THE MISEDUCATION OF CALLUM MCGRATH

This is a problem. One that many of us see, (clearly not all, but many), and one that some people are afraid to speak about, fearing they will be misunderstood or ridiculed. Nevertheless, this is a major problem.

This article is in response to a recent Instagram IGTV video posted on the 22nd of November 2020 by Callum McGrath titled “Boys will be boys does not mean this”. This video, which began clearly outlining McGrath’s personal contempt for the recent Discord leak of thousands of nude pictures of Irish women, and CHILDREN, which were shared non-consensually among Irish men, quickly became a familiar ‘Not All Men’ argument, one that perpetuates gender-based arguments and internalised stereotypes.

In his video, McGrath largely focuses on the term “boys will be boys” and attempts to explain away the phrases’ origin and its new-found meanings in today’s society. McGrath employs the Merriam-Webster dictionary to do this. Its explanation of the phrase is as follows: “—used to indicate that it is not surprising or unusual when men or boys behave in energetic, rough, or improper ways // You shouldn’t be too hard on them for staying out so late. Boys will be boys.” The meaning of this idiom differs depending on the source, but the sentiment remains the same. The phrase began neutrally, first coined in 1859, it comes from a Latin proverb, “Children (boys) are children (boys) and do childish things.” But this phrase no longer means that, in fact, it perpetuates the notion that boys (or men) should be excused from their “improper” behaviour because of natural or biological impulses. This, in turn, creates an easy and comfortable excuse for men to fall back on to justify aggressive or inappropriate behaviour.

The phrase maintains gender-based stereotypes, in that men can effectively justify inappropriate behaviour because it is simply in their nature, when the same does not apply to women. But the fact that a similar phrase does not exist for women should not be deplored, this phrase is damaging to both men and women, it oversimplifies the problem and maintains casual sexism. However, McGrath does not believe this; he states: “No one says boys will be boys to justify sexual assault”. This is misinformed thinking; the words of someone in denial or largely uneducated on the topic. And undermines the female perspective entirely.

In justifying the use of this phrase, McGrath contradicts himself repeatedly throughout his video. The purpose of McGrath’s video changes consistently as it goes on, from supporting the criminalisation of revenge porn in Ireland, to ridiculing the ‘awkwardness’ of the act of asking for consent. In this context, McGrath forges a fictional situation wherein he asks a girl for consent in sharing a nude photo: “ ‘Here, Rosie, can I send a picture of your tits to this lad here’ – is that what you want us to do?”. Well, preferably you wouldn’t want to send anyone a picture of our tits, but if you really felt the need then yes, we would all prefer it if you asked for our consent. And, perhaps the awkwardness of it lies only with you, in that you’re asking such a ridiculous question in the first place.

It seems McGrath lulled viewers to the video under the false pretences of supporting women, only to assert that men are in fact the victims in all of this. One could argue that by writing this article, by giving Callum McGrath a platform, it is further perpetuating his misled assumptions. But this is not the case. We cannot consciously ignore this. And we shouldn’t. By ignoring this, you’re effectively saying that this is OK, or that there is nothing wrong with what Callum McGrath said. But there is. From the beginning of his video, it was clear that McGrath intended to open a conversation, but this conversation would be entirely one-sided and only from the perspective of a straight white man. McGrath consistently undermined female voices and experiences to benefit his own hypothesis.

But Callum McGrath is not the only point of blame in this situation. He is the product of a society that is persistent in undermining women. People are not born sexist or misogynistic, they are taught these things; from ‘minor’ instances of casual sexism which are ignored by all participants because they don’t want to have that conversation, to acts of outright discrimination, which the Irish government fails to do anything about. How are men and women supposed to be equal when the very structures of society are built to prevent this. As of 2017, the Irish gender pay gap between men and women was 14.9%, meaning, on average, a woman gets paid 14.9% less than a man in Ireland. In the last week, a discord server of over 600 Irish men shared over 6,000 nude images, non-consensually, of Irish women and underage girls. As of 2018, statistics from the Central Statistics Office and Irish Court system show that 90% of reported rape and sexual assault cases in Ireland do not end in a conviction. As of 2019, according to the Central Statistics Office, 82% of the victims of sexual assault and rape are female. This is the statistics for reported cases. It is far better to inform someone than to degrade someone.

