News Opinion

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Are you a feminist? Famous faces on what the term means to them

Elle Gordon

Published 23/05/2016 | 02:30

Mayo footballer Sarah Rowe sees herself as standing up more for equality.
Mayo footballer Sarah Rowe sees herself as standing up more for equality.
Amanda Brunker.
Roisin Derrane.
Roisin Tierney-Crowe
Sharon Hearne-Smith.
Sophie Morris.
Blathnaid ni Chofaigh
Mary O'Rourke.
Marian Keyes
Angela Scanlon
Blaithnaid Treacy
Rosanna Davison
Pauline Bewick
Gillian Hennessy
Louise O'Neill
Terry Prone.
Alison Canavan
Rebecca Horan
Susan Jane White
Cathy Kelly
Johnny Logan
Joseph O'Connor
Darren Kennedy
Robbie Fox
Sinead Desmond
Celia Holman-Lee
Jenny Buckley
Aoife Walsh.
January Russell Winters
Sophie White. Photo: Gerry Mooney.
Anna Geary
Maura Derrane
Jackie Lavin. Photo: Kip Carroll.
Nuala Carey.
Ciara Kelly
Maire Treasa Ni Dhubhghaill
Maia Dunphy

Does the word 'feminism' conjure up a bunch of hirsute, bra-burning, man-hating, strident fishwives, or empowered individuals in search of equality for all? Some famous faces tell our reporter what the often-contentious term means to them, as well as their take on gender quotas, why they would - or wouldn't - describe themselves as a feminist; when does feminism go too far, and if it's unfair to men

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Sarah Rowe

Mayo footballer

To be honest, I wouldn't class myself as a feminist. I would say I'm more standing up for equality between men and women. I wouldn't class myself as someone who has a massively strong opinion on it. It's just a basic right that we should have the same treatment as men.

In terms of sport, why it's different between men and women is because people think that it's a better sport to watch. It's better to watch men than women, that's because they're built differently to us; that's just a known fact. It's not because they're better than us; it's because we're different types of people. Men and women are classed as completely different types of people, so I can understand in some ways why there is more attendance at men's games than at women's games. While I wouldn't class myself as a feminist, I think it's the simple things, like getting the same treatment as men and having the same facilities, the same opportunities as men, so you can make the best out of your situation, and the same for them. It's more about equality, as opposed to being a feminist.

Things aren't equal, and obviously there's a lot of room for improvement, and hopefully in the next few years there will be improvement.

I wouldn't say that there needs to be gender quotas, because I think that most men and women in the workplace certainly are capable of the same things. It's different in terms of sport, because we are physically built differently, so we are capable of different things - for example, a boy is naturally faster than a girl, and naturally stronger than a girl, so that's just the way we are built.

I think men know the situation as well. I think they know that we don't get treated right, you mightn't always get the respect that you deserve, but I think all men, if you tell them exactly how it is, they would completely understand. I think men know why they should get more money - fair enough, they're bringing more revenue, because more people go to the matches, so they should get a small bit more than women.

But I think they'd admit that 'you're training on shit pitches and we're training on great pitches - how is that fair, and why?'

Marian Keyes



Feminism is that women get an equal share in all the assets, opportunities and power that men currently enjoy. That women have the right to bodily autonomy. That women aren't objectified. That our legal system, especially in the areas of rape and domestic violence, is reframed into something less traumatising for women. Challenging the insidious sensibility that things achieved by women are somehow second-rate or second-class.

I'm definitely a feminist.

I have no reservations about identifying as a feminist. Absolutely not. But it should be noted that a lot of effort has been put into recalibrating the meaning of the word, so that it conjures an image of shrill, strident, hairy fishwives.

This is a neat linguistic trick: if the only title for a movement which wants the best for women is a toxic one, it has the effect of shutting women up and shutting women down.

I agree with gender quotas for several reasons. First, the optics: we're not used to seeing many women further up the ranks in workplaces, but the more we see it, the less people (men?) will resist it. Secondly, our current workplaces are hierarchical and adversarial systems which are thought to be 'male'.

In my experience, women tend to operate in a more consensus-based way, and the more women are in positions of power, the more they'll introduce that style of working. This will then make it even easier for women to flourish. Thirdly, the fact that childcare is still regarded as the function of the female parent is the biggest factor that keeps women from advancing in the workplace. If quotas are introduced, more of the childcare will have to be done by men, which can only be a good thing, for everyone.

At the moment, men do one-third of the world's work and get paid nine-tenths of the world's wages, according to WHO statistics. The amount of power that men wield is unquantifiable, but whatever it is, it's a lot more than women have. So obviously it's not unfair on men to make things even.

However, power and money are nice, and I believe a lot of men are frightened at the idea of relinquishing them.

Darren Kennedy

TV presenter


To me, feminism is about your value system. Do you value each person as an equal? Obviously, in programmes like The Unemployables and Gay Daddy, I'm consciously exploring modern society and how open opportunities are to all.

There are so many wonderful men and women in my life who inspire me, most especially my mam and dad, who instilled in me the values that I bring to everything I do.

Of all the strong female role models, my late granny Lily, in particular, stands out.

She held down three jobs while raising three children on her own in a pretty chauvinistic Dublin of the 1950s and 1960s. She was strong, indomitable, loving and great fun. Funnily, she would never, ever have called herself a feminist, but she never accepted unfair treatment.

I've always thought that Irish women in particular possess a very obvious inner strength and emotional intelligence. The word 'feminist' can be contentious, and carries with it some rather unusual connotations, which I think can put some people off using it.

The bottom line is that men and women should be treated without bias, but unfortunately we're very often blind to all of the subtle ways that bias creeps in.

I think if we focus here, great solutions are possible.

Daniella Moyles

TV and radio presenter, travel blogger

The definition of feminism is equality for the sexes, and, for me, it's one of those inevitable but long-fought changes we're just waiting on the majority to accept. Similar to same-sex marriage, it's a slow movement that has been inching forward for hundreds of years on the shoulders of men and women who view the world different to most. There's still some way to go, especially in certain parts of the world, but it's very clearly the right way to progress mankind.

I'm a feminist, but I don't feel any need to label myself as such regularly - 'Hi, I'm Daniella, I'm 27 and a feminist'. It's embedded into your logical thought and helps to guide your actions and decisions; it's a mindset.

If the point of feminism, which is equality, is forgotten, I think the movement has lost its way. One group's rights can't be targeted for the gain of another. And men should identify as feminists at every opportunity afforded to them.

Susan Jane White

Food columnist and author


Yes, I'm jolly glad that I can secure a mortgage, formerly impossible for an Irish woman in the early 1970s. I'm relieved I can access contraception, which our mothers' generation could not. And it sure is heart-warming to know that my friends don't have to resign from work when they marry a man. But these are basic human-rights issues, not simply gender-equality issues, right?

Let's all agree, then, that feminism needs rebranding, because it affects everyone. Not just women. Discrimination scars society at large, and these are not simply 'feminine' issues.

Feminism needs a new name or a clear slogan. Let's do it. 'Feminism: is your gender a disability?' Nope, too honest. How about, 'Feminism: get your mitts off my ass?' Ill-considered? Perhaps you're right. 'Feminism: get your mitts off my womb?' Not catchy enough.

Alright then, how's about, 'Feminism: coming soon, to a democracy near you?'

I like [journalist]Lucy Mangan's best . . . 'Feminism: helping women not have their personal or professional lives or reproductive rights borked since approximately 1792.'

Definitely more articulate than Vagenda, don't you think?

