Archive for June, 2010

RATE: $500 for Shoot date & if selected for Ad Campaign (running 2011) you will be paid $4000!
USAGE: 3 years unlimited print & web usage in N. America Only
Well groomed and clean…Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.
Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles! A DOVE GIRL!!!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!

Maybe it is my advancing years, 37 after all is not to be sniffed at, but when I read through the casting call for Dove models a significant potion of my eyes rolled backwards into  my head.

The Dove campaign has been spewing the ‘for real woman’ line for quite some time now, and as an advertising schtick it’s a good one. For us? Really? Why thank you. How nice to be considered for once. But hold on now, what this?

Flawless skin, no scars, no tattoos, beautiful arms and legs, not too curvy, not too athletic. It’s like Goldi-real. To be a model for Dove a gal has got to be just right.

Which makes this woman furrow her brow and ask ‘what the hell?’ How does Goldi-real represent the rest of us?

As we age many things happen to the bodies we inhabit. Stretch marks, sagging, stretching, illness, weight gain, weight loss, scars, freckles, cyst removal scars, all manner of things shape and alter our external  look.  It’s normal that we change as we grow older, it’s normal that we wear and bear the evidence of our lives. It’s what being really real is all about.

If Dove were to embrace the wild crazy idea that  really real woman actually come in all shapes and sizes, in varying tattooed – or not – forms, they would send out a casting call for all and sundry to come be photographed. They would choose a large cross-section of women to flog their wares.

But of course they have not, because at the end of the day what is really real to Dove is making a profit and to do that they fall in line with the less than surprising notion that only perfect specimens of womanhood are worthy enough to be considered models for the really realist of their real campaign.

Flawless, was there ever a more insidious description of a woman’s skin?

Boo Dove, boo to you.

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Pissing Man by Timothy Ralph

In Ireland in the 1970s, the streets were strewn with rivulets of fresh mustard piss. Firstly, the suburban laneways where men just couldn’t make it home from the Bookies on time, to the pathways of public parks, Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium, all around O’Connell Street on St. Patrick’s Day and just about anywhere else you can think of. I even recall a man standing pissing at the side of Victories Credit Union when I headed down at the age of 12 to open my first account.

Irish men were such prolific pissers it was almost laminated to the Constitution as an indelible part of their liberty and right to live. So it should come as scant surprise when I moved back to the parental home last October to write and help out for a while…that the old man was pissing all over the house without any due cause to care.

For a while my mother said nothing. This has been a kind of ostrich-head + sand tradition going back to when I first tasted Liga. It wasn’t until I walked into puddles late at night in the kitchen, or took the stairs barefoot to bed when drunk or made the mistake of whiffing the cushions on the couch in the sitting-room (what crazy instinct was this?) that I realised there was a urinary tract conspiracy in full liquid swing.

“Don’t say anything because he gets awful embarrassed about it,” the Ma said. This nugget of emotional blackmail worked for a while. He’s hitting 80 after all, his legs are gone, he can no longer make it out to the pub and he’s lost interest in almost everything apart from whiskey, war documentaries and the lotto. But like everything in an alcoholic home, avoidance strategies and colourful denials are destined to come crashing down at the first foretoken of crisis.

A few months ago my mother got cancer (well she’s had it for a good while but it’s taken at least a year to get her to own up to the four/half stone weight loss and general body-breaking-down weakness). During the haitus between smashing her denial and getting to a hospital, we started fighting about the old man’s pissing habits. One night I caught him pissing in a bucket outside the kitchen door and when I reported back [in a blind rage] to the Ma about “how utterly disgusting” it was, she admitted quite calmly that she laced the Piss Bucket with disinfectant regularly and emptied it once a week. “You mean you’ve actually known about this!?” I barked.

Up until that point I’d taken an active part in the spare him any hurt household games, taking his piss cushions from his armchair in the dead of night and washing them, drying them on radiators and shoving them back again before he crawled down the stairs for his boiled egg the next morning.

“He just can’t make it up the stairs,” she explained, again, over breakfast. Well then get in a downstairs toilet for starters, that’s what normal people would do. “He doesn’t want to lose the cloakroom”. But he can’t go out anymore, so what’s the use in a cloakroom!?  “He says he’ll deal with it and get to the toilet quicker.” Of course he won’t! It’s just going to get worse…much worse, Jesus! He’s going to have to deal with it or I’ll contact social services!”

Three weeks ago as I cleaned the house in preparation for her return from hospital I eventually sat the old man down and attempted to talk piss politics openly. “I can’t help it!” he whinged, adding that if he had to wear ‘padded pants’ like I was suggesting, he’d rather kill himself. Another thing about alcoholics is that no matter what is going on in the world around them, it will still always be about them. I resorted to shock tactics telling him that no-one visits the house anymore because of the stench, that my brother home from the UK to visit my mum was knocked back in anger by it all (“smells like a bag of ferrets”) and had pledged to write a stern letter on his return…that fire-hose pissing on this scale was a clear and irrefutable health hazard, potentially dangerous…someone could slip and fall, there’s a cancer patient returning home with an open wound and serious infection could mean a summer picnic to Glasnevin Crematorium. Nothing but blank bulldog stares.

