50 Shades of Hypocrisy, Irish Style: We Can Talk About Dirty Films But Not Our ‘Dirty’ Secrets

designLast week I took part in a radio discussion about the impending cinematic release of 50 Shades of Grey. I was not an obvious candidate. I haven’t read the books (I like my erotica Nancy Friday style) and find the cultural hysteria around them and the film unsettling, even depressing on a bad day. The subsequent chat would not have been out of place in an episode of that famed Irish documentary series Father Ted, part ‘careful now, down with this sort of thing, wink, wink’, part ‘Jesus Jim, we can’t be going to that – what will the neighbours say? We’ll get the DVD instead.’ I used the term ‘dirty film’ far too many times. I felt like I was trapped in a Carry On nightmare of crass innuendo to which I unthinkingly contributed ten-fold by blurting out, ‘well, this will be massive exposure for Dornan, in terms of his career.’

Jesus, Mary.

Scanning Irish news sites afterwards I realised this tittering-school-kid tone is almost ubiquitous wherever 50 Shades is mentioned. The troubling facets of Anastasia Steele’s and Christian Grey’s relationship (and there are many) are rarely referenced but whips, handcuffs and naked male torsos sure are. On the other hand, the lusty Irish women who are supposedly responsible for pre booking 55,000 tickets  are treated with a patronising sneer that is as snide as it is snobbish. Crap films get released every week but a potentially-crap film aimed at female audiences? Well, that’s the absolute worst.

Our childish frenzy over such a notoriously sex-centred popular phenomenon says a lot about Ireland’s relationship to sexuality, none of it inspiring. Despite the long shadow cast by Catholicism, our culture today is sex-saturated. We watch it, read about it, we talk about BDSM and vibrators on morning radio. But unlike so many other countries in the West and elsewhere, we lack the basic maturity and yes, backbone, to treat the messy, unpredictable consequences of human sexuality the compassion and nuance they demand.

Newspaper pages away from the 50 Shades coverage are the latest reports about the on-going heartache and irreversible damage being caused to Irish women and those who love them by the 8th Amendment. We giggle about 50 Shades, then look the other way when someone raises the unforgivable lack of sex education in our schools. We raise our little girls on fairy tales in which a handsome prince saves the princess, making her his forever and ever. Then we ridicule grown women for being drawn toward what they’ve always been told to be, towards the floaty white dresses, towards the beauty that never fits quite right or lasts like you’d like it to, towards the man who loves her so much he could kill her.

I won’t be going to see 50 Shades in the cinema (surprise, surprise) but I know I’ll still hear about it, in crushing, minute detail, especially the ‘wild’ sex scenes. ‘What does this film’s massive popularity say about Irish women?’ the media will ask and hordes will rush to answer. You see, in Ireland we can talk for as long as you like, as openly as you like, about dirty films but not our ‘dirty’ secrets. When all the smut and stifled giggles are pushed aside, therein lies the real shame.

Read: Be Your Own Hero

imeldaBehold the bootiful new edition of Irish Country Magazine with the super-talented, super- stylish Imelda May on the cover. Inside I’ve a feature entitled ‘Be Your Own Hero’, which you can read the opening to here. The premise is that we – hello, ladies – are often the ones that hold ourselves back from going after what we want because, sadly, we lack the self-belief required to really go for it. Life, I’m sure you’ll agree, is too short and too precious for that. The article has plenty of good advice on cultivating self-belief and testimonials from women who went after what they wanted and succeeded, so if you fancy a read skip down to your newsagents tout de suite mes amis, tout de suite.

 

Sunday Times Style Magazine, September 21st

Sunday Times 2

Sunday Times 1The internet and social media have been significant drivers in what some social commentator’s are calling Feminism 4.0 or feminism’s fourth wave in a Western-context. As someone who has distinct memories of being the only feminist in the village prior to the arrival of widespread internet access in Ireland, it is great to see how new media is bringing like-minded women together here and across the globe. To that end, it was lovely to be name-checked in the Sunday Times this weekend in an article on Ireland’s new breed of young feminists. Here’s to all the great women and gals in Ireland and across the world fighting for equal rights and opportunities and ‘thank you’ to all the women who fought for those rights in bygone times. We are forever in your debt.

 

Culture Night 2014

culture night 2014

‘A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and minds of its people’ – Mahatma Gandhi

Everyone could do with a little bit more culture in their lives. Alas, between the hectic practicalities of living and the sense that many people (unfortunately) have that a) creativity is something they relinquished in childhood and b) cultural spaces and practices are often ‘elitist’ or ‘out there’ somehow, our culture becomes something we underrate or overlook. This is a real shame, given that Irish culture -from the language to the literature to the digital arts – is as vibrant and as vital as it has ever been. If you’ve been meaning to recharge your cultural batteries, Culture Night on Friday September 19th is the perfect opportunity. Since 2006, this fantastic annual event throws open the doors to Ireland’s cultural treasure chest, inviting citizens to experience and enjoy the best culture this country has to offer. There’s so much to see and do across the length and breath of the country – including your own locality – that it makes http://www.culturenight.ie a must-see site. If you’re a literature fan and Galway-based, I’ll be taking part in an Over the Edge reading at Kenny’s Bookshop and Gallery as part of the festivities. More details of that  here and be sure to sample the delights nearest you.

The Bohemyth, May 2014

Amsterdam Books

On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I snapped this outdoor bookshop near Mueseumplein. Ain’t it grand? I could spend hours pottering about an Irish equivalent. Keep a few bin bags to throw over the shelves in case of rain and sure, you’d be away for road. Speaking of things that are grand, the kind folk at The Bohemyth included a story of mine in their May edition. If you like photography and writing, there is much to enjoy.