British feminist and author Caitlin Moran has described how, when she visits Ireland, the lack of access to abortion services gives her “a chill”.
“It’s always a shock to me,” she tells Una Mullally on the latest episode of The Women’s Podcast. “My family are from Ireland and I go over there a lot, and I always forget when I go over there. You’re walking around and you suddenly remember this is a country where women do not have control of their bodies and their futures ... I’ll be walking down the street and suddenly remember this ... it’s a chill through your bones.”
She references a section of her book How To Be A Woman where she wrote about her own abortion and seeing an Irish girl in the same clinic. "She'd come over on the ferry and she'd taken the train down from London. She had no one with her," she says.
“I was lucky, I was being picked up by my husband in our car and being driven back to our house around the corner and we’d done this in our country without any problems at all. And this girl had to come all the way to another country on her own, I presume it was a secret, and when she came out of her procedure she just limped away slowly out of this clinic and stood at the bus stop in the pouring rain, clearly in a lot of pain, in order to start her journey back home again”.
She says it is understandable that women in Ireland were angry about the lack of abortion rights. “Of course women are angry. Anger is fear brought to the boil. Of course you’re scared when people are telling you you don’t have control of your body, but the most useful thing you can do is not communicate in anger. Men love to dismiss angry women. You throw them a really easy ball if you’re angry.”
“Stay calm and tell the facts. Then they can’t dismiss you. It’s far harder to dismiss a woman who is staying calm and dignified and showing you her pain.”
Moran also talks about the “sisterly solidarity” in Britain for Irish women on the issue. “We all go to Dublin for hen nights, we go there to party, it’s a beautiful place to go. When women remember there’s stuff that you can’t do but we can, and you’re our sisters and you’re so close to us, we’ll come over and march the hell out of that shit.”
Elsewhere in the podcast. Moran discusses her controversial view that sex work should be legalised.
“My bottom line in wanting to legalise both sides of the transaction, both the punter and the sex worker, is that I just want to make the girls safe as soon as possible. We can talk about changing society later and men’s views of women and whether men should be able to buy sex later on, but the emergency thing to do is to stop sex workers being beaten up and assaulted and killed.”
And she talks about why she relishes being ’35 per cent famous’ and a feminist role model: “The fact that in the 21st century there’s an overweight 40 year old mother of two with a massive caesarean scar talking about socialism and feminism that teenage girls will treat like a rock star, it makes me so f***ing happy ... I know what to say to them ... I whisper in their ear and I go ’I give you permission to be the girl that you want to be’. Because that’s all that women want ... they want to be told they have permission to be the woman they want to be.”
Individual episodes of The Women’s Podcast can be downloaded on iTunes, Sticher and Soundcloud or on irishtimes.com