Anti-Rape Panties – because rape shouldn’t be easy.

You know when you stumble across something online that seems so utterly ridiculous and inconceivable that you know, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it just cannot be real, humanity cannot have stooped to such lows, it must be some elaborate hoax or spoof designed to expose the very nonsense that it appears to condone?

Yeah, this is one of those kind of things.

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Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

 

The CEO of 2day FM, the Australian radio station responsible for the now infamous Hospital Prank earlier this week, has told reporters he is satisfied the DJs concerned “broke no laws”.

Oh well that’s alright then. A woman is dead, two teenagers are now motherless, but at least no one’s going to be sued.

The insensitivity with which Rhys Holleran has responded to the “tragic” suspected suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha is appalling. The fact that the prank call was made in the first place is absurd. What comic value did the DJs really think they were going to get out of the call? I’m pretty sure they don’t consider it a laughing matter anymore.

Holleran defended his employees with the frankly pathetic excuse that no one could have “reasonably foreseen” the suspected suicide of the woman they made the butt of their jokes. It is true, how could they have possible known that this poor woman was in such a delicate mental state that becoming a figure for international scrutiny overnight could potentially push her over the edge? It’s not as if she works in a stressful, high pressure environment like say, a hospital? Or that she was dealing with a particularly important, high-profile case like say, the care and welfare of the heir to the throne?

There is a famous quote believed to be coined by Plato “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Of course the CEO or radio DJs or company lawyers of 2day FM had no way of foreseeing the awful turn of events which their little skit could have triggered because they didn’t know nurse Jacintha Saldanha, they had no idea what occupational or personal stress she might have been dealing with at the time, neither do we, everything at the minute is speculation, but is “how were we to know?” a valid excuse?

It’s the excuse of adolescent bullies. We’ve heard it before; it’s all fun and games till someone gets hurt. The actions of those at 2day FM were unthinking, insensitive, unkind. They may not have been able to foresee this tragedy, but that doesn’t purge them of all responsibility or blame.

I’ve often had to remind myself of Plato’s words when I get frustrated with a customer at work or a friend who seems distant or uncaring, because it’s easy to forget what troubles others might be carrying around with them when you’re busy trying to shoulder the weight of your own world.

Stories of Growing up and Romantic Misadventures

I have always been a firm believer in Peter Pan’s mantra: “If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!”

While I doubt I shall ever feel too old or dignified to climb (or fall out of) a tree, there are certain things about growing up which I dread – the responsibilities, the expectations, the ever-present reminder that time is running out for you and your loved ones.

How nice it would be to stay this age forever – old enough to move away from home, young and helpless enough to be welcomed back to the nest when need be. Old enough to be trusted to make the right choices, young enough to make the wrong ones now and again.

But we all know things won’t stay the same, we know that the whole ‘I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up’ thing won’t stay cute forever, that our grace period for romantic misadventures will only last so long and really, we’re thankful for it – who wants to stay in shared digs and low-paid employment forever? I have a childish, bouncing up and down in one spot shouting “When I grow up I’m living alone” Macauley Culkin moment at least once a month. To stay 23 forever and exist in a constant stream of nights out and hangovers, how would our bodies, or our parents, stand it?

I turn 24 in the New Year, and with the first echoes of a quarter-life crisis ringing in my ears, I’ve been weighing things up – all the things I’ve achieved, but mostly, all the things I have yet to do. Pass my driving test. Travel. Find a career path can stick to.

All the grown up things my friends have been doing recently seem completely alien to me – getting a mortgage, getting engaged, having a baby, buying a bed… I can’t imagine ever being financially stable or responsible enough to own a home or devote my life to another person, never mind investing in a divan. The prospect of these adventures seems a world away.

But at least, where romantic misadventures are concerned, I feel I have come of age. I have been helplessly, blindly in love and fallen back out of it again; felt the sudden, blunt thud of hitting the ground, and realising, actually, you are strong enough to get back on your own two feet and carry on. I’ve played the games, tried on things that don’t necessarily suit me, made the same mistake more than once, I’ve run away from feeling and stayed where there was none, I’ve indulged in no strings attached, only to find myself tangled up in ribbons, tried to struggle free only to find the knots tighter round my skin. I have no regrets, but I’ve learnt a few lessons.

