Friday, 31 July 2015

The Male Pill

There's been a load of hoohah recently about the male contraceptive pill. Yes, it is now no longer up to those of us with a hoohah to take the daily no baby sweeties. Or at least it nearly is. The male pill hasn't hit pharmacy shelves yet.
After decades of bearing the contraceptive brunt you'd think women would rejoice at this. In actuality the response has been along the lines of *shock and/or horror* we can't trust MEN to take the pill! Heavens to Betsy!!!
Some go further and suggest that men would lie to women about being on the pill so that they could forgo a condom. The cynic in me says that if you can't trust a man to tell the truth about the pill why are you letting him inside you at all? In fact, if a woman truly believes that the man they're about to have sex with is such a repugnant liar (but has such a pretty face) then she should 100% make sure to use a condom because, you know, sexual health.
Not trusting men is an invalid, and quite frankly insulting, argument against the male pill. Men are not incompetent children who cannot organise themselves enough to take a pill every day. The more women criticise them and dismiss their capabilities the more we encourage the downright sexist practice of assigning chores based on gender.
It's time we stopped looking at contraception as a one person job - after all it takes two to make a baby. The only foolproof method of preventing pregnancy is abstinence (and that's no fun) so surely we should start putting the onus on both genders to do what they can to prevent 'little surprises' that come with 99.9% effective methods. When the male pill becomes widely available let's employ it as an extra precaution to help close that 0.1% gap. No one person is more responsible than the other for preventing pregnancy.

Paddy worried that this might be the beginning
of having to wipe his own arse too

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Review: Go Set a Watchman

If I had to summarise Go Set a Watchman into one sentence it would be this: the weight of expectation bears too heavy a burden.
I have read around a dozen reviews of this book and they all carry the same tone of disappointment. Harper Lee's biggest hurdle is her own success, To Kill a Mockingbird of course. The general consensus is that Watchman doesn't measure up, that it's outdated, and that core Mockingbird characters have been decimated.
This is what I have read, however it is not what I have found. This review is not a grand literacy breakdown nor is it expert opinion. It is the opinion of the average reader. The reader who did not re-read Mockingbird before beginning this book (I made do with a revision of old school notes and, yes, I re-watched the film - a crime in the reading world), the reader who is not knowledgeable in the politics and history of the Southern States of America (Irish history lessons focused on our own Southern divide), the reader who is reading because it is their hobby. If you consider yourself to be one of these readers then don't be put off by the bad press surrounding Watchman.

The book begins with Jean Louise Finch, Scout, returning to Alabama on one of her regular visits. Now twenty-six she is not longer the tomboy child we once knew; she may have changed her outer appearance but inside she has retained her firecracker nature and strong moral compass. Straight away we see that she is still outspoken and direct, but as she is now an adult she has learnt to pick her battles. Do not mourn the Scout of old, this is what growing up is all about.
Watchman takes a while to get going; the first one hundred pages set the scene more than anything else. Once it starts though things get very ugly very quickly. There is racial divide in Maycombe and the whole thing makes the modern reader very...uncomfortable. The language and ideas expressed by characters belong very much to a world of the past and to look upon them now evokes disgust. It makes for a difficult read in places.
It appears that almost the entire town has descended into racism. What's more is Atticus, once thought to be the epicentre of fairness and morality, is revealed as a racist. In Mockingbird Atticus is shown to uphold equality in criminal justice, but Watchman shows that this ethos does not spread to equality of the races. His calm explanation of this comes later in the book and it hits a nerve with the reader because, as 21st century thinkers, we're not used to outward racism coming from respectable members of society. Our lives are not free from its disgusting plight, but its source is usually not people we consider to be pillars of society. It springs from the mouths of the uneducated, from the dregs of society who aren't good enough to sit in the gutter. We expect the upright and functioning to shun that talk, and we are shocked when they don't. This is why Atticus and his speech come as such a blow.
Drawing out such a reaction from readers is what makes Lee such a good writer. Watchman makes the reader feel; the feeling is not pleasant. It is one of crushing disappointment in seeing our hero fall from grace. It mirrors how Jean Louise feels upon discovering that her father is not God, he is human and he capable of being - and is - wrong. It makes us want to close our eyes, cover our ears and sing to block out the gritty truth: this is once how people thought. This is history. No amount of trashing this novel, no amount of comparing it to Mockingbird in an effort to feed it to the dogs will change that. Open and frank racism that makes your bowels wrench is what this book provides and Lee certainly didn't pluck it from thin air.
We as readers have so much in common with Jean Louise in Watchman. We shared her innocence throughout Mockingbird and built the same idolisations that she did. Seeing as we were so captivated by the original, so invested in Atticus, we too feel the hard blow at seeing that he is not the man we thought. We have looked behind the curtain and found the Wizard of Oz is nothing more than a little man.

