Cara Park: “Continue the fight for equality in the face of casual misogyny, physical misogyny and, most importantly, resist and revolt against misogyny by the state.” #AMU (video added)

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Strong words in Parliament Buildings.

But not from the Assembly chamber or a committee room.

I stand before you today as a woman unfree, in spite of the location of my birth here in the European Union, a colony of the British empire, the island of Ireland, Eire.

This is because I do not have the same rights as my sisters in other parts of these conglomerate nations. I am officially a citizen of the United Kingdom but the same freedom of reproductive choice is not awarded to me …

I am calling for the patriarchal laws to be changed and affirmative action taken. We are in a fortunate position here in Ireland compared with other regimes, in spite of facing a lifetime in prison for having an abortion. We should use the relative freedom we possess, like the freedom of speech, to vocalise our struggle and support other people less fortunate.

We must not become complacent! The struggle is not over! Continue the fight for equality in the face of casual misogyny, physical misogyny and, most importantly, resist and revolt against misogyny by the state.

Equal rights for women means equal rights for all! Continue the suffrage, support other women, do not be complicit in the commodification of the female form, do not judge other women in how they dress, who they have sex with, their sense of humour, the books they have read etc. We must unite as collective force and fight the patriarchal powers instead of dividing ourselves into feminist sub-groups.

Do not let the superficial age we live in divide and conquer us, unify, organise, protest, demonstrate, love your neighbours, celebrate differences. We owe it to our suffragist brothers and sisters who have fought for the rights we have today.

Make abortion free, safe and legal.

Corp s’agam, Ré s’agam. My body, my choice.

Equal rights for all.

Just part of a speech by Cara Park at Saturday night’s Alternative Ms Ulster, an event I hesitate to mention.

Not for fear of exposing the issues around women’s opportunities, freedoms and how they are perceived and treated in Northern Ireland society.

Nor for fear of exposing how this morning’s Belfast Telegraph took an incredibly sideways look at the event hosted at Parliament Buildings on International Women’s Day.

Nor for fear of starting a debate about fashion or feminism in 2014 Northern Ireland.

But because I know moderating the comments under this post will be incredibly tedious since previous experience on Slugger O’Toole suggest there will be a number of puerile and childish contributions made. So feel free to engage with the content of Cara Park’s speech and the event itself, but steer clear of cheap puns.

I flagged up the event back in January under a post headlined: Alternative Ms Ulster at Parliament Buildings … words, aspirations, actions and no need for judges.

In her blog, Harriet Long – who attended Saturday’s event – described Cara Park as “by far the best most passionate and innovative speaker of the night”.

She made people laugh, cheer, scream, applaud, go silent and nod their heads.

She spoke about her freedoms in this part of the world compared to those elsewhere.

She spoke about the sexual shaming and silencing of people, but particularly women in this part of the world.

She talked about the secrets and deceit of sexual and child abuse, covered up and defended by corrupt institutions, the problem of confession and confessing, the secrecy and lies that have hurt the vulnerable

She spoke of celebrating sex, how we are all here because of it and how we shouldn’t ignore or regulate the beauty and diversity of the body.

She was thoughtful, articulate, clever and smart.

Rather than paying any real heed to the aspirations or words spoken from the stage by Cara Park or the twenty four other women who participated, the Belfast Telegraph chose to exclusively look under fashion graduate Cara’s designer dress.

BelTel Editorial Cara Park Alternative Ms UlsterThe paper’s editorial – which was a little more measured that some online commentary has suggested – started the ball rolling down hill saying:

Some people might say that Stormont has had more than it share of exhibitionists over the years and that the behaviour of some of our politicians is more offensive than anything which takes place at an event to mark International Womens’ [sic] Day.

Cue Stephen Nolan’s schoolboy contribution about Cara Park – or “Parks” as she’s consistently referred to – on Radio Ulster this morning. Apparently she “inspired outrage at Stormont over the weekend when she spoke at an event with her boobs out”.

Later in his interview with Cara he quipped “I know there are enough tits up at Stormont …” and became defensive when Cara – who had the measure of the radio host – scolded him for using her breasts as a by-word for describing people as “unintelligent or stupid”.

Given the fashion shows, parties and weddings – never mind Assembly sittings – that have been held in the hallowed halls of Parliament Buildings, this couldn’t have been the first time a revealing outfit has been worn to a function. But perhaps the first time one was accompanied by a serious speech that challenged “casual misogyny, physical misogyny and … misogyny by the state”.