Gillian Hennessy



I believe feminism means 'gender equality' across the board. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and by who we are, then we have the freedom and foresight to help each other.

If being called a feminist means that women's voices are as important as men's, and that both sexes deserve equal opportunity - gender equality - then yes, that makes me a feminist. Can any country say that they have achieved gender equality? Compared to Third World countries, I am one of the lucky ones to be afforded these rights, which I would consider to be basic human rights.

Feminists can be seen as anti-family, anti-god, anti-men, radical hedonists, and I believe that labelling still ensues. My reservation is that people are ill-informed of its deeper meaning.

My other reservation is that when you call something 'feminist', it naturally becomes about women. If it was called 'the male and female equal-rights movement' then it would rightfully claim to fight for equality.

I think the issue of gender quotas or balance is relevant to men and women, irrespective of their family status in the workplace. For example, the Swedish work model offers shared parental leave for parents. In Norway, for example, there is legislation in place for quotas - 40pc of board members are women, compared to Ireland's figure of 8.7pc. I think that Ireland falls down badly in this regard, compared to its European counterparts.

The flip side of the merit problem here puts a question mark over female employees who are hired or promoted because of this - did they get the job based on merit, or because of legislation put in place, to fulfil a legal obligation?

I think there are many barriers to female progression in the workspace, specifically for mothers, who are seen as incompatible with career progression by male superiors, unfortunately.

Blathnaid ni Chofaigh

TV presenter


For me, to call myself a feminist is very liberating and comfortable. In my professional and personal life, there have been so many unanswered issues that affected me through feelings of unfairness, bias and prejudice, and these manifested through frustration and, at times, caused insecurity.

But now, to recognise these issues and address them is closer to understanding how I function in society, and how society itself is affected by gender. The greatest impact is on the family. 'Have I more expectations of my daughter than my sons?'; 'She surely has to work harder, as I did?'; 'She needs to choose carefully if she wants a family'; 'It's not a level playing field'; 'Don't try to be a man in man's world. Be yourself, be a woman'.

All these questions and feelings arise.

I have no reservations identifying as a feminist. I am an Irish-speaking, white, middle-class woman with privilege; I know many women don't have this. I have two things going against me in that statement -the fact that I am a woman, and the fact that my native language is a minority in this country. But I am privileged.

Gender quotas in the workplace are coming! We have them in politics, so for us to function we have to reflect the population, and women are 50pc of the Irish population. Every State institution should have gender quotas. Let's face it, most nurses are female, but most of the senior-level hospital management is male. Teachers in primary are mostly female, but males take up principal roles. Women will have to decide at some stage to take a step down the career ladder for family - this is a reality - yet the workplace and society do not support working mums. It sometimes feels like the fact we can have babies is a side job, not valued, and therefore not supported. Feminist thinking does not go far enough, as we are still addressing the word 'feminism' like it's contagious. A key part to feminism is masculinities, questioning how society treats young men, the pressures they are under to conform to the 'perfect man' - again, lines like, 'man up', and 'boys don't cry'.

Talking about feminism and masculinities will help us understand how we relate to each other and help us accept all genders. The fact that the question of feminism makes people nervous is so fascinating to me, as I don't believe it to be real. I think the media build this up to create a 'sensation', but in reality, do some fear feminism because they fear losing control and power?

Robbie Fox



I am definitely a feminist. I am married to a very strong woman and have two very independent grown-up daughters, and I would describe all three of them as feminists.

Because I have been surrounded by women all my life, I believe that men and women are equal, but I do think a man should hold the door open, or allow a lady to go first. Some might think it a bit old-fashioned, but it's about respect and politeness, and if it is old-fashioned, so be it; it's something I hope we never lose.

I do, however, have a problem with gender quotas in the workplace, or anywhere else for that matter. In my own experience, women are as good, if not better, than men at most tasks. Women may not be as physically strong as men, but that is becoming less and less important in the workplace. Mentally, I think women can be stronger than men. I believe men and women are different but equal, and the person with the best qualifications should always get the position or job.

I think quotas can cause resentment, and will almost never guarantee the best person gets the job. I believe women would prefer to make it on their merit and ability rather than because of their gender.

Of course, as in all walks of life, there are going to be the extremists and, yes, we have extreme feminists. Personally, I feel they don't do the cause any favours and if anything, drive a wedge between the sexes. I think extreme feminism is making our society overly politically correct, where men are afraid to compliment a woman, or pass comment on how good she might look.

Many women today, especially young women, think it's a weakness to let a guy pay for dinner or buy them a drink. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm of the opinion that if a girl spent her money looking that good, the least I can do is buy her dinner.

My wife, Martina, was a very successful model, and I'm sure a lot of feminists would have issues with that as a profession, but I don't know anybody that I could describe more as a feminist than Martina.

She is, in my opinion, a true feminist -she enjoys being a woman, a mother, and a wife, all the things a man can't be.

Rebecca Horan

Broadcast journalist, Newstalk FM


To me, feminism is about gender equality, being afforded the same opportunities as men, socially, politically, economically, in the workplace, education, and so on - the same way I feel about how people should be treated regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.

I feel like it's a given that I'm a feminist. I am a woman, I am a feminist. I love men; I am not a man-hater, far from it, to blame men for the issues we still have isn't fair - often it's fear of change and lack of vision and foresight. It's not a chip I have, but a badge I wear proudly.

I have no reservations about being identified as feminist, but it can be seen as a dirty word - that may be because some people don't know the true meaning, or have had a negative experience of feminists.

Sadly, gender quotas might be something that we need, but I feel angry that this is even still an issue in 2016; but it is, I see it. Some fantastic women are not being considered for roles.

Are there ways in which current feminist thinking goes too far? Presuming all men are misogynists, predators, are trying to block women's progress, is just not helpful; using it for the wrong agenda dilutes the meaning and misses the point.

We have all been wronged by men and we have all been wronged by women - we can't call that feminism. It's about equality. That's it.

Terry Prone

Chairman, Communications Clinic


I am a feminist. What the hell else would I be? Gender quotas? Amazing how nobody has ever proposed a plumbing gender quota. Fewer female plumbers than TDs.

Feminism has always been deliberately misinterpreted. In the 1970s, it was that feminists were bra-burning bitches who wanted men corralled in sperm ranches. More recently, it fits in the same misuse category as political correctness. When people say, 'political correctness has gone too far', you can bet they're fearlessly fighting for the right to be bigots. When people say, 'feminism has gone too far', they want women to know their place and shut up about it.

Women did know their place before the 70s. Didn't like their place: my mother had to get a signature from my father to get a bloody library card and rightly resented it.

My sister couldn't become an Aer Lingus pilot, because at the time, received wisdom said female pilots would menstrually plough passenger jets into every available hill.

One of the earliest videos I made - at the behest of Gemma Hussey and the Women's Political Association - was to suggest to RTE that they might have it a bit wrong when they said women couldn't be newsreaders because nobody would hear the news, as they'd be so concentrated on their looks.

Aoife Walsh



In the past, I would have never really considered myself much of a feminist or really understood what it meant to be one. But now I believe that you can't really be a woman and not be a feminist.

For me, engaging in feminism is really liberating and empowering, and instead of comparing yourself to what other women are thinking or doing, you can learn to step away from self-critique and you can learn to self-love. Of course, self-love is something that we have all heard of and have read about in magazines - it is important, but, in reality, it is much harder to do.

