Women’s next great battle is winning the right to be just as useless as men

Women shouldn’t have to prove that they’d bring something amazing to the party before getting an invitation, writes Eilis O’Hanlon


FOUNDER: Joe Mulholland of the MacGill Summer School
FOUNDER: Joe Mulholland of the MacGill Summer School

It is ironic to hear Joe Mulholland, former managing director of television at RTE, and founding guru of the MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal, announce on radio that he doesn’t believe in positive discrimination when he has been a beneficiary of it his entire life simply by virtue of being a man.

Which is not to say he was given the prestigious positions which he’s occupied during a long life in the Irish public eye solely because he’s a man. It’s more that men like Mulholland have never faced a single obstacle to getting where they are as a result of being men, and never had to worry that being men would prove a hurdle.

That kind of unearned privilege is all the more powerful for being almost invisible, which must be why Mulholland so spectacularly failed to see it until it was pointed out to him by two women, namely Catherine Murphy and Roisin Shortall of the Social Democrats, who withdrew from panels at the summer school in protest at a gender imbalance which would have seen only 12 women taking part, compared with 44 men.

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