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Former President Mary Robinson is dishing out the same life advice as Meghan Markle

Listen up ladies, Mary is speaking!

IT MIGHT SEEM blasphemous to even think – never mind write down – but there was a time when we had another Irish president who was just as universally loved and respected as Miggeldy Higgins.

I know, it’s really hard to believe.

Unveiling of the Hanna Sheehy Skeffington commemorative plaque Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Like, look at him here this week, unveiling a plaque dedicated to bad-ass feminist Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and the suffragette movement.

Have you ever seen more pizzazz in one photo?

So way before Prez Higgins, we elected another bad-ass feminist as President – a woman by the name of Mary Robinson. Robinson was elected as the first female Irish President in 1990, after serving for 20 years as a Senator.

Robinson, a barrister and law professor, has always been way ahead of her time. In 1969 she gave an acceptance speech for a law-review position where she advocated removing the prohibition of divorce in the Irish Constitution, eliminating the ban on the use of contraceptives, decriminalising homosexuality and suicide, and spoke out strongly against the Catholic Church. Needless to say, this caused a bit of a stir back in those good old days of blatant sexism and blind devotion to bishops.

It’s truly insane to think that Robinson’s voice was in the minority for so long in this country.

Brexit Source: JONATHAN BRADY, PA Images

As well as arguing the first gay-rights case in Ireland before the International Court of Human Rights at The Hague, Robinson also an outspoken critic of the 8th amendment being introduced into the Irish Constitution. She argued that from a legal position that the term ‘unborn’ was too ambiguous and warned (correctly) that the 8th would lead to situations where a women’s health would be dragged through the courts as test cases against the amendment.

Now that our constitution has (mostly) rid itself of archaic, patriarchal and Catholic-influenced laws, it can be said that Ireland treats its citizens the same regardless of gender or sexual orientation…well on paper at least.

The thing is that there is a huge difference between legal barriers that prevent you from doing something (having an abortion, or marrying someone of the same sex) and the societal pressures that are placed upon you to act a certain way. What we need now is to empower Irish people to make choices that are true to themselves.

Irish President Mary Robinson Source: PA Archive/PA Images

So the legend that is Mary Robinson, after helping to dismantle the legal barriers for women and LGBTQ people, is now addressing the mental and psychological barriers that society places upon women.

In a clip from ‘No Country For Women’, a documentary to be aired on RTE ONE next Tuesday and Wednesday, Mary Robinson dishes out some life advice for young women of Ireland today.

Don’t be afraid to interrupt. That’s what a girl needs to know. Don’t be afraid to interrupt. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself. Don’t feel that these adjectives about being strong and assertive are making you shrill and boyish and wrong. All the adjectives that describe taking initiative, being brave – all are male-associated and that’s a problem.

It’s a similar message that our new feminist hero Meghan Markle, the now Duchess of Sussex, said earlier this year in February:

Women don’t need to find a voice, they have a voice, and they need to feel empowered to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen.

Royal Foundation Forum Source: Chris Jackson

Both are strong messages of empowerment that every woman should hear. It’s a message that shouldn’t have to be given, but unfortunately, from birth, the social treatment of women is different, even if the opportunities available to them (preschool, school) are equal.

A study found that mothers place smaller expectations on their daughters than their sons. In the study, mothers were less confident of their daughters’ ability to crawl down a slope, despite the fact that children are physically completely equal until puberty.

Women are taught to make ourselves smaller, and to be neat, to be considerate of others, but boys are allowed to be larger than life, given space to be messy and let off with hurting others because ‘boys will be boys’.

Go to any playground and you’ll see parents letting their boys go wild whilst parents of girls helicopter over them more. I’m generalising but you can see this based on how they are dressed: boys will inevitabily be in loose pants which allow them to run wild, meanwhile girls are put into tight trousers that constrains their ability to climb or in skirts/dresses that inhibit their ability to move freely and cause them to trip up so they have to adjust their movements.

jennifer Source: giphy

Being kind and considerate of others is something to strive for, but collectively as a society those with the power – men – aren’t doing that. Look at the blustery selfishness of Donald Trump. It wouldn’t be acceptable for a woman to behave like this, but it’s seen as acceptable for a male leader of the free world to behave like an overgrown toddler.

If women collectively began to speak out, as they have been doing with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, we can not only stop people like Donald Trump from ever being a public figure, but we can empower the women who should be heard to speak up.

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