Ain’t You A Woman?: Stand Up For All Your Sisters

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Maybe we have not all been that woman. But we have all had a scent of it; maybe even just a glimmer. We have all; each and every one of us women, no matter where we hail from or what we believe, have felt fear under a patriarchal force. We have felt violated, used, torn, exploited, wasted, bruised, beaten, forgotten about, lost at least once in our lives because of the society we live in. And each and everyone one of us has picked ourselves up (often with the help of others) on more than one occasion and said we would not let it happen again. And maybe it will not happen to us again, or our friends and our sisters again; but it will happen to many other girls, women and transwomen around the world. We cannot leave anyone behind any longer.

Earlier this week, it was reported that a young woman who immigrated to Ireland was denied an abortion, despite being traumatised, scared and suicidal. Not only that, but she was led to believe that should would receive an abortion on the grounds of The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013); which states that abortion is justifiable when the pregnancy in question endangers a woman’s life, including the risk of suicide.This law came into effect on the 1st of January this year, and still the State is acting as if it does not exist.

Irish Times correspondent Kitty Holland interviewed the young girl, who had been raped in her home country before arriving to Ireland. She was unaware that she was pregnant. She was lost in a new place. She was turned away and betrayed by the IFPA, who delayed her in seeking an abortion. She attempted to take her own life. The young woman told Ms. Holland what she told the nurse:

“I could die because of this pregnancy. I am prepared to kill myself.”

The interview only becomes more harrowing as the young woman depicts the moment she was refused an abortion after fighting so long for her right to one:

“You can leave me now to die. I don’t want to live in this world anymore.”

This becomes more than just a pregnancy issue. This is destroying someone’s mental health, their psyche, their life. Abandoned by the State, the young girl also said that she feels like she has been “left by everybody” and she is enshrouded with shame. But none of this is her fault; and yet still this place we call home can make one vulnerable young woman look like a monster because she wanted justice for herself.

I, along with many others, have been criticised and condemned for adopting a pro-choice stance. I have been called a murderer, disgusting, immoral; and on more than one occasion, a Nazi. All because I believe that pregnancy is a choice (which it is) and I believe that a woman should have the right to her own body (which each and every woman does). And still, these people do not put themselves in the situation of any woman who has been betrayed their rights over the years in this country and worldwide. Just because something does not affect you directly and/or your circumstances allow you to have a different outcome to another person does not mean their rights are non-existent. We can no longer pretend that these injustices are the moral thing to do because Ireland has “always been that way”. The UN are right: the Irish state treats women like vessels. All of us. And it does not matter if you wanted to have a baby or not, or you want to ever have one for that matter. We are still expected to be incubators; every last one of us.

And this denial of health care and reproductive rights is not the only thing Irish society has done to reduce women to dust. Think of the young woman at Slane in 2013 who was hospitalised after she was a victim of extreme abuse and harassment online. Think of the transmisogyny of Irish society which led to mass online bullying of a transwoman in Limerick city. Think of the women at the Magdalene Laundries, one of which is not far from my front door. Think of all the Mother & Baby homes. Think of the unrepresented and disrespected sex workers that have no one to protect them. Feminist writer Bell Hooks once said: “Being oppressed means the absence of choices”. That is exactly what we all are in this society: oppressed. And you may not want to acknowledge it; you may not even realise it. But you have less choices than any man does if you are a woman or identify as a woman in this State.

You know what? We are all that woman. We are the women staring at themselves in the mirror — crying — wishing it was all different. We are the girls that sit on the curb outside the nightclubs waiting for friends because some creepy guy molested them on the dancefloor. We are the girls filled with shame because that is what we are told how to feel. We are the women who are catcalled and beeped at; and we are told: “It is a compliment”. We are the girls who wake up every morning feeling successful and happy and somewhere along the way we are shut down by a “higher” male power. We are the lonely girls. We are the girls who don’t want to be boys. We are the sad girls. We are the women making ourselves sick with worry, scrambling on cold bathroom floors. We are the the broken girls. We are the “Want You To Make Me Feel Like I’m The Only Girl In The World” girls; but they will never give us that. We are the college dropout girls. We are the single mothers. We are the girls who lay victim to revenge porn.  We are the X Case. We are Migrant X.

