exactly a big issue on the government’s agenda.

A real feminist government would focus on issues like those just mentioned, and on a range of others.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at University College Dublin. Follow Julien  on Twitter: @JulienMercille

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88 thoughts on “Mercille On Monday

  1. classter

    The whole thing about it was how silly it was.

    Whatever about ‘feminist’, nobody believes for a second that Kenny is an intellectual.

    Perhaps this is the fault of the sub-editor rather than Miriam?

    1. ahjayzis

      All his fawning acolytes say this kind of thing, Mary Louise O’Donnell most memorably.

      If his inner circle are right, he’s the greatest leader in Irish history. If that’s the case, I don’t understand his strategy to come across like a wooden, machine politician who spent 40 years as voting fodder on the backbenches and then rose without trace to lead the country.

      His is a wasted life, and a damning indictment of the criteria we use to choose our heads of government – time served.

  2. classter

    While I would never think of Kenny as a feminist most of Merceille’s evidence here is unfair.

    Abortion rights, while clearly imo completely inadequate, have improved under Kenny. His govt finally legislated for the X-case after 20 years of inaction by previous govts.

    This was a period of austerity & there were swinging cuts to all sorts of publlc services & charity organisations funded by the state. Pretending that there was a unique attack on women doesn’t really stand up. The unemployment rate for men had disproportionately risen in that period.

    Blaming Kenny alone for the oft-discussed & oft-contested ‘pay gap’ is facile.

    1. Cup of tea anyone?

      Saying that abortion rights improved under Kenny is like being thankful a bully stopped hitting you as hard.
      He had 5 years and he wasted time making it “better” instead of making it right.

      1. classter

        Fine but there is a world of difference between what I think the law should be (completely pro-choice) and what the majority of Ireland thinks. That may be changing now that Irish women are beginning to speak openly about their abortions and because the sky hasn’t fallen in since we legislated for X.

        Like it or not, Kenny took that first crucial step (and poltiically it was seen as extremely risky) of legislating for X.

        Our laws on this issue have been crazy since 1861. The idea that Kenny was going to go significantly beyond public opinion (and even the now it is shocking how uncomfortable many young Irish women are on the topic of choice) is naive.

        1. Cup of tea anyone?

          I suppose. He has been in for 5 years but the topic is really just starting to snowball in the last few years. we will see what they do now that it is a bigger issue and the people are actually making it a priority..

        2. han solo's carbonite dream

          i’m pro life and I agree with you.
          I also find it strange that being pro-life (or anti abortion) disqualifies you on being a feminist.
          Strange that with so much else going on in the world of women’s right that the author hinges on that subject – it is a drum he bangs a lot though.

          The idea that one must follow the progressive left mantra on all topics to be considered a feminist or a proponent of womens rights is laughable.
          And the clincher that a

          the author speaks some good stuff on social and economic matters but he loses his head on this stuff.
          What i love about him and his ilk (i’ll admit I’m going beyond the article here and projecting….) is that when somebody from their interest groups non-Caucasians, women, travellers etc.. say “not in my name” they get accused of being anti themselves , a modern “uncle tom” slur if you will.

          1. classter

            ‘I also find it strange that being pro-life (or anti abortion) disqualifies you on being a feminist.’

            One side of the argument says that women should chose. The other side says that this choice should be made on their behalf & that if needs be women can be compelled to carry an unwanted pregnancy to full-term.

            Is it not easy to see why the former could be seen as feminist & the latter not?

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            I think it’s possible to reconcile the two. I’m sure there are pro lifers that genuinely believe that the term ‘foetus’ is just semantics and that all human life should be protected thereby making women’s rights unfortunate amd unavoidable collateral damage or incidental in that one specific situation.

          3. han solo's carbonite dream

            moyes , you have explained my view and some of ladies I know who are pro-life quite succiently.
            I’m in awe (kinda)

            So classter – what moyes said.

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            I think you’re the minority though in terms of the most vocal anyway. The leaders of the conversation seem to be motivated by a desire to return to the social order of the 1950s.

