Oliver Callan: Irish feminists should realise how much they need men

Women have to get men, and drag queens, onside in fight for equality and stop sweating small stuff

Participants during the NUI Galway Feminist Society and Students Union organised “Slutwalk” in Galway city.

Participants during the NUI Galway Feminist Society and Students Union organised “Slutwalk” in Galway city.

 

Any campaign for equality must reach out to the oppressor and teach them. Marriage equality for gay people was only possible through the will of their straight betters. Civil rights for black people in the US could only be brought about by their white fellow citizens. Therefore women need men in order to achieve gender equality.

They must get to the men whose consumption of media is restricted to sport, Michael Bay movies and Top Gear. Let’s see how well feminists fare when they leave the safe world of Facebook backslapping and talk to a man who thinks the epitome of a woman’s desire is a 1.2 lt Toyota Yaris.

Feminists need to stop wasting time bickering over the use of words such as “shrill”. They’d be better off trying to teach men and not sweat the small stuff, like when a man holds a door for them or offers a seat. I believe in gender equality, but manners too.

There have been huge leaps towards equality between the sexes but some of it has been for the worse. The narrowing of the power divide has meant men are becoming weaker rather than women getting stronger.

Young men are most at risk of suicide, depression and anxiety disorders. They’re addicted to porn and suffering erectile dysfunction as a result. The body image obsession that has plagued women for centuries is now mimicked in the male world. Eating disorders are on the rise and workers in needle exchanges talk of a surge in the number of young men using steroids.

The improvements for women are arguably not for their entire benefit either. More mothers now have a career, but perhaps it came from economic necessity rather than female empowerment.

Working motherhood has had an anti-feminist effect for some. Pension-aged women who should be reaching a new stage of freedom in their lives are instead entering a second career as child minders. It’s the first generation of older women who’ve faced this problem.

You can’t leave the kids with grandad. He’s of the donkey generation of men who were in the pub for childbirth, watched TV during nappy time and never understood or asked about postnatal depression or breastfeeding.

A career is a feminist ideal, but it’s increasingly at the expense of older women, rather than passing the burden equally upon men. Where’s the feminism to free granny?

Drag queens

Straight men should not be the only targets for feminism. Gay men are just as sexist. Take drag queens and their disgusting satire on women. The grotesque female parody of big hair, garish makeup and rib-crunching dresses are no better than wearing blackface or squinting your eyes to do a “stage-Chinaman”. Where are all the hilarious drag acts where women dress as a stereotypical man and exaggerate their dress, gait and speech?

I hate how awful gay men refer to each other using the terms “she”, “girlfriend” and “bitch” with the intention to insult. It’s their sexuality, and a history of persecution because of it, that makes them feel protected from criticism. There truly is tyranny in weakness.

Achieving equality means reducing that perceived weakness in women and that’s where comedy comes in. Last week, Minister of State for Justice with special responsibility for Equality David Stanton called for an end to sexist jokes. He’s been a TD for almost 20 years, is a junior minister for the first time and this is his biggest contribution? What a big girl’s blouse. Oh sorry I can’t say that any more, right?

Every time I’ve satirised a rich female celebrity I’ve been called sexist. Yet if I were to decide that women are too weak for satire and focus exclusively on men, that’s real sexism. Plus the world is robbed of much-needed jokes about Rosanna Davison and Vogue Williams. I wonder why women are so insecure about their body shape? Can’t be anything to do with beautiful women constantly telling other women what to eat, wear and do by any chance?

Women who rail against gender stereotypes should practice what they preach. There’s a feminist backlash when the dress-sense of a female public figure is highlighted. Yet women nearly break the internet to look at Oscar dresses and celebrity “fashion disasters”. That self-proclaimed bastion of feminism Her.ie cooed in a headline this week that “Kate Middleton finally wears a dress we could afford”. It’s what Emily Pankhurst would’ve wanted.

More than 20,000 weddings are held in Ireland each year, one “special day” as interchangeable as the next. Women are in charge of most of these chauvinistic nightmares where people pretend to be in Downton Abbey for an afternoon. It’s time to end stupid wedding customs where a woman is handed over by one man to another like two fellas trading a van on DoneDeal.

Some women are so entrenched in their views they won’t get past the male byline to read this far. They must realise that to dismantle chauvinism they must first understand it and take us by the hand. Otherwise the ya-ya sisterhood of backslapping will only end up like the closing scene of Thelma and Louise as the free women plunge off a cliff.

I’ll have said some of the wrong things here, so come on and give me hell. Even if you have to be shrill.

Oliver Callan is a satirist and writer

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