What a difference 35 years had made to this peculiar little island of ours. 1983 marked the first year of the Women’s Mini-Marathon with just 9,000 participants, compared to today’s 30,000 superstars getting stuck in for their various causes and charities.
It was also the year the eighth amendment won by 67 per cent voting yes ‘to recognise the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn’ compared to 66 per cent voting to repeal it on May 25th this year. If you thought this referendum was divisive, apparently it had nothing on 1983 which is remembered as being particularly vicious. I was five at the time so had more pressing concerns, like climbing trees.
The women taking part in today’s VHI Women’s Mini Marathon may not share the same views, how could they? But the symbolism of this event cannot be overlooked in a year that has seen the feminist movement push back against patriarchal injustice with an unforeseen force thanks to social media.
Few saw it coming. Sure what did we have to be complaining about in the first place?
Suddenly Irish Mammy jokes are a bit irritating. Suddenly a bishop telling his flock to consider confession if they voted yes for repeal seems outrageously hypocritical in light of the Church’s track record with children. Suddenly there’s an emboldened rage in the air as women reclaim autonomy over their own bodies and lives.
Something dramatic has happened. We’re being taken seriously.
Complaints of workplace sexual harassment used to equate to no sense of humour. Not any more. It’s hands on the board room table from here in. No messing. Pay gaps used to be par for the course, because, quite frankly, men held a higher value than women in society, no matter how medicore their performance. It’s just the way things were. It was preposterous to argue, even if you were doing the exact same job. These days, you’ll at the very least be listened to and you might even get that elusive pay rise. Women are also realising their worth. The conditioning was intense.
I hear some say it’s no fun anymore with everyone watching their Ps and Qs. Oh well. We’re just recalibrating. This is a time of reflection. Violence against women as popcorn chomping entertainment is suddenly creepy and so pervasive especially as it seems to be reflected back at us in the news.
We have to ask ourselves why do we, men and women, get off on this horror show?
Serial offender and director Lars Von Trier felt it at Cannes this year with mass walk-outs from his new film, The House That Jack Built. The violence against women, children and animals became too vile for many critics to sit through. Good.
We are changed and changing but something remains strong and that’s our compassion for each other. The No side may have pulled out some nasty campaign tactics, but most of us understand where they were coming from. In an ideal world, all babies would be born into a blissful existence. Wouldn’t that be great? It’s just life is complicated and so often stacked against females. Repeal was necessary. More change is necessary. Mná na hÉireann are out in force today, once again showing their might. More power to you. May you know your worth.