But most of all, we are the girls that should not; that will not back down. Support your sisters; and not just your cis-ters. We cannot lose the battle.

 

“It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term “feminism”, to focus on the fact that to be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.”

– Bell Hooks

When The Hills Are Alive With Celibate Cries: Embracing Masturbation For Females

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There has been many conversations that I have either overheard or been involved with that have denounced the existence of female pleasure. I have heard lines like: “Well if a lad is bored, he can just wank; what do girls do in their spare time?”. The myth of the female orgasm seems to have gone on far too long for my liking and I am sick and tired of the act of masturbation being purely about a boy cumming. And I know I’m not alone on this.

The feeling of being sexually unsatisfied is one that is all too familiar to me.  Whether that once off thing didn’t quite get you off or you’re having a dry spell, it’s not particularly nice at all. At the end of the day, you can always come home and practise self-love. You know exactly what you want, you are in control of all movements and you can enjoy whatever stimulus that helps you get off without your partner’s judgement.

Just like sex, however, safe masturbation does need to be enforced. One barely learns about contraception and safe sex in the Irish education system, let alone a mention of masturbation.

And as women, we are made feel guilty for having sex. There is always that pang of doubt that sets in with one million questions racing through your mind: “Was it too soon?”, “Will everyone talk about the fact I went home with him/her?”. This onslaught seems to be common with every girl; but why should it be that way?

  1. Invest in some toys; because you’re worth it: No offence to any of the men I know, but sometimes penetration just isn’t enough. In fact, only 7% of women can orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. Everyone deserves to climax, not just the boys. So if your significant other doesn’t go down on you to your liking or you’re a single babe, check out Lovehoney for cheap, high quality vibrators! Shipping is fast, free over £10 (it is so easy to over-indulge) and their products come is unmarked, discreet packages; should you feel a bit embarrassed about the whole thing.
  2. Please wash your sex toys (correctly!): I know this is total common sense, but it is easy to dismiss cleaning! Making sure your toys are clean is imperative, especially if you decide to involve them in sex with your partner(s). Be sensible; not everyone wants your body fluids on/in them. Babeland have an amazingly thorough guide on how to clean each specific material (x).
  3. Clean up any excess lubricant: Remember, many toys are electric and although lubricant is safe on them, it is still a liquid. Plus lube is gross and disgusting when it’s in places it shouldn’t be.
  4. Remove batteries from your vibrator for longer lasting life: I never knew about this tip and believe me; it’s no fun at all when you’re enjoying yourself and suddenly everything dies on you. If you plan on masturbating only a couple of times a week, take out the batteries and let your buzz take a breather. It’s also nice to go back to your roots once in a while.
  5. Do not be afraid to try something new: Make of this what you will.

Because at the end of the day, in the words of our lady and saviour RuPaul:

“If you can’t love yourself; how in the hell you gon’ love anybody else?!”

In honour of National Orgasm Day, I’d like to make some recommendations so that every babe will have the best day. Treat yourself to a bullet vibrator or a wand. You can get them in Anne Summers, but I prefer the following brands:

  • Smoothie vibrator for all your internal and external needs.  Loads of fun.
  • Bullet vibrator, because it looks cute and small and it’s very powerful.
  • My all time favourite magic wand. It is truly magical and if you try it, you’ll never go back. It’s aesthetically pleasing too.
  • Top it all off with some lubricant and you’ll have a banging day.

I will leave you all with one final question: Is masturbation the most sincere form of flattery?

Dissecting The Dirty Word: Feminism

Many people when they hear the word “feminist”, the image of RadFem activists come to mind. For example: 

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The majority of people tend to ignore the intersectionality and complexity of feminism, and undermine it completely. It is deemed stereotypically by most as a collective of “man-hating lesbians”. In reality, this is not the case. I do not claim to be an expert on feminism, but I hope to enlighten people through this article on why the stereotypes and misconceptions hurt everyone; not just women.

