Jobs for the girls: sexism in politics
‘YOU should be at home and not be taking a job from a man,” one woman told Gemma Hussey as she canvassed for election in 1981.
Martina Fitzgerald’s interviews with the living 17 out of 19 female cabinet ministers in 99 years, is a painful reminder of how women are disdained in the workplace, not just in politics, and how they are intimidated by men, who are neither as qualified or skilled as many of the elected females.
Despite the fact that Countess Markiewicz was the first Irish woman to hold a cabinet position in 1919, it took 60 years before another female, Maire Geoghegan Quinn, was appointed to cabinet; the first woman since the foundation of the state in 1922. From 1918 to 2018 we have had 114 female TDS (9 per cent) serving in Dáil Eireann compared to 1,179 male TDS (91 per cent).
The negativity of the various comments and the journeys these cabinet ministers underwent should not impact on women today to run for election.
Rather than individual chronological stories, the chapters focus on aspects of election campaigns, attitudes in Leinster House, getting into cabinet, the presidency, sexism, #politicianstoo and, as if the derision in the Dail was not bad enough, there is reference to media commentary on appearance, weight, hairstyles.
The final chapter is the common denominator that these ultimately successful women relied upon; family and friends.
Condescension goes back to the 1970s when former President Mary Robinson started canvassing. She stood for Dail election twice and was not elected. As a young mother, she was told several times that she should be at home minding the baby. During her presidential campaign she was called a ‘Marxist lesbian bitch’ by a member of the Catholic clergy.
Her presidential candidacy was opposed by the current president Michael D Higgins. During a campaign visit to Higgins’s base in Galway she says, “He didn’t warm to me… he was one of those who regretted that I had got
Leading Oireachtas women celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 1918 election, the first election in which women had the right to vote, in Leinster House in 2008