I think some people would have misconceptions about what feminism is all about, and it can cause many women to remain reserved on their opinions about it. The word can sometimes be associated with anger, disgruntlement, just women comparing themselves to each other; or people may think that feminism is just an excuse for general male-bashing. Feminists can often be portrayed as crazy and hysterical. But it's important to remember that feminists just want equality and freedom for all, and have a sense of humour too.

Sophie Morris

Businesswoman, cookbook author, and TV cook


I am a feminist. However, it is very sad that the word has turned into a negative one in recent years; it has been confused and misinterpreted to mean 'anti-men'. If this was what feminism was about, I wouldn't be a feminist.

There needs to be a change of attitude towards the word, because it is causing a lot of people, both men and women, to have reservations about identifying with the issue. Feminism is simply about gender equality, and it affects both men and women.

If you believe women all over the world should receive the same education and opportunities as men, if you believe men and women should be paid the same for doing the exact same work of the same quality, if you believe men and women should both feel they can show vulnerability or emotion without being judged, then you believe in feminism. I believe in all these things; I believe in gender equality.

When certain women who call themselves 'feminist' use feminism as an excuse to attack men, they are doing an injustice to all women.

Attacking men is counterproductive; it's unfair to men, and just results in a lot of them hating feminists. Men and women need to be on the same side in order to make progress with gender equality.

I think perhaps a solution would be to try abolishing the word 'feminism' and starting again. Let's call it 'equalism', let's define it as I have above, and let's all get on board.

Blaithnaid Treacy

Radio and TV presenter


When I think of feminism, I think of a voice of empowerment. I think of a voice for those who can't speak up, a voice for those who may not be able to articulate how they feel about their repression. I think of strength.

Of course I'm a feminist; I see quite regularly how women are treated differently to men in the media. How women are asked questions that their male counterparts would never be asked, regarding family and marriage. I see that women are sexualised more often than men, and looked upon differently than men. I see that women are praised differently than men.

In saying all that, the majority of my work life is wonderful and I rarely feel like I'm being treated differently because I'm a woman, but it does happen, which is the point.

Quotas are a sticky situation, because I do believe that there should be a good balance in the workplace, and the team that I work with is fantastic, with three women and two men.

I think this is more about creating equal opportunities for women and men from all backgrounds, and that starts within the educational system. You shouldn't get a better education just because your parents happen to be wealthy. Everybody should be able to create a better future for themselves because of their own ability and hard work. Equally, I don't think anyone should get a job because of their gender. If there is a job opening, the position should be given to the most suitable candidate, regardless of whether they are a man or a woman.

I do actually think feminism is unfair on men at times, for example; going back to the point above. Why should a female get a job over a male, if the male is more qualified for the job? That is, in itself, sexist. I've spoken to male friends about certain comments made about their sex and they have felt offended - all men shouldn't be painted with the same brush. Most people believe in equality and if you do, than you are a feminist too - you just might not know it yet.

Zoe Ashe-Browne

Ballet dancer

I am very proud to identify myself as a feminist. Feminism is the reason I and so many other young women can live the way we do today, realising and believing in our power and potential.

But I have not always understood the importance and historical significance of feminism. Growing up in a generation that benefits from decades of previous suffering makes it easy to take things for granted.

I think it's so important that people learn about the suffragettes in school, and the importance of feminism. Despite the fact that great strides have been made, we still have a lot to do before reaching true gender equality, especially on a worldwide scale. I left Ireland at 16, so when I come back home I make comparisons to countries where I have lived and worked, like the UK, Denmark and Germany. I feel Ireland has very far to go before we reach adequate standards for women, even down to basic female human rights. I am inspired when I see movements such as 'Waking The Feminists' at the Abbey Theatre, taking place in our nation.

But from a personal and professional perspective, I have always been treated as an equal. In my area of work, there has to be a 50/50 ratio in almost all aspects of the industry. Race is currently the talking point in classical ballet, with African-American dancer Misty Copeland finally reaching the top ranks in a major classical company, which is not the norm.

In ballet, pay is always equal, no matter what gender you are, because it is determined on what rank you achieve (ie, ensemble, solo, principal). There are also many female artistic directors in the ballet world, namely Irish-born Marguerite Donlon; the late Irish-born director and founder of the Royal Ballet, Dame Ninette De Valois; Dame Monica Mason, director of the Royal Ballet for 30 years; and Tamara Rojo, currently principal dancer and director of the English National Ballet, with whom I had the privilege of working.

Race equality, LGBTQ rights, anyone that stands up for injustice tends to take things that step too far before we can rein it back to find harmony with any sensitive topic.

I think men often feel like feminism has nothing to do with them or that they feel ostracised by the movement, but it isn't the case. I honestly believe anyone can be a feminist.

Johnny Logan

Singer and composer


I consider myself an egalitarian. I don't believe gender should be an issue in any workplace; it should always be the best person for the job. My brothers, my sister and I were brought up mostly by my mother, as my father, an entertainer, was away touring, often for six months at a time. She raised us to respect everybody equally, but she was very strict about good manners. I have, at times, found myself on the receiving end of feminist tongue-lashing for simply showing good manners - like opening doors or giving up my seat - but I've never found that a reason to change my behaviour.

Roisin Tierney-Crowe

Communications manager, L'Oreal Luxe at L'Oreal UK & Ireland


I would call myself an independent, free-thinking person, who happens to be a woman, and who believes girls can achieve anything they strive to achieve. It is how I've been brought up. I guess, I believe if there is a glass ceiling, then give it 100pc, and break through it because you can, and because women have so much to offer society and to the world. If that makes me a feminist, then yes, I guess I am.

To quote a popular 'feminism' quote attributed to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, when she said, 'well-behaved women seldom make history' - to me, she didn't mean that women should misbehave in order to be memorable. She was commenting on the fact that so many women who made positive impacts on society are overlooked by history. Relatively few women have their names and their greatness remembered as they should be - something that hopefully will be corrected in this lifetime. Yes, the tide is beginning to turn, and, for me, remembering the women of 1916 is recent evidence of equality for women, but is a tiny step forward.

I think it has become easy for 'others' to diss feminism and make a mockery of what it really is, and so I probably wouldn't be wearing any badges per se, however, I would have no problem in expressing what I think. Men should also be supportive of equality for all, and should actively encourage their mothers, sisters, and daughters.

Quite honestly, I could never agree with gender quotas - be it in the world of politics, and certainly not within the workplace. Advancement should be on merit and merit alone.

I wouldn't appreciate advancement just because I was a woman. How can you be proud of your achievement, garner respect from peers and colleagues, and accept a clap on the back, if there is even a slight suggestion that you're there only to make up the female numbers?

January Russell Winters



To me, feminism is about gender equality. I don't like to put labels on myself necessarily, whether it's under the banner of being called a 'feminist' or a 'humanist' or whatever the term is; I believe in equality.

Unfortunately, the word 'feminist' can have very negative connotations and suggest that you hate men, don't shave and burn your bras all day, but that's a silly misunderstanding. There are few jobs, globally, where woman earn more than men (strangely enough, modelling is one of them). I don't think there should be gender quotas in the workplace, as that seems disrespectful to both genders. Instead, I think a better understanding of equality, respect and confidence in a woman's ability to be as capable as any man for each job, is what's needed.

Jackie Lavin

Director, Bill Cullen Premier Cars


I mustn't be a feminist, whatever that entails. I don't even know what it means.

I had to google it to find out that it is equal political, economical, social and employment rights for women. As someone who has always advocated equal rights for all, both male and female, I wonder if feminism is past its sell-by date in most developed countries.