The radicality of Feminism is not what you think it is:

Radical feminism, in theory, is great. It does not imply militancy, or violence (which it is stereotypically seen). This use of the word “radical” pertains to finding the “root” of the problem. Radical feminists try to dismantle the oppressive patriarchal forces in society (most notably sexism) to try and create a equal society. However, radical feminists tend to be trans* exclusionary (TERFs) and sex worker exclusionary (SWERFs). This is a horrible and hurtful take on a movement; one which is meant to establish and defend the rights of ALL women, despite race, sexuality or whether they are cisgendered or transgendered.

Groups such as FEMEN, whom society thinks of when they hear “radical feminism”, are a different story. As well as their questionable policy of “sextremism”, FEMEN is run by a tyrannical misogynist: check here, here and here. There is nothing wrong with men being part of the feminist movement in my eyes, but Svyatski is the furthest thing from it. Another problem with this group is their attacks of religious orders, especially Islam, which many Muslim women have spoken out about.

Movements within feminism that hurt the cause seem to be the only movements which gain any recognition. The extreme always makes an impression but in this case, I am thoroughly and wholeheartedly against it. This should not be the face of feminism. We learned with first and second wave feminism that white, middle-class women were not meant to be at the heart and sole cause of feminism, so why should groups still adhere to these ideas?

Man-hating, hairy lesbians make up the majority of Feminism:

WRONG. Everyone is different. So who cares if you have hairy armpits or if you’re a girl who likes to kiss girls? Bodily integrity and freedom of sexuality are human rights and no one has the right to shame someone for what they do with their body. No one should ever use a term of someone’s sexuality as a shaming term. It’s something I have been guilty of in the past and which I have decided to eradicate from my vocabulary. Maybe you won’t listen to me, but maybe you’ll listen to Hilary Duff . As well as body shaming and using homophobic slurs to attack the movement, society has also adopted the extremely critical and hurtful portmanteau, “feminazi”.

This harassment of feminists is outright misogyny, and it comes from both sexes. How are we supposed to obtain equality if there is still rampant discrimination of people? This is also the problem with feminism which is exclusionary, which I mentioned previously. People are highly critical of anything which they find to be “other”. This takes us back to patriarchal values of gender and race; and so cisgendered, heterosexual, white males are the dominant, whereas everything else is other. Here are two examples of this:

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We have been socialized to think that this is the norm and have become almost blinded to this dominance. This misrepresentation has been damaging the the world as a whole, as minorities (PoC, trans* people and women) are undermined and overlooked in the face of this oppressive system. So the point I am trying to make is that feminism is not about misandry and hating men, it’s about the intrinsically Western male values upheld by society today that need to be eradicated for society to move forward and evolve for the better.

The Problem with White Feminists:

Many people believe that Western feminism is unnecessary because “women and men are equal in the Western World”. As a cisgendered, heterosexual white female, I understand and acknowledge my privilege in the world. I have had a better life than the majority of the women, be they WoC or trans*. Even though I have been a victim of sexism in the Western World, I would never place my female experience as higher or more important than others. Sexism coupled with racism, homophobia and/or transphobia is far worse than what I (and what many other women of a similar background to mine) have faced or continue to face.

The problem with white feminism is that a lot of them tend to ignore the troubles that WoC face. I thoroughly support what is mentioned in this blog here. Feminism began as a movement to create a sisterhood which would stand together against patriarchal forces. It began exclusionary and it is still exclusionary. We cannot even begin to understand the hardship faced by WoC, but it is necessary that we acknowledge our privilege, stand by them and support them.

White feminists are especially problematic if they are people in power. A good example of this is Miley Cyrus. She claims to be a feminist, but in actually fact she is commodifying black female sexuality and culture, as well as performing Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, also known as “No Means Yes”.

Feminism is just as much a race issue as it is a gender one; as well as economics, politics and social issues are important in this movement. It’s important for us to work together on a worldwide scale to revert the problems we face today. Two good projects which have aimed to do so are Everyday Sexism, which joins women globally against sexual harassment and abuse, and One Billion Rising.