          5. han solo's carbonite dream

            @moyes..
            maybe / maybe not

            although that claim is made a lot of the pro-life women are quite highly educated and have achieved a lot that was beyond the reaches of 1950’s women. But I’m sure the pro-choice groups don’t moan at the extremists that follow their view. You’ll always get extremists and they (the extremists ) make for good news and lashings of internet outrage.

            although I’m not part of any group though. just a lone wolf righting the wrongs of the internet while my boss pays me for something else that i should be doing

  3. classter

    I am struggling to remember a decent speech by Enda in his whole time in office, apart from the speech in response to the Cloyne Report.

    Am I being unfair? Have I merely been put off by his wooden style and the way he clearly became carried away with a sniff of power?

    1. Mani

      I think in the same way parents of a toddler are just relieved they don’t soil themselves during a nativity play FG supporters are relieved Enda’s brain doesn’t ping-pong him off script during a speech.

    2. nellyb

      I am thinking along the same lines. There is a budget to deal with wooden style and it does not appear to be spent well at all.
      RTE is not the only pool to get speech writers, there are plenty of talented wordsmiths around, it’s Ireland.

  4. meadowlark

    Whatever issues there were with the smarmy piece in the Times, this piece does not exactly do any favours for feminists (men or women).

    Some of the points are valid, like that of the Rape Crisis Centre, but really just using feminism as a vehicle to bash another article, and that’s doing a disservice to feminism.

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      Also, he notes that he hasn’t been invited to interviews so that means no one is talking about it when clearly the Rape Crisis centres have been talking about it

      *massive side eye*

        1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Sure, it’s easier to just brush over massive differences in schools of thought for the purposes of ramming home whatever his point is

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      Only a true feminist would feminise a man’s name in order to call on dog whistle cultural tropes about women’s work being less rational and compelling than the work of men simply because they are women.

  5. Paul

    “The article is so poorly written that it offers one more clue as to why Fine Gael did so badly in the election”
    I wish the good Doctor would apply the same level of cirticism to his own poor prose.

  6. Tony

    And just as a by the by, Ireland ranks 5th in the world for gender equality. 5th! (WEF 2015) Just behind the beloved Scandinavians. Not so shabby Mr Mercille, and possibly worth mentioning. Em, and for the lecturers’ information, his own country Canada, comes 30th. Coming over here with his fancy ways..

    1. J

      Thanks Tony for stats. Seems to support his definition of feminism.

      “And what is a feminist anyway? I’ll define it for this piece simply as someone who is in favour of improving conditions for women as a matter of principle.”

    2. nellyb

      Will you keep this on the QT? The last thing we want is canadian females flooding Ireland upon the good news.

  7. ahjayzis

    “The article is so poorly written that it offers one more clue as to why Fine Gael did so badly in the election.”

    What a bitch.

  8. Kerri Ann

    “Is Enda Kenny a feminist? And what is a feminist anyway? I’ll define it for this piece simply as someone who is in favour of improving conditions for women as a matter of principle.Therefore, a feminist can be a man or a woman (that will be obvious to feminists, but it’s still misunderstood in public debate). Conversely, anti-feminists can also be either men or women.”

    If you’re going to have a man tell women what feminism is, can you at least get one who doesn’t write like the first draft of a Junior Cert civics essay?

    1. Tony

      You might offer us a definition yourself Kerri Ann. It would be nice for feminists like myself to know what we are talking about. Thanks

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        It’s a concept specifically designed to tell Tony from the comments section on Broadsheet how to behave so must be rebelled against. That and equality.

  9. J

    “Therefore, a feminist can be a man or a woman (that will be obvious to feminists, but it’s still misunderstood in public debate). Conversely, anti-feminists can also be either men or women”

    Why does Mercille feel the need to dumb it down for the BS folks? Is he restricted by time or is he going for the dummies guide to “Common Sense” on a Monday morning? #common sense is so common #pained

  10. J

    “To this day, I have not received a single request for a media appearance or interview to talk about those things”.
    Hip Hip Hooray . The pulse of meritocracy still beats within some sections of the oirish meeejjjjjaaa

    1. Kerri Ann

      The head of the Rape Crisis Centre admired his Times article so much she asked him to stop writing about them. No doubt he gave her a fascinating twenty minutes on why rape is bad, m’kay?

    2. rotide

      how can the world configure to ignore Juliens British mind and piercing interlect?

