Nollaig na mBan

Tomorrow, January 6th is Little Christmas, also know as Women’s Christmas or Nollaig na mBan. Traditionally it’s a day for women to gather and go out for the night or host a party for female friends. #WakingTheFeminists have declared it a day to celebrate women and have been encouraging feminists to use the day to plan a get together.

There are events happening all over Ireland, and the world. There’s a list of events on the #WakingTheFeminists website and a few more are popping up on twitter. All events are open to feminists of all genders.

One of the objectives of these gatherings is to talk about what you’d like to change. I’m missing the #WTF events tomorrow because I am going to another Nollaig na mBan celebration in the Irish Writers’ Centre, so here is my list of changes.

What changes would I like to see?

  • Gender quotas. As I wrote at the beginning of November, I still think that funding decisions based on gender quotas would help to balance the scales in terms of the number of women making work. Money is a great motivator.
  • More stats. I really like the infographics about the number of male and female writers and directors who have worked at the Abbey in the last years. It makes the unbalance very clear and it’s hard to argue with statistics. I’d like to see more information on the people who are submitting plays to the Abbey. When the controversy around the Waking The Nation programme first happened, one of the questions that appeared on social media again and again was “but how many women applied?” Because the Abbey have a policy of accepting unsolicited scripts, and a Literary Dept to read them, it would be interesting to get some information about those playwrights, things like gender, age, location.
  • I found Brian O’Bryne’s blogs on childcare and sexual harrassment very interesting to read. There’s obviously a lot of room for improvement in both these areas. I love this piece by Tara Derrington and I would love to see an Abbey creche. As well as catering for actors in rehearsals or auditions, it could also offer childcare options to artists having meetings in the Peacock cafe. Bullying and harassment are against the rules in every workplace but things can be trickier in the theatre, for all the reasons that Brian points out on his blog. The #WTF website includes information on this issue. It shouldn’t be acceptable in any job and it certainly shouldn’t be “part of the job”.
  • More feminists in government. I don’t see the #WakingTheFeminists movement as being only about theatre or only about the arts. The aim is more equality in general. Voting for feminists in the next general election (which will hopefully happen sometime this year!) is one way to move closer to that goal.
  • It would be great to see an organisation like Women in Film in TV for the performing arts. An organisation that offers support and mentorship to female artists, promotes equality in the sector, provides networking opportunities, gathers statistics and can act as a lobbying body, and with a membership structure to pay for all those things.

What am I going to do?
I’m going to keep talking about it, I’m going to keep supporting female artists (I have tickets for three female driven pieces in First Fortnight – Enthroned, Overshadowed and Alison Spittle Discovers Hawaii) and I’m going to vote for the feminists in the General Election.

Happy Nollaig na mBan and here’s to a more equal 2016!

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Friday Five: International Women’s Day

iwd_squareThis Sunday is International Women’s Day. It has been celebrated on March 8th since 1975 but Women’s Day has existed in various forms since the early 1900s, often in connection with the labour movement. It’s a day for celebrating the achievements of women and also for recognising the inequalities faced by the women and the work that still has to be done. Here’s a list of events and articles about women in the arts and culture.

1. The Women of the World Festival at the South Bank is now is it’s fifth year and it just seems to get bigger every year. The line-up is always incredible and yet I’ve never actually managed to get over to London for it. Luckily they are very good at putting all the talks online. Everything from the past three years is up on their YouTube channel and no doubt this year’s talks will join them.

2. Previous WOW speaker Emer O’Toole will be on the RTE Book Show on Saturday evening at 7pm, celebrating IWD with Lisa Hannigan, Norah Casey, Viv Groskop and presenter Sinead Gleeson. The Irish Times have been celebrating Irish women writers all week and all those articles are collected here. (Watch out for the paywall.) This weekend the paper will include an all female version of the famous Irish Writers poster that you see all over the place. Fintan O’Toole called it a joke with a serious point.

3. I read a couple of great articles on women’s “madness” this week. Mad in inverted commas because generally the behaviour being dismissed as madness is just simply behaviour that deviates from the norm, ie it’s not how men behave. Or it is a logical reaction to how the women in question have been mistreated. B. N. Harrison writes about The Unified Theory of Ophelia: On Women, Writing, and Mental Illness for the Toast and Julie Holland writes about Medicating women’s Feelings for the New York Times.

4. Another area where women face discrimination and struggle to tell women’s stories is on the screen. You only had to look at the recent Oscars to see the lack of women in the writing and directing categories, and the lack of women in general in the Best Picture nominees. This matters because popular culture matters. It shapes how we see the world and it needs to include women, in front of and behind the camera. A group working to improve this is Women in Film and TV International. The Irish branch is currently making a come-back and you can find them on Facebook.

5. If you want to hear more about the many and varied issues that affect women’s equality, the National Women’s Council are holding a Soapbox event today, outside the Central Bank in Temple Bar from 12 – 4pm. Last year over 35 women shared their thoughts and experiences from the Soapbox. This year’s speakers will include a wide range of women from Ireland’s artistic, political, musical and journalistic community.