Oddly, not a single mention never mind quote from any other speaker at the event. Instead, florid text on the front page describing how “a feminist has sent unionist politicians into a chest-beating frenzy”. Not so odd that there were only quotes from male MLAs given how few female MLAs there are up in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

DSC04589The outfit didn’t seem to distract the audience in Stormont’s Great Hall on the night. Or provoke them to tweet images and commentary. Instead the frenzy was the result of a photograph sold to a newspaper that has a history of printing women’s skin alongside opinion articles suggesting: “Ladies, your charms are much better covered up”.

If it hadn’t been for Cara Park, perhaps the Alternative Ms Ulster would have had no commentary in today’s news papers. A few publicity shots last week didn’t seem to be followed up by significant coverage of the content this morning. Maybe it took a designer dress to start a conversation in the press about the issues Cara raised: issues which the Assembly doesn’t often address, though today’s debate about women in politics was a start.

The event was filmed, and before too long, hopefully a selection of speeches by the other speakers will be available to listen to. In the meantime, the Guardian have published Cara’s full speech.

And if you’re inspired to think more about the role of women in society and the lack of women in politics, not only do the Labour Party NI have an event planned for Saturday 22 March, but the DUP have also organised a similar conference the day before on Friday 21 March 14 in the Park Avenue Hotel with speakers Eileen Chan-Hu, Ellvena Graham, Janet Gray, Marie Marin, Heather Morris, and Denise Watson. Free to attend but reservation required – DUP headquarters 9047 1155 should have more details since it’s not on their website or Facebook page.

UpdateBelfast Telegraph followed with an article on Tuesday that interviewed Cara Park and explained some of the context of her speech.

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  • aquifer

    “Ladies, your charms are much better covered up”

    or

    You can be sexy or smart, but please don’t be both at the same time or you will make drooling buffoons of us?

  • babyface finlayson

    “Oddly, not a single mention never mind quote from any other speaker at the event. ”
    I wonder why. Maybe the other speakers had their thunder stolen.
    A bit like the guys dressed up as batman to protest about fathers’ rights,the spectacle is what gets talked about.
    And the content of the speech was mostly slogans.Reminiscent of actual beauty contestants, wishing for world peace.
    Definitely need more women up at Stormont, so I’m not knocking the intent, just the method.

  • Turgon

    Up to a point this lady has a point and indeed the coverage in the Belfast Telegraph is pretty purile and silly. However, that is to be expected from the Belfast Telegraph which especially online has managed to lower itself to the standards of the Daily Mail’s “Sidebar of shame”.

    That said wearing odd clothes is always to run the danger of diminishing the content of what one says. Clothes on men (and especially women) convey a great deal. Politicians, lawyers, business people of either sex wear business suits. If they wear other things that is in itself a statement. It may be unfair but that is simply how it is. (As an aside in my real life my professional gravitas and importance is from no merit of my own but solely from Sir Paul Smith).

    On the substance of Ms. Park’s comments there are, however, a few problems. Describing Northern Ireland as a colony is a guaranteed way of turning off a large section of her audience. It also allows the simple point in retort that abortion is also illegal in the RoI. Moving on her claim that one could face life in gaol for having an abortion whilst theoretically possibly true is so spectacularly unlikely that it reduces the force of her argument. Her demand for safe abortion is also problematic in that it is unclear how abortion in NI is currently more medically unsafe than it would be in GB. Any medical procedure (which abortion assuredly is) has by its nature dangers.

    By both her comments and indeed her dress Ms. Park has captured media attention but more for herself than for her cause which makes it easier to dismiss the substance of what she was saying and indeed ignore the other women who spoke. That is actually a bit of a pity.

  • sherdy

    Heard Cara on Nolan and noticed how she mentioned more than once how intelligent she is. There’s something wrong if you have to try to convince people of your IQ.

    Is it a case of: all brains, no sense?

  • Comrade Stalin

    The BT’s titillation angle was pathetic but unsurprising.

    When I heard Cara on Nolan this morning my impression was that she was completely unhinged. Whatever her message was, it was lost in the noise. We do need more women in politics and we need to come up with ways to solve this problem, but Cara didn’t advance that cause one iota.

  • Rapunsell

    Followed the event on twitter – great idea and great venue – lots of important inputs. Read cara parks speech twice – clearly it’s one of those you had to be there moments – now taking the Bel tel attack out of the situation- do the participants think this really was a good speech? Impassioned – yes, raised some key issues – yes but great? No way. I’m puzzled by some of it and given the divisions within feminism surely not all of the audience could have agreed with it all? Is there not a debate to be had about get comments on the burqa and veil? If freedom means cara had the right to be undressed does it not also apply to Muslim women’s right to be covered. I agree with the sentiments about reproductive and abortion rights and finally is anyone really surprised by the Belfast telegraph negative coverage – then again is there not an adage about not letting the messenger become the message?

