In a pathetically weak effort to be current, I read a newspaper yesterday. Specifically, the Irish Times. Being the fuzzy minded youth that I am, I had trouble handling actual news and after flipping to Doonesbury and scowling momentarily at the crossword, I turned to the letters page. I really should read the paper more often. Apparently, on Tuesday, right-wing columnist Kevin Myers in his regular opinion piece, An Irishman's Diary, criticized the lassitude afforded single mothers by the Irish government's overly generous social welfare policy. He also called children born of unmarried parents bastards. Wednesday's paper saw two vaguely critical letters about the column on the Times' letters page; by Thursday the the entire page was given over to vehement objections and impassioned disagreement. Also, a grudging apology from Myers. Terribly excited about this controversy, I gestured wildly at the paper and squeaked shrilly. My unimpressed co-worker glanced over and said: 'Oh, that. That was all over the radio yesterday. Had you not heard about it before now?'
No, I had not! Nobody gossips properly anymore. Mass media has made us all so lazy. Keen to catch up, I hastened to find Tuesday's paper in our filing cabinets. Then I realized all the filing cabinets were upstairs and since I was feeling so tired I really couldn't be that bothered. Instead I looked it up on their website (don't try this at home; we have a subscription and you don't). Shocking stuff! As I harbour secret yearnings to be a limp-wristed liberal myself, I was instantly stirred by the piece. My heart quivered in my breast. Maybe that was just a minor heart attack though. Then, of course, I had no-one to vent my spleen on. Everyone already knew about it. I briefly entertained the notion of writing my own letter of complaint to the paper [Dear Madam, Kevin Myers is a wanker. Respectfully, Lucy Aughney] but that would necessitate getting up to find an envelope. So I ruled that one right out.
Instead I pasted particularly objectional paragraphs from the article in an email and sent it off to my mother, charmingly headed 'To the mother of a bastard'. Of course, she rang me later to say she had already used that joke. Twice. I am so behind on my wry japes. Then, last night-miracle of miracles!- I found someone who didn't already know about the article and the tumult it had aroused (Aoife) and testified self-righteously for a quarter of an hour. Aoife, in her usual brutally blunt manner pointed out that my rage may have been drawn more from a feeling of personal hurt rather than an objective disagreement with the issue in question. To prove her wrong I screamed abuse and started to cry. Not objective my eye!
It does hurt of course, which is ridiculous because it really shouldn't. It's not meant to be about me or my mother, it's meant to be about women who abuse the system by getting knocked up so they can get a house, or who take welfare handouts gladly instead of working. Apparently. Figuring out my opinion on this makes me feel distinctly unwell. I never thought of myself as having any morals but it seems a few firmly held convictions are lurking in there somewhere, doing queer things to my stomach when someone questions their validicy. Discounting the rank crassness of much of the piece ('And how many girls - and we're largely talking about teenagers here - consciously embark upon a career of mothering bastards because it seems a good way of getting money and accommodation from the State? Ah. You didn't like the term bastard? No, I didn't think you would.'), which all of the complaining letters to the editor found issue with, the argument behind the ugly words, which less took offence to, reeks of misogyny to me.
Single parents aren't all women, and aren't all young. They aren't all single parents because they had irresponsible sex but apparently having sex at all is still enough to attract blame in Ireland. And they're not all unemployed, even when our constitution, out-dated as it no doubt is, prizes the mother's place in the home and recommends the state assist her in making her remaining there economically viable.
Speaking as a bastard myself, as the daughter of a woman who never married the father of her children, and a man who stuck around just long enough to bring them up with her, Kevin Myers is a vile piece of shit. I've never wanted to spit at someone before but his words encourage me to try new things. According to him however, my illegitimacy increases my chances of being a mob member. With bastards accounting for 31.4% of births last year, that's quite a mob to start calling names, Mr Myers.