On the Edge
FINE to condemn George Hook but there is no need to crucify him too. He is undoubtedly doing that all by himself as his professional life comes under scrutiny and maniacal social media monsters calls for his head on a plate have been successful. Former Mayo News columnist Hook’s comments about rape and a woman’s responsibility are indefensible but – let’s call a spade a spade – they reflect a misogynistic mindset that lurks in every office corridor and down every dark lane throughout the country.
George Hook’s apology may have come too late but, at least, it has blown open an overdue debate about media misogyny. (A national newspaper’s Christmas party I attended about a decade ago comes to mind: the senior editorial team, all men, sat at the top table drinking their postprandial brandies as a gaggle of young female reporters appeared to be dancing for them out on the floor. I offer it up!)
At this stage in the fight for a fair feminist society, we all should know that hysteria will change nothing.
When you get to my maturity the only option is to kick yourself in the backside in the hope that this latest everyday-sexist scandal is just a recurring dream. It is pointless pinching yourself because it is never enough of a wake-up call to the fact that the myopia of misogynism is part of our lives. No matter how sophisticated we think we have become: women burning their bras back in the 1960s; crossing the border to Belfast on the ‘contraceptive train’ for condoms; challenging the practice of being ‘churched’ (cleansed) after giving birth.
GEORGE Hook was born in 1941 when this country was still under the dictatorship of a conservative Catholic Church which effectively ruled Government policy and espoused a culture filled with virginal girls wearing lace mantillas and blue and white capes of the Children of Mary.
He is a septuagenarian who grew up with an attitude he undoubtedly shares with a lot of the men of his age group – albeit they do not have his influence on the air waves. He escaped the same level of opprobrium in 2015 when he observed that Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill, who was repeatedly assaulted by her then Norwegian boyfriend, Magnus Meyer Hustveit while she slept: “You are sharing a bed with somebody. Is there not an implied consent therefore that you consent to sexual congress?”
George Hook is not the only man in this country with this attitude. He grew up in an era when the term ‘conjugal rights’ had currency. Indeed, look up any reputable dictionary and, bizarrely, the definition is still there. “Conjugal rights: the sexual rights or privileges implied by and involved in the marriage relationship: the right of sexual intercourse between husband and wife.”
FOR this season, Newstalk has no women presenters from Monday to Friday between the prime-listenership hours of 7am to 7pm. The excellent co-broadcaster of its ‘drivetime’ show for the last year, Sarah McInerney, has been consigned to a one-hour current affairs programme on Saturday mornings between 8am and 9am, replacing Sarah Carey, also an excellent broadcaster. This is to facilitate the return of the curmudgeonly Ivan Yates, who is also set to co-present TV3’s Tonight Show with Matt Cooper. Why else would they have side-lined Sarah McInerney? Wouldn’t the drivetime programme have been far more engaging if she was pitted against Ivan Yates and his often arrogant posturing?
It is only fair to note that it was two female employees of Newstalk who, earlier this month, came out to welcome these changes to the schedule, already dominated by male voices, such as Hook, Paul Williams, Shane Coleman and Bobby Kerr. Sinéad Spain is Communicorp’s (the station’s owner) Group Head of News and Patricia Monahan, is Newstalk’s Managing Editor.
So, what does this abysmal gender balance say about the attitudes of the top executives at the station? This is a station given a licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and one of only two national talk radio stations.
Clearly, George Hook has ignited a fire about the sexism that still exists in Irish society. But isn’t it only the tip of the iceberg? Any woman out there in the workplace knows how the pervasiveness of everyday sexism reaches deep into the bowels of corporate attitudes in companies all over the country.
The real problem is that it is often so nuanced and subtle, you could be burnt at the stake for highlighting it. Our only option is to adopt some gallows humour and laugh out loud.