Miriam’s Musings

Gender neutral loos…are we a nation split again?

The debate regarding the installation of unisex/gender neutral loos in our schools continues to not so much rattle on, but in much the same way as the infamous Saipan incident back in 2002, this highly emotive issue appears to be dividing our entire nation!

Yep, you get it readers, it’s a bit of a triggering topic, but it’s also a clear indication of how we, as a country, have become more accepting, more humane and more inclusive; and that’s got to be a good thing. As someone who advocates for equality, I stand fully behind this progressive move for the simple reason I believe we must embrace everyone equally. To that end, in order to make all students feel comfortable, it’s my opinion that our schools should not just install gender-neutral loos, but they should also provide students with a choice of both male specific and female specific ones too!

I don’t have school-going children (I do have a secondary school-going grandchild), but I’d be happier if schools that are planning to refurbish their toilet facilities under the ‘new construction and refurbishment guidelines from the Department of Education’, would consult with students and parents/guardians prior to making such radical changes. My reason for this is based on my belief that, if this initiative (which again I personally embrace) goes ahead, I wouldn’t wish for any of our nation’s students to feel obliged to be party to what may possibly become a social experiment.

You see, it’s important we don’t lose sight of the fact that, in some instances, a school’s participation in what is essentially an innovative step, may serve to disrupt some children’s privacy and overall sense of security and wellbeing; and nobody wants that! Everyone should be able to use a toilet facility, whether a single sex one or a unisex/gender-neutral one, in peace and in safety.

Oh and on a personal level, and lighter note, being a germaphobe, or as my girls call me, ‘a massive Monica’ (a character from the TV show ‘Friends’), the whole issue of hygiene regarding the unisex loo would prove to be a crucial bone of contention for me. Perhaps you haven’t realised it lads, but to put it delicately, there’s a lot more to going to the loo than unzipping, doing your business, zipping up, leaving and ahem, never looking back!

You see, since time immemorial, the loo has been perfectly designed and shaped to cater for everyone, yet (and I’m sorry to bring this up boys) despite this, some of you (not all, I’m not generalising) actually manage to spray every single surface of the bathroom, leaving your scent. Oops! Still on that lighter note – it’s kind of like what my male fur-baby does when he wants to mark his territory! Yes girls, you know what I mean.

Here’s a thought: perhaps when our schools are inserting these fabulous new toilet facilities, they’d add a little wipe-the-seat-leave-no-trace-and-wash-your-hands module to their curriculum?

 

Article 41.2 AKA the ‘love, hoover and obey clause’!

I don’t know about you ladies, but I’m delighted to hear that the deletion and replacement of a clause in Article 41.2 in our Constitution, which refers to ‘women’s place in the home’ has at last been recommended for removal by the Citizen’s Assembly! Why? Because in my humble opinion, it’s not only insulting and backward, it’s reductive in so much as it strips us of our rights! How dare anyone – be it the State or any group or individual – define where we, as women ‘belong’.

For too long now our voices have been drowned out and our rights have been diminished by a single clause, to an extent that women “shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in their home”. Or as I call it, the love-hoover-and-obey clause!

However, that being said, as someone who strives to promote fairness, I believe that Article 41.2 is also sexist not just towards women and mothers but also towards men and fathers.

You see, if in the event this Article 41.2 (in its present form) were to be cited in, for example, a family law capacity concerning a deserted dad, it could be suggested that it provides grounds to justify discrimination in favour of the woman/mother over the rights of the man/dad. But obviously I’m no family law expert; this is just my ‘what if’ scenario, and of course I could be wrong, so please don’t feel obliged to write a letter to our editor.

For the record, as a proud Irish woman I fully respect Bunreacht na hÉireann for the simple reason that it was ratified by the Irish people on July 1st 1937, and not because it’s largely known as De Valera’s constitution. I mean Dev only supervised it, he didn’t actually write it, but it clearly shows us that when it comes to women, he wasn’t exactly forward thinking. As a fan of Michael Collins, I’ve no doubt that if the humane and compassionate Big Fella had still been with us in 1937, and if he’d been the one supervising our Constitution, he’d never have agreed to women being defined under such repressive and discriminatory conditions.

 

Thank you: you’re a remarkable bunch of Rossies!

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank  all those who messaged me and stopped me (at a social distance), and those who found me on WhatsApp to ask how I was doing and if my back was Ok following my lumber spine x-ray at Roscommon University Hospital earlier this month. If anyone needed proof that the readers of this family-focused newspaper were a truly remarkable and thoughtful bunch of Rossies, this is it! I’m overwhelmed that so many of you care so much.

I’m doing great folks. My results came back and I’m absolutely delighted to report that my little fall didn’t do any damage whatsoever to my spine. I did manage to badly bruise my coccyx (tailbone) when I landed smack on it, and it’ll take a little while for the bruising and pain to ease, but it’s all good.

He-who-must-be-obeyed is clearly a graduate of the how-to-be-a-good-husband-college, because he ordered a special orthopaedic memory cushion for me to use when I’m working from home. It’s so comfy readers, I can tell you that my rear end feels positively upholstered!