Thursday 8 December 2016

There is something about Mary Mitchell O'Connor

The criticism of the Minister for Jobs is not quite sexism, writes Brendan O'Connor. It's more that she is not the right kind of feminist for The Irish Times

Published 30/10/2016 | 02:30

Strong: Mary Mitchell O'Connor doesn't mind what anyone says about her, but prefers they say it to her face Photo: David Conachy
Strong: Mary Mitchell O'Connor doesn't mind what anyone says about her, but prefers they say it to her face Photo: David Conachy

On paper, Mary Mitchell O'Connor could be a feminist icon. She survived a marriage breakdown, raised two fine boys while getting to the top of her profession as a teacher, went on to become a TD, brought another (female) TD home in her constituency in an election in which many of her male colleagues lost their seats, and then became a Government minister in a traditionally lads-dominated arena of jobs.

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And even though she's apparently been warned, like all her colleagues, not to make any public pronouncements about Donald Trump, she has the balls and the conviction to come out and say he disgusts her, while many of her female colleagues are toeing the line and avoiding speaking about what has become a defining issue for women in 2016.

But that's on paper. And, of course, the problem with women like Mitchell O'Connor is that in real life they are bloody complicated. And that bloody difficult Mitchell O'Connor woman refuses to tick the other boxes of a feminist icon. She just doesn't fit the bill. She doesn't dress the part, for example refusing to wear the androgynous, austere or Chairman Mao-style outfits favoured by serious feminist politicians and thinkers.

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