Sunday 21 January 2018

Crass comment is an insult -- but not to women

Mick Wallace's rude remark was an insult to the Dail, says Emer O'Kelly who argues that all TDs, male or female, deserve respect

What Mick Wallace TD said in the Dail about Mary Mitchell-O'Connor, TD, can be described in a number of ways, none pleasant. It was crass. It was horribly rude. It was ungentlemanly to the point of crudity. It was exceptionally spiteful. Technically speaking, it was not sexist: Ms Mitchell-O'Connor is female; so is Miss Piggy. I suppose you could even suggest that describing Ms Mitchell-O'Connor as Miss Piggy was complimentary: that pink porker was no victim, but a powerful self-publicist and self-believer, as Kermit the Frog could testify.

Except that it wasn't intended as a compliment, and certainly wasn't taken as one: it reduced the object of Wallace's spite to tears.

Yet everyone is mouthing off about "sexism in the Dail" because of it. What actually happened? Wallace was criticising Mitchell-O'Connor's dress sense. An awful lot of people, many of them women, criticise Wallace's own dress sense, but it's not called sexism. But perhaps Mr Wallace may be a far more fragile flower than appears on the surface. Maybe his sotto voce lash-out about his female colleague's dress sense stemmed from wounded feelings; it is, after all, believed that the proposed introduction -- now unlikely to happen -- of a dress code for TDs in the House may be aimed principally at him.

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