Nuala McKeever: Where the streets have no name... of the female variety
Has it occurred to you that there are almost no streets or roads here named after women? It’s not something that had crossed my mind, but, once it was pointed out, it seemed ridiculously, blindingly obvious.
It was a man who pointed it out. Martin Carter from the Lawrence Street Workshops in Belfast was one of many speakers at the Press launch last Thursday for the 100th International Women’s Day, which takes place tomorrow.
Martin’s been “banging on” for years that, although women have been hugely instrumental in building this city, almost none are honoured in public.
To highlight this startling fact and to encourage those who decide on the names of public highways to think again, several ‘alternative’ street names are being erected this week.
So the Lisburn Road will be known as Ruby Murray Road after the famous singer. So, for one week only, you can go up the Ruby Murray for a Ruby Murray.
Royal Avenue will be Mary Anne McCracken Avenue. The Falls Road will be Nora Connolly Road, after the second daughter of James Connolly. The Newtownards Road becomes Sadie Menzies Road, to honour a woman who was prominent in the trades union movement. And in north Belfast, Madge Davison, a prominent civil rights activist and feminist, will give her name to Duncairn Gardens.
Dawn Purvis MLA spoke movingly at the launch about her recent trip to Iraq, where, she said, women are practically invisible in public. Although they’re considered equal under the law in theory, in practice they are still the possessions of their fathers or husbands.
Compared to that, we don’t know we’re living over here. But that’s sometimes the problem. Because we have, in legal terms, a lot of rights and freedoms, more insidious barriers to equality are often overlooked.
At the gym the other day one TV screen showed a music channel. For my 20 minutes on the treadmill Beyoncé writhed non-stop on screen. I haven’t watched music channels for years and, at the risk of sounding like a Martian, I was shocked. It was relentless!
This woman, at the peak of her fame and influence over young women and men, spent all her time and talent simulating sex with every surface, pole or male available. When there was nothing to bump and grind against, she humped the air.
I knew she liked to shake her bootylicious booty, but, my God, the woman never stopped! Watching her was more tiring than doing the treadmill.
If this is what’s aspirational for young women, God help us all.
Some will say that choosing to flaunt yourself sexually is more powerful than being forced to do it. But I’m not sure it’s any different. It’s still playing to the same one-track mindset that sees women only as objects of desire. Colluding with this from a position of choice is even worse than being forced into it. And dressing it up as innocent entertainment is the most disrespectful, cynical move of all.
Real equality is demonstrated in how people behave, not just in a set of laws. Women (and men) have fought long and hard for women to win equality. But, without respect, those victories are hollow.