The F Word

A few weeks ago, my nineteen year-old niece asked me if I was a feminist. I wasn’t able to give her a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. It’s a question I have asked myself once or twice over the past number of years, and I’m still not sure.

Growing up in Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s, ‘feminism’ was derisively referred to as ‘Women’s Lib’. Those who pioneered it – such as Nuala O’Faolain, Nell McCafferty, Mary Kenny and June Levine were branded by many as nothing more than trouble-makers. And it wasn’t just men who were scathing in their references to these women who were pushing for equal status. Many women, too, were uncomfortable with the changes and struggled to maintain the status quo.

In the house where I grew up ‘Feminism’ was synonymous with disgruntled bra burners who wanted more than they were entitled to. Women who hated men. Women who were malcontent and keen to stir up trouble for trouble’s sake. Women who were not content to be women.

I was always uncomfortable identifying myself as a ‘feminist’. Mostly, when I was asked if I was one, I would cautiously assert myself as someone who was keen on the idea of equality for all; regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, cultural background, religious persuasion etc. I had no desire to relinquish my femininity for the good of any cause.

With regard to male-female relations, I have a desire for equality – which is not sameness.  I would like men and women to be treated equally, by governments, industries, employers and each other. ‘Equal’ does not mean ‘identical’. Equal means ‘same in status’.

I would dearly like to see women and men same in status to each other. If that makes me a feminist, then I guess, reluctantly, that that is what I am.

Published by

Hazel Katherine Larkin


2 thoughts on “The F Word”

  1. Unfortunately, feminist have gotten a bad rap. The so called trouble makers were the instruments of change and people are afraid of change. The suffragettes were labeled in very much the same mode. And all they wanted was the vote. The rest of us benefit from these brave outspoken women. It is their actions that allow us to enjoy the equalities we do today.

    Thanks for giving me something to rant about today. Better now!


    1. I don’t consider your comments ‘ranting’! And I agree with you – the agitators of yesterday are the heroines of today.

      It saddens me that today, in a so-called ‘first world’ country (Ireland), women still don’t have much freedom when it comes to fundamental things like where and how to birth. The paternalistic society we live in here sees women being cowed during their labours and ‘told’ what to do – usually by men. Ireland is the only country in the world where the CEOs of maternity hospitals are called ‘Masters’. If objecting to and opposing that makes me a feminist – then that’s what I am!


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