The aim of this article was not to incite hate against Callum McGrath or Irish men in general, but instead to inform people who are lacking context, and general information on the topic.

Here are some articles which you might find helpful:

Do Not Ask Questions

I stood in line at reception. The clock read 10:55. I was on time. I felt a slight ache in my stomach and was reminded that I haven’t yet eaten today. My jacket was dripping but I couldn’t remember if it had been raining or not. It felt like I had just woken up right now, in the middle of this line. “Mr. Tobin?” said the receptionist with something of a smile. I hadn’t noticed the line move. “Yes, sorry. I’m here to see Doctor Brown,” I said.

She nodded and told me to take a seat. I turned to the waiting area, greeted by the gloomy faces of the young and old. I guess insanity doesn’t discriminate. On the table in front of me lay a pile of magazines I had never heard of. I picked one up and sifted through it. All the magazines in the Union Medical Facility were odd. Each magazine was over a decade old, but they were in pristine condition, as if no one had ever touched them. I landed on a page that titled Secure Beneath Mother’s Wings: do not worry, we are looking out for you. The page was entirely red, and the article was written in black. The first line read: You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide. “Mr. Tobin, the Doctor will see you now,” the receptionist called over the intercom. I hate when they do that. Ever heard of privacy? They’re a private company but they can’t keep my name to themselves. I got up, holding my wet jacket in my arms and headed for room 9.

In the morning, I had sat in front of the mirror practising what I would tell Doctor Brown; but anything that I intentionally plan never turns out the way I want it to. I always get these grandiose notions before I see her that I will tell her everything, exactly how I have been feeling. But I don’t. As soon as I sit down in front of her and she starts asking me questions, I lose motivation. It’s like her menacing, unpleasant smile diminishes any hope I have of confiding in her. And then I don’t want to tell her anything. I find it almost excruciating to talk openly about how I feel and, even if they say they are no one to judge, they are. Everyone judges you, maybe not intentionally, but instinctively. It is engrained in the psyche of the twenty-first century man, or woman; but in my case, man. If there is one thing I don’t want, it’s to be judged.

They prescribed me a new medication and it’s causing me, among other things, to hallucinate. Whenever I have these strange visions, my thoughts are scrambled, I can’t think clearly or even trust my own thoughts. Every morning when I wake up, I’m caught in the everlasting dilemma of whether or not to force three red pills down my throat, or face the stark, bare ass of the blues. I hold the pills in the palm of my hand and stare at them for a while as I decide. I take a pill to my ear and shake it, listening to the tiny spheres of serotonin powder bouncing off of each other inside. The pills never seem to work either, but I keep trying. I don’t have a great life, but I don’t always want to be like this. I want to get better. But any inconvenience seems like a catastrophe and any argument seems like a war. I live my life in extremities, ricocheting off one mishap to another. I’m not a special person by any means. I even look bland. I don’t have any defining features and my clothes are just as exciting as my face. I have greyish brown hair, brown eyes, not almond or hazel, just brown; and a normal, slightly crooked nose. And, while this is my face, whenever I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t recognise myself. I don’t look like me. I haven’t felt at home in my own skin in a long time, but instead feel like I’ve been fitted with a stranger’s. I’ve never really felt all that at home anyway, but I’ve been feeling increasingly disassociated from myself, like someone else is controlling me. Sure, I can think but I’m not the one in control of it. It feels like I don’t even have a true identity anymore, not my own anyway. I lost that a long time ago. Instead of telling Doctor Brown all of the shit that is going on inside my destructively restless mind, I decide to tell her of my strange and eerie hallucinations, specifically about Seán. “Well, hallucinations are normal at the start, Martin,” Doctor Brown informs me, nodding encouragingly for me to believe her. But, for some reason, I don’t believe her. I have been on many different medications before. I have just never felt quite like this.

