Tuesday 21 November 2017

Eilis O'Hanlon: Enda acted like Billy Bunter in a pie shop

Female senators are clearly not the only ones talking out of the wrong orifices.

Eilis O'Hanlon

It's a curious feature of the English language that there are numerous insults derived from the male anatomy, ranging from almost affectionate putdowns like "tool" through to altogether less repeatable ones rhyming with "stick", but using them rarely results in accusations of anti-male bias, whilst using the few insults which are derived from the female anatomy will at once find the user branded as irredeemably sexist – as David Norris can attest after he found himself in the dog house last week for telling fellow senator Regina Doherty that she was "talking through her fanny" during a debate on the proposed abolition of the Seanad.

Is it really sexist, by definition, to tell a woman that she's talking through the most female part of her anatomy, even though it's commonplace to accuse clueless opponents of talking through other parts of the body where the sun don't shine either? On this one, it may be wise to defer to US comedian Chris Rock. In one of his stand-up routines, Rock wonders whether it's ever acceptable to call someone a faggot, and comes to the conclusion: it depends. On who says it; who they say it to; how they say it; and the context in which it's said. Sounds like a sensible rule of thumb.

In this instance – Fannygate, if we must be predictable – it was certainly unpresidential language, suggesting the Joycean scholar had a narrow escape when he didn't make it to the Aras. He also definitely wouldn't have said it to a man, because, well, it would have made as little anatomical sense as Roy Keane's classic retort to Irish manager Mick McCarthy that he should "stick it up your bollix" (whatever "it" was). Insofar as what Norris said could only have been said to a woman, then the perpetually offended could reasonably make a case for it being sexist, if they feel that makes their time on this earth any happier.

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