Three days, three hashtags: Malala, Slanegirl and RoseofTralee
It has been a strange week so far for women in Ireland – a wake-up call on how women are viewed, how women are judged.
It also raises a question – what are we looking for in terms of role models for our little girls?
The vitriolic online comments made about the young girl at Slane were a shocking eye-opener for most of us: the mass sharing of photos accompanied by misogynistic tag lines showed us that the Stud/ Slut dichotomy is alive and kicking in 21st century Ireland.
This is the country in which our children are growing up, and nothing has changed. Our girls will go to parties, they will drink alcohol sooner than we’d wish no matter what we do to prevent it, they will do things that they don’t want caught on camera – there’s no point in pretending that this won’t happen.
My biggest concern isn’t that there are now smart-phones everywhere which can capture every moment and potentially destroy a young girl’s life, though this is nevertheless a huge worry. More than that, I’m angry and sad that my daughters are growing up in a society where girls are still judged entirely differently to men. And where dangerously misogynistic comments are seen as acceptable by otherwise normal, educated people.
On the other end of the scale, we saw the Roses parade across the stage in Tralee this week. Perhaps then this is what society wants for our little girls? Certainly there were many interesting and some inspiring contestants. There was plenty of talent, a lot of confidence, a great deal of smiling and much genuine warmth.
Putting aside any questions about the arguably sexist format this pageant that isn’t quite a pageant, the Roses could potentially be role models for our children.
But if little girls are watching, how much attention are they paying to the answers about careers, about charity work, about travel or education?
I think they’re looking at the dresses and the sashes and wishing for the crown.
And how much of what we see on television represents real, everyday women in real, everyday lives? With difficult relationships or unfulfilling work or disappointing friendships? Is it a false sense of reality, a metaphorical whitened-teeth smile for the cameras?
The third big news story about women this week (and it’s only Wednesday) is about another young girl – Malala from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for her campaign to educate Pakistan’s children. She is sixteen years old, and gave this inspiring and humbling speech in Tipperary on Tuesday night: Malala’s speech
There is a small extract below, but I encourage you to read the full transcript in the link above:
“Today, I am here to speak about peace and education.
The main thing is that peace is not only the absence of war,
it is the absence of fear.
This means the absence of slavery and exploitations.
This is a situation where a girl is free to go to school,
where every person is given the basic right, the equal right,
where there is justice for everyone.
Whether he is poor or rich, whether he is tall or short,
whether he is a Muslim or a Jew,
whether he is a man or woman.”
The importance of education, speaking out for what you believe in, refusing to be dismissed – this is what I would like my girls to hear. This is what I’d like them to aspire to.
It’s been a week of confusing and conflicting debates about women and how we judge them.
Being judged with hateful comments, being judged for a glittering crown or being judged for a peace award – I know which one I’m happiest explaining to my small daughters.