Therapy is pointless. In case you didn’t already know that, it is. It never goes anywhere, and you always feel worse leaving than you do when you go in. I have never ‘learnt anything about myself’ from a therapist other than that they think I’m crazy. Keeping in mind, therapists are people who get paid extortionately to sit and listen, or not listen, to someone’s mental defects. I once had a therapist who told me not to read negative intent from other people’s words or actions. This is a fine theory when it remains just that, a theory. But when your best friend kills himself, it’s hard not to read negative intent into something like that. I can’t read anything positive into a suicide. It’s because of this state-run bullshit that I decided to go to Doctor Brown. She works for a privatised medical company. She’s not as bad as some therapists I’ve had before, she doesn’t ask questions about my childhood which is great, but she asks me weird things. Like questions a therapist, or a doctor, or whatever she is shouldn’t ask. Not necessarily inappropriate questions, just utterly weird ones.

I am now twenty-three and I’ve been ‘ill’, as the doctors like to put it, since I was twelve. I was a happy child. I was outspoken and enthusiastic, but a lot of shitty stuff happened and basically, I’m fucked. Now, I isolate myself in my dirty apartment in a shabby quarter of the city; and I never leave. I used to be an aggressive drinker, especially when I was in college; and I got blackouts a lot because of my drinking. I have always looked for things to numb myself, something to consume my mind wholly and prevent it from wandering. And, after I was of legal age, alcohol and drugs fit that brief perfectly. I still drink now, just not as severely. Drinking helps with a lot of things. For example, social situations have always made me uncomfortable; I either outstretch myself to impress people I don’t like or feel paranoid that people may find me insincere or phony. Drinking has always helped with this. And the reason for that is I’m not myself when I’m drinking. No one is, if you really think about it.

I lived with my only friend from secondary school, Seán, through college. Seán had been my only ever friend, everyone else at my school never took the time to know me. I was always the weird kid who didn’t really talk to anyone, so no one spoke to me. Seán and I shared a flat on college campus and, after lectures, most days we would get stoned or drunk together, or both. And play video games. One day, I was coming back from late lectures – I didn’t make friends in college and Seán wasn’t very extroverted himself. As I walked across the courtyard, I saw a large crowd of students gathered around something. People were running around frantically, I heard someone screaming and quickly walked over to see the commotion. There, lying on the ground with his head cracked open and bleeding violently, was my only friend, Seán. He had leapt out the window of our flat just moments before. I thought, for a long time, if only I hadn’t stopped to get a box of cigarettes and went straight home instead, I could have stopped Seán from jumping. Now, my dreams are soaked in blood. And Seán’s death is all I think about when I see the colour red. 

I began my discussion with Doctor Brown. “I have been thinking about a lot of weird stuff lately,” I told her. Doctor Brown stared blankly across the table at me. She waited for a moment before asking “What do you mean ‘weird stuff’, Martin?” but she knew what I meant. They always knew even if they acted like they didn’t. They just want to hear you say it. They want you to say you need their help. “Just strange thoughts, it’s like I can’t think clearly” I said. At this, Doctor Brown looks kind of pleased, as if she’s satisfied by that. She just accepts my answer without further questioning. I’ve always felt uncomfortable at the doctor’s office; you’d think after spending nearly a decade in and out of hospitals and out-patient facilities, I would think of this setting as a familiar one, but I don’t. And, while Doctor Brown isn’t like all those other bullshit doctors, I am never as uncomfortable anywhere as I am in her dark, bleak office. When I’m inside, sitting across from her in that worn red leather chair, I feel like a child who cannot speak for themselves and she’s my overbearing mother. Everything she says, I believe.

“Alright, Martin, is there anything in particular you’d like to talk about or tell me?” Doctor Brown is not so much a licensed professional, but a licensed pseudo. Sometimes I think she isn’t even human, she’s the closest thing to a robot I’ve ever seen. Doctor Brown starts typing notes from our conversation loudly. She has a creepy disposition and it seems like she never really means what she says. Like when she asks a question, it seems like she is asking a different question, a weird question hiding within her ‘normal’ question. Our meetings are always surreal encounters. Before I go in to see Doctor Brown, I convince myself things will be different. I will get better, she will help me, something will change. But when I walk out, I’m still the same person. Nothing changes. And I can’t even remember what we talked about.

