Ten reasons to be cheerful about the year that was

Yes, 2017 was one weird year but there were some wonderful moments too from Serena Williams’ pregnancy to the election as Taoiseach of a gay man and son of an immigrant, writes Clodagh Finn

Ten reasons to be cheerful about the year that was

Yes, 2017 was one weird year but there were some wonderful moments too from Serena Williams’ pregnancy to the election as Taoiseach of a gay man and son of an immigrant, writes Clodagh Finn

AT times, 2017 felt as if we were no longer living in reality, but in a counterfactual horror movie. We had the shock of Trump, the seismic upset of Brexit and, perhaps most unsettling of all, news that the super-powerful film producer of some of our favourite films was a super creep.

If we were to boycott Harvey Weinstein movies including Pulp Fiction, Gangs of New York, the Nutty Professor along with all of those featuring actors smeared by sexual harassment allegations, the ents programme would become a barren thing indeed.

And with nothing on the silver screen to distract us, we’ve been forced to watch the upending of the world play out all around us. However, there were moments to cherish too. Here are 10 of them.

Women on the march

On January 20, a reality TV star who bragged that his celebrity allowed him to “do anything to women” was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. A dark day but there would be light.

The following day, the Women’s March in Washington DC attracted three times as many people as Trump’s “alternative fact” that his inauguration attracted the “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period”. The marchers warned Trump to keep his “tiny hands off women’s rights” in the largest single-day demonstration in recorded US history — between three and five million people took part in 600 events around the country.

The event set the tone for the year of protest that followed.

The mother of all athletes

It emerged that tennis star Serena Williams was eight weeks pregnant when she stepped out on court in the Australian Open final to defeat her big sis Venus. Social media went bonkers in the way that only social media can but what better way to hammer home the message that pregnancy is normal. As Fortune magazine put it, Serena was just another pregnant woman doing her job.

Children in the frame

Four-year-old Marion Kelly barged into the room while her father Professor Robert E Kelly was broadcasting live on the BBC. She did so with a happy confident swagger that her father later attributed to her post-school-party “hippity-hoppity mood”.

Here’s hoping that children everywhere are afforded the right to burst into the adult world in “hippity-hoppity moods” in 2018.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Whatever your politics, there was reason to break out the bubbly at Leo Varadkar’s election as leader of Fine Gael and, by extension, Taoiseach. The fact that Leo is a gay man and the son of an Indian immigrant caused more ripples abroad than it did at home. This once arch-conservative country didn’t bat an eyelid at those particulars, prompting commentators to herald huge generational and social change.

I’m not so sure but let’s hope Leo can fulfil his stated vision for Ireland: “Every proud parent in Ireland today can dream big dreams for their children. Every boy and girl will know there is no limit to their ambition, to their possibilities, if they are given the opportunity.”

The Women’s Rugby World Cup

Ireland didn’t fare as well as we might have liked, but there isn’t a bad thing to say about the eighth Women’s Rugby World Cup which was hosted in Ireland for the first time this year.

Note to teenage girls everywhere: play team sports. The benefits on and off the pitch are enormous.

George Hook

Not so much the man himself, but the fact that his comments on rape prompted unprecedented outrage from women, and men, who said it was simply no longer acceptable to say that women were in any way to blame for being raped.

Victim-blamers have been called out before but the widespread anger and the subsequent, let’s be honest, witch- hunt of Hook, seemed to mark a real turning point. Will we look back and pinpoint Hookgate as the moment when Ireland finally came to understand that a woman is never to blame for rape no matter where she went, what she wore or what she had to drink? Time will tell.

#MeToo

The outing of sexual predator Harvey Weinstein gave women the world over the courage to come forward and speak openly about their experiences of sexual harassment using the social media hashtag MeToo.

Here, there were allegations in the arts world and more on the longstanding charges of bullying at the National Museum of Ireland. In December, bestselling author Cathy Kelly revealed that she too had been sexually assaulted. A selfless, brave and generous act that will give a voice to women everywhere. If 2017 was the year when women were given a voice, 2018 must be the year when we provide the support and resources to care for those who have spoken out. As it stands, there is an eight-month waiting list for counselling at the Rape Crisis Centre network, although its funding body Tusla and Minister Katherine Zappone have both acknowledged the need for extra resources.

Here’s looking at you, kid

In the words of Dublin Zoo, it’s been a Zooper (get it?) year for new arrivals. In 2017, the zoo welcomed more than 40 new animal additions, including the birth of a white rhinoceros calf, two Asian elephant calves, an eastern bongo and three scimitar-horned oryx.

The APC Microbiome Institute

The Cork-based institute has done groundbreaking research to show how the gut influences health and disease. It is now working on ways of harvesting gut bacteria to treat anxiety and depression.

The Romcom Royals

Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle might have been one of the story strands in Love Actually – a hapless member of the British upper crust falls for a mixed-race American divorcée.

However,a word of caution to those who thought outspoken Markle might be a royal champion for the everywoman. She stepped out in a Ralph & Russo engagement gown that cost a cool €65,000. All the same, we can dream, can’t we?

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