The Peculiarity of Irish Feminism. An Introduction.

Irish feminism was and is peculiar, it followed a different path than either US or UK feminisms and now EU feminism as influenced by the “Swedish Model”,  in fact I would go so far as to say that not only has, and did Irish feminism follow a different path but it was born from different soil. In fact it is incorrect to call the movement for women’s rights in Ireland feminism at all.

Alas, it now appears that Irish feminism is converging with the above named feminisms, and betraying its own historical roots. This might sound strange but Irish feminism was to all intents and purposes a women’s rights movement and as such had legitimate aims, and was grounded in legitimate causes.

To understand the women’s rights movement in Ireland one has to take into account more than simply a battle for women’s rights, but acknowledge that this is embedded in a wider framework of republicanism, suffocating religious tyranny and an underlying class struggle.  See here, here and here.

Now,  the Irish women’s rights movement is and has allowed itself to be corrupted by the insane and badly informed agenda of US/UK and EU feminism, it has made itself a joke, a caricature.  Rather than being a legitimate platform from which to address inequalities imposed on Irish women by traditional beliefs about “a woman’s place” or women’s legal status or cultural norms about how women should or shouldn’t behave it is now simply an extension of the ideology of hate that US/UK/ and EU feminism is grounded on. Grounded on misandry and fuelled by bigotry, lies and fraud.

The Irish women’s rights movement lost its way when it embraced “gender” feminism rather than holding to its position as a women’s rights movement. THAT was a legitimate platform in the context of Irish laws, Irish cultural norms and Irish society. Around circa 1980 it became redundant, it had won all the rights battles it set out win, and has succeeded in its aims to address legally enshrined inequalities against Irish women. Now “feminism” has taken over, grafted itself onto a legitimate cause and corrupted it, as feminism always does corrupt everything it touches.

Two things contributed to the disenfranchisement of Irish women, to the imposition of a cultural and legal framework that necessitated the emergence, or rather a re-emergence of a women’s rights movement in Ireland in the late 1960’s, early 1970’s, Catholicism and colonisation.  We both inherited, and had imposed upon us two external forces and influences that changed the nature of Irish society and culture, and led us down a path far from our ancient roots.

This is not to say that these influences were not embraced, not deliberately and consciously incorporated into our culture, because they were. Enthusiastically and with determination, when Irish Independence was at last gained after several hundred years or so of colonisation, rather than rejecting the legal and cultural tyranny of our conquerors and rejecting the tyranny of Catholicism, and returning to our ancient roots, we gleefully continued to utilise these cultural, legal and religious weapons against our own people. Especially against our women and in particular against the poor in our society.

Before we were finally conquered over a long period of time and subdued with the passing of “In 1800, following the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the British and the Irish parliaments enacted the Acts of Union. The merger created a new political entity called United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with effect from 1 January 1801” Éire [Ireland] had an ancient system of laws and a culture stretching back some 2,000 years that was remarkably egalitarian and in no significant way treated women as less equal than men. See here, here, here and here.

So, rather than celebrating Independence, rather than congratulating ourselves on finally throwing off the yoke of colonisation, we should hang our heads in shame at taking over and imposing a worse system of tyranny on our own people. We in fact became our own conquerors, we simply continued to impose the same rigid rules, laws and cultural norms, and in fact refined those cultural norms into a more repressive and oppressive regime, with Irish women singled out for “special” attention.

What needs to be said here is, that Irish women themselves colluded in this repressive regime, they endorsed it and refined it, and gave it its legitimacy.  For every Irish man who contributed to the continuation of repressive Catholicism and legal tyranny, there was an Irish woman standing beside him fully sanctioning this, equally accountable for its existence. Equally complicit in the perpetuation of a system of repression and oppression.

So called icons of feminism like Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Andrea Dworkin, Kate Millet et al make me laugh with their talk of “women’s oppression” from their nice middle class well protected lives, modern day writers such as Amanda Marcotte,  really make me laugh, pontificating from their cosy ivory towers about being “oppressed” because men “treat them like sex objects” by staring at them in the street.

Try this on for size, Magdalen Laundries, Goldenbridge, not to forget how young Irish boys were abused and maltreated in places like Artane and Letterfrack, see here. THAT’S oppression, THAT’S living under a regime which denies you not just basic human rights, but denies you any recognition AS a human being.

With regard to the Magdalen Laundries, these were run by women, by nuns yes, but nuns are female.

None of these places could have existed, could have continued to operate without the collusion of Irish people as a whole, men and women.

While I do admire to a certain extent the first women’s rights activists who highlighted the legal and cultural inequalities perpetrated against Irish women, my admiration is qualified because they failed to address subtle, less obvious perhaps, or simply preferred not to see, atrocities committed against Irish men and boys, case in point, Ireland had the highest level of admittance to “Lunatic Asylums” of men. Especially unmarried men, the unwanted, inconvenient bachelor brothers standing in the way of acquiring family land. From pages 5 – 6 of this Dissertation. It’s a hefty read at 277 pages and is confines itself to the years 1817 – 1920, but does establish a unique pattern in Irish society which persisted into the early 20th century.

