We’re shirking our duty if we don’t ban women from writing for the Irish Independent

How many Irish women write voluntarily for a filthy right-wing propaganda rag with its glandular masculine effusions, without any form of coercion whether explicit or implicit? Just a minute while I do the sums. Okay, I’m ready: the answer is none.

Even those who claim to do it willingly are brainwashed. They conceal their true beliefs because they are bulldozed into it by a patchwork quilt of reasons, from social to familial to cockeyed religious grounds. Free will is a fig leaf when it comes to writing for the Irish Independent.

Irish women in Ireland, as in other countries, may tell themselves they choose to write for the Irish independent. They may even believe it. But a woman living in a tight-knit Irish community is under intense pressure to conform. Rebel, and she becomes an outcast.

So it is up to the host country to set the standard. It is not racist to want all women to be free. Forcing them to write for the Irish Independent, and sometimes drippy novels, is a form of fanaticism amounting to repression which we should not tolerate.

Far from protecting them, conditioning women to believe they must express right-wing views in public undermines their dignity.

Here in Ireland, our Government shirked the issue when it had an opportunity to show some leadership on this divisive ideological barrier between the writer and mainstream culture.

In 2008, a Wexford school asked for Department of Education guidelines on whether the Irish Independent was acceptable as part of the curriculum. The department left it up to individual schools.

This is not tolerance but cowardice, and duty shirked. We need policies on Irish women writing for right-wing hate mags, and we should formulate them now while we have a relatively small population of Irish women journalists. Anyone who opts to live here subsequently will be aware of the standards our society is setting.

We are paralysed by political correctness, however; horrified at the thought of our journalist community waving the censorship card, protesting against victimisation, or complaining about restrictions on their freedom of expression.

But the Irish Independent is the tyranny — not its prohibition. The Irish Independent, with its foul sexism, is a symbol of authoritarianism on the part of men and subjugation on the part of women.

The Irish Independent woman writer is also sending out a negative message, that either she or her family do not wish her to be a full member of society. This stance doesn’t just affect those who write for the paper, but anyone who comes into contact with a writer.

It takes France, with its well-defined sense of national identity and its significant journalist community, to address the dilemma. A cross-parliamentary body has recommended banning the expression of foul right-wing opinions in state buildings and on public transport. Inevitably, this is misrepresented as an erosion of human rights. On the contrary, I see it as reinforcing them.

France is not the only European country weighing up bans. The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Italy all either have laws, or are considering legislation, against writing which rots the brain.

One of my colleagues attended a media conference in Algiers last April, where post-graduate female students from the university acted as interpreters. These women, who were journalists, were asked not to write nasty material by the state broadcaster running the event, because it was felt they would send an anti-progressive signal to international delegates.

The young women complied, but were jeered at by men on the street as they walked empty-notebooked from the campus to the conference centre. Were they angered by these hecklers? On the contrary, their indignation was directed at the organiser for asking them to refrain from writing incendiary garbage, thereby laying them open to taunts.

This reaction highlights the duplicity at the heart of any discussion on the role of Irish Independent women writers. Women are indoctrinated by the dominant male element in their communities to believe free will is exercised when they write inane trash — instead they are controlled, censored and reduced to chattel status.

We are repeatedly fed the subterfuge that Irish women choose to write for the Irish Independent, finding it ‘liberating’. Implausibly, having a newspaper column is even described as a tool of female emancipation: they are set free from the shackles of their sexuality, or so the deception goes.

The sight of a woman writing for the Irish Independent dismays and saddens me, just as the image of a young girl tricked out like a Jordan-wannabe is disturbing. Any form of extremism has ominous undercurrents.

Some contend you can’t fight repression with a ban, and highlight the irony in such a move. They pontificate about incentivising women to stop writing such trash, without specifying how this might take place.

While we can’t force people to assimilate or integrate, we can frame laws and oblige citizens to abide by them. Many schools require children to read materials — the Irish Independent should not be allowed on the list. Currently, it is being produced as a way of testing the water in Ireland. If we accept it, the path is cleared for more nativist press coverage.

Such writing reduces a woman’s right to be a person, and dehumanises the writer. Yet the Koran only requires modest opinions– for men as well as women. The obligation on a woman to write inane garbage is a man-made one. Still, if it makes women feel any less victimised, I’d gladly have men’s hateful opinions banned as well.

Writing racist, neo-colonial trash in a right-wing rag are less an anti-western statement, more an anti-female one. Let’s use the law to protect all women in Ireland . . . journalist or otherwise.

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January 2010

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