Fiona the Feminist – Episode 1 – Fiona the Feminist, A Day in the Life.

Fiona the feminist was angry. Her trip to the supermarket had become the usual minefield of misogynist oppression. She had very politely asked the man in front of her in the checkout queue if she could skip the line, explaining that she was in a hurry. He had refused. The faint smirk on his face had said it all. Of course he would have allowed a man to skip the queue, but women, as always, were second class citizens. Fiona was putting on a brave face. After all women in Ireland had to suffer this constant barrage of misogyny every day. Fiona was just glad that her gender studies classes had given her the skills to survive in a patriarchal society.

Fiona was hot. It was now officially the hottest July ever recorded in this usually mild country and Fiona’s latest piercing was still swollen and sore. As she walked past a building site a workman whistled at her. She was outraged. She began to walk more quickly. She was well aware of the fact that wolf-whistles often lead to gang-rape. She knew that whistles were used by men to demonstrate their hatred of women everywhere. She felt under attack, but that was just normal for a woman living in a patriarchal society.

She only noticed the blonde girl in the little red convertible as the construction worker called out again – “looking gooooooooood”. As the traffic lights turned to green, the blonde girl pouted, smiled and waved in his direction before driving off. On realizing that the man had been whistling at the blonde girl in the car, Fiona the Feminist was even more disturbed. Fiona could take it. Fiona was protected by the armor of her feminist education. The girl in the car was an innocent. She didn’t know that she was being verbally assaulted. She didn’t realize how deeply she was being hurt. She didn’t know that that man was the product of a culture designed to crush the spirits of women. Some women called it flirting, but Fiona had read Steinem and Greer, and Fiona knew better.

But Fiona was angry at the girl in the sports-car too? How could she participate in this barbaric behaviour? Didn’t she realize that she was allowing herself to be used as a tool of the patriarchy? Didn’t she realize that that construction worker was a rapist and would have raped her given the chance? Didn’t she realize that he would probably go out after work and rape another woman?

Fiona the Feminist was in a hurry now because she was bursting for a pee. Had she been male, she could have ducked into the woods at the end of the town and relieved herself behind a tree. Of course under the patriarchy, a woman couldn’t do that and anyway, everybody knew that the woods were full of rapists just waiting for their next victim. As she was walking past the park, she noticed a tall brutish looking man walking along with a little girl in a pink dress. A pink dress!!! Fiona shuddered at the sight. Fiona knew that pink clothes for girls constituted the first step in the process of oppressive gender construction. The child had noticed an ice-cream vendor and cried out – “daddy can we get some ice-cream?” Fiona’s heart sank. What price would the little girl have to pay for that ice-cream? She wondered. Fiona knew there was no point in calling the police. They would do nothing as usual.

As Fiona the Feminist walked past the bus-stop she cringed in disgust at the advertising billboard depicting a clearly sexualized woman extolling the virtues of a new eye-liner. She felt the burden of a millennium of oppression crushing down on her. She had considered taking the bus but everyone knew that buses sometimes contained men who rode the buses to objectify and lear at women. Anyway she could be sure that there would be even more offensive advertisements displayed inside the bus. Buses, Fiona understood were simply tools of patriarchal oppression and to add insult to injury, women were also forced to pay to use them.

Fiona had no choice but to walk past the entrance to the rugby club on the way home. A group of teenage boys emerged just as she approached. It was almost as if they were lying in wait for her. She shuddered to think what evil was lurking in the foul minds of these little future rapists. The boys jostled and punched each other playfully, laughing as they made their way up the street. Fiona knew that their sinister masculine behaviour was no laughing matter though. She knew that their imitation violence was training for the day when they would inflict real violence upon women. They moved aside to let Fiona pass, but Fiona did not mistake this for courtesy. Fiona, armed with the wisdom of feminist doctrine knew that they were just checking her out, objectifying her, deciding if she was to be their victim.

Fiona the Feminist closed the door behind her with a sigh of relief. She was finally safe from the oppression of the patriarchy. Her friend, Fanny the Feminist would be arriving later to share a meal. They would sip wine together and discuss the great works of literature like “The Beauty Myth” and the “The Female Eunuch”. Fanny herself was writing a book called “I’m Oppressed”.

She looked forward to Fanny’s company. Fanny understood. Fiona had just been for a short walk into town to do some shopping and she had been intimidated, verbally abused and confronted with blatant misogyny where ever she had looked. How women could survive such oppression every day was a great credit to the strength and perseverance of women everywhere, Fiona thought. Men would never survive such harsh and hostile conditions. Fiona felt a strange glow of pride. “I survived today” she whispered to herself. “I am a survivor” – “I am a woman, hear me roar.”

