Saturday 15 December 2018

Millennial diary: Ciara O'Connor

Daithi O Se and Maura Derrane
Daithi O Se and Maura Derrane

Ciara O'Connor

Nuclear winter. Brexit. Oil spills. Trump. And now, a new disaster to add to the master-list: a woman presenting The Rose of Tralee. Calm down! Don't be alarmed! It's not actually happening. But last week this frankly bad-taste thought experiment was presented to Maura Derrane, who spoke for the nation, saying that it would be a "disaster" if a woman took on the presenting role.

"I know we are all about feminism these days, but there are certain jobs that are for men. I think it would be a disaster if a woman started presenting the Rose of Tralee," she said. The feminism notwithstanding.

"Daithi is so good at that job; he is ideal because it is a male-driven role, and it would be odd if a female was asking other females those type of questions. Daithi can ask the questions that other people can't and that works."

Of course, she has a point. I'm sure Maura thought she was PC-police-baiting but even the most avowed feminists would draw the line at a woman replacing our favourite hate-crush Daithi.

You see, the problem with a woman asking the kind of questions that Daithi asks is that it would draw attention to the fundamental farce of it all. Rose of Tralee interviews thrive on the 'weirdly intrusive questions from a drunk, handsy uncle at a wedding' vibe. A woman asking another woman earnestly about boyfriends and lovely dresses would inevitably veer into the ironic. How could we resist a knowing cocked eyebrow? An apologetic smile? It would be an unmitigated calamity of epic proportions. The Rose of Tralee can only survive when irony is left decisively at the door.

The Rose of Tralee is a masterclass in the absurd. Gussied up Yanks weirdly flirting with an unintelligible Kerryman? Men - you're welcome to this one. We'll stick to worrying about the wage-gap.

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Some people like to stay abreast of Middle Eastern politics, or film, or horses. Me? My passion is cosmetic surgery trends: the great Kate Middleton's nose obsession of 2012 to 2016, Angelina Jolie's timeless cheeks, Scarlett Johansson's 2010 lips, the tattooed freckles that were all the rage after Markle-fest in May, the scores of women hopefully bringing pictures of generic Love Island tits to a weary surgeon this summer.

But the times are changing. Surgeons are reporting a very 2018 phenomenon: women are now more likely to bring pictures of themselves than Kate or Angie or Scarlett. Themselves, filtered. Now we've given up on looking like married-into-royalty and we want to look like we do on the internet. I'm not sure whether this is progress.

Apparently, we're all so used to seeing ourselves filtered, sanitised and Disney-princessified by popular apps that we can get a bit of a nasty surprise when we actually see ourselves in the mirror - all noses, lived-in skin, average eyelashes and human-sized eyes.

The phenomenon is known as "Snapchat dysmorphia", and it's causing concern among experts worried about its potential to trigger body dysmorphic disorder and low self-esteem. This is according to an article by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine, which states: "It's an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy."

We've been comparing ourselves to highly edited images in the media since the media began - and now those images are of ourselves. But that doesn't make them any more attainable. Stay tuned to see whether the next round of influencers will have flower crowns permanently tattooed on to their heads a la Snapchat. What a time to be alive.

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University students have told researchers they felt the Leaving Certificate did not prepare them well enough for third-level education. Less than a third felt prepared to be open-minded or explore ideas from different perspectives; only 40pc felt the Leaving made them intellectually curious.

Intellectual curiosity is anathema to standardised testing. The Leaving Cert rests on everyone turning out identical answers that fit the marking scheme. It's about memorising. It's about learning by rote. It's about figuring out the formula. The papers should be able to be marked by robots, or spiritless English teachers a bottle of red down wondering where it all went wrong. Intellectual curiosity at Leaving Cert would be a disaster on the level of Maura doing the Rose of Tralee.

Of course students feel cheated and without a paddle when they get to university - all of a sudden they're expected to think laterally, be creative, be unique. They're going from a sausage factory to free-range learning and it's tough. The individuality that 12 years of schooling has worked so hard to quash is expected to be dusted off and presented at degree level.

But it's not only in the classroom that students are feeling swindled. New research conducted by NUIG SMART Consent showed that 71pc of women and 63pc of men said they found their sex ed to be unsatisfactory.

Students wished they knew more about sexuality and sexual health, with most of them saying sex ed at school had left out 'crucial' information. I'm not surprised. Testing for STIs here is still the exception, not the rule - and anecdotally at least the question is met with ferocious umbrage. Contrasted with the UK, where testing is not stigmatised and is widely available, it's a woeful state of affairs.

As well as this, the majority of women surveyed said that they had experienced "sexual hostility" or gender-based harassment since starting college. I can't believe we're still having this conversation in 2018: sex ed means learning about relationships, consent and pleasure. There isn't a person in the country who wouldn't benefit from it. So let's get off our high Catholic-hangover horses and sort it out. Not in a few years - now.

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It's hard to believe it's only been a couple of weeks since Love Island left our screens. I get a shiver up my spine whenever I see pictures of the contestants in newspapers: did I really watch these d**kheads for two whole months? It's like sudden repulsion syndrome but with TV. I could have learnt a language in that time, or got a basic grip of the mandolin, or lost two stone with Scarlett Moffatt's fitness DVD. But instead we dedicated two months we'll never get back to these sexy children in bikinis. Not since Lost has the nation wasted so much time watching a bunch of hench and hairless people hanging around on an island, on a show with no satisfying conclusion. Let's just all agree to never mention it again.

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