In a masterstroke of patronizing sexism, The Irish Catholic newspaper has criticized Senator Ivana Bacik for not behaving like a gentleman during the recent parliamentary hearings on abortion law.
In an opinion piece titled ‘We can’t be cowed by shrill voices’, editor Michael Kelly wrote:
“Ms Bacik clearly disagrees with the Catholic view that all human life is sacred and that in pregnancy mothers and their unborn child should have an equal right to life. Can’t she disagree politely, however?
A gentleman is one, the old saying goes, who can disagree without being disagreeable. The same surely applies for ladies.
Shrill caricatures have no place in mature debates. It is becoming increasingly difficult in modern Ireland to have a calm and rational debate about things people disagree about.”
He elaborated on what upset him about Ivana’s questions:
“Senator Ivana Bacik indulged in what could only be described as an anti-clerical rant in which she accused Church leaders of hating women. For Ms Bacik, the Church’s teaching on the value of all human life is based on nothing more than hatred of women. Calm? Hardly.”
Here is a video of Ivana’s contribution to the hearings. Her piece starts at 2:20.
This is anything but a rant. Ivana is robust and direct in her questions, but she is perfectly calm and rational. She is certainly not shrill, an adjective often aimed equally inaccurately at Richard Dawkins.
And Ivana did not say that
“the Church’s teaching on the value of all human life is based on nothing more than hatred of women.”
She asked whether their opposition to X case legislation (that is, abortion to protect the life of a pregnant woman including from the threat of suicide) was based on an underlying belief in the innate deceitfulness of women, and a misogyny towards women.
This was a perfectly legitimate question to ask. Much of the opposition to X case legislation explicitly relies on the offensive idea that pregnant women will lie about being suicidal in order to qualify for an abortion.
Also, misogyny does not have to mean ‘hatred of women’. It can also mean dislike of women, or prejudice against women.
In fact, after Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently accused opposition leader Tony Abbott of sexism and misogyny, the Macquarie Dictionary has announced it is broadening the definition of the word ‘misogyny’ in its next edition.
“We decided that we had the basic definition, hatred of women, but that’s not how misogyny has been used for about the last 20, 30 years, particularly in feminist language. Sexist does seem to be moving towards this description of surface features and misogynist applies to the underlying attitude.”
I agree with Michael Kelly that we should discuss these issues calmly and rationally. But nothing Ivana said at the abortion law hearings crossed that line, unlike The Irish Catholic newspaper characterizing a calm and rational contribution to a parliamentary hearing as a shrill rant.