Disclaimer:

No feminists were harmed during the writing of this story.

Fiona the Feminist – Episode 2 – Fiona the Feminist Starts a Support Group

Fiona the Feminist was angry. She had been refused permission to use a classroom in the local school for her Wednesday evening support group. The misogynist school principle had told her that she needed to book a room at least eight weeks in advance and that as it stood, all the rooms were already being used. Fiona knew this was yet another attempt by the patriarchy to crush the spirits of women. Fiona would not be so easily thwarted though. Her determination to help the downtrodden women of Ireland was unquenchable. She would hold the support group in her own house.

Originally the plan was for Fiona’s friend Fanny the Feminist to lead the group, but it was decided that as Fiona held the relevant diplomas in victimology and male-blaming, she would be better placed to take the lead. Fiona prepared the room well in advance, arranging chairs in a circle and hanging the large banner she had made on the wall. The banner read “Women Empowering Women” Fiona had thought of that slogan all by herself. She finally removed anything remotely phallic in shape from the room. She knew she would be dealing with victims of patriarchal abuse and she didn’t want anyone to be triggered.

The first evening went well. Only a few people showed up but it was a good start. Fiona was introduced to some new faces. Fifi, Frances, Faye and Freda. Their stories were truly harrowing.

Fifi had been called a “stupid bitch” after having bumped her car into that of a nasty misogynist. She had required months of counseling and she wasn’t quite there yet. She recounted how the police had arrived quickly on the scene, but instead of offering her support and comfort, they had sided with the misogynist, checking Fifi’s insurance documents and warning her that she would have to pay for the damage.

Faye had been “cyber bullied”. Various misogynists had left messages on her feminist blog at wearevictims.com. The messages had been critical of feminism in general and one of them had even called her an idiot. Faye had interpreted this as a death-threat and had reported it to police. Faye had been deeply traumatized by her ordeal. She trembled uncontrollably as she told her story and had to be comforted by a group hug. Fiona who had left her laptop open on the table, closed it and removed it from the room. Faye had explained that she sometimes found the sight of computer screens quite triggering. And this was to be a safe space for women.

Freda had once been told that she had “nice melons” by a drunk outside a pub. She had reported the incident to the police but they had predictably refused to investigate. Freda had been afraid to leave her apartment for months.

Fanny recounted her own horrific story of abuse and survival. She had overheard an inappropriate joke in work and she reminded everybody that there was nothing funny about inappropriate remarks. In fact they could be devastating to the self-esteem of women everwhere. Fanny was a tough one though; a true survivor. She had taken a few weeks off to recover from her ordeal but had then returned to work and fought back. She had demanded that a room at the company offices be set aside as a safe woman’s space and had lodged a complaint against the misogynistic joke teller which resulted in his dismissal. Fanny was a true heroine of the struggle.

All in all, the evening had been a resounding success. There had been a slight feeling of discomfort when Frances had suggested that someone should make some sandwiches. The women looked at each-other nervously, each acutely aware of the delicate nature of the topic. Once again though, Fanny had come to the rescue. “Damn” she laughed. “There is never a male feminist around when you need one.Why don’t we just order some take-out?”

Things lightened up a bit after the women had eaten and they finished the evening sipping wine, discussing their vaginas, and whether or not is was possible for a man to be a decent human being? Faye impressed them all by producing a wrinkled tissue in a glass frame. It was a tissue that had once been used to wipe the nose of Gloria Steinem herself!

Fiona was elated. Her support group was going to be a resounding success and as word spread, she was sure she would be able to reach out and offer support to many more victims. She was immensely proud to be associated with these women. They were so strong and brave and determined to display their heroic defiance in the face of the constant misogyny and oppression they experienced every day.

Before leaving, the women stood in a circle, arms raised in a clenched-fist salute and chanted together. “We are women hear us roar.”

Disclaimer:

No feminists were harmed or even “triggered” during the writing of this story.

Fiona the Feminist – Episode 3 – Fiona the Feminist goes to a Job Interview.

