Well, it’s been quite a decade. From the first iPad in 2010 to Brexit, Trump, and the Bojo phenomenon. The 2010s saw both William and Harry married off and brought a close to the Harry Potter series. Gangham became a dance thing and many people thought the world might actually end in December 2012. Same-sex marriage became legal in Ireland and the ice-bucket challenge took the world by storm. Kids ran around after Pokémon Go and women marched on Washington. We had a total eclipse, we had the Me Too movement, and a Banksy painting that self-destructed. Yes, it was quite the decade. As it closes, I don’t think I’ve even been so conscious of being female. Of being a woman.
I have no shortage of inspiration. My mother is an amazing woman with twice the drive and energy of women twenty years her junior. I’m proud that women ‘of an age’ figure prominently among my friends – all are retired but none have given up the ghost or stopped doing. Yes, they’re doing other things, but they’re still doing, still contributing, still having their say. Some still have their partners, but most are widowed, others divorced. And they’re still going. Still living life to its fullest, or the fullest their various states of health permit.
Over Christmas, one of the aid agencies in Ireland ran a TV ad about women suffering in silence as their babies and children die from malnutrition. They suffer in silence until the pain gets too much and then they cry. That same week, I read about how the richest 500 people in the world added $1.2 trillion to their net worth in 2019 alone. In 2018, 256 of the world’s 2208 billionaires were women (most of whom inherited their wealth – according to Fortune. That said, the world’s youngest self-made billionaire is a woman – Kylie Jenner.
I think our world is far more divided than it was in 2010. We’re at odds with each other over everything, it seems. The UK suffered through Brexit with families and friends arguing about leaving or remaining in the EU. On the mainland, families are still arguing over migration. America has its Trump or ABT thing going on. From Afghanistan to Yemen, conflict rages. And closer to home, the gender wars have unleashed a deluge of hate against women that has me seriously disturbed.
Earlier this week, December 28th, was the feast of the Holy Innocents. Himself sent me a link to a famous painting from 1824 – Scène du massacre des Innocents (Scene of the massacre of the Innocents), by Parisian painter Léon Cogniet in 1824.
A terrified mother cowers in a darkened corner, muffling the cries of her small infant, while around her the chaos and horror of Herod’s slaughter of the children of Bethlehem rages. Most painters of this scene turn it into a huge biblical spectacle, making it a revolting tableaux of death and mayhem. But Cogniet focuses our attention on one petrified woman, a mother who knows she is about to lose her child. She envelopes her doomed child, her bare feet revealing how vulnerable they are. There’s no way to run. She is cornered.
And cornered is how I feel. The Maya Forstater case is just the tip of the iceberg. I think 2020 is going to a big year for women as the gender wars rage. I just hope that we don’t lose the run of ourselves and throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The Year of the Rat in Chinese astrology, 2020 is considered a year of new beginnings and renewals. My hope is that we begin to realise that we’re all in this together and we need to get along. We need to stop the ad hominem attacks, stop getting personal, stop looking for things that aren’t there just because we have a need to hate, to disagree, to fight.
I’m grateful 2019 is over and am looking forward to a saner 2020.
Happy New Year. Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh. Boldog új évet.