In June I was contacted by Plan Ireland to ask would I write a blog for their Because I am a Girl (BIAAG) campaign. Each month on the BIAAG website they publish blogs as part of this initiative written by different women from various walks of life, from politicians and civil society leaders to local activists and authors. Needless to say I was honoured to have been asked and sat down to really think about how I felt about this movement and the 10 questions posed each starting with “Because I am a Girl I ….”
When I was in school I had an English teacher who was fiercely feminist and I often remember us laughing and joking about how ridiculous feminism was. With hindsight I suppose her opinions seemed extreme to a class of 14 year old girls in second level education with many having ambitions to proceed to third level education and this being the norm. I suppose I had the world at my feet and femenism simply did not seem relevant to me when I had never missed an opportunity or suffered directly as a result of my gender. What saddens me is that as I have grown up this view point has changed drastically and that my attitude at 14 was in fact that of a naive and sheltered child. That said however, there has always been a part of me that hates admitting this and that still feels uneasy about discussing the gender imbalance. So before agreeing to write the blog I tried to figure out why this was – was I still clinging onto the peer pressure of it being uncool? was I afraid of a back lash? did I really deserve to write such a blog anyway… then it dawned on me, that little word fear raised its ugly head yet again and I realised that it was a mixture of fear and sadness holding me back. Fear of not being worthy to write such an important piece and sadness that I had lost the blissful ignorance of my youth when I thought everything was equal and that there was no gender gap.
The more I thought about this the more I knew it was really important to have my say and to be part of such a pivotal movement. Was I worthy – well absolutely, I am a woman after all and my god do I have opinions to share so why not?! So, after much thought I came up with my ten answers which you can read here if you wish.
The leisure industry is still a very male dominated industry despite the fact that there is an increasing number of amazingly talented women breaking through the glass ceiling and balancing out the gap each year. I achieved success in my career at a relatively young age because I worked incredibly hard (within 3 months of finishing college I was doing a job that months earlier was actually 3 separate full time roles). I learned the hard and fast way about management and business and also about sexism. Often my success was not put down to my ability and determination but instead how I looked or who I was rumoured to be dating. This galled me. The real shock was that often my female colleagues were as quick to judge and accuse as the men were. We didn’t even support each other!!
In more recent times however I have had a much more positive experience, there are a lot of supports in place now specifically targeting female entrepreneurs, there are magazines, women in business network groups both online and offline, the list continues. I even attended the Irish Tatler Annual Business Conference this May hosted by Norah Casey, a real champion of women in business, with a theme of Tomorrow’s Ireland – Women who are changing the game.
So maybe we are getting closer to our goal??
Well sadly not and this is the real reason I am sitting up in bed at gone 3am tapping away on my keyboard. I am seething over an article that was published in the Sunday Independent yesterday – the by now infamous feature on Women’s Rugby written by, oh yes a female journalist – namely, Niamh Horan. You can read the article here but be warned it makes for a pretty grim read. On a week where our Women’s Rugby team has done us so proud and achieved so much this is what a female journalist has resorted to – snide quips about fake tan, dated stereotypes and sensationalism. Thankfully however I was not alone in my dismay as the internet went wild with criticism and a back lash at this wholly inappropriate article.
Railway Union RFC President, Shirley Corcoran then took to the airways this evening to explain her dismay at the slant on the article. She was asked on Newstalk did she really say as quoted in the article “I never play a game without my tan” and suddenly had to start justifying and contextualising this. This annoyed me further. I have met many international athletes while working in this industry and what strikes me is at 6am when they are dragging them self into the gym after an evening session the night before they are wearing whatever is most comfortable and suited. They don’t care too much about anything other than their purpose at that point in time – train hard, improve, achieve. However when they line out for their country at the big events so what if they want to wear make-up or tan? How many other women go to work wearing make up or tan – plenty I am sure! The irony is it is no different to the men, look at premier league football where many of the players not only use but endorse
So what if a rugby player wants to look good on the pitch? I really think it’s so important that we all step up and speak about this and do not just accept it.