Fiona the Feminist was angry. She wanted this job but she bitterly resented the way the patriarchy expected her to dress for the interview. She stood in front of the full-length mirror fuming at how ridiculous she looked. She was wearing a smart white top and a tight pencil skirt. It was the only skirt Fiona owned. Fiona hated skirts. Everybody knew that skirts were invented by men to make it easier for them to rape women. “I might as well paint a target on my back” Fiona thought. Even the heels she wore had been designed by the patriarchy to facilitate the abuse of women. How could a woman possibly run away from a rapist wearing high-heeled shoes? Fiona put a can of mace in her briefcase. She knew that one in four women would be raped during their lifetime. That meant that statistically speaking, nearly two thousand women would be raped in Dublin that day. Fiona the Feminist was not going to become a statistic.

Fiona was well qualified for the position. She flicked through her impressive arsenal of certificates and diplomas, brimming with pride, before putting them in her briefcase. She had a degree in gender studies along with diplomas in patriarchy theory, feminist logic, victimology and male-blaming. She was undoubtedly better educated than anyone she knew and more than capable of the part-time job as an administrator in a law firm. She did understand though that under the patriarchy, her qualifications would mean little if there was a man going for the same job.

The interview was a disaster from the outset. The offices of the company were housed in a massive Georgian building over-looking Stephens Green. Fiona the Feminist was led into a large room furnished with heavy mahogany bookshelves and thick maroon carpets. There was a stink of masculinity about the place. A painting of some army officers in dress uniforms hung over the huge marble fireplace. The green baize of a snooker table could be seen through stained glass doors at one end of the room. Old muskets and bayonets were mounted on one wall; their phallic warning to women, impossible to misinterpret. An Irish tricolour stood in one corner behind a massive desk. This grand reception room had been designed for one purpose only, to intimidate and disempower women. Fiona felt a chill run down her spine. She was standing alone in the lair of the patriarchal beast.

Fiona was invited to take a seat in a large brown leather armchair to wait for her appointment. A portly man in a dark suit came in and introduced himself. He asked Fiona if she would like a coffee or tea. Ha Fiona thought. Did he really think she would fall for that?

The misogynist then proceeded to ask Fiona all the usual interview questions that are designed to trip women up and give misogynists excuses for not hiring them. “How are your IT skills” – “What do you expect to gain from working here?” – “What can you bring to the company? ” – “What kind of experience do you have?” Some of the questions were so obviously the product of normalized rape culture that Fiona was beginning to feel quite ill. Everyone knew what “Are you flexible?” really meant…… “What kind of experience do you have?” was also a question that was obviously used to demean and objectify women. Fiona the Feminist took a brave stand. She refused to answer that question.

The portly misogynist appeared to be a little taken aback by Fiona’s defiance. He tried a different approach in yet another effort to humiliate her.

“So do you know anything about Irish law?” the misogynist growled.
“Well I do know that it discriminates against women.” Fiona replied confidently.
“Ehmm, actually it doesn’t. It is illegal to discriminate against women.”
“Well in my gender studies course I learned”…. Fiona began; but she was cut short
“I don’t know what it says in gender studies, but I do know what it says in the constitution of the Irish Republic”
“A constitution written by men.” Fiona countered – Ha she thought. Beat that!
“Yes” the misogynist replied, “and one that guarantees equal rights for women.”
Fiona’s brain began to freeze. This was the oldest trick in the misogynist rule book. When misogynists felt cornered they would always counter with things they called “facts” from what they called “history”.

Fiona remained silent. There was no point in arguing with this idiot. What did he know about gender studies? He was a perfect example of why Ireland needed more feminists in the education system.

The misogynist kept up a barrage of inappropriate questions including “Would you be prepared to work unsocial hours if required?” Fiona was well aware of what that meant. “No” she answered. I need my time off for my work on the struggle for equality.
“Oh” said the misogynist, “equality for whom?”

Fiona the Feminist searched deep inside herself for something to help her remain calm in the face of the this offensive onslaught. She found salvation in the words of the famous Irish feminist Annie Breanach, otherwise known as Angry Annie, who had once stunned the world with her profoundly iconic utterance – “Women are people too”. Fiona used a strategy she had learned in her latest anti-misogyny course. She was proud of they way her training just kicked in. She allowed the chant to rise slowly in her mind. -Women are people too. -Women are people too. -Women are people too. It worked. Fiona could envision the proud words of Angry Annie holding firm against the full frontal assault of masculinized “logic”. The mans mouth was still moving but Fiona just felt the words pass harmlessly over her, batted away by the heroic words of Angry Annie.

Fiona the Feminist shook a little as she walked down Grafton Street in the bright August sun. She turned left at the statue of Molly Malone. In Dublin she thought, even statues of women were designed to be symbols of their own oppression. What kind of society did she live in? It was enough to make even a proud warrior for equality cry. Fiona stifled her tears. She marched on with stoic determination towards Temple Bar. Temple Bar, The Irish Womans Union, and safety.

