Irish Catholic newspaper says ladies should behave like gentlemen, and be calm not shrill

by Michael Nugent on January 24, 2013

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.

Editor Sue Butler said

“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.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Womble January 24, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Me things the Catholic man doth protest too much!

It seems those celibate men don’t like having it pointed out to them that it’s not really any of their business to tell a pregnant woman what she should be doing with the contents of her womb…..

2 Carrow January 24, 2013 at 7:46 pm

I don’t think it’s the business of Catholics to be telling anyone what they should do as regards to anything, ever. They’ve lost the right to act as the moral majority, not that they ever should have had one in the first place.

3 Mick January 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Erm… I think past experience… including these comments by Kelly, not to mention all scripture and indeed canon law…and actions taken in their name sort of demonstrates what sort of sick, evil misogynistic men in skirts these idiots truly are…

The day the Catholic church actaully treats women as equals would be a strange day indeed.

4 Michael J January 25, 2013 at 9:46 pm

I disagree with you, Mr. Nugent. I think Ms. Bacik’s question about clerical misogyny was rhetorical and calculated to be provocative (and why not? It’s parliament, after all…). Obviously, it’s a classically emotive and vague accusation, like anti-semite, racist, or reactionary. It can only elicit a predictable, reflexive, and boring protest from the accused, no matter the facts. Did she think the preachers were going to say, “Why yes, even though that vague but perjoritive term will need redefining in future editions of Macquarie’s dictionary because people obviously can’t agree on what it means, we believe that it accurately describes our motivations and therefore we consider your question fair and to-the-point and will now answer it…”? Surely you don’t really consider that to be a real scenario.

I’m a Dawkins fan (like you, I gather) and a libertarian (I would guess not like you), and I think you did a pretty nice job in parliament. I would guess we agree on a lot of things, so I’ll put my view to you in this way:

Your Ms. Bacik reminds me of the Israeli ambassador who asked if European opposition to further West Bank settlement wasnt based on anti-semitism. We have to admit that it could be, I suppose, if we were really anxious not to call a hammer a hammer. But I think modern Europeans typically oppose colonization whether they are anti-semites or not, just as quite a few modern Christians (and Hindus, and even very pacifistic atheists, by the way) oppose the destruction of any human organism whatsoever, whether they are misogynists or not. So why not tackle the question head-on? Even though it will likely be equally unproductive, at least it will be honest (and I expect honesty from my atheist siblings-in-arms). Right or wrong, the consensus is already there for those people, and you are taking your psychological prowess WAY too seriously if you want to turn it into something Freudian. You wont change them (assuming you want to) if you don’t answer the real question that their consensus is based on. And it’s not anti-semitism, and it’s not misogyny. I’m a libertarian who enjoys not giving two shits what people do, but even I can feel it when someone is trying to impose their will on me, rather than to win my mind. If I were on the other side from Ivana Bacik, I would only feel an imposition of will. We have to do better than that.

p.s. Just want to reiterate that I absolutely agree with you about Dawkins: he’s forceful, yes, but he’s NOT shrill, and he makes the truth hurt. But Neil deGrasse Tyson is better, because he DOESNT make the truth hurt. He wins with science and not rhetoric.

5 Deacon Danny January 28, 2013 at 6:19 am

Mr Kelly should be reminded of Mr Wilde’s definition: “A gentleman is one who is never unintentionally rude”.

6 Jack Butler February 9, 2013 at 2:19 am

Just a point, if one is “anti-Semite” one as also anti-Palistinian as they are also Semites.

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