I watch Doctor Brown as she types more notes aggressively between intervals of asking about my diet, my sleep pattern and my relationship with my family; none of which, I inform her, were any good. I can’t sleep. No matter how long I lay with my eyes closed, or if I stop drinking coffee and eating before 6pm. Nothing can help me sleep. I can lie in my bed for hours and hours and without feeling tired at all. Again, she does nothing to offer a solution, or even pity. She looks glad that I am suffering. Like this is how the medication is supposed to work. Doctor Brown continues talking about what to expect from this medication and tells me how great I’ll feel in a month’s time, and that the first few weeks of any medication is always like this. A feeling of anger grows in my stomach. It seems like she’s just filling me with shit so I’ll keep coming to her and paying her for her menial time.

“I don’t feel comfortable on this medication, Doctor,” I begin telling her. “I think I should come off it,” Doctor Brown snaps her head up to look at me and her expression is frightening. “No, Martin, you mustn’t come off the medication, it’s helping you, I can see the result already, and you’re talking more,” I begin to feel my head lulling as I start to believe her, but it doesn’t feel right. I’m agreeing with her, but it feels wrong. I try to think more clearly. “No, Doctor, I seriously don’t like it. I’d feel a lot more comfortable going back to my old medication. I didn’t really want to try go on this one anyway, I think,” as I speak, I start remembering that I never actually wanted to be on this medication in the first place. “Yeah, Doctor, why was I put on this medication?” she dials a number on the telephone beside her but doesn’t pick the phone up to call anyone. “Martin, I’ve told you before it’s better not to ask questions,” she gets up and paces towards me. I start to feel incredibly uncomfortable. I’ve always thought Doctor Brown to be harmlessly creepy, like it is just her demeanor that’s creepy, but she is now terrifying me.

“I have to leave now, Doctor,” I try to think of an excuse to leave, but she is now standing over me. “No, you don’t, Martin. I know that you have nowhere to be, so let’s continue our session,” she smiles threateningly. I no longer feel safe and I stand up to leave. “I’m leaving,” I told her. But she starts laughing. I start to feel sick. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with her today, but she is seriously creeping me out. “What did you think this was, Martin? You’re my patient, I say when you can leave. And you’re not leaving yet, Martin,” she says. I try to walk away from her, but I can’t. I can’t even move. “What the fuck is this?” I shout at her, but she remains calm, as if she was expecting this. “Martin, what have you done? You’ve ruined the whole trial, again. And now you have to go back to the basement,” what is she talking about? Why can’t I move? I can’t believe what’s happening. “Are you overwhelmed, Martin? Are you scared? You do this a lot; you ruin the trials. Maybe you’ll learn eventually, no matter how many times I tell you not to, you still ask questions. Do not ask questions, Martin,” Doctor Brown dissolves before my eyes and all I can see is white above me. “He’s siezing, grab him!” I can hear voices shouting in the distance, but I feel frozen, like I’m in a lucid dream I cannot awake from. I try screaming, but I can’t. My mouth stays shut. I close my eyes and try to wriggle my hands, or move in any way, but I can’t. “He’s awake, he’s awake,” I open my eyes to blaring white lights. “Gosh, Martin, we thought we lost you there,” Doctor Brown looks down at me with her hand to her chest. “Do you know where you are, Martin? You’re in the hospital, you’ve had another episode,” I spit in her face and she recoils, “Give him another dose of the medication!”

I stood in line at reception. The clock read 10:55. I was on time. I felt a slight ache in my stomach and was reminded that I haven’t yet eaten today. My jacket was dripping but I couldn’t remember if it had been raining or not. It felt like I had just woken up right now, in the middle of this line. “Mr. Tobin?” said the receptionist with something of a smile. I hadn’t noticed the line move. “Yes, sorry. I’m here to see Doctor Brown,” I said.

She nodded and told me to take a seat. I turned to the waiting area, greeted by the gloomy faces of the young and old. I guess insanity doesn’t discriminate. On the table in front of me lay a pile of magazines I had never heard of. I picked one up and sifted through it. All the magazines in the Union Medical Facility were odd. Each magazine was over a decade old, but they were in pristine condition, as if no one had ever touched them. I landed on a page that titled Secure Beneath Mother’s Wings: do not worry, we are looking out for you. The page was entirely red, and the article was written in black. The first line read: You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide. “Mr. Tobin, the Doctor will see you now,” the receptionist called over the intercom. I hate when they do that. Ever heard of privacy? They’re a private company but they can’t keep my name to themselves. I got up, holding my wet jacket in my arms and headed for room 9.

