Tuesday 15 October 2019

Ian O'Doherty: Listen up, feministas, we've moved on from gender war

Fightback: Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Fightback: Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

When you think of Nóirín O'Sullivan, what springs to mind?

Well, I'm no pollster (if only because some of my predictions have actually been accurate) but I imagine most of the following would come up in conversation - whistle-blowers, McCabe, a million dodgy breathalyser tests, serious financial irregularities and that weird sense of wounded indignation which pours forth whenever a member of Official Ireland is placed under any sort of scrutiny.

And if we're to continue the word-association game, words I don't think would feature particularly prominently?

Well, mother, wife, woman are the most obvious ones.

Yet in the last week we've been treated to something of a fightback on behalf of O'Sullivan from some people who seem to think that any attack on the embattled Garda Commissioner is somehow rooted in sexism.

It's not. The problem with O'Sullivan isn't that she's a woman. It's that she's one of the lads, the product of a policing culture which has taken a battering in the public eye.

Public trust in the gardaí is at an all-time low.

Sure, there were always pockets of the country where relations between cops and locals have been strained.

There have always been parts of Dublin, particularly, where the gardaí have had an adversarial relationship with the people they are meant to be protecting.

But I can't remember any time when the broader, national reputation of the police force had been so brutally shattered.

Even people whose only contact with a cop is to get their passport photos signed in a garda station can see there is something rotten in Garda HQ.

O'Sullivan is the boss of an organisation now widely regarded with suspicion and, in some justifiable cases, actual fear. Whether she likes it or not, the buck stops with her.

Yet there has been a growing tendency to play the gender card when it comes to her current performance and her future prospects.

One classic of the genre appeared this week, where the reader was plaintively asked: "Does she flop on to the sofa in the evening, kick off her shoes and cry? Does she rail in anger at the treatment she gets?"

My honest answer to those questions remains simple: I. Don't. Care.

I didn't care if her predecessor, Martin Callinan, had himself a good little cry when he got home at the end of a tough day and I couldn't give a stuff if O'Sullivan closes her front door and kicks her cat or engages in a bit of meditation.

It's what these people do when they're at work that concerns us, not what they do on their down time and certainly not whether their emotional state is holding up in the face of public scrutiny.

When it comes to what used to be known as the battle of the sexes (although why one half of the population would want to do battle against the other always baffled me), we seem to have actually gone backwards.

Rather than the tough, ballsy feminism of pioneers like Mary Kenny, Nell McCafferty and Germaine Greer, women who could run rings around their sexist opponents of the time, we've seen the rise of lifeboat feminists - people who rightly demand equality of opportunity regardless of gender but then start demanding special treatment on the grounds of gender as soon as the going gets tough.

If Nóirín O'Sullivan is the micro, Hillary Clinton is the macro.

Despite promising that she would never be reduced to playing something as reductive as the gender card, it didn't take long before her presidential campaign zeroed in and concentrated on the only thing she had going for her - being a woman.

It was Identity Politics at its most nakedly cynical and rather than dissipate after the election, it has only grown to a now deafening crescendo of stupidity as the very people who insist that gender is only a social construct then start screaming about sexism.

What's remarkable about the rise of this new brand of feminism is that it infantilises the very people it is supposed to empower.

It also, lest we forget, seems oblivious to the fact that most people of both sexes have moved on from these arguments.

After all, playing the 'pussy card' as Clinton and her acolytes called it, only helped to alienate people and, in a glorious form of poetic justice, was a major contributory factor to her losing the election.

It's not just gender, of course. Identity Politics now casts a restrictive veil of idiocy over age, sexuality, colour, birthplace, religion and every other area where a sort of intellectual bullet-proof vest can be placed between the individual's ideas and their background.

Let's be honest - most rational people don't give a rat's ass whether you're a woman, black, gay or identify as a dolphin.

If you can do your job and aren't completely mad, then you will get as far in life as you're deserve, based on the quality of the work you do.

In fact, I reckon one of the things that drives the Millie Tants of modern feminism mad is the fact that most people aren't really bothered one way or the other. But, equally, people certainly don't appreciate being told that any criticism they might have for a female figure is automatically sexist and misogynistic.

We should be striving for a meritocracy, not granting special exemptions on the basis of chromosomes.

But then I would say that, me being a bloke.

Indo Review

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss