Who Cares What The Irish Think?

16 June 2013
Following on from my last post, it's been a quite horrifying week in Australian politics and the media - and the rest of the world is beginning to notice. Last night I shared the shame and the outrage felt by most of us over what is happening in Australia on seeing this article from the Irish Times on how the media's treatment of PM Gillard shows the alarming extent to which sexism is tolerated here. Sometimes it takes the views of an outsider to see ourselves as we really are, and the situation in Australia at the moment, reflected from overseas, is worse than we could have imagined.

The shame was felt by most but not all, including a few feminists, such as Jane Caro. I first admired Ms Caro's work on the TV show The Gruen Transfer, and followed her on Twitter after agreeing with a lot of what she had to say on education funding and feminism. But I was rather shocked and appalled to see this interaction overnight:

(That's me with the smashing hair and the lack of an "n" on the end of decision). So, Ms Caro will dismiss the views of everyone from Ireland, based on a law that most people don't even agree with. Isn't that sounding suspiciously like...racism? Look that's not a criticism I throw out lightly. As I pointed out to Ms Caro, imagine the work of an Australian writer on gay rights being dismissed because our law forbids same sex marriage? (I received no reply). Or it being said that Australians have no right to comment on cruelty to children, anywhere, because of our shameful policy of locking children in detention. To summarily dismiss the views of everyone from Ireland based on an antiquated law (which did indeed lead to a horrifying tragedy, the death Savita Halappanavar) seems grossly unfair.

Ireland is, it shouldn't need saying, a diverse nation with people covering the full spectrum of opinions. And I think why Ms Caro's words stung is it points to an undercurrent of racism against the Irish I've felt my whole life. "Racism? What? I love the Irish", everyone says. They love the Irish, with their Guinness and story telling and oh-so-cute accents. It's a patronising kind of love, like you'd feel for an adorable child. The Irish are just so cute, with their pub music and tempers and fondness for alcohol and antiquated laws. We can't take them seriously though, on the grown up issues. They just do what their church tells them, dear lambs, and have no place in debate. Think I'm kidding? It's happened my whole life; I'll be at a meeting or a party, having a normal, grown up conversation, and someone will detect a hint of accent. "Where are you from?" they ask, I say I was born in Ireland, and next thing I'm being asked in a silly accent about the gift of the gab and being offered Guinness, even though I don't much care for the stuff and would be drinking it already if I wanted some. (And the next person who says "to be sure, to be sure" is going to get it in the kidneys). No wonder in recent years, when asked "Do I hear an accent?" I just shrug and say "must just be your imagination". I'm denying my heritage cause I'm sick of dealing with this crap.

Considering the other, endemic forms of racism in Australia I know I, and the Irish is general, haven't got much to complain about. But still, it was rather startling to see this from someone who no doubt considers themselves progressive. I just don't think any degree of racism is okay.


  1. I heard something about 'respect all women or you respect no women', regarding 'slut shaming' by people who claim to still respect women. Maybe Caro has some more general difficulties respecting religious people from her own upbringing or something blinding her to her racism. Rather than 'love the sinner, hate the sin', she should try some 'love the believer, hate the belief'.

  2. Oh yes racism in Australia is alive and well. Try being a New Zealander, living in Sydney.


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