  • Sp12

    Another day, another bout of Unionist Fury.
    This time, at desecrating the seat of the real Miss Ulster meat market*

    *entrants must at least 5’7″, size 8 to 12, in their early 20′s (or at least barely legal) and not express any personal views beyond being pro world peace and wishing to travel.

  • http://eastbelfastdiary.blogspot.com/ Jenny

    Thank you, Alan, for this post. As one of the other speakers, I have been stunned as well as disappointed by the press coverage. I must admit I sometimes think all women have to do to get on in politics is to, well, get on with it and stop moaning – and then something like this happens. There has been no attempt by the print media to cover the event in a responsible manner and to look at what its message was. There were women dressed in all sorts of ways, including one who spoke in her gardening clothes to make the same point as Cara about wearing what she liked – but for some reason the Tele didn’t think that was news!

  • Helen

    I was there and think Cara gave a really rousing speech.
    It was one of several presentations over an excellent evening that incorporated some form of performance to make their point, including the gardening clothes mentioned above, the wonderful contribution about fracking and WRDA’s alternative future. I think these were all completely legitimate ways to make us think a little more deeply about the issues they were raising be it obsession with the female form, women’s control over their own body, environmental issues or indeed women’s representation in Parliament and their spaces in society. In no way did any of the tools used to convey the message overshadow the message.
    The reaction from the media and indeed from many commentators here illustrates why these events are so important, and why these messages need to continue to be raised.
    Thanks by the way Alan.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    Helen, Jenny – Were any print/broadcast journalists present – or speaking – at the event? Haven’t spotted any coverage other than the Belfast Telegraph’s piece yesterday.

  • tuatha

    In the 60s, when the idiot term “bra-burning’ was plastered all over the tabloids, i was part of a group which approached all the gutter press (there were at least 6 or 7 in London at the time) to alert them that there would a demonstration, from Bank to the City of topless feminists the next day.
    Every reptile was there slavering with their telephoto lens as the troop of shirtless blokes, carrying equality signs came down the street.
    Strangely, not a single word or pic in the papers the next day!

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    I was at the event and it bore no relation whatsoever to the account in the Belfast Telegraph. It was the most powerful interaction I’ve ever had with party politics in NI (and I’m 31). The women who spoke were fantastically diverse, and each was instructed to speak about what was important to them. There was a massive range of performance styles – and these were performances, not articles, which explains why Cara’s words might read oddly – but the themes of political participation, bodily autonomy and the linkages between the two emerged strongly through it all. The format was designed to be the start of a conversation, with audience and speakers making new connections and sharing ideas for action, and for once this actually happened. For the very first time in my life, I’m considering joining a political party. Seeing the Bel Tel coverage was stomach-turning.

    I spent Saturday watching fla Anna Lo and people on the International Woman’s Day march stand up to flag protestors yelling at them to ‘go home’, with press photographers snapping away, and Monday seeing that the only coverage of the whole weekend’s events was a fake moral panic about a nipple that was, in the flesh, invisible to the naked eye.

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    I was at the event and it bore no relation whatsoever to the account in the Belfast Telegraph. It was the most powerful interaction I’ve ever had with party politics in NI (and I’m 31). The women who spoke were fantastically diverse, and each was instructed to speak about what was important to them. There was a massive range of performance styles – and these were performances, not articles, which explains why Cara’s words might read oddly – but the themes of political participation, bodily autonomy and the linkages between the two emerged strongly through it all. The format was designed to be the start of a conversation, with audience and speakers making new connections and sharing ideas for action, and for once this actually happened. For the very first time in my life, I’m considering joining a political party. Seeing the Bel Tel coverage was stomach-turning.

    I spent Saturday watching Anna Lo and people on the International Woman’s Day march stand up to flag protestors yelling at them to ‘go home’, with press photographers snapping away, and Monday seeing that the only coverage of the whole weekend’s events was a fake moral panic about a nipple that was, in the flesh, invisible to the naked eye.

  • Helen

    Alan, I’m not sure, best checking with Clare Bailey!

  • macsiomoin

    Met Cara after the event and was impressed with her conviction, clarity of thought and outlook on life. I can only re-iterate what the previous person (Ní Dhuibhir) has said in that the Belfast Telegraphs conservative coverage of this event overplayed the physical aspect of her action, rather than the message it portrayed… an excellent role model.

  • http://eastbelfastdiary.blogspot.com/ Jenny

    I understand from the organiser that the press were invited but no-one came. It was not considered newsworthy enough.

  • iluvni

    i’d have thought guests slouching on the staircase slugging buckfast was rather newsworthy.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    iluvni – no evidence, and not on topic.