There was a aura of gentle female serenity in the cafe attached to the Irish Womans Union in Temple Bar. The walls were covered with paintings donated by victims of oppression and daubed with quotes from the heroines of past struggles. Fiona’s favourite was called “study of an angry vagina” by Fanny Feltbottom. That woman was a genius.

Fiona began to relax over her lunch of organic vegetarian ragu made with ingredients supplied by a woman only agricultural project in Outer Mongolia. She looked at the wonderful strong women sitting at the tables around her. She was among people who understood.

Fiona the Feminist knew she wouldn’t be offered the job. It was a law firm after all. They probably spent most of their time defending rapists in court and stripping divorced women of their assets. They certainly wouldn’t want an intrepid soldier of the sisterhood to have access to their sinister club. She knew she had won a small victory though. They had been afraid of her. She had seen confusion in the misogynist’s eyes just as she had drowned her own fear in the immortal words of Angry Annie. She had stared down the patriarchy and the patriarchy had blinked. She had stood defiantly in the belly of the beast and she had survived. “I’m a woman,” Fiona smiled to herself, feeling a new surge of defiance “I’m a woman hear me roar.”

Disclaimer:

No feminists were harmed during the writing of this story.

Fiona the Feminist – Episode 4 – Three Feminists and a Little Lady

Fiona The Feminist (Three Feminists and a Little Lady)

Fiona the Feminist was angry. She had just been on the phone to some relatives. The woman who was minding her six year old niece had suddenly given notice that she would have to leave for a few weeks. She was returning to her native Poland due to a family emergency. The child’s mother, had passed away years before and the father, Fiona’s stupid misogynist brother, had been lying in hospital, deep in a coma since an accident at work six months previously. There was no other option. Fiona would have to stay in her brother’s house for a few weeks over the Christmas period to mind the child. It was completely unfair of course. Why couldn’t one of her male relatives mind the brat? Fiona reminded herself that she lived in a patriarchal society and that women were always expected to take responsibility for everything.

The worst part was that the cottage belonging to Fiona’s brother was situated high in the Wicklow Mountains outside Dublin. It was in the countryside. Fiona hated the countryside. Everyone knew that the forests of the Wicklow mountains were teeming with misogynistic predators. In the countryside, thought Fiona, no one would hear you scream.

Fiona began calling her friends. Fiona would need to find someone to drive her because she didn’t have a car. Fiona hated cars. Cars, Fiona knew were often used to facilitate the rape of women. Cars were used to drive women to dark secluded places where men were waiting to rape them; dark secluded places in the countryside!

Fiona the Feminist was in better spirits after having called her friends. Her sisters in arms had not let her down. Both Fanny the Feminist and Freda the Feminist had agreed not only to accompany her to the Wicklow mountains, but to stay with her for the duration. They were so brave, especially Freda, who had overheard an inappropriate joke only a few months previously and was still feeling quite traumatized despite the endless hours of counseling. With her two brave comrades by her side, Fiona felt almost invincible.

Fiona wasn’t so worried now. A stay in Wicklow might give her a chance to teach some of the truths of feminism to her niece. Ashling was a great kid thought Fiona, but if she didn’t have some Feminist influence early on, then she might grow up to be a misogynist like her father. Fiona liked kids. She didn’t have any of her own because she knew that under the patriarchal system, having a child meant first allowing a man to rape you. Fiona had read the scholarly works of the awe-inspiring Catherine MacKinnon. Fiona knew that in the words of this great thinker – “All sex, even consensual sex is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” Fiona knew therefore, that all children were the products of rape and she was not about to inflict that either upon herself or an innocent child.

Fiona heard a car door slam. She looked out the window to see Fanny and Freda waving in at her. “What do you call the useless fatty tissue at the end of a penis?” Fanny called out. “A Man!” The three women fell about laughing. This trip was going to be fun after all. It was easy to see, Fiona mussed, why feminists were so renowned for their sparkling sense of humour.

A few hours later, Fiona the Feminist was sitting in Fanny’s car being driven through the Irish countryside. Freda retold her harrowing story. The man had told the offensive joke right in front of her. The police had refused to investigate as usual. When Freda had requested that the man be arrested, an officer had actually laughed right in her face. Freda had been left feeling threatened and vulnerable; violated first by the joke itself, and then by the system which was supposed to protect her.