I can't imagine all the successful, confident women I know giving even a thought to feminism. Surely the fact that they are well-educated; are intellectually equal, if not superior; have the same opportunities in employment, and, now, political life, makes it a non-runner for them.

Issues like jobs, housing, family and childcare affect both sexes. There are still a few old fuddy-duddy golf clubs who maintain a male-only membership and male-only bars. They are very welcome [to them] as far as I'm concerned! I'm not into dinosaurs.

'Women in sport', I hear you say. This is an area where women traditionally didn't participate and now thankfully there are female soccer, rugby, Gaelic and golf teams.

The men were there first and therefore their game is more advanced in terms of sponsorship, TV and, indeed, followers. Male sport is like a brand that just got there first. Women's sport is playing catch-up.

Many women in TV, business, management, public and private sector, even Hollywood, earn more than their male counterparts.

I am very wary of putting people in boxes, be it gender, sexuality or religion. When this kind of typecasting takes hold, it tends to graduate to extremism, and is not good for society.

People are people, and should all be treated equally. However, if you are a female in some African countries, parts of China and in sweatshops in Bangladesh, then that is a whole new argument.

I'm not in any way demeaning the great work that was done by the suffragettes, but thankfully, as a result of their efforts, that day is well gone for most of us.

Sinead Desmond

TV presenter


For me feminism means men, women, trans, intersex, whatever you identify as, being treated equally.

In politics, gender quotas are clearly working. But I don't like the idea - it might be effective, but to me it doesn't feel like it's the right way to create a fair playing field. I'd much rather concentrate on seeing men and women get paid the same for doing the same job. I'm not on board with any attitude that doesn't want to treat men with the same respect and fairness that I am asking for.

Equality is the goal of feminism, I don't see how equal treatment of the sexes could be unfair on either sex.

Joseph O'Connor

Author, and professor, School of Culture and Communication, University of Limerick


To me, feminism is common sense, being civilised, fairness, wisdom, part of the development of the species into authentic adulthood, the end of humanity's painful and self-hating adolescence, the advancement of a new and better era in which we move past our loathsome desire to lord it over one another.

Yes, I would call myself a feminist. Broadly, what it means is that I support the equality of women and their full participation in every aspect of culture and society, and the ending of laws, practises and prejudices that were designed to keep them subjugated, quiescent and away from power, including dominion over their own bodies.

More specifically, it means that I am not prepared to say to my wife, or my nieces, or my female friends, or my female colleagues and students at the university where I work, that they don't matter quite as much as I do. I'd feel less of a man if I weren't a feminist. A real man should want fairness for all.

Experience has taught me that no man who doesn't like women is ever to be trusted. I'm very far from perfect and I like a risque joke if it's funny, but I can honestly say that I have never met a misogynist who didn't give me the creeps. They're always a bit ferrety and prone to double-dealing and betrayal, not to mention sexual neurosis and hypocrisy.

Ideally, organisations and employers would reach the blindingly obvious conclusion themselves that all organisations and workplaces would function better and be more successful in every way if they reflected the broader society of which they are a part. It's not rocket science, but the self-evident truth.

Until that happens, I would be strongly in favour of gender quotas. Women should not be told to wait around for evolution. My view is that they've waited long enough at this point. Progress is a lazy, hung-over sod that doesn't want to get out of bed. Sometimes it needs a kick up the arse or a bucket of cold water in the face. That's a pity, but there it is.

And if anyone thinks that coteries of elderly men running an organisation and keeping women out of it is a good idea, I would point them to the Irish parliament, the banks or the Church. It isn't, for example, the ICA that wrecked the country and dragged its name in the dirt.

The problem with gender quotas is that they can be a very blunt instrument. But sometimes bluntness is better than nothing, and often it's actually needed.

In general, I think feminism has been the most wonderful liberation for men.

To have been released from the dreary, emotionally crippling role that my grandfathers inherited, of having to be strong, silent, distant disciplinarians whose children feared them, has been one of the great blessings of my life.

They were both such lovely men who adored their wives. I wonder how they felt about living in a country where a woman couldn't serve on a jury, a so-called republic in which marital rape was not a crime. I imagine it must have disgusted them.

But if there is one thing we might learn from the current series of commemorations in Ireland, it is surely that any and every liberation movement throughout the entire of human history has always been unfair on someone.

There have always been innocent victims who deserved far better than they received. That was true when the United States fought a civil war around the issue of ending slavery, and in conflict-era South Africa while apartheid was being overthrown. God knows, it has been true again and again in Ireland, and injustice of any kind is a shame on us all.

But what are women to do? Keep watching and waiting, while they continue to work harder, often for less pay, while the law continues to belittle them and dictate that they don't even own their own bodies?

That would be like going back in time to Dublin in 1913 and saying to the hungry strikers that they should be ashamed of themselves because some of their employers were decent people. No doubt some of them were. Not enough of them, alas. When the full equality of men and women comes, as it will, the world will be a far happier place for all.

Jenny Buckley

TV presenter, UTV Ireland


I believe in equal rights for everyone - male, female, gay, straight, transgender, whatever your faith, your creed, your personal spiritual beliefs. I believe in equal rights.

I wouldn't naturally refer to myself as a feminist, but as a strong, independent, principled woman; of course, it's at the heart of who I am, among other things.

Do I think feminism can be unfair on men? Only the weak ones . . .

Alison Canavan

Model, television and radio presenter


To me, feminism can either mean equal rights and equal opportunity for women; or it can be a pretty loaded word that invites extremists who can and have used it for their own personal agendas, who bash men - and for new generations of young women, I feel the latter can be dangerous. Personally, I would like to see more women supporting each other first, and working collectively towards common goals and issues like equal rights and pay. There are inequalities and contradictions around every corner in our modern world, and we see the world through our own conditioned eyes. As women, we need more support and less judgment of each other, working in a strong, cohesive manner towards real change on modern issues that affect us all, such as closing the pay gap, maternity leave - in my old home of New York, it doesn't exist - and having more women in politics.

I think, as women, we need to choose the world we want to live in. Do you want to roll with the women who bitch and moan and are judgmental about how hard and unfair the world is, or would you rather be around strong women with big hearts, big ideas, big dreams and the belief system to make things happen?

I am not big into labels, as people tend to judge labels almost instantly with their perception and understanding of them. To me, living with feminist values means that I can be the woman I want to be, and push through my fears and live how I choose without the fear of being judged by others. It's about having self-worth as a woman, and being successful and content.

As a woman, there are obstacles put in our way every day, but at those moments we either push through them or are defeated by them. As a woman, if you want to do something that a woman hasn't done before and you feel passionate about it, then have the courage to lead and don't wait to follow.

People will always take words like 'feminist' and use and abuse them. To me, the word 'feminism' means 'strong female'. We need to raise strong women who have great self-esteem and who are willing to work hard to achieve their dreams.

Absolutely I think feminism can go too far. I remember a lady in New York losing her mind because a man held the door open for her at Macy's! I think generic man-bashing is very unhelpful and just plain stupid. If you are trying to put others down to prove a point, you've already lost the argument.

Louise O'Neill



For me, the definition of feminism is simple. It means equal rights and opportunities for men and women. I think there can be confusion around the term, with some people erroneously believing that feminists want to create a world where women dominate men. That's ridiculous. Feminism is trying to achieve equality for men and women by dismantling a stringent patriarchal structure that attempts to force us all to 'perform' our gender.