In the morning, I had sat in front of the mirror practising what I would tell Doctor Brown; but anything that I intentionally plan never turns out the way I want it to. I always get these grandiose notions before I see her that I will tell her everything, exactly how I have been feeling. But I don’t. As soon as I sit down in front of her and she starts asking me questions, I lose motivation. It’s like her menacing, unpleasant smile diminishes any hope I have of confiding in her. And then I don’t want to tell her anything. I find it almost excruciating to talk openly about how I feel and, even if they say they are no one to judge, they are. Everyone judges you, maybe not intentionally, but instinctively. It is engrained in the psyche of the twenty-first century man, or woman; but in my case, man. If there is one thing I don’t want, it’s to be judged.

They prescribed me a new medication and it’s causing me, among other things, to hallucinate. Whenever I have these strange visions, my thoughts are scrambled, I can’t think clearly or even trust my own thoughts. Every morning when I wake up, I’m caught in the everlasting dilemma of whether or not to force three red pills down my throat, or face the stark, bare ass of the blues. I hold the pills in the palm of my hand and stare at them for a while as I decide. I take a pill to my ear and shake it, listening to the tiny spheres of serotonin powder bouncing off of each other inside. The pills never seem to work either, but I keep trying. I don’t have a great life, but I don’t always want to be like this. I want to get better. But any inconvenience seems like a catastrophe and any argument seems like a war. I live my life in extremities, ricocheting off one mishap to another. I’m not a special person by any means. I even look bland. I don’t have any defining features and my clothes are just as exciting as my face. I have greyish brown hair, brown eyes, not almond or hazel, just brown; and a normal, slightly crooked nose. And, while this is my face, whenever I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t recognise myself. I don’t look like me. I haven’t felt at home in my own skin in a long time, but instead feel like I’ve been fitted with a stranger’s. I’ve never really felt all that at home anyway, but I’ve been feeling increasingly disassociated from myself, like someone else is controlling me. Sure, I can think but I’m not the one in control of it. It feels like I don’t even have a true identity anymore, not my own anyway. I lost that a long time ago. Instead of telling Doctor Brown all of the shit that is going on inside my destructively restless mind, I decide to tell her of my strange and eerie hallucinations, specifically about Seán. “Well, hallucinations are normal at the start, Martin,” Doctor Brown informs me, nodding encouragingly for me to believe her. But, for some reason, I don’t believe her. I have been on many different medications before. I have just never felt quite like this.

Therapy is pointless. In case you didn’t already know that, it is. It never goes anywhere, and you always feel worse leaving than you do when you go in. I have never ‘learnt anything about myself’ from a therapist other than that they think I’m crazy. Keeping in mind, therapists are people who get paid extortionately to sit and listen, or not listen, to someone’s mental defects. I once had a therapist who told me not to read negative intent from other people’s words or actions. This is a fine theory when it remains just that, a theory. But when your best friend kills himself, it’s hard not to read negative intent into something like that. I can’t read anything positive into a suicide. It’s because of this state-run bullshit that I decided to go to Doctor Brown. She works for a privatised medical company. She’s not as bad as some therapists I’ve had before, she doesn’t ask questions about my childhood which is great, but she asks me weird things. Like questions a therapist, or a doctor, or whatever she is shouldn’t ask. Not necessarily inappropriate questions, just utterly weird ones.

I am now twenty-three and I’ve been ‘ill’, as the doctors like to put it, since I was twelve. I was a happy child. I was outspoken and enthusiastic, but a lot of shitty stuff happened and basically, I’m fucked. Now, I isolate myself in my dirty apartment in a shabby quarter of the city; and I never leave. I used to be an aggressive drinker, especially when I was in college; and I got blackouts a lot because of my drinking. I have always looked for things to numb myself, something to consume my mind wholly and prevent it from wandering. And, after I was of legal age, alcohol and drugs fit that brief perfectly. I still drink now, just not as severely. Drinking helps with a lot of things. For example, social situations have always made me uncomfortable; I either outstretch myself to impress people I don’t like or feel paranoid that people may find me insincere or phony. Drinking has always helped with this. And the reason for that is I’m not myself when I’m drinking. No one is, if you really think about it.

