Review – HerStory / / Has the Second Wave Ended?

HerStory, was an event that took place the Wednesday right before Easter week in the college. I personally found it to be quite a thought provoking evening. If you haven’t heard of HerStory it’s basically a cultural event held across Ireland which uses many different art forms to talk about women’s history. The Maynooth event focused on one provocative question; Has the Second Wave Ended? This question was explored and discussed through the medium of five presentations made by five academics with an interest in women’s history. Several poets also recited their own work that related to the theme. Throughout the course of the evening, I was made aware of six things that women could not do in Ireland in the 1970.

·         In 1970, a woman could not:

·         Get the same pay for a job as a man, even for work as equal value

·               Keep her job in the public service or in a bank once she married

·         Buy contraceptives Get a restraining order against a violent partner

·         Refuse to have sex with her husband

·         Collect her Children’s Allowance unless permitted by her husband

This list was taken directly from a presentation delivered by Dr Mary Muldowney about Irish Women Workers in the 1970s. Evidently, Ireland has moved on quite a bit since 1970. However, the goal Dr Muldowney and many of the others was not necessarily to talk about the gains of feminism, but what is yet to be done in the area of women’s rights. Although the event was focused on second wave feminism, the present state of feminism was also discussed. In her presentation titled “Making Waves”, Laura Harmon spoke on the position of modern day feminism. Through her presentation, she spoke about how many young Irish women, are becoming more politicised through movements such as ‘Repeal the 8th’ or the recent marriage referendum. This is an especially relevant point in the context of a University such as Maynooth, where the student body has been particularly vocal in these campaigns.

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Poets at the event as well shed a lot of light onto modern issues that young people face. Issues such as body image and mental health were raised. One poet, Hazel Hogan even recited a poem linking her evolution as a feminist with the history of Anna Parnell. This appeared to be the focal point of the evening. After discussing the gains made by women since 1970 it was easy to see how far Ireland had come in the last 47 years. However, with this, many speakers made a conscious effort to link the past and the present together and highlight many issues that are yet to be achieved.

Nowhere is this more evident than in a presentation made by Dr Sinead Kennedy. In her presentation “Well behaved Women Seldom make History” she juxtaposed a picture of the Contraceptive Pill Train in 1971 beside a picture of the Abortion Pill Train in 2014. This picture above truly demonstrates the similarity in both protests for reproductive rights and bodily autonomy as well as the need to continue fighting for it today.