Another major theme throughout Watchman is coming of age. Besides from the harsh lesson that we all eventually learn, that our parents are imperfect and that no man should be idolised, there is the physical transformation of Jean Louise. We see her grow and mature through flashbacks. The Mockingbird-esque flashbacks are beautifully stitched together and are heartwarming and hilarious in places. My personal favourite was Jean Louise's first school dance and seeing her face the pressures of womanhood head on, in a way that only Scout could do.
Of course, no coming of age is complete without a first love. Lee provides this in the form of Hank, who early on is introduced as the man she is dating. Atticus loves him like a son, but unfortunately the ugly head of racism rears its head as does class divide.

From page one Go Set a Watchman enthralls the attention because of Lee's captivating writing style. Even basic scene setting was composed with masterful literacy skill. It is an excellent book once you stop comparing it to To Kill a Mockingbird.

RRP £17.99/€23.99

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Celtic Phoenix

I heard a brilliant term coined on the radio the other day: The Celtic Phoenix. It's a metaphor for the revival of the Irish economy from the ashes of the Celtic Tiger. The phrase implies more than that though, it's about history repeating itself.
The Phoenix can already be seen in action. We as a nation officially feel able to declare that the recession is over and have done so for around a year. Technically the recession was over long before this, but we didn't have the confidence to admit it. Until we could see the effects of economic recovery we wanted to hold off on any drastic statements in case we jinxed it.
It started slowly, as recovery always does, with a few little luxuries being thrown into the weekly shop. Those beetroot crisps. antioxidant packed smoothies, a superfood fruit you're not really sure you're pronouncing correctly; it was suddenly okay to spend twice as much on these items than you would have on their ordinary counterparts. Why has recovery started here? As a nation we've really laid on the guilt over the going ons of the Celtic Tiger. We've been made feel ashamed of anything and everything we've bought during our time with money, so much so that we now have to justify our spending when it's anything other than essential. What better place to start than your health? It is your wealth after all. And so you down that €3 shot of wheatgrass without remorse.
The health foods were only the beginning though. Now we've gained a bit more confidence in our financial security we're making the bigger purchases. The 152s are already taking over the roads. The designer handbags are setting up camp in women's wardrobes. People are going to America not because they've been prised from their mammies' clutches in desperate search for work, no they're going for fun. And returning!
The only question now is will we lose the run of ourselves again? And the answer to that is, of course we will. People don't change. Heading into this with the austerity measures still in the forefront of our minds we might not lose the plot quite so quickly, but it will happen.
You don't think it will? You believe the people have more sense this time around? Well, I'll leave you with this final demonstrative point. Any time there's a bout of sunshine we all run into the garden and stay there all day, completely naked except for a teatowel on our faces. We lie there from dawn til dusk. Then we come inside and discover that we've gone red raw. We have to admit that we don't suit the sun, we can't handle the sun and that we really do need to take precautions and wear suncream. We repeat this mantra until the sunburn disappears and so too does our hard learned lesson.
The same applies to our finances. We'll be careful at first, but as soon as we put a bit of time between ourselves and the recession we'll go right back to three foreign holidays a year and €8 pints.

Remember when Ireland had its own plane? 4.5 million people
and we needed a private aircraft for our government. We could
have at least tried to timeshare with NI.