In a feminist utopia, we would all feel free to be ourselves without pressure to conform to gender stereotypes; we could express our true selves without having to be 'masculine' or 'feminine.' As I've got older, my definition of feminism has expanded. Intersectionality has become incredibly important to me - feminism is not something that should be limited to white, middle-class, well-educated women. It needs to be inclusive of all races and religions. The LGBTQ community should feel included. Trans women and non-binary people should feel included. Men should feel included.

I've identified as a feminist since I was 15 years of age and my English teacher gave me a copy of The Handmaid's Tale. Feminism wasn't something that was discussed at home or with my friends, and that book gave me the vocabulary with which to express my burgeoning activism. I don't think I really understood what it meant, though - I still reinforced quite strict gender roles in my relationship and I still engaged in quite competitive relationships with my female friends. It was really only when I turned 26 and I was 'woke' (thanks, Tumblr) that I began to explore for the first time what it really meant for me to navigate the world as a woman, the pressure I felt to attain often unattainable ideals of beauty, and the negative impact that was having on my emotional and, indeed, my physical health, as it manifested itself as a severe eating disorder. Once you begin to notice the sexism that affects every part of our lives, from the ads we watch to the movies we consume, it's almost impossible to 'unsee' it.

I have absolutely no reservations about declaring that I am a feminist. It's an integral part of my identity now. The feminist community has given me strength and support, especially when I've had online trolling or had someone dismiss my experiences of sexism by telling me that I'm being 'oversensitive' or that I 'must have imagined it'. Just scrolling through the Twitter feed of The Everyday Sexism Project assures me that I'm not alone, and that gives me huge comfort. (While simultaneously making me furious that so many women all over the world are still facing this bullshit on a daily basis.)

I think we all - man, woman, and everyone in between - should feel comfortable identifying as feminists. All it means is that you want equality - how can anyone disagree with that?

Gender quotas are always controversial, but yes, I do think they're a good idea. When I say this, people often try and argue that gender quotas contradict the true meaning of feminism. "How can it be equal rights and opportunities if we're giving more opportunities to women?" they say.

But women are clearly not getting those opportunities, and gender quotas are simply trying to create an equal workforce. This is particularly true in politics. It's all very well saying that we should live in a meritocracy, but the staggering ineptitude of some of our politicians would suggest this isn't the case. All of us should want a government that is made up of 50pc men and 50pc women - surely a democracy should reflect the society it's representing?

I also think that many issues that directly affect women's lives are sometimes cast aside in favour of other topics, due to lack of representation at a parliamentary level. The cutting of funding to the rape-crisis centres and the refusal to hold an amendment to appeal the Eighth Amendment are just two of these.

Sometimes people behave in quite radical ways in the name of feminism, but it is their right to do so. Feminism is not a monolithic, static movement. It is incredibly dynamic and everyone contained within the movement is incredibly diverse - that often means that people who identify as feminists might have very different perspectives on what it means to be a feminist. This can lead to disagreement and, often, in-fighting. Robust discourse and debate are crucial for the health of any social movement, but infighting and tearing each other apart for daring to hold different opinions is not. I don't want to waste my time arguing about petty matters - not when there's so much work that needs to be done.

I believe that feminism should be totally inclusive. I want men to be part of the movement, because feminism benefits everyone. But I also don't want to forget that feminism was born out of a very specific need. It was created to empower the gender that had been silenced and subjugated and excluded from power for hundreds of years - women. The fact that we still feel obliged to apologise for our feminism, to justify it in order to make men feel more comfortable, to explain how it benefits men as well, is yet another example of why we do, in fact, still need feminism.

Angela Scanlon

TV presenter


Without question, I am a feminist. My mam, my sisters, my grannies, my mates; all feminists, but the term is still quite divisive. I have some friends who are the most brilliant feminists I know, but don't identify with the term.

Unless you believe that men deserve opportunities that women don't, then you're a feminist. Like everything, it's multi-layered and there are levels, but at the heart of it, feminism is about equality. I find it hard to imagine any woman or man today who doesn't believe in that.

Some of the most loyal and vocal feminists are men, this is not, nor has it ever been 'us versus them'; that's not the point. It's about changing norms and responsibility.

It's about changing expectations and dropping judgment. Women will only ever be equal in the workplace once men take equal responsibility in the home and we, as women, need to support that too.

There is deep conditioning that we need to fight against societal norms that we were brought up with, which are now almost obsolete.

Roisin Derrane

Freelance make-up artist


Feminism to me is about being confident in the woman that you are. Being confident in your own skin and being confident in your own decisions.

I wouldn't call myself a feminist in the traditional sense, but I am aware, especially as I get older, the need for a different approach to women's issues. We need to be more vocal and confident in ourselves and how we project ourselves.

I don't think there should be gender quotas in the workplace, but I think they should try and cater more for the different demands that are on the working woman, better options to jobshare or work from home.

For me, as a self-employed make-up artist, I can manage my time better and have balance, but it is not always the case for all working women.

It would be great to have more women leaders in workplaces so that women have role models to aspire to.

I don't follow current feminist thinking as such, but perhaps with the 'Repeal the Eighth' campaign, for example, people might feel uncomfortable about some very vocal women's position on it.

That campaign, in my opinion, is not a 'feminist' issue, but that is an individual personal belief, whichever belief you have about it.

Celia Holman-Lee

Model agent, model, TV presenter


I am a feminist, but not an extreme feminist like you hear in the media. I am pro-women, and will always support women's rights where I see injustice. I feel proud to be a woman and enjoy seeing that in other women too. Women empowering women.

People's perceptions of feminism have changed over the years, since the beginning of the feminist movement.

I feel that Ireland is ahead of many other countries in relation to women identifying themselves as pro-women, and society has changed to welcome this immensely. We live in such a dynamic world nowadays, we hear of injustice for men as much as we do for women.

I do feel that in times gone by, it has been harder for women to advance in any industry than it has for men. This is changing for the better, but unfortunately I can imagine that errors occur and unfairness can prevail for men also.

Mary O'Rourke

Author and former politician


These thoughts on feminism are couched against the background of the last six months of my life.

I undertook, for Fianna Fail, to visit as many as possible of the female candidates who they had running in the general election. This involved paying visits, doing a bit of mentoring and a general 'cheer me up'/organisational visit. I visited 18 constituencies in all. Eleven were to meet with female candidates; seven were to meet with newbie male candidates.

Now I must explain, I am avowedly and emphatically against gender quotas. I think gender quotas are unfair to women and also unfair to men. A person should be picked to run in an election based on their ability, or their potential ability, not on whatever shape or gender they are.

Having said all that, Fianna Fail were a disgrace in the last Dail. In the whole Dail chamber, there was not one Fianna Fail woman candidate.

So I set out on my odyssey around Ireland to rectify that matter.

Yes, I would call myself a feminist, and would always have done so. To me this means that you look out for women and promote them as often as you can: let's say, it was a book you were promoting, written by a woman author - of course, provided the book was worth reading and worth promoting. I can say that for the women I visited for Fianna Fail - and I look at the result, there are now six women TDs in Dail Eireann under the banner of Fianna Fail.

Now, my visit and my talk with them would be only a small part of that, but to my mind, it was helpful.

Every time I look at the Dail pictures now, either on the TV or when there are a crowd of Fianna Fail TDs pictured outside the Dail chamber, and I see the red and the green and the yellow clothes and the bright faces, I am so happy to have been a part of that resurgence. Yes, if that's feminism, I am for it.