Wilde told us ‘Wisdom comes with age’ but mostly it comes with misadventure and I have at least learnt to take that wisdom into account when misadventure comes a-knocking. Being grown up has nothing to do with receipts of purchase or contracts binding, being grown up is entirely a matter of the heart. The most grown up I have ever felt was on the rare occasion when my head has managed to steer my heart clear of harm even when it most wants the thrill of the chance.

It’s the same old story – you know that Champagne gives you a sore head the next morning, but you never turn it down when it’s offered. You can say no to that exciting little glass of bubbles and reassure yourself that you will wake up headache free, but there’s still the niggling little wonder ‘Oh, what harm can it do?’ My brain has finally learned how to answer loud enough so that my heart will listen “It will do a great deal of bloody harm! It will feel like your little brain is being passed through a sieve and then repeatedly attacked with a potato masher while Alvin and the Chipmunks sing a never-ending chorus of ‘It’s a Small World After All’. That is exactly how it will feel.”  While we might risk this punishment for our heads when someone pops a champagne cork, it is a much greater deterrent when it comes to matters of the heart.*

So perhaps I may not be grown up or financially stable enough to invest in life’s important things, bed frames, family homes or lasting relationships, but at least I have learned how to tell the difference between a relationship that will last, and one which will simply give me a sore head in the morning.

(*Disclaimer: I have never learnt how to turn down a glass of champagne.)

The Wire Hanger.

I would just like to get something off my chest.

Since Fresher’s week I’ve been thinking about the seemingly limited variety of costumes that young women don at fancy dress events, which naturally came to a head last night after serving an endless queue of sexy cats, sexy witches, and sexy zombies. I could feel a rant brewing.

But another costume, worn by a quiet first year, blew that rant out of the water. Last night, a young man turned up to the bar’s Halloween party with a plastic hanger around his neck and a poorly scribbled sheet of paper with harrowing words ‘Abortion Survivor’.

To many people, this image might not seem all that offensive, it’s just a hanger, just words. But I couldn’t help but wonder what that boy’s mother might have said if she’d seen his outfit. Had she ever faced that decision, a child, an abortion, doctors or backstreet?

The image of the wire hanger (the idiot couldn’t even get that right) represents a dark period in the history of women’s rights – a time when choice did not exist, when desperation drove women to the most horrific of measures. Even now, when abortion is more socially accepted, procedures safer, less invasive, and more sympathetic to the mother’s feelings, even still it is not a decision any woman will ever make lightly.

Thankfully it’s a decision I’ve never had to face, but I know people who have and I can’t imagine how they might have faced up to an 18 year old boy with a plastic hanger around his neck.

I know Halloween costumes are meant to be scary, but in future I’ll welcome the sexy cats, sexy witches and sexy zombies with a smile, because at least they’ve made it out of the dark ages. They have the choice to wear fishnets and fake eyelashes. Because thankfully, for these girls, the wire hanger will only ever be used to hang clothes.

The Alpha Female

A study detailed in the Daily Telegraph today has explored the way in which couples make financial decisions; it has discovered a fierce and revered creature – the Alpha Female.

Apparently, these “modern women”, not content with furthering their professional development and edging out their partners as the main breadwinner, are determined to preserve their grip on the family purse strings. How dare they. The bastards.

According to James Hall, Consumer Affairs Editor for The Telegraph, these women are insistent on bringing home the bacon and deciding exactly how it should be cooked as well. They are making “traditional male household decisions” such as choosing the family car, pensions providers, utility firms and even, where the family should holiday. I mean, my god, what is the world coming to.

You have to question where humanity went wrong, when women are exercising their right to work and still juggling with relative ease, decisions about what car they should drive, where they should invest their financial future, how much they should spend on running the family home, and even, where they get to spend their precious fortnight off every year. Surely this is the eighth sign of the apocalypse?

