Belfast Telegraph

Why we need to weed out the inequality that is rooted in our lives

By Nuala McKeever

On Friday, I interviewed the highly entertaining author Julie Peakman about her latest book, Peg Plunkett - Memoir of a Whore. It's the fascinating story of a courtesan and brothel-keeper in 18th-century Dublin. On Saturday, I attended a rally in Belfast in support of legalising same-sex marriage. Yesterday, I cut the grass and weeded my vegetable patch.

In the time-honoured Norn Iron tradition, your response to these statements might well be that favourite phrase of ours, "So?", said with a mix of inquiry and dismissal.

Well the so, I think, is the connection. The three events represent looking at the past, looking to the future and being in the present moment. The (not very) holy trinity of time.

Peg Plunkett was born into a well-off family in Tullamore in 1742. Compared to many of her fellow Irish men and woman, she had an easy time of it. She didn't starve in a ditch due to famine, for starters.

But what she did suffer from was living in a time when women were seen solely as the chattels of men. Women had no legal standing as individuals, being either the property of their fathers, or their husbands.

The one thing they had that was prized by society was their so-called "virtue", their virginity. And that was for giving away to the "right" man.

Woe betide any girl who was raped. Woe betide any girl who gave in to the entreaties and lies of a dashing suitor and had sex on the false promise of marriage. Woe betide any girl finding herself pregnant outside wedlock. Shame. Shame. Shame. The family name dishonoured. The woman cast aside as soiled and spoiled.

Not a lot of choices for survival. Once the line had been crossed into disgrace, she might as well find a rich man who'd be her protector and live a materially decent life. Once he tired of her, she'd be back on the street. And so it went.

Peg took matters into her own hands and set herself up as a businesswoman. She saw through and railed against the unfairness of a society that allowed men to behave with freedom, but punished women for wanting a fraction of the same liberty.

How far we've come, haven't we? Of course, we have, in ways. And yet, here we are, in the 21st century, still having to go out on the street to protest in support of treating people equally. With fairness. Not presuming to categorise one section of society as lesser, because of their nature.

We tut-tut at the horror of poor people in the past dying of hunger, denied fair treatment, because of who they were, how they were born. Victims of a society hypocritically expounding Christian values while demonstrating none.

Nowadays, it's young people dying of shame, denied fair treatment because of who they are, how they were born.

Victims of a society hypocritically expounding Christian values while demonstrating none.

The weeds don't pull themselves up. Now is the time to create a future that is better than the past.

Nobel winner hit by weird science

With apologies to Mickey's Ma, here's an update.

"Sir Tim Hunt! Timmy! Here, has any o' yousins seen my Timmy? Och, he's not a bad Nobel Laureate-winning scientist, he's just a bit lively.

"Last week, he had to resign for giving out about women. Whadda they expect? They fill the labs full of hard-working, soberly-dressed, intelligent, mature females and then expect my Timmy not to try to get off with them?

"My God, what sort o'world is it if a fella has to take responsibility for his own behaviour? I blame the bunsun burners."

My poor fingers are meltin' in this heat

Took a while to realise why typing was feeling a bit strange today. Then I got it. My fingers are hot, because the temperature in the house has actually reached ice-melting heights.

Normally, it's gloves-and-hat territory, even with the heat on. Now it's shorts and flip-flops and throwing off the two extra throws and sunshine and warm breezes through open windows ... aaaahhhhhh ... bliss.

Update: Isn't this heat a pain in the neck when you're trying to work? Up and down every five minutes to wash m'hands cos they're sticky.

Grrrr ... too warm.

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