I lived with my only friend from secondary school, Seán, through college. Seán had been my only ever friend, everyone else at my school never took the time to know me. I was always the weird kid who didn’t really talk to anyone, so no one spoke to me. Seán and I shared a flat on college campus and, after lectures, most days we would get stoned or drunk together, or both. And play video games. One day, I was coming back from late lectures – I didn’t make friends in college and Seán wasn’t very extroverted himself. As I walked across the courtyard, I saw a large crowd of students gathered around something. People were running around frantically, I heard someone screaming and quickly walked over to see the commotion. There, lying on the ground with his head cracked open and bleeding violently, was my only friend, Seán. He had leapt out the window of our flat just moments before. I thought, for a long time, if only I hadn’t stopped to get a box of cigarettes and went straight home instead, I could have stopped Seán from jumping. Now, my dreams are soaked in blood. And Seán’s death is all I think about when I see the colour red. 

I began my discussion with Doctor Brown. “I have been thinking about a lot of weird stuff lately,” I told her. Doctor Brown stared blankly across the table at me. She waited for a moment before asking “What do you mean ‘weird stuff’, Martin?” but she knew what I meant. They always knew even if they acted like they didn’t. They just want to hear you say it. They want you to say you need their help. “Just strange thoughts, it’s like I can’t think clearly” I said. At this, Doctor Brown looks kind of pleased, as if she’s satisfied by that. She just accepts my answer without further questioning. I’ve always felt uncomfortable at the doctor’s office; you’d think after spending nearly a decade in and out of hospitals and out-patient facilities, I would think of this setting as a familiar one, but I don’t. And, while Doctor Brown isn’t like all those other bullshit doctors, I am never as uncomfortable anywhere as I am in her dark, bleak office. When I’m inside, sitting across from her in that worn red leather chair, I feel like a child who cannot speak for themselves and she’s my overbearing mother. Everything she says, I believe.

“Alright, Martin, is there anything in particular you’d like to talk about or tell me?” Doctor Brown is not so much a licensed professional, but a licensed pseudo. Sometimes I think she isn’t even human, she’s the closest thing to a robot I’ve ever seen. Doctor Brown starts typing notes from our conversation loudly. She has a creepy disposition and it seems like she never really means what she says. Like when she asks a question, it seems like she is asking a different question, a weird question hiding within her ‘normal’ question. Our meetings are always surreal encounters. Before I go in to see Doctor Brown, I convince myself things will be different. I will get better, she will help me, something will change. But when I walk out, I’m still the same person. Nothing changes. And I can’t even remember what we talked about.

I watch Doctor Brown as she types more notes aggressively between intervals of asking about my diet, my sleep pattern and my relationship with my family; none of which, I inform her, were any good. I can’t sleep. No matter how long I lay with my eyes closed, or if I stop drinking coffee and eating before 6pm. Nothing can help me sleep. I can lie in my bed for hours and hours and without feeling tired at all. Again, she does nothing to offer a solution, or even pity. She looks glad that I am suffering. Like this is how the medication is supposed to work. Doctor Brown continues talking about what to expect from this medication and tells me how great I’ll feel in a month’s time, and that the first few weeks of any medication is always like this. A feeling of anger grows in my stomach. It seems like she’s just filling me with shit so I’ll keep coming to her and paying her for her menial time.

“I don’t feel comfortable on this medication, Doctor,” I begin telling her. “I think I should come off it,” Doctor Brown snaps her head up to look at me and her expression is frightening. “No, Martin, you mustn’t come off the medication, it’s helping you, I can see the result already, and you’re talking more,” I begin to feel my head lulling as I start to believe her, but it doesn’t feel right. I’m agreeing with her, but it feels wrong. I try to think more clearly. “No, Doctor, I seriously don’t like it. I’d feel a lot more comfortable going back to my old medication. I didn’t really want to try go on this one anyway, I think,” as I speak, I start remembering that I never actually wanted to be on this medication in the first place. “Yeah, Doctor, why was I put on this medication?” she dials a number on the telephone beside her but doesn’t pick the phone up to call anyone. “Martin, I’ve told you before it’s better not to ask questions,” she gets up and paces towards me. I start to feel incredibly uncomfortable. I’ve always thought Doctor Brown to be harmlessly creepy, like it is just her demeanor that’s creepy, but she is now terrifying me.

