Tuesday 6 December 2016

Mary Kenny: 'Her indoors' often ruled

Real lives - and real women - can contradict a legal construct

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny

When I was growing up, our generation of feminists thought we were greatly oppressed by the law. And indeed, in many instances, we were. But later in life, it's often occurred to me that the letter of the law doesn't always accord with the reality on the ground - with real, lived experiences.

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For example, the letter of the law in Ireland of old (and elsewhere) was that the man was the "head of the household". And yet, if I think of the experience in my own family, and in other families too, this headship was merely nominal. Gay Byrne wrote in his autobiography that "Mammy was the boss", and that was very often - not always, but often - the way in households.

In comedy form, this is still borne out today with the egregious Mrs Brown and her boys: I sit through this show stoney-faced, yearning for the sophisticated wisecracks of Woody Allen, but I recognise, all the same, that the awful Mrs Brown is an Irish archetype.

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