Forget the X Factor, the Y Factor will get young women talking
A new group aims to help young women to talk about and achieve equality
Sitting on bright pink chairs in the National Women’s Council office in Dublin, Gillian McInerney, Áine Travers and Cindy Njoki are discussing, among other topics, casual sexism, the commodification of sexuality and the relative scarcity of women in Irish politics.
Anybody concerned that young Irish woman aren’t engaging with these kinds of issues need only spend a few minutes in their company to be assured that the future of Irish feminism is in capable and enthusiastic hands.
All three women are on the steering committee of the Y Factor, an initiative being launched tomorrow by the National Women’s Council to empower and support young women and men in becoming leaders for women’s equality.
“The biggest thing that is missing for young women in Ireland at the moment is the space to have these conversations,” says McInerney (23), a student and youth worker with BelongTo, which supports young people of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. A shy child, she was bullied at primary school and deliberately withdrew from her classmates at secondary level only finding her voice when she came out four years ago.
“When I was younger I always had thoughts about sexism and inequality, and gender stereotypes but I kept them to myself until I found BelongTo,” she says. “The Y Factor is exciting because it offers a place where young women will hear that it’s OK to be annoyed by inequalities and get assurance that these inequalities are not figments of their imagination.”
Fear of such criticism is what put McInerney off getting involved or talking to people about equality issues as a schoolgirl.
“I thought I would be viewed as stupid or accused of taking things too seriously. I want other young women to feel comfortable about speaking up about their experiences.”
Travers, a psychology graduate and intern with the National Women’s Council, says there are times when young women struggle to find the words to pinpoint what is “out of sync” in their world.
As she wrote in a recent blog post: “Sometimes when we do find the words, we are made to feel silly and hysterical for it. Irish women have it good, we are told. You have nothing to complain about.”
The 23-year-old is concerned that the conventional ways people have their voices heard are not always accessible to young women. “So a project that young women can take ownership of is really useful in allowing them to talk about the issues that really affect their lives,” she says.