Women 2014: So how was it for you? asks Anthea McTeirnan

To paraphrase our own Edmund Burke – it is time for ‘good men’ to do something

It might not seem like it at the moment, but good things have actually happened to some women in the world this year.

There were massive reductions on televisions on Black Friday.

Twink found her dog. (Welcome home Teddy.)

And Forbes business magazine picked two women – German chancellor Angela Merkel (number 5) and US Federal Reserve Board chairwoman Janet Yellen (number 6) on their "most powerful" list. There were seven women on that list. Out of 67. We're putting that down as a good year.


It was all good times for gals in the US as 100 women triumphed in the Senate elections, making the 100 mark for the first time. That’s 18.7 per cent of the 535 seats.

Ireland got its third female Tánaiste in Labour's Joan Burton and its third female Minister for Justice, Fine Gael's Frances Fitzgerald. Three, it seems, really is the magic number.

Punching above our weight

There was an air of triumph as Irish women basked in the reflected glory of Katie Taylor’s fourth world boxing title.

And Stephanie Roche’s nomination for one of Fifa’s top three goals of the year will keep us going for 2015 (at least until voting closes on January 12th). Steph’s goal was filmed by chance by someone from the opposing side. Only 79 people watched the match. She still washes her own kit.

Never mind who was doing the washing, it was a good year for women’s sport.

The multi-victorious Cork women’s football team took the team-of-the-year award at the RTÉ Sports Awards, while the England Women’s Rugby team won the BBC’s team-of-the-year trophy.

Yet the final word on the matter must go to Lyn Savage, national development officer for the Ladies Gaelic Football Association, who said: “The ideal scenario is that there’s no such thing as women’s sport. It’s just sport.”

It was all “just sport” for RTE. They put the Cork women footballers up against a selection that included All-Ireland hurling victors Kilkenny, football champions Kerry and the Irish men’s rugby team for the team-of-the-year award.

And the Cork women won.

Well done captain Briege Corkery. Well done to all of her team-mates. If winning your ninth All-Ireland title in 10 years ain't going to win you a gong, you might as well hang up your boots.

Bualadh bos!

Bum deal

And 2014 has been the year of the buttock.

Kim Kardashian oiled hers and shared it consensually on the pages of Paper magazine. The magazine's headline "Break the Internet" nearly worked as we all flocked online to marvel at Kim's ability to balance a champagne glass on her naked derriere.

Other celebrities were less in control.

When nude pictures of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence leaked online, she was furious. "Anybody who looked at those pictures, you're perpetuating a sexual offense. You should cower with shame," she said.

“I didn’t tell you that you could look at my naked body,” she added, leaving nobody in any doubt than those pictures were for her eyes only. (See also Kate Upton, Jessica Brown Findlay, Kirsten Dunst . . .)

Actress Emma Watson condemned not only the release of the photographs, but also "the accompanying comments [on social media] that show such a lack of empathy."

Don’t get us started on social media, Emma. 2014 was a bad year for women in the nether regions of the interenet as trolls trolled, commentors lurked and leakers leaked. Maybe 2015 will be different.

(It won’t.)

Kicking over the statues

Lots of women have rattled cages this year.

Actor Shoshana B Roberts spent a day walking around New York for non-profit organisation Hollaback! and the resulting video footage went viral, notching up more than 10 million hits on YouTube. Unsurprising, really, given the magnitude of the hassle on show – 108 catcalls, whistles and unsolicited comments.

“Somebody is acknowledging you for being beautiful – you should say thank you,” Roberts was told by one irritator.

That comment deserved a two-word reply. Shoshana kept her dignified silence.

Pakistani child education activist Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace in October. But the 17-year-old, who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in October 2012 for going to school, did not enjoy it for long.

On December 16th, she got a brutal reminder of all she had hoped to leave behind. Yousafzai was “heartbroken’” by the news of a Taliban massacre at a school in Peshawar that killed 141 people, 132 of them children.

The struggle to attend school continues.

At least 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped at gunpoint from their dormitories at Government Secondary School Chibok in northeast Nigeria in April.

The world was horrified, rallying to the call, "Bring Back Our Girls". Even Michelle Obama spoke up. But so far 219 girls remain in captivity; 57 have escaped.

“Why should the children of the poorest of our society be abandoned, be forgotten?” asked Oby Ezekwesili, a Nigerian former federal minister of education, who has been campaigning every day.

Hashtags come and hashtags go, it seems: #BringBackOurGirls

At home

Here, Maíria Cahill spoke out about her claims that she was raped by a suspected IRA member when she was a teenager in 1997. It is a difficult matter to talk about in any circumstances. It is really difficult in these circumstances.

Top human rights lawyer and former director of public prosecutions England and Wales Keir Starmer has been appointed to look again at all aspects of the prosecutions related to the case.

Emma Watson, the artist formerly known as Hermione Granger, continued her annus mirabilis when she gave the UN General Assembly a belting, note-free, 15-minute speech on gender equality.

Launching HeForShe, a campaign that asks men to step up to the plate and speak out against gender inequality, Watson said: “No country in the world can yet say that they achieved gender equality.”

In spite of this, feminism, which champions the equal “human rights” of half the population has become “an unpopular word”, Watson told the UN.

How right she was proven to be.

Feminism sticks in the world's throat US magazine Time did its annual readers' poll of words and phrases that should be "banned" from the English language.

They got themselves in hot water by including the word “feminist” alongside more wholesome contenders such as “kale”.

Naturally, Time planned to use that tool of super-calm thoughtfulness – the internet – to let people vote. The word “feminist” was riding high to be banned until Time fell on its porky sword and said sorry.

“The word ‘feminist’ should not have been included in a list of words to ban. We regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.”

From where we’re sitting on our well-oiled butts, that tastes like a hearty slice of very humble pie.

Previously, Time had banned the word “twerk”. Feminism will never be the smart-ass butt of their joke again.

Do you love us, Ireland? Do you love women? We're ending the year in familiar territory, with a pregnant dead woman in a hospital bed somewhere in Ireland.

We’ve been here before. Different circumstances. Same unconscionable issues for women here.

It is just over two years since 31-year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar died begging for an abortion in University Hospital Galway.

Now a dead woman is being kept alive because she is pregnant.

It is the second time that the State has used a woman as an incubator in 2104. Earlier this year, Miss Y was made to gestate until a baby could be cut from her womb.

The law we have made has proved to be an ass and many in the Dáil and beyond have heard the braying.

At the table

There are four women in the Cabinet: Tánaiste Joan Burton, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Education and Skills Jan O'Sullivan and Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys.

There are 11 men who must now look them in the eye and show them that they are not vessels. That has to count for something.

Quotas are only a year off and at some stage (if the theories are true) critical mass is going to have to be just that – critical.

The men of our parliament have it in their hands to make 2015 the year Ireland stood up for all of its women. The year of “HeForShe”, as Emma Watson would have it.

To paraphrase our own Edmund Burke: it is time for "good men" to do something.

Anthea McTeirnan

Anthea McTeirnan

Anthea McTeirnan is an Irish Times journalist