Archive for July 17th, 2010

It might just be because I have a Saturday headache (I always get headaches on Saturdays; my brain figures it’s only pleasing me at weekends, so completely folds in on itself), but I really cannot decide whether to take Pammy’s or Canada’s side in the furore over her latest PETA ad.

Fairly self-explanatory as an image, ain’t it? Pamela Anderson asks us to consider that even though her body is tanned, airbrushed, enhanced and adorned, she is still made up of the same parts we like to chew on when taken from a lesser animal. She feels we should look on living creatures as living creatures, not as unripe buffets. The city of Montréal refused a permit for the ad’s launching, stating that the image was sexist

Anderson retorted, “How sad that a woman would be banned from using her own body in a political protest…”, asking Montreal whether burqas would be next, with PETA’s Senior Vice President stating that city officials were “confusing ‘sexy’ with ‘sexist'”.

While I’m no great fan of PETA’s soft-porn advertising – a busty beauty’s behind is hardly the image to change the minds of fur-loving fashionistas – it does seem rather strange that Pamela Anderson comes up against few obstacles when she wants to use her body to wrangle money out of horny fellas, yet is chastised when she uses it to highlight animal rights issues. Having said that, I’m not sure whether this attempt at a play on the derogatory Grade A Meat metaphor succeeds in any way at all. Surely women don’t need “reminding” that we’re all dumb, pretty animals?

It’s also bizarre that Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, reprimanded those offended by the image by stating that true feminists should be more concerned about the plight of female livestock than a scantily-clad glamour girl’s preening from a butcher’s block.

It should be noted that while the city of Montréal officially banned the ad, in order to make a statement on how the “values” of the city aren’t reflected by the image, officials then said that a blind eye would be turned if the activists went ahead anyway.

What do you think?

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Deirdre Collins of Dee's Whole Foods in Ballincollig

Thwarted by the lack of promotional opportunities available in traditional corporate entities many venturesome Irish women have turned entrepreneur instead. For talented women denied the flexibility required to combine family life and a decent career by the linear nature of hierarchical progression, the establishment of a businesses offers the possibility of successfully doing both. Deirdre Collins, a food science graduate from Cork, recently developed her own range of whole food burgers and has now hooked up with Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Niall Farrell. Redundancy prompted Una Griffiths to establish a business selling beautiful silver jewellery from her living room. They are just two of many. 

Women in the US launch new enterprises at twice the rate of men and employment and revenue growth in these has outpaced the rest of the economy. Yet success certainly doesn’t come easy. The US-based “Center for Women’s Business Research” has discovered that for women persistance is a key factor when trying to secure start-up or expansion capital. Successful applicants made an average of four attempts to obtain bank loans or lines of credit and 22 attempts to obtain equity capital. Many female-owned start-ups are forced to remain small due to this difficulty in accessing credit or capital. Again US research suggests that female owners of rapidly expanding firms are far more likely to rely on business earnings as their primary funding source than their male counterparts (72% vs. 56%). 

Despite the downturn, some new start-ups like those highlighted above are doing very well. The problems tend to arise when expansion is mooted and these enterprising women go in search of new capital to facilitate this. On average, female-owned business are still small compared with businesses owned by men. In the US the average revenue of majority female-owned businesses is approximately one-quarter the magnitude of the average revenue for majority male-owned businesses. Women tend to come to entrepreneurship with fewer resources available to them and are therefore more likely to operate in sectors such as retail or personal services where the cost of entry is low. The difficulty is that so is the growth potential. Research shows that women, despite our reputation as serial credit card abusers, are more debt averse than men when it comes to their business dealings. Yet banks have consistently demonstrated a tendency to treat their proposals with skepticism. 

In the light of our recent experience of a systematic failure of the established banking sector in Ireland perhaps there is now an opportunity for entrepreneurial women to argue that they represent a safer risk than alpha male property moguls. Securing capital from financial institutions is particularly difficult at the moment yet it would seem unjust if women entrepreneurs were still faring worse than the bullish men who got us into this mire? There is some suggestion that capital will free up somewhat in the coming months. We can only hope that a more rigorous assessment of risk sees more of it channelled towards the many entrepreneurial woman keen to create employment and rebuild our economy.

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Does being sexy, or even a sex object in some mens’ eyes and by your own doing, automatically make you a bad mother?

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When I was 14, thanks to an older sister who had just borrowed the complete set from a friend, I read and adored Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books, which documented the adventures of the residents of an apartment building in Barbary Lane, San Francisco.

Joint not included

I loved the characters, I loved the laid back yet outrageous ’70s San Francisco setting (though I was genuinely completely shocked – SHOCKED, I tell you! – by all the saunas and anonymous sexing and brothels and all that sort of thing) and I loved the preposterous yet compelling plots, with their wild coincidences and dramatic revelations. I also adored Mrs Madrigal, the kindly landlady of Barbary Lane, who welcomed all her new tenants by taping a joint to the door of their apartment.

Now, I don’t think I was a freakishly naive 14 year old, at least not by ’80s middle-class north-Dublin-suburban standards, but when I saw the word ‘joint’ I immediately thought of a joint of meat. And I couldn’t understand how Mrs Madrigal had managed to tape something so heavy to the apartment doors. Had she used gaffer tape? And why had she bothered at all? Surely it would have been much easier (and less messy) to just put it on a plate or a casserole dish or something?

This confusion lasted for a shamefully long while – I correctly thought I was missing something, but I thought San Franciscans just had a more creative attitude to joints of meat, as they seemed to have quite a creative attitude to lots of things. But finally I had to accept that what the characters were doing with these joints could not, under any circumstances, really be done with a side of beef, and so I asked my sister and discovered the truth. Many years later, I interviewed the charming Armistead Maupin himself, and couldn’t resist telling him about my teenage idiocy. I’ve never made an interviewee laugh so much before or since.

So what else did you just not quite get when you read it at an early age? Please tell me I was not alone in my youthful foolishness.


By the way, the Christmas  that I was 17, a few years after I was confused by the joints of Barbary Lane, my older sister handed me an envelope from her then-boyfriend with the firm instruction not to open it in front of our parents. It contained a single large spliff. On the outside of the envelope, he had written “From the Mrs Madrigal of Dublin”. This time, I knew exactly what it was going to be.

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