Patriarchy’s house of cards is tumbling down

At last, autonomy for women living in Ireland, autonomy taken from them for so very, very long writes Suzanne Harrington.

Patriarchy’s house of cards is tumbling down

‘I MANAGED to fight off the dogmas of patriarchy, organised religion, capitalism, class deference, and respect for authority easily enough. How come I fell at the last fence and impaled myself on the railings of romance?” writes musician turned memoirist Viv Albertine in her new book To Throw Away Unopened.

“Mum alerted me to the fact that patriarchy and the romance narrative were wrong, but she didn’t have any suggestions for another path. She didn’t know of any. Where’s the advert on TV telling you to call a freefone number if you’ve been missold not a pension but a belief system?”

Where indeed? What a week it’s been for Irish women, who have successfully tackled quite a few on Albertine’s list, most magnificently the patriarchy and organised religion. We will probably continue to buy into romance — as Viv says, we have not yet come up with an alterative — but as we progress, so will our daughters.

They will choose romance — love and sex and all that goes with it — because they want to, because it suits them, because they feel like it. Unlike their mothers, they are no longer groomed for deferential behaviour (“romance”) by teen mags with titles like My Guy or Oh Boy, filled with articles on pleasing and appeasing. Our daughters will couple and uncouple (get past the Gwyneth Paltrow connotations, and “uncouple” is less pejorative than “break up”) as they see fit. They are, thanks to the tireless work of all those fearless campaigning Irish women, finally in charge of themselves.

In all my life — even though I’m old enough to remember, not long after my First Communion, Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams getting the Nobel peace prize — public events have only ever brought me to tears three times.

The inauguration of Barack Obama outside the White House, the death of David Bowie, and on the night of Friday, May 25, the first exit poll of the abortion referendum.

Following events online from the UK, with a headache from breath-holding and jaw-grinding, even at a distance the feeling of relief felt like being knocked over by a wave. At last, autonomy for women living in Ireland, autonomy taken from them for so very, very long.

Well, I say Ireland; I mean the Republic — the women of Northern Ireland are still screwed.

Theresa May will do nothing to move their reproductive autonomy forward, because Theresa May is in thrall to the gay cake brigade.

She will do nothing to endanger her Ulster votes. So we may very soon see Northern Irish women coming south to the Irish Republic for abortion, instead of travelling to the UK as all Irish women, northern and southern, have traditionally been forced to do to terminate crisis pregnancies.

It seems unlikely that the women of Northern Ireland will put up with this situation for too long.

Those who wish for bodily autonomy have seen how women in the Republic reclaimed theirs. They have seen how the patriarchy is a house of cards.

They will act.

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up