“I have to leave now, Doctor,” I try to think of an excuse to leave, but she is now standing over me. “No, you don’t, Martin. I know that you have nowhere to be, so let’s continue our session,” she smiles threateningly. I no longer feel safe and I stand up to leave. “I’m leaving,” I told her. But she starts laughing. I start to feel sick. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with her today, but she is seriously creeping me out. “What did you think this was, Martin? You’re my patient, I say when you can leave. And you’re not leaving yet, Martin,” she says. I try to walk away from her, but I can’t. I can’t even move. “What the fuck is this?” I shout at her, but she remains calm, as if she was expecting this. “Martin, what have you done? You’ve ruined the whole trial, again. And now you have to go back to the basement,” what is she talking about? Why can’t I move? I can’t believe what’s happening. “Are you overwhelmed, Martin? Are you scared? You do this a lot; you ruin the trials. Maybe you’ll learn eventually, no matter how many times I tell you not to, you still ask questions. Do not ask questions, Martin,” Doctor Brown dissolves before my eyes and all I can see is white above me. “He’s siezing, grab him!” I can hear voices shouting in the distance, but I feel frozen, like I’m in a lucid dream I cannot awake from. I try screaming, but I can’t. My mouth stays shut. I close my eyes and try to wriggle my hands, or move in any way, but I can’t. “He’s awake, he’s awake,” I open my eyes to blaring white lights. “Gosh, Martin, we thought we lost you there,” Doctor Brown looks down at me with her hand to her chest. “Do you know where you are, Martin? You’re in the hospital, you’ve had another episode,” I spit in her face and she recoils, “Give him another dose of the medication!”

Fuck the Patriarchy

I was brought up in a rather unconventional household. My mother and father, both artists, met early in their twenties. Both of them had been in serious relationships before and had children. My father is from Glasgow, where both my half-brother and sister live. And my mother is from Mayo, where I was raised with my brothers. Their story is a precious one. My mother and her friend went on a weekend break to Glasgow. When they got to the hotel, my mother was very tired and just wanted to go to bed, but her friend insisted they go out. They went to a pub, where my mother met my father, and spent the rest of the weekend with him. When it was time for her to leave, they both said “I love you” after only four days of knowing one another. Two weeks later, my father arrived in Westport, and they have been together ever since. Coming from such an avant-garde, free minded background, it’s no surprise that I turned out to be the perfect mix of these two beautiful, terribly stubborn souls. My parents always taught me to follow my heart; to get out into the world and make my mark on it, no matter what other people may think of me.

My family and I moved to our house when I was six. We had moved around a bit when I was a young child before building our own house in the country, away from all the noise and nosy neighbours of the busy towns. We had a vast collection of books dominating our hallways, (I always loved to joke that we had our own personal library in the house), alongside framed photos of holidays and birthdays. It was a big house; with a spare room that soon became my little brother’s. I loved the feeling of being so small in such a big house. My family are a close-knit unit; we speak openly about things that would make most people uncomfortable, such as out-of-the-ordinary bodily functions, how we are doing mentally, even if it’s not very good, and things most people generally shy away from talking about, especially here in Ireland. I have always felt able to speak my mind and disagree with someone if I think they’re wrong or to stand up for myself.

I never really understood social cues, like why people would get awkward sometimes or felt they couldn’t be themselves in front of others. I never understood the phrase ‘the Irish conservative attitude’ until I went to school. By all means, I was a weird kid. By warranting my own absolute freedom to act as I wished, as long as it didn’t cause harm, my parents had unknowingly created a perfect storm of all that the Irish conservative attitude hissed at. I wore bright coloured tights and hats that drew a lot of attention towards me at school. I played by myself, whether in the mud or trees. And I talked to myself. A lot. This, people thought, was weird. The other kids at school band together in groups at all times and I got the impression that they felt they needed to be around others, to impress people, or seek validation. I have never understood this. Why would someone place their own self-worth in someone else’s hands? Or allow themselves to feel like they couldn’t be themselves. Over the next decade I would learn that it is not usually the individual that chooses to be this way, it is taught to them. Everything we know, we have been taught. How to speak, how to walk, even how to eat. But yet children are taught to be quiet, especially girls. To speak only when spoken to. Ever hear the phrase “You should smile more” Or have you ever said it? This is exasperating for every girl and woman alive. For a man to tell a woman how she should be. But it’s fine, we should just let it go, they say, no harm done.