One of the most comprehensive arguments along these lines comes from Elizabeth Malcolm in a study of western asylums in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.12 Although women were slightly more numerous in the general population in western districts (counties Sligo, Leitrim, Galway, Roscommon, and Mayo), men were significantly more numerous in the asylum.

 Malcolm’s analysis of committal warrants and physicians’ case notes from western asylums suggests that there was a robust relationship between the high levels of emigration from the post-Famine west and the preponderance of single thirty- and forty-something men in the asylums there.

In an era of land consolidation, a shift to primogeniture, and reduced rates of marriage, emigration was a safety valve for a young, single, landless, but predominantly female cohort. Unmarried men, who for whatever reason were unable to escape the constraints of the households of their birth and resultant family strife through emigration, therefore ended up committed to the asylum in disproportionate numbers.13

Shunted out of the way into these places for greed, for avarice. Another peculiarity of Irish society, the obsessive need to own land – but a discussion for another time. In the same report at page 192.

Mark Finnane and Elizabeth Malcolm have argued, for example, that economic factors like emigration, a shift to primogeniture, and consolidation of land created “surplus” adult children. In a society increasingly bereft of family resources, both emotional and financial, they argue that the oddities of these adult children could be overstated to allow for committal to a lunatic asylum, thus relieving remaining family members of a significant burden.13

See notes at the end of post.

 I will be addressing this issue in a separate post, Irish Men on the Margins: A Historical Perspective.

 To continue:

I read accounts of how feminism operates in the US and the UK, and am carefully observing as the EU spreads the toxic message of feminism throughout the Union, but in particular how feminism has literally corrupted the very foundations of democracy in the US and am appalled, horrified and fearful as I see its influence seeping more and more into Irish society.

In many ways I am grateful that Ireland resisted the external influences of the wider western cultural norms and maintained a benign xenophobia, while also admittedly perpetuating its own internal toxic cultural norms. For two reasons, first we have to a certain extent escaped the influence of the worst of radical feminism (a situation that is now being reversed) and secondly, the emergence of radical feminist “thought” is counterbalanced by the emergence of the men’s [human] rights movement, providing an alternative voice and voices, that just were not allowed or permitted in either the US or the UK as radical feminism gained its foothold in the early 1960’s and 1970’s.

It is a small but significant plus, let us hope it is enough to build on to resist the influence of the EU as it seeks to impose the so called “Swedish Model” of feminism on us. See here, here and here.

 To Irish feminists lured by the polished and toxic rhetoric of “third wave feminism” I say this – STOP – you are being hoodwinked, lied to, manipulated, brain-washed and ultimately being used as pawns in a game with deeper and more insidious motives than “women’s rights” or “equality” take a moment to stop and think – is there anything that I as a woman am legally prohibited from doing? Is there anything that I as a woman, apart from my own limitations or ambitions simply cannot do or that only Irish men are “allowed” to do?

The answer to both those questions is a resounding NO. In fact, if you are honest and open-minded you will in fact discover that reverse is true, it is Irish men, and all men who are being discriminated against, in education, in family law, in employment, it is men who are being disenfranchised, your fathers, brothers, sons, nephews and friends. So, what are you going to do about it?

 Notes On.

POLITICS, PROFESSIONALIZATION, AND POVERTY: LUNATIC ASYLUMS FOR THE POOR IN IRELAND, 1817-1920; A Dissertation; Submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Notre Dame in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Melinda D. Grimsley-Smith: Christopher Hamlin, Director Graduate Program in History Notre Dame, Indiana, December 2011

Pages 5 – 6

12 Elizabeth Malcolm, “‘The House of Strident Shadows’: The Asylum, the Family and Emigration in Post-Famine Rural Ireland,” in Medicine, Disease and the State in Ireland, 1650-1940, ed. Greta Jones and Elizabeth Malcolm, 177-194 (Cork: Cork University Press, 1999).

13 Elizabeth Malcolm, “‘Ireland’s Crowded Madhouses’: the Institutional Confinement of the Insane in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Ireland,” in The Confinement of the Insane: International Perspectives, 1800-1965, ed. Roy Porter and David Wright (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 183-186.

Pages 192 – 193

13 See for example Mark Finnane, Insanity and the Insane in Post-Famine Ireland (London: Croom Helm, 1981), Elizabeth Malcolm, “‘Ireland’s Crowded Madhouses’: the Institutional Confinement of the Insane in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Ireland’ in The Confinement of the Insane: International Perspectives, 1800-1965, ed. Roy Porter and David Wright, 315-333 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), Áine McCarthy, “Hearths, Bodies, and Minds: Gender Ideology and the Committal of Women to Enniscorthy Lunatic Asylum 1916-1925,” in Irish Women’s History, ed. Alan Hayes and Diane Urquhart, 115-136 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2004).




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