Source: The Irish Times
Source: The Irish Times

My country was dragged into the international spotlight last week. Because, not to put even remotely too fine a point on it, Ireland killed a woman. This news made me feel physically sick. This happened so appallingly close to home that for a while I couldn’t process it.

How close to home?

I was born in University Hospital Galway. Both my parents have worked there at various points in their lives. It is where my mother had her mastectomy. I worked in the foyer coffee shop for a summer when I was a teenager. This time last year, I sat with my dad in the intensive care unit, listening to a machine do his breathing for him and wondering if he would ever open his eyes again.

I spent significant stretches of my life in the same hospital that took Savita Halappavanar’s life.

I have been trying to write something about this for over a week. At first I was too angry, then I was too upset and ashamed of my country to form coherent sentences. The details of the case have been well-covered (here and here and here for anyone who missed it) so I’m not going to reiterate them again. I think it is extremely clear – to me, to Ireland and to the rest of the world – that there is no reason on this earth that Savita Halappavanar, a 31 year-old dentist from India, should not have survived her miscarriage and gone on to live a full and happy life with her husband.

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here is my soft perspective

"Your new soft pink boardroom decor, courtesy of soft pink lady board members!"
“Your new soft pink boardroom decor, courtesy of soft pink lady board members!”

Last week, I moved to Oxford, which involved a lot of driving in the car with my mother, which in turn meant a lot of listening to the radio. I love Irish radio. We are a nation of excellent talkers.

However, last week on Irish radio, there was a moment of epic genderfail and I said several words that I would never normally say in front of my mother.

Don’t get me wrong, I hear a lot of genderfail from mainstream media outlets on a regular basis. As I have previously discussed, living on Feminist Internet can be an insulated experience and I am frequently startled by the levels of stupidity I encounter outside it. On Feminist Internet, even in the heat of disagreement, people understand the basics; for example, vague stereotypes are not a good starting point for productive debate.

This incident of genderfail was particularly infuriating because it came from a successful businesswoman who was trying to advocate for other businesswomen. To do so, she resorted to ridiculous generalisations about Women: The Monolith that would have been shouted down on any reputable feminist blog or forum within seconds.

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