I’m sorry; I always get a little carried away with the sarcasm when it comes to these kind of outrageous reports. I never understand why people appear quite so shocked by the blatantly obvious.

Perhaps the Alpha Female is not a regular occurrence in Daily Telegraph land, but where I grew up it is very much a matriarchal society. My mother has always been the breadwinner in our house. She is the only driver in the family (and as such, designated taxi-driver), she is the mortgage holder, the accountant, head chef, chief dog-walker, sole holiday-planner, house-cleaner, grocery-shopper, clothes-washer, in fact the only thing she doesn’t have complete control over is the TV remote, that is where my dad puts his foot down – he is the keeper of the remote and TV pages.

The report appears to confirm that control of what’s on the box seems to be the modern “male household decision”, as the women surveyed attempted to interrupt the evenings’ viewing to discuss where the couple should invest their financial future. The men surveyed felt they had “an important role to play at the final stage” of such financial decisions – in other words, when their partners had done the legwork, researching their options, double checking estimates, stretching household budgets, then, and only then, did these men  feel ready to play their part, which we can only assume when faced with a weary, financially-fatigued wife already steaming from the ears about how little the current economic climate is willing to cooperate with an already battle-worn family budget, at that point, the husband’s important role is simply to agree, and shut up. That is, assuming, in other households, the Alpha Female bothers to consult her partner about financial decisions at all. I’m entirely convinced that the earliest my dad ever knows (or remembers) about financial decisions such as a new car is when it pulls up in the drive and confuses the dog. Certainly, I’m sure the morning of a holiday is always a little unnerving for him when, finding his bag packed by the front door he has to tiptoe around the question “Are you kicking me out? Or are we going to Donegal?”

I am also sure my mother takes a few seconds to consider her answer.

Poor dad, he does spend a great deal of time being the butt of family jokes. But it’s his own fault, if he’d produced a son he might have had a fighting chance, but as it stands he is entirely outnumbered, 3 to 1. And since we castrated the dog he’s really held his tongue. Not that Reilly’s allegiance was ever in question. That is always the clearest indicator of an Alpha – who does the dog regard as pack-leader?

But I was thinking of you the whole time…

Well, here I am.

This is me, turning up on your doorstep after a two week absence, with chocolates, flowers and lame apologies.

I know I haven’t written, I’m sorry you haven’t heard from me in so long, but before you duly slam the door in my face, please, give me a chance to explain.

You see, one of the most important things about being a writer, aparts from actually writing, is finding something to write about – call it life experience. I like to call it the yes game.

After all, how many great stories started with “Well I went home straight after work, had a cuppa, made some cheese on toast and caught up on the Great British Bake Off on Sky Plus.”

As much as this sounds like my dream evening in, it doesn’t make for good writing. What does make for some interesting stories however is whatever usually follows the questions “Pint?”, “Mojo?”, “Party?” These answers usually make for some great hangovers as well, which incidentally, is when I do my best work.

Because, despite my absence, the creative juices have been bubbling away up there in my noggin – seriously, it’s like the dream-catching scene from the BJG up there. Right this minute there are approximately seventeen excellent ideas for articles, five and a half amazing works of fiction and the outlines for four long overdue pieces that I owe to various people and publications. It’s all up there, it just hasn’t made onto paper yet, there’s a writer’s blockage somewhere in the production line, I’ve called someone about it, but you know what these guys are like, they say they’ll be here by 2pm, but you’re still sitting around waiting for them at five…

I know these excuses don’t make up for the neglect I’ve shown you over recent weeks, but I do hope you’ll forgive me, and if it helps, here are just a few things which you can look forward to hearing about when the creative juices start flowing again:

*Why I’m too old for student parties *Boobs/Say no to page three *What little difference twelve months can make *I want to be a writer, but I really need to eat and pay rent too *I’d like to be a journalist but appear to be missing the killer instinct *I’m Rising Because… 1 billion rising against domestic violence and sexual abuse *Where have all the good men gone?/Man the fuck up *Growing up and other unavoidable pains in the arse *Dumbing down the kids/Why I’m for competitive sports *Maybe nice guys don’t finish last/Reasons why I’m being less of a bastard *The Fifth Province of Ireland/Tales of the Irish Diaspora

How to be a Woman… apparantly.

