Unchained Melody [Extended]


From top: The pamphlet ‘Chains or Change’ (1970), the manifesto of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement (IWLM); Feminism Backwards (2021) by IWLM founding member Rosita Sweetman (top right in 1970 and above left left today) which re-appraises the pamphlet and details what life was like for women in 1970s Ireland

Happy International Women’s Day!

Rosita Sweetman writes:

So today is International Women’s Day, Hurray! it’s also the 50th anniversary of the launching of ‘Chains or Change’ the manifesto of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement – on the Late Late Show, where in 1971 everything important happened.

My book Feminism Backwards looks at how things were for women – i.e, grim to ghastly. There was no sex education, no contraception, no divorce, rape was legal within marriage and when you did get married you lost your job – lovely!  Thousands of women and their babies were being destroyed in Mother and Baby Homes run by nuns in this little land of Saints and Scholars where you couldn’t buy so much as a bloody condom.

Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition, as the old American folk song goes, we have evolved.

But tell me the most UNFEMINIST thing you’ve ever done and I’ll send a signed copy of Feminism Backwards to my favourite entry. And a hug. Get thinking now!

Lines MUST close at 9.45pm.

Feminism Backwards Rosita Sweetman (Mercier Press)

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37 thoughts on “Unchained Melody [Extended]

  1. scottser

    explained to a female friend that lesbianism could be cured by a good ride from a bloke.
    on a dart with my legs open.
    while a pregnant woman was standing beside me in the aisle because all the seats were taken.

          1. Brother Barnabas

            despite the overt barbarity of it, we were all hoping you would at least move your privilege just a little to one side to let that old woman pass

            just continued without scrotum-scratching with all the obliviousness of mr magoo

          2. Nigel

            I told her, I sez, ‘sorry luv, but as a feminist you should be okay with standin’ there like a man, right, love?’ And I brayed like a donkey on speed.

  2. millie bobby brownie

    I once told another woman to get into the kitchen and make me a sandwich.
    I deeply regret my actions and we remain close friends to this day.

  3. Brother Barnabas

    never realised rosita sweetman was kind of hot back in the day. dont think she necessarily needed to be lesbian – could have just fixed the hair, smiled a bit, less attitude etc. pity.

    1. Kingfisher

      You’re from the Fifties, aren’t you? Nice trim shampoo and set, a neat little cap of hair and a twinset and pearls and she’ll be lovely?

  4. millie bobby brownie

    In all seriousness, I did make an awfully un-feminist remark to a friend, when I assumed that she and her partner of 10 years would be having children soon. She informed me that no, they would not, as they had made the decision not to have kids and were very happy with that decision. I admit the thought had never crossed my mind and as a result I was mortified at my clumsy remark and apologised, but it was a good lesson and I have never made such an assumption about any of my friends since as a result.

    1. Cian

      How is that an un-feminist remark?

      If you said the same thing to a male friend would that be un-mascululist?

    2. millie bobby brownie

      I made the assumption that because she’s a woman in a stable relationship in her thirties that she would automatically want children. Perhaps it was more that I projected my own expectations onto her. It was very embarrassing for me to admit that it hadn’t occurred to me to think otherwise, which is quite old fashioned of me. It was an embarrassing moment, and I certainly don’t think any less of her for her choice, but I certainly learned a bit about my own assumptions.

      1. Cian

        Thanks for taking the time to answer, and yeah, I totally get that it isn’t an appropriate to say… but my query is more around the “feminist” (or un-feminist) side.

        As a man I have been asked variations of the following questions (by both men and women)
        – “when are you having kids?”
        (after the first arrived: I got)
        – “when are you going to have more kids?” ¹

        For me, these questions aren’t, um, “gendered” – the people asking aren’t being un-feminist , they are just speaking out of turn.

        ¹Fun story. One time i was asked this by a person who I wasn’t close. Their timing was pretty horrible, as we had just gone through a miscarriage. So I was blunt and told him about the miscarriage. The look on his face was priceless. I think he learned an important lesson that day.

        1. millie bobby brownie

          I’m sorry that you and Mrs Cian went through that, my dear. There are no words of comfort after that kind of loss. I’ll bet the person who asked the question definitely learned his lesson – I know I would never make such a clumsy assumption again!

          It’s a really good point you raise too. Maybe it isn’t a feminist question, per se, but I felt that it certainly wasn’t a forward thinking one. And I did my friend disservice, I think, by attributing her wants and desires at that point in her life to one biological instinct and assuming that was all she wanted.

  5. Scundered

    I treated people equally, just as individual humans, instead of separating them into boxes.

    Oh the shame.

    1. millie bobby brownie

      Wow look at you go, you absolute radical.

      You should definitely win, in fact I’m of a mind to write to an Taoiseach and suggest a parade in your honour.

      We could all learn from you.

      1. Scundered

        An open top bus tour of the city centre sort of thing? where you can cheer or throw tomatoes… Well ok, but can we wait till after lockdown?

        1. millie bobby brownie

          Ah no but what about the outrage it would generate? Would you deprive the people of THE OUTRAGE?

        1. millie bobby brownie

          A load of yokes and a great soundtrack and you’ve the start of a great movie there, too.

  6. Annika

    I repeatedly answered unwanted attention by men by explaining that I just wasn’t interested in them because I already had a boyfriend. They were more willing to accept that I was already ‘someone’s else’s possession’ than that I actually was just not than interested in them. It was just so much easier than having to discuss with them, but I hate that I thus reinforced those patterns.

    1. curmudgeon

      I feel you, I have to do the same with women in work. They’re all in their 30’s and desperate for a man who isn’t fat and earns decent dosh. It’s so much easier to pretend that I’m still with the ex than explain to them that they aren’t attractive anymore.

  7. Best friends forever

    The most unfeminist thing I ever did?
    That’s difficult
    I met this girl once who was sort of into me and I dumped her because my brother slagged me off and said I could do better. Does that count?

  8. D

    Was locked out of my house at 3am in the morning when 8 months pregnant and begged the man that put me out there from my bed to let me back in cause I loved him!! Fear more like, but that was a long time ago now and I’m a very different person thankfully❤

  9. Gabby

    An English feminist woman asked me many years ago if I was thinking of getting married in the next few years. I replied no because I wasn’t earning enough money to support a wife and kids. She looked at me as if I had two heads on and commented that modern women didn’t want to be supported by their husbands.
    I was mortified and never married a modern woman.

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