Wednesday 8 March 2017

Women in Lego

Much as I love women, there is a special place in my heart for women in science. Indeed I write about sciwomence, those rare and wonderful creatures, on an irregular but frequent basis. Today is International Women's Day IWD 2017 and I'm sure that events are happening in a city near you. And if not, it's early yet and the day is long and I'm sure you can fix something up to raise the profile of women in some unexpected way.  I was told about today's events in Cork when I spoke to Dau.II last weekend. It wouldn't be unfair to say I was schooled about the status of women by someone who, not so long ago, was teaching herself to read. I was simultaneously humbled and proud. It turns out that the woman who runs the rota at Dau.II's place of work has scheduled it so that none of the female employees are working on the 8th of March. They are planning to have brunch together and then rock up the the March Against the Eighth [see below] at Noon. It wasn't the only thing we talked about, because I mentioned a cunning plan by Lego to raise the profile of women by selling a series of figurines to celebrate Women in NASA:
Cripes, I'm earth-bound here. I've only written about Margaret Hamilton, and not [yet!] Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride, Nancy-Grace Roman or Mae Jemison.  You'll have to google them up on your own time.

In Ireland, IWD 2017  has been chosen to push forward a particular aspect of the feminist agenda: The right to choose whether to carry a foetus to term if you fall pregnant. As it happens, I'm in the middle of the reproductive system(s) in my Human Physiology course at The Institute. It is impossible not to reflect on the inequality of it: bloke contributes 10 seconds minutes and a teaspoonful; woman is committed to 40 weeks of being invaded by a foreign body. The current status of abortion law in Ireland lies the 8th (1983), 13th (1992) and 14th (1992) Amendments to the Constitution. When I came in college in Dublin in 1973 it was illegal to sell contraceptives because that was repugnant to the Roman Catholic church. That prohibition was challenged in 1973 and found to be repugnant to the Constitution because it interfered in the private business of the family. If contraception became legal, it looked like abortion might follow suit and this started a political movement to shift abortion from a matter of 19thC statute into a part of the Constitution. This, the pro-Lifers believed, would ensure that life would begin, in Ireland, as soon as the egg was fertilised . . . they had lost the every sperm is sacred argument in 1973. The [anti]-abortion debate got increasingly acrimonious and polarising over the next decade and came to a head [think carbuncle if you want] with the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution that was put to referendum on 7th Sept 1983 and signed into law a month later. The wording was poorly drafted, led to a good bit of nit-picking in Dáil debate but the suits - overwhelmingly men, overwhelmingly Catholic - gave up on the fight and put this to the people:
  • 40.3.3. The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
Article 40.3.3  was passed by a 2:1 majority and became part of the Constitution. Another ten years of legal dog-fighting and peculiar challenging cases established the idea that the Irish unborn's right to life precluded the poor benighted mother from leaving the country to seek a termination. The Irish solution to an Irish problem was for about 10 Irish women a day to leave the country quietly and come back unpregnant. I've written about the numbers before which indicate that this is a significant under-estimate of the number of women who are taking advantage of the Health Service next door.

Article 40.3.3. is what many women of child-bearing age and their supporters Repeal Eight & Abortion Rights Campaign & the National Council for Women in Ireland now wish to remove from the constitution by repealing the 8th Amendment. News digest on the matter. Last week, the Irish Times ran a poll which indicated that a referendum to do this would fail 28% vs 38%.  With the abject failure of pollsters to correctly call the Scottish Independence Referendum and the last elections in the US and UK, nobody would take these numbers as firmly predictive about the outcome. Nevertheless, they should give the pro-Choice activists pause as to whether the time is yet right. I mentioned this poll to Dau.II and her comment was that if everyone who wasn't a women of child-bearing age would just shut up and/or stay at home, then she and her friends would be able to get control of their own bodies. It is a matter of choice and I don't have any locus standi on this any more than I have the right to stop two blokes getting married, or you playing Grand Theft Auto or Katie Taylor battering the face off another young women for money. . Your mileage may vary; you may be wholly convinced that you know what's best for my daughter. But I'm sorry Monsignor Buster, you haven't a clue.

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