Is everything hunky-dory for women in politics?
I paid a rare visit to the (very beautiful) Seanad chamber this week because the topic under discussion was one I’m interested in: the low number of women in Irish politics.
The Green Party’s newish Minister of State for Equality Mary White was delivering quite a thoughtful speech, saying Ireland had made no measurable progress in relation to women’s participation in political life in the last 15 years.
But nevertheless I found my attention wandering. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I felt when I saw a series of billboard, bus-stop and online video advertisements for what I consider to be a snack food consumed mostly by young girls and boys: crisps.
Weirdly, despite what I would imagine to be the target market, the ads feature gorgeous grown-up women playing rugby while wearing the type of skimpy outfits normally seen on female beach volleyball players. The sort of thing Benny Hill, the late English comedian, might have designed in the ’80s had he been an advertising executive: lots of cleavage and partially-revealed bottoms.
There’s a logo claiming the product is a proud sponsor of Irish rugby – whatever that means.
Now I don’t know much about rugby culture (despite my former colleague George Hook’s best efforts!) but I have female friends who do. So I called one and asked her to check out the ad online while I waited for her reaction. She didn’t like it. She said how she felt at that moment wasn’t at all typical of how she feels at rugby matches.
What’s this got to do with politics? I’m not sure. But back in the Seanad, as the Minister said Ireland, “for such a progressive country”, was lagging very far behind others in regard to what she described as women’s role in political decision making, I was thinking about…crisps.
I can only tell you how the ads made me feel: a little bit sad, slightly stunned and very embarrassed for those who produced them. Am I being illogical? I must be supposed to think it’s all hunky-dory.