The rolling fields of farmland turned into stubbly turf -bog and then woodland as they ascended into the mountains. The road became narrow and winding, sweeping around deep green valleys and lakes, punctuated by dark swathes of deep misty forest.

Fiona the Feminist knew that they must stay alert now. Fiona knew that her two friends were thinking the same thing…… This was a rapists paradise!

They finally passed a sign – “Welcome To Roundwood,” it read, “The Highest Village In Ireland.” They drove down the single street and stopped outside a shop. They planned on getting some supplies before going to the cottage.

Ashling sat in her room alone looking out over the little yard where her dad’s truck was parked and into the forest beyond. She picked up the little framed photo of her mother which sat on the window sill. Ashling didn’t really remember her mother, but she knew that she was always looking down on her from heaven. That’s what everybody said anyway. Ashling hoped it was true. She needed her mother’s help right now. Her father was in hospital and some people thought he would never wake up. The kindly Polish lady who had looked after Ashling for months was now packing her bags. She would be gone within hours. Ashling had never felt so alone. She wiped the tears from her face, screwed her eyes tightly shut, and wished as hard as she could. Maybe if she wished hard enough, Ashling could persuade her mother to wake her father up.
“What can I do for you girls?” The old man behind the counter smiled. An old woman who had been chatting to him smiled over also.
“Girls”? Fiona bristled at the expression.
How dare this misogynist savage use that word? Fiona knew that this was a time for clever strategy not careless bravado. She understood that to point out to this misogynist the error of his ways could provoke him.
“You Girls up from Dublin”? The misogynist asked. “Are you staying up here for Christmas”.
Fiona remained silent and continued hurriedly stuffing items into her little wire shopping basket. She hoped that both of her friends would have enough sense not to tell these people where they were from or where they were staying. The misogynist continued to menace the three innocent feminists with threatening innuendo.
“I’m Charlie”, he said, “and that’s my wife Sinead. Everyone around here knows us, so if you have any trouble with anything, just let us know and we will find someone to help you out”.

Fiona the Feminist ignored the man. Flanked by her two friends, she paid for their purchases and left the store. As they were putting their shopping in the back of the car, they were approached by two large, threatening looking men. The first one, wearing a green military style jacket walked right up and addressed Fiona.
“Hi there. Are you Fiona?”
“Yes,” Fiona replied without thinking.
“Fiona Sinnot, Tom’s sister? I was just wondering if there’s any news about Tom.”
“Well I am Tom’s sister,” Fiona answered, “but my name is not Sinnot.”
“Oh”, said the man. “I thought that”….. Fiona cut him short. “Sinnot was the name given to me by the oppressive patriarchy,” she snapped. “I am now called Fiona X as a symbol of my rejection of the patriarchy and my struggle for justice for women.”
“Oh, …ehm…., OK” ….. said the man in the green jacket, looking a little confused. He and his friend exchanged a knowing glance.
“Well ehhhm, look, my name is Sean. I’m a friend of Tom’s. My wife and I are your nearest neighbours so why don’t you take my number just in case you need any help?”
“Ha nice try,” Fiona retorted. “Do we look like we need your help?”
The man and his friend exchanged another glance. “OK ,……well, enjoy your stay.”

Fiona the Feminist sat into the car feeling a little flush of victory. She knew she had shaken those misogynists up just a little. Those bumkins had underestimated her. She had seen right through their pretense of friendly hospitality. It must have come as a bit of a shock to them to realise that they were not dealing with a few innocent country girls. They were dealing with proud feminist warriors, well armed with the weapons of their feminist education. She was a little bit shaken herself though. After all, the man had pointed out that he lived close to where they would be staying. Fiona the Feminist recognised a subtle rape threat when she heard one.

Fiona now looked at the car in a new light. If cars were tools of the Patriarchy, used to enable the rape of women, then women could use the patriarchy’s own weapons against it. They could use cars to escape from rapists..Fiona had always been a thinker; a strategist. She liked to think of herself as the Napoleon Bonaparte of the struggle. It was all about strategy. Her constant ability to outwit the misogynists was probably the reason why she was one of the few women in Ireland who had never been raped. She had been sexually assaulted on thousands of occasions of course, mostly verbally and visually; but at least she had never been raped. That, she determined was not going to change this Christmas.

Fiona the Feminist and her two intrepid friends continued through the village and along the forest lined road on the other side. After about one kilometer they turned off the road, crossed a little stone bridge over a stream and entered a small graveled yard. Facing them was a small, two-story whitewashed cottage, flanked on either side by a stone stable building and an open lean-too packed with firewood.