As we shimmy into June, unsure as to whether we should be keeping emergency sun cream or brollies in our bags, it’s a little unnerving just how quickly the year is flying in.

It’s only June and the summer could already be over for all we know, Christmas is only round the corner!

Browsing over this year’s resolutions, it’s just as unnerving to realise how very little I’ve actually achieved so far in 2012. I have yet to stop biting my nails, get my driving licence or win the Euro millions.

I can’t even keep up with my Good Reads Challenge as I am rudely reminded every time I log in to update my ever-expanding ‘want to read’ list. Emma, it tells me, at your current pace, you’re three books behind if you want to reach your reading target for 2012.

Yes Good Reads, I say, I know, but you tell me how I can squeeze in any more books to my busy schedule of work, study and social life I’ll gladly take your advice.

At present, I have five novels and one collection of short stories on my bedside table – including Pride and Prejudice, which I am re-reading for the nth time at my leisure.

Of the books I have managed to finish so far this year, there is a clear front-runner for favourite, not only of the year, but of life.

Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to be a Woman’ is not just a book, it’s a life lesson.

I implore every woman to read it, and have been passing it around my friends since finishing it in the space of a flight home – the Liverpool to Derry commute is about half an hour.

It’s a hilariously frank insight into Moran’s journey towards becoming a Woman, warts and all as they say. We are all women (or half of us at least) but becoming a Woman is something much greater.

I arrogantly thought I had become a Woman after graduating from university.

I had a degree, a flat that didn’t have the grimy charm of student-housing, I had two jobs, I was paying taxes, and making a grand attempt at being a “real person”. I was such a Woman!

Of course I wasn’t… you realise these things when you wake up with a bucket by your bed and patchy memories of a bottle of Baileys.

Because Women, with a capital W, do not jolt awake on a Saturday morning with a splitting, empty, head and a cement-mixer stomach. They don’t spend the rest of the day wallowing on the sofa eating giant bags of Heat Wave Doritos and groaning nonsensically.

Women come to life in a glorious bloom of sunshine, they slide out of bed and dance to the kitchen on tiptoe. They sit at a sun-bathed balcony table with a floral centre piece, reading the morning papers and drinking peppermint tea, pinky out.

I have so very far to go…

I am a 23-year-old woman who still cannot wear heels. I drink pints. I have footballer’s knees. My sneezes sound like volcanic explosions. And I have all the grace and elegance of a baby elephant on roller skates.

Not quite the awe-inspiring image of Women which grace the pages of our glossy magazines. And yes, I know, it’s all air-brushing and good lighting – this has nothing to do with body image – please, I’m a goddess!

It’s the seemingly effortless grace with which these women exist.

It doesn’t take air-brushing or make-up artists to make these Women beautiful or elegant – it’s a certain composure they have naturally which makes a pony-tail high maintenance or checked shirts sexy rather than lesbian chic.

I know these women exist without a team of fashion and beauty experts at hand before they leave the house, because I see them, every day! They parade past me in the morning, glamorous, driven, in control… while I yawn past them with bags under my eyes and an unbrushed mane.

Real Women are those fiercely elegant creatures who strut out of Tesco Express in heels and shades with a trendy shopper and a vintage satchel bag swinging on one arm, a coffee in the other.

I scutter along behind them, bent over and weighed down with awkwardly shaped bags, sweat already dripping from my brow, the top button of my shirt beginning to lose the battle against the cross-body strap of my bag.

Real Women seem to illuminate dance floors, the crowd parting to admire their beauty and poise while I, in the corner, demonstrate the Carlton Dance in high-tops, with a pint glass in hand.

I bet these Women have no problem squeezing another book into their busy schedules of work, study, social life and being generally fabulous.

How to be a Woman?

I’ve just about managed to paint my fingernails an inoffensive dusky pink colour without causing myself an injury –   I’m getting there. And it might help me stop biting my nails…