“I bleed five days a month and I can’t help that either,” I told him, not so subtley, “but imagine if I didn’t stick something in my knickers and deal with it!? Imagine if I just bled on buses and in the GPO when queueing for stamps or in Beshoffs buying chips or all over the floor in Penneys shopping for cheap socks…wouldn’t that be completely and utterly INSANE!?”

The crux of the battle came (and not on dry land) when I stormed off to Finglas in search of Tenapads in a terribly hungover state two weeks ago. I left them on the kitchen table on a placemat where he sits for his dinner and just to avoid any further denial, I left a note with them: ‘You have to wear one of these when you’re drinking and at night-time in bed’.

Caldwell Family Piss Bucket Outside Kitchen

A while later he stormed into the dining room where I was watching Eastenders and pointed to a giant circus-ring type wet patch on his trousers. “Now tell me, how would your magic pads have stopped that happening?” he squealed. That’s when I realised the sheer level of compacted insanity we’re dealing with.”Of course it won’t stop it happening but the pads will at least contain it till you get to the shower!” I said, utterly gobsmacked.But it seems that decades of hard pissing has drowned out the last semblance of rationale in the paternal brain and yet another old man is destined to leave the planet happy, having asserted his full and moral rights to the Irish Constitution.

June Caldwell is a writer, who after 13 years of journalism, is finally writing a novel. She has a MA in Creative Writing and was winner of ‘Best Blog Post’ award at the 2011 Irish Blog Awards. You can read this post on her own blog here:

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On a day when the weather finally appears to have broken I find myself in one of those office discussions you can’t win. This morning the usual tirade against the unfairness of our nation’s over enthusiastic rainfall has been momentarily swapped for sulky mouthed speeches to the effect that it’s too hot, the pollen count is too high, everyone is a mass of blisters due to ill-fitting summery footwear; all a sweaty huff of rash and sunburn. The flip-flop slip slap on office carpet is annoying some while the incessant whirring of a distant grass trimmer proves to be the urban vuvuzela of the soul to the rest.

And my meteorological delight is not going down at all well.

I am an unashamed fan of hot weather. I love it all – the smell of warm concrete and that slight pebbled graze you get on the back of your thighs from sitting on it on long summer evenings in light cotton dresses. Sun tightened skin and damp hairlines, baked earth under bare feet and the unexpected unseen thistle in the otherwise perfect lawn. And those summers when we were kids; licking dried ice-cream off the back of our hands and tasting sweat and sun cream. Poking tar bubbles on roads with bits of sticks and getting it all over your sandals. Blue Mr Freeze stained mouths and forgetting your cardie outside all night where you’d used it as a goal post.

Horrified at the office negativity and their ungrateful responses to the good weather I slump off back to my desk. Amazing how a change of a few degrees can cause such vehement discussion.  Warm weather – another great divider of humankind, where do you stand?

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The recent appointment of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has provoked debate in the international media around the issue of women’s representation in politics and, in particular, what it means for women when a woman ascends to a position of political leadership.

A number of journalists noted that politicians such as Gillard, Angela Merkel and even Margaret Thatcher are a source of inspiration, encouraging women to aspire to positions of power, in politics and elsewhere. But unlike Thatcher, who never included a female MP in her cabinet, Gillard is a vocal advocate of increased representation for women in the Australian parliament, in which female politicians number some 27%.

In Ireland, where women politicians make up only 13.9% of the Dáil and 22% of the Seanad, our achievements in parliamentary equality are a long way behind those of Australia. In a table of international assemblies compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Ireland ranked joint 80th with Cameroon in terms of women’s political representation. Nevertheless, in March of this year, a Fine Gael proposal to impose quotas of women candidates of 20-25% for local and European elections was voted down by the parliamentary party. The proposal was vehemently opposed by Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton, who stated that:

“[politics] is a boys club, where women who speak out can be swiftly deemed to be ‘cranks’ or ‘whingers’. The reality is that by introducing tokenistic measures such as quotas, we will only fuel that perception.”

Creighton also argued that the “patriarchal culture” of politics in which “women are regularly discriminated, patronised and bullied in politics at all levels – in their party’s organisation [and] by fellow politicians” cannot be solved by a quota system. In fact, studies, such as the one commissioned by the International Institute for Democracy & Electoral Assistance, have repeatedly shown that it is only when women have reached a critical mass in parliament – 30% or over – that the political environment really starts to change. Unfortunately, given that only 17% of candidates in the 2007 general election were women, the continued opposition of TDs and Senators from across the political spectrum to the introduction of quota legislation may mean that it will be many years before we discover what any such change would involve in an Irish context.

