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Saturday 23 August 2014

Martina Devlin: Hissy fit? Petulance? No, men simply don't like strong women

Martina Devlin

Published 28/09/2012 | 17:00

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SOME men are suggesting she has a Joan of Arc complex. Others have towed her into the 'difficult woman' zone. Both are containment ploys -- let's not fall for them.

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In the old days, men would have said about Roisin Shortall -- behind her back, of course, or under their breath -- "She's having her period." And they'd have sniggered as soon as she left the room.

They can no longer get away with calling women who disagree with them hormonal or menopausal, but they still believe it's acceptable to try to diminish a strong woman. How? By dismissing her valid criticisms as hissy fits or petulance.

She isn't being assertive, she's being aggressive. Not constructive, but catty. Not determined but domineering. Not aggrieved but hysterical.

When she makes a complaint, they call it hectoring or scolding. If she persists, they describe her as emotional. If she still refuses to fall into lockstep, they say she isn't a team player -- and that's what comes of letting girlies on the pitch.

These are all tactics -- ways of not taking her grievances seriously.

Deputy Shortall is a feisty woman who stands up for herself and her beliefs. The response is to issue a Dangerous Female Alert. Quick, give her some pills and tell her to lie down in a darkened room till that bossy spell passes.

Even today, Irishmen -- in whatever walk of life -- do not like being challenged on suspect decisions by women.

And Irishwomen can prove disappointingly slow to back each other publicly when under fire. The idea that the Dublin North-West TD may have principles, and be willing to act on them, is clearly too radical for some to contemplate.

Personally, I'm relieved someone in Government is showing a flash of backbone because I was starting to think surgery was mandatory upon accepting a ministerial portfolio: oath of office followed by immediate spine removal.

Fine Gael can't be blamed for diving for cover. But senior figures in Labour have trotted out a few mealy-mouthed platitudes, and tossed aside the former junior health minister. Shame on them.

In the interests of damage limitation, they've agreed a party line: they were elected to fix the economy and nothing can stand between them and that goal. Not loyalty to a colleague, not loyalty to the principles underpinning the party.

They may even surmise it gives them an ace to play during Budget negotiations -- they sat on their hands during the Shortall incident, so Fine Gael owes them.

I can only conclude bodysnatchers have the real Gilmore, Rabbitte, Burton and Howlin, and left clones in their place.

Meanwhile, Dail Eireann has been turned into a spinning parlour. Here's one example: downplaying her departure by calling it a personality clash between her and James Reilly. She should have learned to compromise, is the subtext. She should have learned to accept dismissive treatment, more like. Contemptuous to her -- contemptuous to the country.

Yes, Deputy Shortall voted confidence in Dr Reilly last week. That's the tyranny of the party whip.

Instead of mocking her for it, as I've heard and read, why not give her credit for deciding she didn't want to underpin an untruth any longer?

The episode shines a light on the party whip system and how it corrodes personal integrity. It's possible we can trace the rottenness and craven conformity at the core of Irish political life to the whip.

Until her resignation, I was reaching a point where I didn't believe one word that fell from a politician's mouth. At least Deputy Shortall has given me pause.

A difficult woman? If that's the case, stamp it on foreheads and bring on an army of them.

Irish Independent

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