I Stand Alone

Brid Wade

I confess, I’m not a fan of feminism, nor do I know much about it.  In fact, I reject ‘isms’ across the board.  You cannot put a tag on any group of people because each human is an individual and the chances of finding two the same, aside from identical twins, is as likely as winning the lottery with a choice of a thousand numbers.  To me, it represents a kind of herd instinct, when women unite to push a point because, individually, they feel powerless.  Personally, I have never felt the need to challenge men or their role in the world.  I agree that women should be paid the same as men when doing the same job, but that’s a legislative matter to be dealt with on the basis of fairness.  We don’t need to emasculate men to prove our point.  

In Ireland, my native land, men always ruled the roost.  Or, at least that was how it looked on the outside.  Behind closed doors, mother was the driving force.  It wasn’t spoken about, nor was there any overt claim of authority on her part, but every decision, or course of action, required mother’s approval.   The system worked.  Father went out to work and mother stayed at home to care for the family.  It sounds idyllic, and I was a part of it for over twenty years.  But it wasn’t idyllic.

Ireland throughout history has always been poor.  In reality, the economy couldn’t support married women working outside the home. So, until the nineties, when I made my break for freedom,  wives and mothers were taken for granted, receiving no recognition for their input into society, while men had the ability to create a career, be part of a pension scheme, enjoy work related social activities, and retire with a nest egg for their efforts. Women received a small monthly allowance per child from the government, which stopped at age eighteen. That was all. They were dependent upon spouses to support and provide for them until they reached pensionable age.   That was wrong.  With the benefit of hindsight, we should have marched to lobby the government to recognize the role of mothers, and reward us accordingly. But women didn’t think like that back then.   

Not every woman wants to be CEO of a successful company, nor does every mother want to be part of the labour force outside the home.  But every woman does want to be appreciated for who she is, regardless of her status. We are the future of the world, the source of human existence; the very act of giving birth should place us in a position of high esteem, to be lauded and venerated by society. Famously, George Bernard Shaw wrote “God gave woman so much power, the law, in its wisdom, gives her none.”   By keeping us dependent upon spouses, our power was reduced, as was our value to society as a whole.   

The ‘average’ woman returning to work after rearing a family could expect to get a job as a check-out lady in a supermarket, or similar employment.   After decades putting family first, making sacrifices, cooking, cleaning, educating and preparing our precious brood for the world, the choices were to become the available babysitter and indulging grandmother, or rejoin the workforce on the bottom rung of the ladder, with no access to a pension scheme, until retirement age, when the State would provide a meager pension. Without work related contributions, even that is means tested.  Shame.

Things changed with the crash of the banks.   The Celtic Tiger had roared in Ireland for some years, bringing wealth and prosperity.  Jobs were plentiful and life, particularly for young couples, took a dramatic turn.  As banks recklessly permitted over-borrowing, offering 100% loans on mortgages, couples committed themselves to large debt, which meant that both husband and wife needed to work full time.  Family life was altered in ways far greater than can be recounted, creating the need for professional child care, and daily routines, which required the regimentation of the ‘A-Team’ to function with any success.  Women were now out in the workforce, still earning less than their male counterparts, while continuing to carry the burden of the home and family.  Though men appear to have taken on a more supportive role, it seems that women remain the directors of operations at home. Now, they juggle career and family in an awe inspiring challenge aimed at keeping all the balls in the air. Women are, more than ever, powerhouses of strength and ability – and a force to be reckoned with.   Ironically, it is happening at a time when our sisters in male dominated countries are experiencing the most savage war on women imaginable.  The brutality is mind blowing, but governments turn a blind eye in their drive to service an agenda of multiculturalism, which benefits corporate greed at the expense of human rights.  We are being herded like cattle to the work market and, in the process, losing our cultural identity.  White is bad, brown is good. The plan is for nations of brown skinned people whose education will be controlled by government, whose needs will be catered to by government, who will be paid low wages and, above all else, will have no control. Mothers will lose their place in society and people will be ‘gender neutral’.  That is The New World Order with one global government and one religion.   It is at the root of every ill besetting the world now. Racism is an important tool, to divide and conquer. Whites must hate blacks, blacks must hate whites and, in the process, generate the kind of civil unrest that weakens society and allows political predators to pick clean the bones of once stable nations. It is very real. Europe is now being invaded, not by suffering refugees fleeing war torn countries, but by fit, young, male Muslims. Prepare for the Crusades, round two.  That one religion promoted by the New World Order is Islam – radical, merciless, savage and unrelenting Islam, which places women at the lowest, least valued level of society.    