      I am as baffled as you Julian

  11. TheDude

    New rule for 32nd Dail, no speechwriters. At bare minimum these people should be able to write their own speeches and string sentences together.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        Nah its pretty simple actually. Treat and view everyone with the same level of respect you give your nearest and dearest. Unless you’ve terribly low self esteem which manifests in projected bitterness towards people for no rational reason. Best stay in your basement and stick to Internet comments as an outlet for your impotent anger.

        1. Tony

          I don’t agree its that simple. What if someone beats, robs, shames, abuses ignores, or demeans their nearest and dearest? Should they treat everyone else equally? C’mob Einstein. Try harder.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Oh, and its continued existence doesn’t put the actually born’s mothers health, physical or mental, at risk of course.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            Again this is all very simple. It is not rational to think a cluster of cells should have the same rights as a sentient living human being.

          3. Tony

            So when does the cluster become a sentient being? Please try and be clear. Big decisions depend on clear definitions.

          4. Tony

            have you run out of road? What does a dictionary have to do with it? hoisted on your own lazy petard.

          5. Tony

            When does the cluster of cells become sentient, so that it can then be deemed to be worthy of different treatment. Don’t tell me you don’t know? You said it was simple really. C’mon Moyest. Try.

          6. meadowlark

            Hey Feminist Tony! Surely you should admit that women have brains of our own too, and are capable of making the decision to abort a baby or not based on their individual circumstances, and of understanding the consequences of said decision. Even if you don’t agree with abortion, you must admit this. Nobody will have thought about it more and the consequences of an abortion more than the women who considers having one.

          7. Tony

            Meadowlark, how gallant of you to rush to moyest when he/she is on the ropes. The argument was not about you having brains, it was about sloppy statements that confuse definitions. Glad you cleared it up with more derailing and obfuscation.

          8. meadowlark

            Moyest is my homeboy, yo.

            I was doing some reading up on when a foetus becomes sentient, but I couldn’t find anything solid. Do you have any links? Real question. Because it is a serious factor to consider when dealing with the issue of abortion.

          9. Tony

            I agree. its fundamental to whatever we vote on next. Personally I agree its the womans right to chose, but to make legislation for a country, a term limit will need to be imposed. I am not sure as to term lengths, which is why I don’t make simplistic statements. Im sure other models such as UK, Scandinavia will be offered as examples of what works fr others.

    1. Caroline

      “Equality for all” is an agenda. Saying that feminism means “Equality for all” is also an agenda.

      1. J

        I just wish Skippy would jump on some other agenda. Individualistic narcissism should not bed feminism.

        1. Caroline

          Sorry, what now? Is this Mercille jumping on a feminist bandwagon? Nah. He’s picking apart a claim that Kenny is a feminist intellectual. A contentious claim at the very least. He’s as entitled to have a crack as anyone, whether his argument succeeds or not.

          1. J

            and one more time for the cheap seats at the back. “And what is a feminist anyway? I’ll define it for this piece simply as someone who is in favour of improving conditions for women as a matter of principle.””To this day, I have not received a single request for a media appearance or interview to talk about those things”

          2. Caroline

            I’m not going to polish up his argument for him. I think he’s entitled to make it and is genuine in doing so, is all.

          3. rotide

            Caroline, Mercille doesn’t care about Feminism. He doesn’t give a toss if Enda is the next Greer or part of the patriarchy.

            All mercille cares about is Mercille being on the telly or in the newspapers as evidenced by this appalling article

  12. Anne

    Admires his intellect? hahahahahahahah..

    Is that sorta like when you pat a dog on the head and say, awe, who’s a clever boy, sorta admiration?

  13. Joe

    “But few care: try to find a single story in the media documenting in detail the cuts to the Rape Crisis Centres. The only ones I’m aware of are my own, published on Broadsheet and in the Irish Times.”

    Maybe your expert media columnist should try googling: “rape crisis centre” + funding.

    If he did he would see articles from the Indo, Examiner, Journal, BreakingNews, the Mayo News and the Kerryman on the first two pages of results alone.

    1. whatthefupp

      “Another cut that I think represents very well the way in which this government has mistreated women is the overall 21% cut to the Rape Crisis Centres between 2008 and 2014. That’s called a direct attack on women.”

      That 21% includes a 40% cut in funding to RCNI, which as was previoulsy pointed out to dear Julienne does not have a mandate from all RCCs and which does not directly provide sevices. If you wish to peddle a particular narrative, please provide facts and reasoned analysis. Nuance would also be much cherished .

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