Now, in saying that, I have never felt ashamed of being a woman or being Irish; until three years ago. I first learnt about rape and sexual assault at a young age. I was told not to leave a drink unattended at a party, never to wander off on my own, and to always have a friend with me. These are pretty basic fundamentals all young girls are taught. That if we are not careful, something bad might happen to us. But it does, nevertheless. As it did to me, and to a young girl in Cork.

I first heard about her trial on the news. A twenty-seven-year-old man had been accused of the assault and rape of a teenage girl in Cork. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Many cases come and go on the news, it wasn’t shocking to me because I had heard it so many times before and experienced it first-hand. But what did shock me was the actions of the defence lawyer. Elizabeth O’Connell, the defence attorney for the rapist on trial, believed that if she could not prove that he was innocent, she would certainly try to prove that the young, teenage girl was guilty, by holding up the girl’s underwear in court, blaming the victim of rape for enticing her predator to rape her because of the black lace thong she was wearing. I believe this to be the most toxic display of victim-shaming I have ever seen. And what’s worse? The people who agreed with her. I feel sorry for the women who feel like they cannot wear what they want in public, the women who are objectified constantly, treated like a vessel for men to pass through. As long as small-minded people believe they can treat people however they wish, and as long as little girls are told to remain quiet about creepy older men, nothing will

A Generation

 Hopeless youth ranting
 On small rectangle machines
 Drinking dark and sweet and musty
 Green tea,
  
 And the old are fearful
 Of the new
 As they always
 Seem to be.
  
 Watching old movies
 That make you feel
 Seventeen,
 Hoping you can
 Write, paint, sing, scream
 A new anti-society
 For people to read.
  
 We are all disenfranchised.
 Our governments fail us
 And we consume too much
 For our own good.
 But isn’t that just
 Being carefree?
  
 A generation of people
 Told they were different,
 Each of us
 Doing the same things.
 
 SAOIRSHE O'NEILL
 
  
  
  
   

Lessons

I wrote this poem for my poetry class this semester. I like the idea of internal rhymes that build tension in a poem, I think Poe used them really well.
  I’ve always carried this feeling with me
  Like a dull beating drum or a constant
  Annoying hum, in the back of my mind
  Wherever I go.
   
  I tried to learn an instrument 
  But the guitar isn’t that eloquent  
  And the chords always deceived me. 
  So I tried my hand at a different brand 
  And watched old movies. 
  Trying desperately to educate myself 
  On everything it is to be human 
  But the answer remained a mystery. 
   
  Instead, I bought a camera. 
  I thought the study of other people 
  Could somehow enlighten me 
  On my own diaspora 
  But instead I felt indoctrinated, 
  Propagandized by my own mind 
  Clueless to the ways of myself 
  And everything I left... undefined. 
   
  Silly of me to think I could find
  Anything out about myself
  From the mind of someone else. 
 
 SAOIRSHE O'NEILL

Nostalgia

 
  
 Home will not let you forget.
 The smell of freshly picked apples in the afternoon,
 My mother soaking them by the kitchen sink,
 Rubbing off the mildew under running water.
 I watched her dry her hands on her bright yellow apron.
 She led me to the table as I wiped the sleep from my eyes.
 Where is that apron now?
  
 I remember the gentle hum of my father’s voice;
 My head on his chest, surrounded by an infinite army
 Of fluffy teddy bears,
 As he read Around the World in Eighty Days
 Or The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
 And how his smile loomed in the dim orange light
 Of my childhood bedroom.
  
 To this day, I am reminded of home
 Whenever Neil Young comes on the radio.
 I think of my mother, singing along in the car.
 And her laughter when I told her
 She would be a great singer.
 It all seemed so possible then.
  
 But those days that seemed never-ending
 Came to an end. 
 That innocent child,
 I wish could have stayed a while.
 Oh, how I’d like to meet the girl
 That lived in the clouds
 (Hidden from the world).
  
 SAOIRSHE O NEILL