I think much anti-feminist feeling has been stirred up by old historical images of bra-burning, slogan-bearing, and so on. In other words, the old ways of being a feminist - strident, noisy and usually on the wrong side of reason.

The present feminist can be a man or woman who will stand up for her/his rights, who will have their opinion and will not be afraid to state it, and who will always rally to the cause of other women/men who are striving to get places, particularly in the political arena.

This new wave of feminism is good. It means empowering women so that they are taking their rightful place in society, in politics, in industry, in the social sphere. Wherever the voice of reason, the voice of compassion, the voice of tolerance, but, above all, wherever the voice of feminism is needed - well, there we are, or there we should be. Yes, I am proud to call myself a feminist, and to wear my heart on my sleeve in saying so!

Anna Geary

Sports contributor, presenter, and family coach for 'Ireland's Fittest Family'


Feminism, to me, is a good idea with a bad image. I suppose I am an advocate for women's rights and having the same opportunities as men. When I was growing up, my mother was a teacher, my father was a farmer. My mother was a very strong woman, and it was always a case of, 'If you want to be the captain of a sports team or if you want to be the President of a country, then you have every chance of being it as a woman, the same as you would if you were a man'. I think that's kind of for me what feminism is about - it's about equal opportunity.

But it doesn't mean that you should bump up the numbers of women in anything just because there seems to be a shortage, because sometimes there is a reason for the shortage. I think maybe there's a lack of confidence in women to put themselves forward. I've seen it myself: you'd often have men that would be under-qualified to do a job, and they'd be sitting across the table from a woman that's overqualified, and yet the man would put his hand up faster. I think that's an innate instinct, not all the time, but, as a rule, men have that confidence in themselves to give it a go. Whereas women can sometimes doubt themselves and not put themselves forward.

Ultimately, for me, feminism is about freedom for women to be whoever they want to be and to achieve whatever goal that they've dreamed of achieving. But I would like to think that there should be a bit of feminism in everybody, men and women, because ultimately a man might grow up to have a daughter, and he will want equal opportunity for her.

I was a girl who grew up playing sport in a very much male-dominated environment. I played sport with my nails painted, wearing fake tan. I might defy the stereotype of what people perceived sports women to look like. In my career, I've often had people say, 'You don't look like a camogie player', to which I'd often respond, 'Well, can you enlighten me - what does a camogie player look like?' I think it's about educating people to treat everyone, regardless of gender, with respect.

For me, it's about the freedom to choose whatever you want to be; it's about offering opportunities to both. It's about educating people and about the respect and treatment that we should have for each other. A lot of the time when I am asked am I a feminist, what I would say is: 'Well, what does a feminist mean to you?' If that person has this idea of a bra-burner, then they have a completely different idea of feminism to me. It's about women playing a part and not getting their reward perhaps in equal measure, because, you know, we need to speak up for ourselves a little more; we need to put ourselves forward for those jobs; we need to support each other, instead of tearing each other down in our endeavour.

Sharon Hearne-Smith

Food stylist and writer


I think, in the current wave of modern-day feminism, we should continue to challenge gender stereotypes. Feminism should be about both men and women embracing all of their own feminine and masculine qualities and being who they want to be, not what society defines or decides.

I would call myself a feminist. While these are things I find myself working on as I go through life, I certainly try to take responsibility for who I am, assert my right to make my own decisions and to live my life how I choose. I choose to be my own person, carve my own niche and speak my own mind.

My hopes for my two children - both girls - include that they are confident in knowing that there is nothing they can't have, be or do. It's a simple but powerful statement to live by.

Feminism has picked up some bad vibes along the way. It seems to have become a bit misunderstood and become a polarising term.

If the term was changed to 'equalism' or 'humanism' - which to me all point to the same thing: how humans treat other humans - would those who have reservations about identifying as a feminist still feel the same way?

I believe everyone should have an equal chance in career opportunities, but obviously the gender quota in the workplace is in hot debate because this hasn't always been the case. For me, it doesn't seem like an ideal solution - my first thought being that aren't women going to have to work even harder to prove they earned their position based on ability, rather than because of a quota?

Being a working mum myself, I feel a more practical solution would be to develop support for working mothers, particularly in relation to childcare and gender inequality at home.

Cathy Kelly



Feminism means knowing that women hold up one half of the sky, as the beautiful Asian proverb goes, and we must be treated as well as the people who hold up the other half. The battle for feminism is not over and will never be, when women all round the world live in regimes where they have no power, suffer things like female genital mutilation and are vulnerable to all sorts of abuse and health issues because of their gender. In our First World, we see women not earning as much as men, and we see young women being continually sexualised at an increasingly young age. That battle needs to be fought too, and fiercely.

I've been a feminist since I was very young - I somehow always had the mindset (and through the accident of birth, the opportunity - totally different story if I'd been born in, say, Swaziland, which has a high domestic abuse rate) to prove that I could perform as well as any boy in school.

As an example of this, I went to a convent, and, even though I am far more right-brained than left-brained, when my all-girl convent school brought in physics, guess who signed up? This sounds like nothing now, but in the early 1980s, it meant something. So many girl-only schools didn't even have higher-level maths or science subjects. Now these STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] courses are available for all, but not then.

Feminism also means taking care of other women; mentoring, which I believe in passionately. Women do themselves no favours if they stand on the heads of other women to attain greatness, or bitch about other women's clothes, bodies or choices. We should be a sisterhood - an old word, but it means something.

I have no reservations about identifying as a feminist. I dye my hair blonde (I mean, we are talking bleach factory here), I wear make-up, and despite the usual jeans-and-Converse outfit, I can pull out the stops, clothes-wise.

Feminist does not mean lacking in femininity or sexuality. It means embracing the divinity in femininity, helping the world be a better place for other women, not judging other women, and, honestly, it has nothing to do with burning your bra or hating men. I love men, admire them, am married to one and have two glorious twin sons. The kindness and friendship of men is important to me and my life. I just don't think any man should control how I dress or what I say.

If the workplace caught up to the world of motherhood via childcare and flexitime, and if there weren't those pockets of sexist male culture in offices, then we wouldn't need quotas.

Like in politics - why would an intelligent woman want to do a job where she can never see her kids because the system is predicated towards male politicians? Motherhood is a glorious thing and if you are lucky enough to experience it, then you should not need to apologise for it to your boss - I do think things are changing, but still some bosses think that once a woman has a child, she is no longer a 'player'. That has to change. There certainly need to be quotas on all of the vast number of boards in this country.

Pauline Bewick



Many 'isms' and 'ists' - ie, feminism, feminists, patriotism, Catholicism, Islamists, sexist, cultist - can separate us from each other. This can breed aggression.

I don't need the title feminist. Most humans are fair and equal by nature. We are all different, but equally important.

Gemma Hussey, education minister from 1982 to 1987, replaced names by numbers on school exam papers, so gender wasn't identifiable anymore. The results levelled immediately and now . . .

I don't believe in gender quotas. I think they should employ for the brains or the brawn that is needed for the job.

Men love gear, gadgets, cars and kits.

Women love make-up, and bras for their tits.

Sweet teasing on both sides is nice, no objection.

Let's put up all sexes for equal election.

Rosanna Davison

Model, nutritional therapist, cookbook author, food blogger


I would call myself a feminist because I believe in human equality and equal rights for both men and women. I'm a huge supporter of women, and firmly believe in the importance of women supporting each other, both in our professional and personal lives. I think that it's time to leave behind the culture of pitting women against each other, as it achieves so little. Incredible things happen when women support each other in business and in life.

