George Hook, Leo and the place of women in patriarchal-capitalist Ireland

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Over the last few days we’ve been given a couple of direct insights into the minds of our political elite, in particular in relation to how women are to be viewed in modern Ireland. On his daily talk show last Friday, rugby pundit, and right-wing mouth piece George Hook went on a three minute tirade, moralising about rape of a young woman in the UK. The outcome of his spiel: blaming a rape victim for being assaulted while unconscious.

A key insight in the work German philosopher Karl Marx was on the role of ideology in shaping what we view as normal within a given social structure. As Marx went to great lengths to explain, it is not the ideology of everyone in the society that matters, it is the ideology of the ruling elite – the political class which he termed the bourgeoisie. What the rich and powerful deem to be “normal” in other words is what becomes normal and acceptable in our day to day culture.

What Hook said was “Why does a girl who just meets a fella in a bar go back to a hotel room? She’s only just barely met him, she has no idea of his health conditions, she has no idea who he is, she has no idea of what dangers he might pose, but modern day social activity means that she goes back with him, then is SURPRISED when someone comes into the room and rapes her.”

While acknowledging that the rape itself was wrong, a footnote in his meandering – Hook’s message was trotting out of an argument which has been used to apologise for rapes and blame women for being raped, for years. His view is entirely coherent with the view of women under patriarchal-capitalism: women serve a unique purpose as sex objects for the gratification of men. It is their responsibility to be aware of this role, and they are ultimately responsible should they find themselves in a situation where a man decides to attack her. While men ideally should know better than to rape a person they cannot always be expected to meet such high expectations.

This view, while arguably more obscene in basic sense, coincides to some degree with the views on abortion recently articulated by our neo-liberal, narcissist in chief: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in a New York Times article, modestly titled “Move Over DiCaprio and da Vinci — Here’s Ireland’s Leo”. While being the leader of a state which forces all pregnant people to carry pregnancy through to full term in cases of rape, incest and foetal abnormality or face imprisonment for up to fourteen years, Varadkar made a couple of very ambiguous and politically savvy comments when asked about Ireland’s archaic abortion laws.

“while I don’t accept the view that the unborn child, the foetus, if you prefer that term, should have equal rights to an adult woman, to the mother, I don’t share this view that the baby in the womb, the foetus, whatever term you want to use, should have no rights at all”.

Varadkar here is attempting to give a “centrist” argument. So as not to be seen as extreme or ideological (maximising is appeal to the voter base) he is putting up strawman arguments so as not to address the real issues at hand, and to come off as having delivered so meaningful comment on the issue. He does not address the question as to whether the state, or any orgainsed “authority” should have the right to control a person’s decision over their own body. While acknowledging some conflict of autonomous rights between a foetus and the person carrying it (something widely acknowledged by pro-choice activists) he does not go further to elaborate as to what point of pregnancy the rights of a foetus should supersede those of the person carrying it. While this sounds technical and abstract, it is all too real for those people in Ireland who for possessing a clump of cells within them, which bears no semblance to anything like a human, are criminalised, and vilified by the State for deciding not to proceed with a pregnancy. That in 2016 over three thousand people were forced to flee the jurisdiction of the Irish state to avail of a medical procedure providing them determination of the course of their own lives.

More broadly again, this view fits into that of patriarchal capitalism which holds that a primary purpose of people assigned the female sex, is to reproduce in order to create the next generation of masters and servants. This important duty must be ascribed to, and any individual’s attempt to negate this responsibility through seeking to terminate a pregnancy calls into question the system in its entirety – and therefore should not be tolerated.

Those members of our political elite conveniently mange to ‘forget’ the centuries of oppression forced on women through the very institutions from which they dictate to us. The ‘Laundries’ established by the Irish State, and ran by the Catholic Church were bloody tools of women’s oppression, an axe which forced women in Ireland to adhere to a certain view of what a woman is to be. To be seen as promiscuous, or a free thinking woman not very long ago in this country would be enough to have you enslaved in prisons, subjected to physical and psychological torture by “servants of the Lord”.

The ideology of the bourgeoisie will permit each of us only as much freedom as we demand and take from them. It is due to decades and centuries of struggle, by people at the bottom of social hierarchy that Hook’s comments have been met with a backlash and forced him to apologise on air. It is due to the hard work and activism of people like you and me that Varadkar with all his misogyny and outright classism can hold office as an openly gay man in this country. The struggle against the ideology of the State and ruling elite will continue – September 30th will be the sixth annual “March for Choice” in Dublin, a mass assembly of people demanding basic reproductive rights for all people in Ireland.

More details available here:  https://wsm.ie/c/march-choice-30sept .

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