Rape culture, LAD culture and MRAs:

All of the above go hand in hand, and are extremely detrimental to ever achieving equality. Rape culture involves victim blaming and sexual objectification and LAD culture also encapsulates sexual objectification as well as slut-shaming. Girls are brought up and taught that they can only have sex for the purpose of pro-creation. Having sex with someone who isn’t your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner makes you a slut. Having too much sex makes you a slut, enjoying sex makes you a slut. But on the other hand, in the face of LAD culture, not having enough sex or refusing sex makes you a prude or a tease. Either way, the victim of sexual objectification is blamed.

MRAs indulge in much of the same behaviour, and seem to have this idea of “compulsory heterosexuality” , which Adrienne Rich has talked about previously.  The majority of MRAs are white, cishet males, you can see a definitive link between all the problems I have addressed previously. It all comes down to patriarchal values.

MRAs may not be at a booming level, but LAD culture is at an all time high, with “Bird of the Day” pages cropping up in almost every university and IT in Ireland this year as well as pages such as The Lad Bible, Ultimate LAD and more gaining followers in the millions for their misogynistic and discriminative posts (albeit, the comments by the members are almost worse).

All of these cultures have this idea of “restoring” masculinity to society, and condemn homosexuals (especially the MRAs), no matter how subtle it may be. Males which like to adhere to this culture often feel the need to inflate their male identities by indulging in sexual objectification, slut-shaming and by calling out any stereotypical feminine behaviour by a male as “gay”.

To conclude, I think that the most important thing to do to implement feminism and equality is to eradicate the defaults our society lives by: white, cisgendered, heterosexual. But to do so, we must try to dismantle western patriarchal values and LAD culture from the norm. It is our mothers, our daughters, sisters, cousins and friends who are being damaged in the long run and we cannot keep passing down this recurrent oppression that has been in place for years.

To see more, here are a few of my favourite talks:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists

Jackson Katz – Violence Against Women is a Men’s Issue

Caroline Heldman – The Sexy Lie

Joss Whedon at Make Equality Reality

Does My Vagina Offend You, Yeah?: An Exploration Of The Debasement Of Women & Misogyny in Irish Society

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Vagina. Va-gi-na. Noun. The muscular tube leading from the external genitals to the cervix of the uterus in women and most female mammals. Exactly what it says on the tin. So why are a lot of men and women in this country so afraid of vaginas? And I’m not talking about homophobia (even though there is far too much of that still circulating in Irish society). There is a severe taboo around the female reproductive system. Not just here, but around the world.

Whether it’s breasts, the clitoris or our rear ends, the fascination with degrading women is highly prevalent in Ireland. In this piece, I will explore aspects of the female body which have been targeted by males and females in a negative light in Irish society; as well as the lack of rights which females have.

Menstruation & Body Hair: 

Now I know for a fact that a period is not the best feeling in the world. Some of my famous quotes while I have been enduring the horrific cramps have been “Will someone please surgically remove my womb before I do it myself?” or “It feels like there is monsters in my uterus”. But why do we feel the need to ignore it’s actual name? It’s not a curse word.

So now I will direct you to Tampax’s “Outsmart Mother Nature” campaign which is cringe-worthy. Exhibit A:

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Why do the marketing people feel the need to talk down to women in this highly colloquial advert? We’re not children. To assume that women cannot engage in sexual relations when on their period makes us all out to be some sort of monsters:  does “Don’t trust anything that bleeds for a week and doesn’t die” ring any bells? A lot of males and females I know are entirely disgusted by what a period entails, but as Georgina, creator of Vox Copuli states: “I refuse to not discuss [my period] because it makes men uncomfortable”.

And why should we feel uncomfortable about what happens to us every 28 days on average? As mammals, female humans have one of the most frequent menstruation periods, which means more fertility. You should be embracing this, not keeping it hush-hush because someone somewhere said it was gross. It occurs far too often for us to pretend it doesn’t exist, or to conceal it’s true identity with a little old lady claiming to be “Mother Nature”. As well as being a natural bodily function, it’s a healthy reminder that you’re not pregnant and you can continue doing rad things without worrying about a baby.