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I love men. From the time I was a little girl – in a co-educational Catholic school in New York – I learned the boys were the ones who presented me with the REAL competition on the soccer pitch, in the football card trading stakes, in political and current affairs discussions and later, in the workplace. I have always worked in male-dominated fields (Wall Street and business journalism) and enjoyed good support from (most of) my overwhelmingly male bosses.

Dating – and moving up the business ladder – was a different story altogether. Many American men don’t want a girl with a brain (no matter how tiny) and ambition. Some Irish guys still physically shrink away from me when I’m friendly, assuming I’m making a pass at them. (I’m not. I’m married to a great guy.) Others finds the bolshie Yank an amusing distraction.  To some men, a woman with strong opinions and the willingness to voice them is, well, incredibly distasteful.

They believe in the “Women know your limits” school of thought parodied here by the brilliant Harry Enfield on the BBC:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS37SNYjg8w 

A UK Independent article this week, pointed out by RTE broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan on Twitter @MiriamOCal, also decries the “noise” created by women on television. It claims the new “boss-class” of women makes men feel bad. The author, Amol Rajan, claims many women on tv are bossy, bullying, preachy and patronising. Read it here and weep:

Too much interference on our televisions

There’s also a myth, taken as fact, in Irish broadcasting that women’s voices are grating/ irritating to the listener. I have not been able to find any research that backs this up. The research I did find says women’s voices are more musical and complex. So, why is Irish journalism such a male-dominated profession?

Una Mullally wrote an interesting piece on the gender imbalance in radio in the Sunday Tribune in May 2010 and found that ” Eighty percent of RTé Radio One’s regular programmes are male-led and 80% of 2fm’s programmes are male-led. Newstalk has 10 weekday programmes, none of which are presented solely by women, although Claire Byrne co-presents Breakfast. The weekend schedule is a little more female friendly, with three of the 11 programmes presented by women. Overall, 84% of content is presented by men. On its weekday shows, Today FM has just one daily female presenter, Alison Curtis. The station has 16 weekend shows and just three are presented by women. Overall, 90% of its programmes are presented by men. Over on 4FM, just one of that station’s 25 programmes is presented by a woman.” Article here: http://www.tribune.ie/magazine/article/2010/may/02/final-edition-radio-gaga-where-are-all-the-women-o/)

In the print media, the draining away of women from the business and (some) news desks is shocking. It wasn’t always this way. The Irish Times and Sunday Times business desks were fairly equal gender-wise when I worked on the desks (1996-2006).  At the moment, the Sunday Business Post seems to buck the trend with a higher ratio of female to male by-lines in the paper.   

Why has this happened? Are women less skilled as “hard news” journalists or do they opt out of journalism to have children? Or, as Carrie Bradshaw might say… “Could the real reason women’s voices are not more widely heard in the media be because women should not have opinions?”

What do you think? @margareteward

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In 2008, four journalists including Anna Carey, Sinéad Gleeson and Edel Coffey set up the anonymous blog The Anti Room as a place to talk about everything from fashion to feminism, sex to sport, music to politics.  The blog was nominated for Best Group Blog at the Irish Blog Awards in 2009. The blog returns and has expanded to welcome a wide range of regular contributors including founders Anna, Edel, Sinéad; journalists Tanya Sweeney, Nadine O’Regan, Lauren Murphy,Jude Leavy, Susan Daly, Aoife Barry, Fiona McCann, Margaret E. Ward;  bloggers Suzy Byrne, Lisa McInerney, Megan McGurk and Naomi McArdle; documentary-maker Aoife Kelleher and writers Arlene Hunt, Nuala Ní Chonchúir and June Caldwell.

We’re on Facebook and on Twitter if you’d like to keep in touch.  Or get in touch at theantiroomATgmailDOTcom.

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Anyone who has been within earshot of me in the last year will know I’ve been constantly going on about Evie Wyld‘s debut novel, After the Fire, A Still, Small Voice. It won the the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and Wyld is a talented writer, not just of fiction, but of memoir/non-fiction prose.  She contributed to Granta’s Sex issue with Woman’s Body: An Owner’s Manual and in today’s Observer, she talks about being ill as a child. I think it’s her eye for detail that really strikes me.

My father says that the first inkling that something was wrong was when I sat at the top of the stairs not talking to anyone at my second birthday party. I don’t remember the party, but I remember those stairs. They were steep and there were lots of them. I remember pushing myself down those stairs often, head first and on my belly, I remember the rough weave of the carpet and the small burns you’d get if you went too fast. I remember that spot on the landing at the top of the stairs, where the light didn’t reach, a small part of that house you could get afraid of if you thought about it too much, a place that was dark and somehow remote.

You can also read her blog posts for Booktrust where she is currently writer in residence and I can’t remember the last author whose second novel I’m looking forward to as much.  You can also follow her on Twitter, @eviewyld.

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