Caitlin McBride: I never thought I'd say this, but this is an incredible time to be a woman
In an interview earlier this year, Miriam O’Callaghan said it was a "great time to be a woman in Ireland" and I scoffed.
That's not a sentiment I hold exclusively to Ireland, but to the world, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s never really been a great time to be a woman. Even still, in modern Ireland, the fight for bodily autonomy continues and is being used as a bargaining tool to push political agendas. Our compatriots in the US are in a relatively new form of constant-defence, fighting for the right to keep theirs and in war-torn countries, rape is used as a weapon of war.
There's no other word to describe it other than grim.
That’s not to say I don’t love being a woman, I do. I don’t necessarily define myself by my gender, but I love it. I love the way it looks, it feels, it sounds and I very much enjoy being described as a "strong woman". I love friendships with women, working with women and learning from women of all ages. But loving being a woman and acknowledging its disadvantages are not one and the same.
Over the years, there have been so many positive changes, but it has always felt like a case of one step forward, two steps back. In these last 12 months, however, something has changed and I bet you can feel it too.
The revolution is upon us. It's exciting, it feels as if we’re on the cusp of something big and most of us want to be on the right side of history.
I, like many other women, feel there’s more to creating an interesting narrative around a woman’s existence other than her experiences with sexual assault, but in these last two weeks, the litany of stories emerging about serial predator Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent #MeToo movement has shown that harassment and assault is something we have to deal with on a regular basis, but it’s not all that defines us.
Men like Weinstein aren't a "Hollywood problem" or even an American problem, they're just a problem. A plague.
My job requires me to be more involved and more informed when it comes to news stories and pop culture in particular, so there's no option to look away, put my fingers in my ears and pretend it isn't happening.
Every day for these last few weeks, I have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions: crying at reading the heartbreaking stories others have been through. Joy that they had the courage to share it. Anger that it happened to begin with. And motivation to change something - anything - to try and banish this type of systematic abuse.
I had another piece written earlier this week, a different type of piece, one that I realised I'm not really ready to share with the world just yet, but one that I feel inspired that one day I can. And if I don’t, that’s also okay. I am just one of millions who have a rather sad story to tell.
But Miriam might have been right after all, that it really is an amazing time to be a woman. I've never experienced this sense of mass sisterhood before. And with that type of organised bonding has come something rather special, a use of social media for good - to educate, to inform and to inspire: #MeToo.
I have conflicted feelings about the #MeToo movement: on the one hand, I think it’s nothing short of extraordinary for women to speak up about some of the darkest moments of their lives, bonding with strangers over each other's respective realities. On the other hand, I feel that sexual assault survivors don’t necessarily owe anyone their stories, their pain is theirs to share if they want to or not.
But there is a strange sense of comfort in knowing you're not alone. It's like we all had a sneaking suspicion all these years that this type of intimidating and frankly, criminal, behaviour existed outside our peripheral circle, but now that we know it and the scale it's been operating on, we are absolutely fed up.
So we are going to "make a fuss", we're going to "overreact", we're going to condemn and castigate because it's the right thing to do. We're just at the tip of the iceberg, so hold on to your hats. If these last two weeks have shown us anything, it’s that women are taking control of the narrative – and we’re not taking any prisoners along the way.
We’re doing it through film and fashion, through social media, through advocacy, through the simple act of having a conversation with a friend, with your family, or with the world. We’re using our voices we’ve been told to lower lest we cause a scene with our feminine tales of woe; we’re marching to take control of our bodies which have been used to bear every single person on the planet - we’re kicking ass and taking names.
In the Western world, we still make less money than men; we still have to read books about getting ahead and use phrases like "leaning in" to summarise our ambition; we have female-only events honouring women in their day-to-day lives, both at home and in the office. W still have ways to go before we reach equality across the board, but we are officially on the way.
I've never seen being a woman as a burden, it’s always something that’s just been. For the first time in my life, I’m extremely excited about it and I hope you are too.