Separation and divorce in Ireland were practically unheard of back in the nineties.  Today, while it is not quite commonplace, it is a fact of life.  It is not much of a leap to conclude that, back in the day, many women were trapped through poverty within unhappy marriages.   At least now a woman is a person within her own right, part of society, entitled to live and work as men do, and make her own decisions.  But it has come with a big sacrifice.  It is, in my view, the biggest crime against women committed by the banks, their regulators, and the government.  A woman no longer has a choice between remaining at home to raise her family or enter the labour force.  It is my belief that, from the day we become mothers, we have earned that right.  Our contribution to the survival of the human race is so vital, it should be recognized and rewarded.  Imagine earning a salary for being a stay-at-home mum. How much more control women would have over their lives, and how much more secure the family unit would be.  

It is the lawful duty of banks to regulate their lending procedures, i.e. to ensure that they are not putting themselves or their clients at risk.   In their greed, the banks threw caution to the wind by permitting large borrowings with a high level of risk, should there be an economic downturn. Women no longer had a choice between being a stay at home mother, or going to work.    When the crash came, and a husband or wife, or both, lost their jobs, they also lost their homes to the banks.  The level of homelessness in Ireland now is a serious issue. Evictions occur daily, causing untold misery for families, forced to split up to avail of emergency accommodation.   The anger of the Irish people at the banks and the government, which have pandered to corporate greed at their expense, is immeasurable.  It is compounded by our EU masters, who insist we take our quota of ‘refugees’ from troubled countries. When the system cannot cope with our own homeless and poverty stricken, how are we supposed to house, finance and provide services to refugees? It is our Christian duty to care for the poor and needy. We Irish have a long history of caring, born of our Christian faith. But there comes a point when we must look inward rather than outward. This is that point.  

Back in 1984, I took an exhibition of handcrafts to the Irish Centre in London as part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations there. It was a humble event, but much appreciated by the ex-patriots, who flocked to admire and buy the goods on display. They enjoyed most talking about the old country.  I was a young mother then with young children. I was taking a rare break from the family to pursue something I did in my spare time i.e. supporting handcraft workers.  Among the visitors, I spotted an elderly, grey-haired lady with her hair tied back in a tight bun. She was being shown around by an attentive male.  She was diminutive and somewhat frail – in her eighties, I thought.  So I made my way to them, to supply what information I could.  The encounter remains vivid in my memory.

This woman turned out to be the daughter of the first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde.  She told me that, when her father died and left her an inheritance, she was at a point in her life when she wasn’t sure where her future lay.  She pondered the issue for a while, during which time she made a trip to London.  Of all the things about London that struck her, the one that created the most impact was the life of prostitutes on the streets. She considered their lives, compared with those of others who held jobs and benefitted from health schemes, pensions, etc.  Who took care of them if they got sick?  This made up her mind.  Using her inheritance, she set up what she described as a ‘home for distressed ladies of the night’.  It became her life’s work.  She laughed when she said she still worked there – or was allowed to be there provided she didn’t get in the way.   No doubt, this wonderful woman has long since passed. There is no reference to her to be found on Google. I once considered making a case to achieve recognition for her efforts, but I couldn’t locate her and, while Douglas Hyde’s family is listed, there was no information about his daughters beyond the basic facts of their existence. I couldn’t even be sure of her name.

In the final analysis, who and what we are is down to us.  We can spend our lives indulging in the fashions and fads of the day, chasing wealth and celebrity or following accepted norms. That’s okay, if it makes us happy and hurts nobody.  There are others who are driven by the need to make a difference, to stand up against injustice – even risk their lives and freedom to improve our quality of life.  We don’t have to be those people, but we do have a duty to honour them and grant support when we can.  Sign a petition, have a cake sale to raise funds – do something, anything, to raise awareness and help ease the suffering of women.

I salute this wonderful woman I met, though I only heard her name in a fleeting introduction many years ago.  I can still see her and hear her voice. She made a lasting impression and gave me much pause for thought.  She remains in my heart forever.  


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