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• Repression to Oppression
• The Harm Based Definition of
•The Normalisation of
Representation is a political issue.
Without the power to define our
interests and to participate in the
decisions that affect us, women – like
any other group in society – will be
subject to the definitions and
decisions of others.
(Marshment, 1993:125)
The Oxford English Dictionary defines
repression as ‘to subdue someone or
something by force’ (2001:1575).
I defined repression as a system of
control forced on Irish women in
contradiction to the promise of
equality pledged in the 1916 and the
1922 constitutions.
In the Mary Immaculate Training College Annual
(1927), apart from regulations governing modest dress
it urged its members to abstain from;
•Immodest attitudes
•Loud talking or boisterous laughter in public, coarse
or irreverent exclamations
•Suggestive or immodest dances
•Alcoholic drink at dances or entertainment
•Improper cinema-shows, plays, etc. and anything
opposed to modesty in what relates to sea-bathing,
and to show one’s disapproval of the same
(Bourke, Angela. et al., 2002:155-156)
Hanna Sheegy Skeffington summed
up the situation; ‘What a time we live
in! Here we are rapidly becoming a
Catholic statelet under Rome’s grip censorship and the like, with a very
narrow provincial outlook’.
• 1971; A group of women formed the Irish Women’s
Liberation Movement (IWLM) and succeeded in
creating a national dialogue on issues which had
never been addressed in public before.
• 1972; Ireland voted to join the European Union (EU).
• 1983; The introduction in of a referendum on a pro-life
amendment to the Constitution and a challenge to the
Constitutional ban on divorce lead to the development
of Ireland as a more pluralist society. (Keogh,
• 1986; A commission on the status of Women gave
women a first opportunity to review their position is
society. (Barry, 1998:357).
The Oxford English Dictionary defines
oppression as ‘keep in subjection …
exercise of control on a minority or
other subordinate group’ (2001:1302). I
define oppression a system of power
which exploits and imposes itself upon
a minority or subordinate group.
‘The fantasy woman and women being
•women’s bodies as sex objects
•creation of an unequal society
•women’s reality not reflected
The harm based definition of pornography
I position myself
pornography as:
•sexually explicit violent material in which women
are not alone raped, abused, or tortured but also
seen to enjoy this violence.
•sexually explicit non-violent material which is
degrading to women and defines sexual
relationships based on women’s subordination
and men’s dominance. (Itzin, 1992:562).
Re-defining the sex industry
• Prostitutes become sex workers
• Pimps and traffickers turn into
• Men who buy women’s bodies become
• Eventually the sex industry becomes a
legitimate economic sector which makes it
both acceptable and respectable.
(Raymond, 2004:1-5).
• Japan’s profits in the sex industry average 4.2 trillion
yen in recent years.
• Ukrainian and Russian women, earn criminal gangs
about US$500-1000 per woman delivered. These
women can be expected to service an average 15
clients a day and make about US$15,000 per month
for the gangs’ (Marchand, 2000:98).
• In Thailand, it is estimated that there are 300,000
female prostitutes under the age of eighteen (Barry,
2005:) It is important to recognise that the Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) of countries like Thailand will
reflect the sex tourism industry without reflecting the
nature of women’s exploitation as a large part of that
‘Men becoming desensitised’
• Highly sexualised way
• Consequences on the lives of women
• Pornography normalises sexual abuse
and often in its most extreme form,
sexual abuse can be seen to equal
sexual pleasure.
‘Pornography being normalised’
‘In your face’
‘Sexualising of young girls’
Huge profits
Career option for young girls
Playboy logos on children’s pencil
• Lads Mags = harmless fun?
• Popular culture - Friends
‘The belief that pornography inhabits its own
physical and mental world is an illusion.
Nothing restricts its effects. Yet the
protective myth of its spatial separation and
cognitive confinement endures, even as
pornography visibly takes over more and
more public space, invading homes and
offices and transforming popular culture’
Catherine A. MacKinnon, “X-Underrated,” Mines Higher
Educational Supplement (London, May 20, 2005).