To celebrate Father's Day, Herstory honours the dads who have empowered their daughters throughout the centuries and Herstory's godfathers who have played a pivotal role in co-creating the Irish Herstory movement
Long before a man walked on the moon, a lunar crater was named in honour of Cork woman and 19th-century pioneering astronomer Agnes Mary Clerke. It was her father who nurtured her childhood curiosity in the stars, teaching her the basics of astronomy and lending his telescope to explore the night's sky.
In the same era, aspiring young naturalist Mary Ward collected insects and studied them under her father's magnifying glass, recording the specimens in intricate drawings.
When she was a teenager, her father gifted her one of the finest microscopes in Ireland at the time, leading to a life-long passion and esteemed scientific career.
In the 18th century, the young Maria Edgeworth received a diverse education from her father on subjects such as law, economics, science and politics. Later she worked as her father's assistant in estate management and the father-daughter duo collaborated on a series of educational books for children.
Dubliner Oonah Keogh became the first female stockbroker in the world when her father nominated her to the Irish Stock Exchange in 1925. As Dr Angela Byrne explained: "No stock exchange had ever had a woman working in one before and the suggestion was not completely accepted. But Ireland had a new constitution which guaranteed equality and there was no reason to reject Keogh except for her gender."
History is full of feminist fathers who backed their daughter's dreams and rewrote the gender rulebook, challenging the patriarchal structures of their time.
Looking back at my childhood, it's an anomaly that I founded Herstory. Growing up in our family, there was no question women were equal to men. To be honest, feminism wasn't even on my radar. I never felt my gender was a disadvantage. My father had a formative influence on me: gifting my love of music, nature, philosophy and meditation.
When I was a nipper, he would bring me on epic hikes and island escapades to bird-watch and hunt for fossils. Education was paramount and he shaped my worldview with the 'National Geographic', David Attenborough documentaries and Disney animations.
I am the eldest of five and I have three strong, spirited sisters. I confess my only brother, who is six years my junior, was an outspoken feminist long before me.
My rose-tinted glasses were shattered when I discovered countless lost and overlooked women's stories, leading to the creation of Herstory. I became an angry feminist overnight. A new laser-sharp feminist lens made it impossible to avoid the subtle and explicit sexism everywhere.
A turning point occurred when I caught myself projecting my newly awakened feminist rage on the men in my life. I held a mirror up to myself and a realisation dawned: it's unfair and quite absurd to project thousands of years of suppressed collective wrath against the patriarchy on to modern men, especially the men who have supported and empowered me.
I began a process of rethinking my relationship to anger. There's big energy in this formidable emotion. It's empowering stuff. It's also potentially explosive and highly unpredictable.
As a catalyst, it's the tipping point emotion and can be used to destruct or construct. So I decided to wield and alchemise my anger to create an inclusive and compassionate feminist movement.
A beautiful thing happened when my perspective shifted from fury to compassion. Anger had previously blinded me from some liberating insights. One night I was immersed in fascinating women's biographies when I spotted a trend.
In nearly every remarkable woman's biography, there is at least one man who saw her as an equal and championed her talents. They were fathers, brothers, husbands, sons, teachers and friends.
In the depths of patriarchal suppression, there are heartening examples of equality throughout history and today's culture. Evidence quality is not only possible but realistic. This insight is the inspiration behind a future Herstory project.
I delight in how my assumptions have been challenged one by one. At the beginning I believed Herstory's greatest champions would be women. Today, Herstory has as many godfathers as godmothers, supported by godfathers who have created portraits, penned biographies, opened doors, forged partnerships and funded projects. In 2019, Tánaiste Simon Coveney closed his speech to the United Nations with the affirming statement: "History needs Herstory. It is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do."
On the contrary, I have experienced more toxic femininity than toxic masculinity. Shadow exists throughout the gender spectrum, especially when polarities are stretched to breaking point.
The truth is both sexes have suffered at the hands of the patriarchy. As a woman, I can't imagine being forced to conscript, trained to kill and sent to war.
They say history is written by the victors. There's no victory in creating trauma that torments generations. Humanity is still recovering from the wars of the last century and beyond. How can men and women collectively heal from the trauma of the patriarchy?
In the pandemic, there is a sense we are on the precipice of a new world. "Human doings" have been forced to become human beings again. During the pause the cracks appeared and the blind spots became obvious. We live in triggering times. In this liminal space, our ability to process and alchemise anger will determine the trajectory of humanity.
As we move beyond the old paradigm that is naturally deconstructing, accelerated by the coronavirus, there's an opportunity to reimagine gender and rewrite the future. What if the war of the sexes became a dance to equality?
On Father's Day, Herstory invites you to an online storytelling event in honour of Herstory's Godfathers and all the dads who have empowered their daughters throughout the centuries. Tune in on Herstory's YouTube channel on Sunday from 7pm-8.30pm