GIL­LIAN HENNESSY

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - GIRL POWER -

Artist I be­lieve feminism means ‘gen­der equal­ity’ across the board. If we stop defin­ing each other by what we are not, and by who we are, then we have the free­dom and fore­sight to help each other.

If be­ing called a fem­i­nist means that women’s voices are as im­por­tant as men’s, and that both sexes de­serve equal op­por­tu­nity — gen­der equal­ity — then yes, that makes me a fem­i­nist. Can any coun­try say that they have achieved gen­der equal­ity? Com­pared to Third World coun­tries, I am one of the lucky ones to be af­forded these rights, which I would con­sider to be ba­sic hu­man rights.

Fem­i­nists can be seen as anti-fam­ily, antigod, anti-men, rad­i­cal he­do­nists, and I be­lieve that la­belling still en­sues. My reser­va­tion is that peo­ple are ill-in­formed of its deeper mean­ing.

My other reser­va­tion is that when you call some­thing ‘fem­i­nist’, it nat­u­rally be­comes about women. If it was called ‘the male and fe­male equal-rights move­ment’ then it would right­fully claim to fight for equal­ity. I think the is­sue of gen­der quo­tas or bal­ance is rel­e­vant to men and women, ir­re­spec­tive of their fam­ily sta­tus in the work­place. For ex­am­ple, the Swedish work model of­fers shared parental leave for par­ents. In Nor­way, for ex­am­ple, there is leg­is­la­tion in place for quo­tas — 40pc of board members are women, com­pared to Ire­land’s fig­ure of 8.7pc. I think that Ire­land falls down badly in this re­gard, com­pared to its Euro­pean coun­ter­parts. The flip side of the merit prob­lem here puts a ques­tion mark over fe­male em­ploy­ees who are hired or pro­moted be­cause of this — did they get the job based on merit, or be­cause of leg­is­la­tion put in place, to ful­fil a le­gal obli­ga­tion? I think there are many bar­ri­ers to fe­male pro­gres­sion in the workspace, specif­i­cally for moth­ers, who are seen as in­com­pat­i­ble with ca­reer pro­gres­sion by male su­pe­ri­ors, un­for­tu­nately.

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