When I asked online “Do you think female body hair is gross?”, the majority of people said yes. I never really thought twice about pubic hair until I thought about how it’s only acceptable to be clean shaven as a woman in Ireland. So I decided to part with all razors for six weeks and see if I really felt gross. And I didn’t. Having body hair is so natural and it’s only been normalized to have a shaven pubic area in Western culture since the late 70s. Why should women feel under pressure to shave? If a guy is really that fussy, he doesn’t deserve your pussy.

Between periods and pubic hair, the female body is seen as ugly in it’s natural state and constantly needs to be modified to suit a males standards.

The Taboo of Feminism:

I am constantly given grief by males and females about being a feminist. Irish people act like it is such a dirty word. Women usually do not voice their opinions on women’s rights in public for fear that being a feminist will make them unattractive to males. Many women turn a blind eye to sexism and many males act like sexism doesn’t exist. The majority of people I have come into contact with believe that feminists are a bunch of angry, man-hating girls. But feminism is about creating equality; not saying that women are superior to men. There is a big difference between feminism and misandry, which you can see here. The definition of feminism to me is:

 “A collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.”

I don’t hate men. My mantra as a heterosexual woman is “Love dick, not dicks”.

Objectification of Women in Public Places & Online:

The cat-calling. The wolf-whistles. All women of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes has felt the wrath of verbal sexual harassment in all places. But never has a man been degraded in such a way. Every night out involves another comment on my “massive tits” or my “huge arse” and every single time I get the same response when I complain about it: “They are just being lads!”. This recent idea of a male being a “lad” has somehow allowed it to be socially acceptable for more men to be misogynists.

A prime example of this is The Lad Bible, debasing women every second of the day. It is a website predominantly aimed at males, with the topics of discussion based around “lad” interests: their own masculinity, soccer and half-naked women. I once saw a section called “Something To Cure The Hangover”. It was a post of pictures submitted by males of their unclothed exes. There was obviously no consent from the women, and the page boasts a whopping 1.6 million likes on Facebook. Everyone worldwide is going to make sexual comments or slut-shame these girls. Who deserves to get called a whore by someone they don’t know? Who deserves to hear disgusting comments made about their body?

As well as this, The Lad Bible’s devoted followers refer to women as “wenches”:

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What a nice boy. About one-third of my Facebook friends have liked this page; many of them thinking it’s a bit of “banter”.

Just today, my local radio station was on the quest for “the best boobs”. The majority of the listeners are young adults who are easily influenced. I watched as comment after comment young girls and boys made suggestions, while I and one other woman commented on the obvious objectification of women. Our comments were ignored and the discussion continued. I was not surprised.

Physical Sexual Harassment:

For some reason, Irish males think it is totally socially acceptable to feel a girl up. Many, if not all of my female friends have experienced some sort of physical sexual harassment, in private or in public. I, for one, have been groped countless times in nightclubs and bars; which many girls brush off. But I’ve also been in a situation where a male has forced his hands down my tights, when I’ve repeatedly told him to stop.  Just last week I had a boy put his arms around my waist and forced his open mouth on my closed one. When he retracted, he wondered why I wasn’t enjoying it. Because a lot of males assume that females will enjoy any physical interaction: after all, The Lad Bible believes we are nothing but wenches.

The Evil Feminist makes a very strong and important point in this post:

“Women have to do so little to be declared “man haters”. All we have to do is name male violence for what it is…But for a man to be declared a “woman hater” he has to do so much more. Even when men abuse, rape, prostitute and kill women, they’re excused… His victim’s actions are looked for as if his hatred was a logical reaction to her own actions.”

This is easily backed up by the statistics of rape in Ireland. In 2011, over 2000 women came to the National Rape Crisis Centre for help. Over 90% of them knew the perpetrator. But think of all the women who are silenced and live in fear? Rapists are very rarely convicted in Ireland, and the laws regarding rape and sexual assault are so degrading to women.

Abortion Laws:

It is illegal for a woman to get an abortion in Ireland unless she threatens to commit suicide or her life is in danger. A woman cannot have an abortion if she is raped, is pregnant by incest or if her child has fatal foetal abnormalities. Basically, a woman has no choice here unless she is on her deathbed. And while The Protection Of Life During Pregnancy Law is extremely degrading to women, it is a step forward to having control over our own bodies.