  • iluvni

    You, sir, are a coward. You banned me last time for daring to comment on the do, and now you are at it again.

    There is evidence. Maybe one of the ladies will care to share the photograph of the xslf lads and them with the buckfast bottles.
    It’s out there!

  • socaire

    Corp s’agam, Ré s’agam. Does she mean Rogha s’agam. I’m easily confused.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    It’s Rogha but the word is pronounced like Ré in Ulster Irish anyway.

  • David Crookes

    “I understand from the organiser that the press were invited but no one came. It was not considered newsworthy enough.”

    Thanks, Jenny. Suddenly one is struck by the intelligence of the press.

  • David Crookes

    Sorry, I meant to continue. Any group that wants to change society needs to avoid giving the impression that its members regard themselves as all-wise, super-civilized, and especially virtuous. Think of all the ecumenical guilt-fests of the last forty years. Then think of the AP daring to use that make-your-flesh-creep slogan IN YOUR HEART YOU KNOW THEY’RE RIGHT.

    Once you enter the political arena, you’re in there with the dust and the mud and the sweat and the incorrigibly wicked Rest Of Us. You’re saying that you want to get your own way. Of course you’re going to meet resistance from those of us who think that your way stinks.

    Here’s a piece of advice for newly risen exponents of social change. Be rational. Keep your clothes on, don’t scream, and if you make an indecorous exhibition of yourself, don’t rebuke people who choose to focus on that exhibition.

  • socaire

    Go raibh maith agat, a Shéamais. Ní raibh ann ach magadh.

  • Charles_Gould

    I would like to support the campaign for womens rights and to praise those who put it on.

    The newspaper discussions of this event were shameful and did little for the image of the profession of journalism.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Fair play to Cara for pointing out the obvious, but two of the few subjects both political sides in NI agree on are misogny and abortion.

    Whether it’s DUP members shouting at the Women’s Coalition to ‘get back in the kitchen’ or the church telling us contraception, divorce and abortion are wrong, it’s all part of the rich fabric of the place. And worse still, the majority encourage it by putting bums on pews and Xs on ballot papers. So we must all think that way right?

    NI is the only part of the UK where obtaining an abortion is virtually impossible, gay marriage is off the agenda and (pretty soon) consenting adults will be criminalised for having sex if there’s a suspicion payment is involved.

    Thanks for the effort Cara but you’re wasting your time.

  • Seamuscamp

    Human rights – a serious topic that needs airing. But is anyone (cara included) surprised that the “newswothy” assessors saw the nudity as newsworthy but the gardening clothes as not? When I want to communicate, I no longer use two tin cans and a piece of string – because I’m old enough to assess the options.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    Belfast Telegraph followed with an article on Tuesday that interviewed Cara Park and explained some of the context of her speech.

  • JR

    Seo Cara ag caint ar clár rónán ar raidio na Gaeltachta. Agallamh i bhfád níos farr an an ceann déanta ag stephen nolan.

    http://www.rte.ie/radio1/podcast/podcast_ronanbeo.xml

    [Mod - or http://www.rte.ie/radio/utils/radioplayer/rteradioweb.html#!rii=17:20543532:1752:12-03-2014:]

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    And the video of Cara’s speech is now available. Hopefully some of the other 24 contributions will shortly be online too.

  • JR

    On Raidio na gaeltachta Cara is asked what her primary objective is, what she would like to achieve politiaclly from the speech she made. Her response is firstly Abortion available across the Island and secondly women to be nicer to eachother. The part which I personally have the most difficuty with is what she says next, that abortin should be available on demand untill firstly she says 30, then 32 before finally settleing on 28 Weeks. This is pretty extreme. I personally know someone who was born at 24 weeks and is perfectly healthy. I personally find this view very disturbing.

    She also states that “embrios” have no rights untill they emerge from the womb (I don’t agree thet the term embrio, adequately describes a baby at 28 weeks gestation) and if you dont have a womb you have no right to tell someone with a womb what to do.

  • JR

    Sorry, correction 38 weeks, should be the cut off point according to cara. Listening to the interview I get the impression that Cara speaks more from the heart than the head. Her points seem to always start well and reasonable but get increasingly muddled, tangential, incoherent and radical as she keeps talking.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Late term abortions are very rare, and in countries like the US, Canada and Britain only about 1% of abortions are performed after 19 weeks, but even then surely it still falls in the realm of a woman’s right to control her own body.

  • qwerty12345

    Why all the fuss, Stormont has been full of tits since they day it was threw up.

  • babyface finlayson

    qwerty12345
    It’s a sad state of affairs when you are recycling jokes from Stephen Nolan!