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Comment & Opinion

An open letter from an Irish woman to her country on International Women’s Day

Vicky Kavanagh, photographed in Dublin City. (Photograph: Dara Mac DÛnaill / The Irish Times) Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times
Vicky Kavanagh, photographed in Dublin City.
(Photograph: Dara Mac DÛnaill / The Irish Times)

ON this International Women’s Day, I remain chained. Shackled by a society that treats me as an inferior. The sum of my parts is not equal to that of my male equivalent.

In monetary value, we’re different. Over the course of a year, I’ll receive two months less wages than a man.

We pay a ‘pink tax’ – products that, because they’re targeted at women, are priced higher. Hair colours, shampoos, deodorant, razors. Because if it’s one thing we all know, it’s that women need to buy these products to be beautiful.

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Which is another thing we’re still bound by – the not so subtle message from the world  that our entire self-worth lies  in our appearance. It doesn’t matter how accomplished, funny or original you are – you’re worthless if men don’t find you attractive.

That ideal of beauty? More complicated than a mathematical theorem. Be thin, but not too thin, have big breasts, but not too big…

Women still experience everyday sexism. We’re the butt of sexist, offensive jokes in social situations and are expected to tinkle out some laughter, or we’re told we don’t have a sense of humour.

We’re abused by men. The WHO estimates that 35% of women globally have been physically or sexually abused by men. We are bred to be fearful of walking alone at nighttime. We’re taught how to protect ourselves from being raped. We’re given whistles and alarms in our teenage years, told not to get too drunk or dress too provocatively as adults because essentially, you’re just asking for it, aren’t you? An Amnesty Report in 2003 found that a ⅓ of people believe if a woman was flirting, they’re partially responsible for being attacked. Women will be put under greater scrutiny when an accusation of rape is made and not the potential rapist.

Speaking of sexual violence, in England, only 5.7% of rape cases are successfully prosecuted. In Ireland, it’s even worse – 1%. Over and over again, our society tells us you are not protected if you are a woman. You should be afraid.

In Ireland, this even extends to my own body.

Should I find myself in the situation of an unplanned pregnancy, the laws of my country paralyse me. If I want an abortion, my nation – whom I love, will shun me. It will force me to flee and brand me a criminal upon my return, should I choose to share the secret of a choice I made. A choice I have a right to make.

Even if  I do decide to have a child, what if the foetus isn’t viable? If I find myself in the situation of not only being robbed of the choice of carrying my baby – but being robbed of the choice of dealing with this heartbreak at home?

In 2016, what all women across the globe have in common is that we are still not equal. We still have to fight for that right.  We will not stop fighting. But we shouldn’t have to.

Vicky Kavanagh is a journalist & YouTuber. Check out her YouTube Channel here or leave a comment below.  

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4 comments on “An open letter from an Irish woman to her country on International Women’s Day”

  1. Boston USA

    Not a word about the enslavement of women in the Middle East. The politically correct people seem to ignore that huge modern day injustice.

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  2. Boston USA

    I got 3 "dislikes" for mentioning the terrible injustice of women being enslaved and abused in the Middle East. I guess in the minds of some, the rights and dignity of these oppressed women doesn't count. Again, I notice the politically correct refuse to mention this injustice. Hypocrites.

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  3. Gaye Edwards

    Whataboutery doesn't advance either cause. Of course women are treated appallingly in the Middle East, and perhaps you could address that in a separate article. It is neither practical nor possible to address all injustices at once. Nor should we be suffering that one injustice is worthier than another.

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  4. Boston USA

    @ Gaye: Sure Ireland has room for improvement. My point, was that how so few if any feminists rally or speak out about the enslavement of women in the middle east. Ireland has women in high business and government posts. Light years ahead of middle east nations. Calling attention to this modern day enslavement of women in parts of the world is far from "whataboutery". With Europe's changing demographics, I would think that it would be a serious issue. Why are feminists so silent?

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