But we will still be called blood-thirsty murderers and whores by the likes of the Youth Defence and misogynistic TD Jim Walsh. The anti-choice side of the debate is filled with women-hating religious extremists who ignore the women’s right to her own body. The lack of proper sexual education in Ireland is abysmal. Holland boasts the lowest abortion rates in the world with abortion available on demand. Sexual education is not something you need to learn on an exam, it’s a necessary part of human knowledge. And by sexual education, I do not mean the Youth Defence’s suggestion that women need to learn about how to avoid getting raped.

These are only a few things that have been normalized over the years which allow blatant misogyny in Irish culture. Sexism is rife in the Republic and there is an obvious need to combat the sexism in our society. Our country seems to be still in the hands of Dev’s Ireland, where the women’s place is in the home. A female TD being groped by a fellow colleague whilst in the Dáil barely caused a ripple in the media. I’d like to mention that this happened whilst he was under the influence of alcohol during a debate over women’s reproductive rights.

The silence of Irish women must be broken; the sexism must be stopped.

Why Grrrl Power Still Matters

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 I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite; so don’t let me have any rights.

Since it’s release, “Just A Girl” has inspired teenage girls to embrace their femininity. It was a powerful statement as she fronted an otherwise all male band. Her childish whimpers polymerized with loud wails highlighted that women are just as powerful as men. Her image was evidently moulded by female icons before her: Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and Courtney Love. The world has been filled with powerful goddesses from the suffragettes to the early days of Riot Grrrl with the likes of Poly Styrene and Kathleen Hanna making strong feminist comments through their music and beyond.

And although in the past we’ve had these glorious women stand up against misogyny and deconstruct patriarchal discourse, who do we have to show future generations that girl power still matters? All I see is sexualized girl groups who sing about longing for boys to love them. This commonly sang about theme seems to have slithered it’s way into girls brains and infected them.

Not to sound misandristic, but males do have a huge part to play in this problem. Recently online, I saw several comments made by males on what females should wear. The males claimed that unless women were prepared to wear skimpy, revealing clothing, they had no chance at getting a boy to like them. It was genuinely enraging. If a girl put up a status saying: “Unless you have a big penis, no girl is going to want to have sex with you.”, she would be immediately branded as a slut.

But girls constantly post pictures of themselves online wearing barely nothing as the prepare for a night out, in the hopes of attracting male attention. It isn’t even an embrace of the female shape. It’s because of the general patriarchal view that females should be scantily clad before any romantic activity begins. And the majority of girls from my generation in Ireland abide by this silent code. It’s utterly depressing. Girls give in to this male idea of perfection: slim frame, large breasts, clear, sallow skin. They literally go through hell to be perceived as perfection.

I look at girls around me and see how submissive they are towards males. How one boy could literally dominate their whole mind and their actions. A lot of relationships I see show no equality whatsoever: just a girl being reduced to an object of male sexual fulfillment. There is an extreme lack of a strong female presence in Irish society nowadays. Georgia Salpa isn’t going to teach you how to be better, no matter how much you wish that a man would stare at you as he does to magazine photos of her.

I know I have focused on body image more than any other issue but it is one that is most important to me. I have been attacked in the past by males about my appearance. I was called fat and ugly. I was also slut-shamed by several different males. And it doesn’t make you feel attractive. It doesn’t make you feel like a woman. It makes you feel like dirt. It makes you feel worthless. 95% of the time, I’ve received no apology. It made me feel as inferior as the males thought I was.

But I’m not “just a girl” and either are the women who have been subjected to the same treatment as I have in the past. Women are human beings and deserve to be treated accordingly. There is a severe lack of respect towards women in Irish society, a place where women do not even have control over their own bodies. Abortion is illegal. Rape and sexual abuse is extremely high in Ireland. In 2011, 2,036 women came to the Rape Crisis Network for help. Many more voices were not heard. The normalization of rape culture is becoming more and more frequent and I have noticed this especially online.

I urge the girls who read this to think twice about who they are. Embrace the person that you are. Don’t let a man determine what you wear, think or act. Love your body and don’t let anyone destroy it. Don’t let anyone make you feel like an object. Take a leaf out of this tortoise’s book.

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