At some point, certain aspects of feminism may have become misinterpreted by some, leading to a lowered confidence in identifying as a feminist and a search for a different term to use to express the same message. But I think that the message of equal rights for both sexes has been strongly reinstated, and people realise that that's what it comes down to. There have been times in the past where I fully supported the movement but didn't identify with the name, because it had been associated with a more radical side of the feminist campaign. But now, I'm proud to call myself a feminist, and understand that there are many different ways for us to express ourselves.

There have been times where feminism has been brought to a more radical level, and has possibly been interpreted as being anti-men. But I feel that now, a better balance has been achieved, where both men and women understand that it's about human equality. I think it's about how you interpret it as an individual, but it's obviously not intended to be unfair on men or against men. Feminism couldn't work without men, and the more men get behind it and even call themselves feminists, the better!

Sophie White

Food writer

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To me, feminism means equality. I call myself a feminist absolutely without hesitation because I believe that while men and women are inherently different - isn't that the fun of it? - we are all deserving of equal rights and unfortunately, we're not there yet. Not by a long shot. It would be absolutely absurd for me not to identify as a feminist. I would have to give back my vote, take off my pants and put on an uncomfortable apparatus that restricts my ability to breathe, hand over all my money to my husband, accept that I couldn't be employed after my marriage, perhaps be forced into marriage with someone I didn't love, tolerate violence and sexual abuse against me without hope of justice and, in some countries, forfeit my right to sexual pleasure. Overall, it would be a fairly shit buzz.

To not identify as a feminist, for me, would be an insult to all the feminists who fought hard even just for me to able to voice my opinion. Also, my parents - both excellent feminists - would probably kill me.

On the gender-quota thing, I go back and forth. I believe in the arguments in favour of gender quotas. However, while I'm not opposed to these arguments, I also worry that imposing a quota could harm our cause. If the population felt resentful of the quota or insisted that positions held by women were not based on merit but in place in order to satisfy a quota, then I think the quota could work against what we want to achieve.

On the other hand, a status quo will never change if it is not challenged, so I am very torn by the gender-quota question. With regards things like the submission process for the Abbey Theatre, as brilliantly highlighted by Lian Bell and all the Waking the Feminists supporters, I can't understand why there can't be a degree of anonymity in the application process to combat underlying gender prejudice. That may sound over-the-top, but probably only to anyone who has never felt at a disadvantage because of their genitalia.

I like writer Roxane Gay's term 'bad feminist', which neatly describes the predicament of the contemporary feminist - can we like the Kardashians and still be a feminist?; can we wear make-up and still be a feminist? I've adapted Gay's phrase and I call myself a Forgiving Feminist - meaning basically I'm not nitpicky about the minutiae of other feminists' ideologies, and I let myself off the hook for not being a perfect feminist!

I feel very disappointed when I hear people saying that feminism is no longer needed. Or that because things are relatively better where we live that the issue of inequality is resolved. It's simply not true.

Amanda Brunker

Novelist, journalist, columnist


What does feminism mean to me? If I'm honest, absolutely nothing. Outspoken, self-proclaimed feminists don't tend to like me. I'm a bit too glam and blonde for their liking. Even though I spend half my week in tracksuits, without any make-up on, being a slummy mummy!

I'm not one for labels, unless it's on a nice handbag, but yes, I suppose I would be a feminist. People would consider me a tough cookie because I keep bouncing back from abuse. Or to quote one troll, 'The bitch never goes away. What is she, 80 now?'

I tried to bring a show to the stage, but when I tried to seek out female directors, producers, etc, I was told by all my male theatrical acquaintances, 'There are none - no decent ones anyway!' I got tired of hitting brick walls and abandoned the project. Temporarily, anyway. But that attitude was demoralising.

I'd like to see more women in positions of power, and I love hearing about other women succeeding, even if I haven't. Women need to help each other out more. If that makes me a feminist then fine, knock yourself out. I've been called much worse.

I would hate to think I got a job because I was needed to fill a quota, but sadly I do believe they are necessary. Boys are boys, and in my own interest I'll leave it there. I'm too tired for another spate of Twitter attacks. Because the way men (and sadly a lot of women) treat other women in the workplace is disgusting.

Take it from a woman burnt!

Current feminists? Where do I start? Twenty, 30 years ago, we had journalists like Mary Kenny and Nell McCafferty who fought for female equality and demanded equal rights for us. They protested, they probably smoked too many cigarettes on The Late Late Show and were ridiculed, but they highlighted issues and helped bring about change that I have benefited from.

Nowadays, we see Miley Cyrus and Beyonce gyrate their crotches around towering signs that say 'FEMINIST' and I not only find it boring, but I find it sad. And seriously, how does Kim Kardashian posting a nude selfie on Twitter become a feminist issue?

These modern-day female icons are fake feminists. I don't like putting women down and I applaud their success and would never begrudge it. But I would urge these women and all women to help their sisters out. You want to be a feminist? Surround yourself with more women and don't be afraid to share the stage.

Do you think it can be unfair on men? How is anything unfair to men? It's a man's world. They don't care about any of our rants. Mainly because most of them don't listen . . . never have, never will.

I'm married to a man who doesn't even listen to me. None of them care. I could dance naked on TV and he wouldn't notice.

I could tell him I was taking a feminist stance and he'd mutter, "That's nice . . . what's for dinner?"

Maura Derrane

TV presenter and journalist


I think feminism is often misunderstood. Some people think feminists are man-haters. The reality couldn't be further from the truth. For me, feminism is the fight for a level playing field - gender equality. Unfortunately, in 2016, we still don't have that, and women still have to battle for everything from equal pay to basic human rights in certain societies.

I always worry about 'isms', as I don't like being put under a heading. But since I had my son nearly two years ago, I have become more of a feminist. I now realise how difficult it is for women to juggle a career and children. I also have a greater understanding of the feminist movement and really appreciate what women like the suffragettes did for the rest of us.

It was recently reported that only 14pc of Irish companies have a female chief executive or head of operations, and we're majorly under-represented on boards, in politics and in law.

Although I believe people should get jobs on their ability rather than their gender, until there is more balance in the workplace, I think quotas are an unfortunate necessity.

Nuala Carey

RTE weather presenter


I would call myself a feminist. It means I am proud to promote and support other women in our pursuit for equality. Feminism can be seen as a dirty word, and misconstrued sometimes as embodying an aggressive and pushy woman. This is far from the truth. It degrades the word feminism. It is a complete misunderstanding of what the word means.

Remember, some men have been great advocates for the feminist movement too, a perfect example being [writer and activist] Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. I love the fact that when, as Francis Skeffington, he married Hannah Sheehy, they both took each other’s surname. It made a clear statement about the equality in the relationship.

I am not fan of gender quotas. I think a person should get any job because they are the best person for that job — be they male or female. Sometimes women may not be the most suitable for a position because she hasn’t been able to work outside the home for a number of years, while rearing her children.

If childcare was more affordable, maybe more women would feel supported economically and better able to stay in the workforce. The system needs to help women, not hinder them.

If feminism really is unfair on men, it will make them see first-hand what women go through. Then I’m quite sure things will change for the better for women much quicker!

Ciara Kelly

Radio & TV presenter, columnist, doctor


I absolutely would classify myself as a feminist. To me, being a feminist means that I see it as important that we continue to strive for equality for women in our societies — we’re not there yet. I think that gender quotas are imperfect, but they are about the best tool we have to get women into positions of power, where, unfortunately, gender bias continues to work to exclude them. And in fairness, for millennia men got jobs based exclusively on their gender — turning the table now, in the short term, to level the playing field is no big deal.

 I think feminism is like every other movement made up of people with different views — its not homogenous. I don’t personally think feminism does anything so radical, that I would say its gone too far — however, there are some people who are feminists that I wouldn’t always agree with on everything, but isn’t that to be expected?

Sinead Moriarty


Feminism is the belief that all people are entitled to the same civil rights and liberties, and are intellectual equals regardless of gender. It really is time that we stopped thinking about people with regard to their gender. The idea that one gender is inferior to another is ridiculous and destructive.

As Gloria Steinem so eloquently said, “A feminist is anyone who recognises the equality and full humanity of women and men”.

All women should be proud to call themselves feminists. Feminism helped women get the vote, obtained equal rights for jobs, made laws to control domestic violence, helped women obtain the rights to own property, to divorce, to have access to birth control . . . the list is endless.

I’m in favour of quotas. Research has shown that women are evaluated less positively than identically qualified men when applying for stereotypically male jobs, such as leadership roles. One can only hope that an increase in the number of women in leadership will change attitudes. Are there ways in which feminist thinking can go too far? In general, no. There are some women who take an extreme point of view and can be anti-men. But the vast majority of feminists just want equal rights for all.

Tracy Clifford

Radio presenter, RTE 2fm

Yes, I 100pc call myself a feminist. Why wouldn’t I be? It doesn’t feel one bit weird to say that, and I’m always amused when people think that branding someone a feminist is an insult. I’m a woman who questions inequality, is not afraid of going head-to-head with misogynists, and is independent in my thinking. Some

people think that feminists don’t want to identify with their feminine side. I don’t think this is true at all. I can question inequality while wearing make-up,

skirts, and loving the company of my male mates.

I know gender quotas can seem unfair and contradictory to equality. However, in the Irish workplace, there are huge disparities in males versus females holding the top jobs, and in the pay scales. We need gender quotas to get the ball rolling.

I also think language can help with society’s view of feminism. Too many times I have seen women being classed as the exception in the media because they have gotten a top job, with headlines sprinkled with adjectives such as ‘first female CEO’ appointed. Can we not just say her name ? Because gender shouldn’t matter in who gets appointed.

Of course, there are ways that feminist thinking goes to far. In every movement, there are extremists. There are some pretty hardened activists out there who think that being feminine or attractive to the opposite sex is doing their fellow women a disservice.

Doing the dishes isn’t going to have the Suffragettes turning in their grave, either. It’s just a domestic chore. Man-hating isn’t my style. I’m just all about opportunities for all, and its super refreshing to chat to men who believe in feminism too.

Maire Treasa Ni Dhubhghaill

TV presenter


For many, the word feminism can draw up negative connotations. It is a powerful word, but it doesn’t have to be confrontational, which I feel it can be in certain instances, especially when you think of stereotypical activists. It is about addressing equality between the sexes; not excluding our male counterparts, but supporting the rights of women.

I am a feminist. I believe in the ability and strength of women and what we can achieve. I am proud to be a woman, and I accept that although physically men and women are not equal, our rights should be. Gender should not be a barrier in achieving goals in life, and calling myself a feminist does not make me anti-men but pro-women, and, more importantly, pro-equality. Feminism isn’t solely for women — men are feminists as well; fathers want the same opportunities for their daughters as their sons.

Being a feminist today does not make you a man-hater.

I believe that if a man and a woman are equally qualified to do the same job and that if both are capable candidates, then the job should be given on merit, not gender. Equal pay for men and women doing the same work, however, is imperative, and although the rationale behind gender quotas in the workplace is to increase the female demographic, you run the risk of having a less qualified person in a role, based on a deficit number of the opposite sex in the job. Equality is what feminists fought for, not entitlement.

Maia Dunphy

TV presenter, broadcaster and writer

Of course I would call myself a feminist. Equality isn’t thinking we should all be the same; it’s acknowledging the differences that may exist between people, but treating them the same regardless. It’s a very basic premise that can be applied to equality in all its forms.

The term feminism has been misappropriated in the last number of years — not always deliberately — and I think that’s where many reservations stem from.

Quotas and positive discrimination are always contentious issues, and I understand why. If I was turned down for a job I needed and wanted in favour of someone chosen solely for their gender, colour or background, I might feel resentful. But that’s oversimplifying it. It’s not as if a load of unqualified women will be hired for jobs they aren’t able to do! Also, we have to acknowledge the importance of raising the next generation and not seeing pregnancy as a career-destroying situation. I put off motherhood for years and years as I was afraid of missing something career-wise. I’m lucky I didn’t leave it too late, but we need a new mindset to support women in motherhood alongside the workplace if that’s what they want (honestly, if you want something done, asks a busy mother!). And to support fathers, too. The Scandinavians and Dutch have a great attitude to parental leave, support and childcare. We could learn a lot from them.

A lot of younger female celebrities have done their fans no favours by stating they don’t identify themselves as feminists. They usually correct themselves at the next available opportunity, but the term has become confused. I think we need to educate girls  and boys from a young age about fairness and equality. Many young men  roll their eyes at the current feminist discussions, but if you asked them how they would feel if their sister/girlfriend/mother was treated unequally or paid unfairly, they are very quick to take a stand. This makes them feminists! 

Lisa Chambers

Fianna Fail TD for Mayo

I think most people would be able to identify themselves as a feminist. When I describe myself as a feminist, I am saying I am committed to the equal treatment of men and women in all aspects of life.

I suppose, at times, the word feminism is seen to have a negative meaning, and differing definitions have been applied to the word. There are some who feel the word suggests you are anti-men in some way, which is really not the case.

At times, I think feminism can be unfair on men. Sometimes we forget that men can be unfairly discriminated against on the basis of their gender.

An area that springs to mind is fathers’ rights, where we have considerable work to do in this country to ensure that [unmarried] fathers receive fair treatment. We must remember feminism is for men and women, and we must support and push for equality both ways.

Rachel Purcell

Digital account manager

I think the idea of one gender being superior to the other is absurd, and something that needs to change.

On a personal level, I would expect to be viewed on my merits and my abilities, rather than my gender.

I am quite open to the fact that I am feminist, however,

I do think the term is sometimes contentious.

When I first heard the term, I thought it was a whole anti-men stance that women were taking. It wasn’t until I researched it a bit more that I found it wasn’t. I think there are people who still feel this way and don’t fully understand the term, so sometimes it can provoke strong reactions, in my experience, from men.

In my experience, I think people sometimes hesitate to identify themselves as feminists because of this, despite being committed to equal rights.

Yes, I do think feminism can be unfair to men. I feel there is a lot of pressure from society for both genders. I think it’s important that both sexes should be challenging existing social norms and institutions to strive for equality. 

Amber Wilson

Account manager, Thinkhouse

Feminism, for me, embodies the freedom of choice. The freedom to choose not to adhere to gender norms and the freedom to dress whatever way you like.

I want to dress the way that I feel comfortable, not the way society expects me to, based on my age, gender, career choice or whatever else (unless I was a scientist working in a lab that required me to wear specific workwear).

The term feminist conjures up many different identities from bra-burning hippies to Beyonce, but, ultimately, we’re all fighting for the same thing. I would have no reservations in identifying as a feminist who advocates equal rights. I would like to live in a world where gender quotas are not necessary; where men and women are deemed equal when working in similar roles.

However, in reality this is not always the case, due to the circle of life. Feminism is about everyone, it helps everyone and it does not exclude anyone.

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