The door of the house opened and a woman in her thirties stood there to greet them. “Hi, I’m Magda.” she introduced herself in a strong Polish accent. “I mustn’t wait long because I need to go for my flight.” She pulled a suitcase out behind her. She handed Fiona a piece of paper. “I wrote down the number of a man down the road.” she said. “He is very kind and you can call him if you need help.” Fiona took the piece of paper. “Yes she replied.” we already met him. We know exactly what kind of help he wants to give us.” “OK good,” said Magda, throwing her suitcase into her car, Fiona’s witty sarcasm apparently lost on her. “Please be kind to the child. I will be back early in January.” A little girl in a blue winter coat stood at the doorway and waved forlornly at Magda’s car as it drove away.

Fiona got re-acquainted with her niece over a dinner that Magda had prepared for them before she had left. Fiona had not seen Ashling for a long time. Fiona didn’t really get on that well with her brother. “She’s such a quiet kid.” whispered Freda. “Oh give her a break,” said Fanny, “She’s been having a horrible time.” By the time they had finished dinner, the fire in the stove was beginning to die out and it was getting cold. “I’ll go and get some firewood,” Fiona announced. Fiona picked up a basket and opened the front door. It was already pitch dark outside.

Fiona the Feminist peered into the blackness, feeling goosebumps on her arms. She could sense the stares of unseen eyes boring into her, raping her with their hateful male gaze. Fiona shuddered. For a moment Fiona regretted having refused her brother’s offer a few years previously to teach her how to shoot. She would have felt safer now if she had a gun. Fiona had refused though. Fiona hated guns. Guns were used by the soldiers of the patriarchy to murder women. She hurried back inside and bolted the door behind her. “Someone turn on the oil heater, I’m not going out there again.” Ashling toddled over to the door and stood on her tiptoes to reach the bolt. “What are you doing?” asked Fiona. “I’m going to get some logs. Daddy says it’s better to use the stove because it’s warmer and better for the emviniment.”

Fiona the Feminist grabbed Ashling around the waist and plopped her down on an armchair. “We will bring in some wood for the stove tomorrow but for tonight it’s better if we all stay indoors nice and safe” Ashling was shaking and crying though. This wasn’t about wood for the stove. “I want to go to Dublin and visit my dad before Christmas”
“But there is no point,” replied Fiona. “He won’t even know you’re there.”
“Yes he will.” Ashling blubbered. “He always knows.”
“Look honey,” Fiona tried to calm the child. “People in a coma can’t see or hear anything. They don’t know when people visit them.”
“Yes they do,” Ashling insisted. “A man on the radio said so, and they don’t let you say stuff on the radio if it isn’t true.”
“Well we’ll see.” said Fiona, hoping that would be the end of it. Ashling wasn’t giving up though. “I want to see my Dad. He always knows when I visit, and if I don’t visit before Christmas then he’ll be sad.”
Fanny intervened. She whispered into Fiona’s ear. “We have to go back to collect our dole payments the day after tomorrow anyway. And it might be nice to do some shopping in the city.
“OK Ashling honey,” Fiona surrendered. “We’ll go and visit your Dad before Christmas I promise.”

The following morning Fiona the Feminist rose early and took her niece for a walk. She would give the child the benefit of some of her immense knowledge. She jumped as she heard a rustling in the forest. Maybe she should not have ventured outside without her two friends. “It’s just a deer silly,” Ashling said. “Deer can’t hurt you.” Fiona decided they would have a brief talk and then go back to the house. You couldn’t be too careful in the countryside. Ashling was the first to speak. “Aunt Fiona, Do you think Santa Claus can give you anything you want or can he only give you toys and stuff. Only I wrote him a letter and asked him to make my dad wake up?”

Fiona hunkered down in front of Ashling. This was going to be hard. She hated breaking the kid’s heart but someone had to tell her the truth for her own good.

Fiona the Feminist knew that Santa Claus was a tool of the patriarchy, designed as part of the larger strategy of oppressive gender construction. Even the sinister Ho Ho Ho was quite obviously a menacing taunt; a threat to women everywhere. Santa Claus was a creepy legend about a bearded man who would sneak into childrens bedrooms as they slept. It was obviously designed to teach kids that it was perfectly acceptable for men to sneak into their rooms at night. The only reason most people failed to see the utter horror of the Santa Claus legend, was that it had become so ingrained in the fabric of the normalised rape-culture which pervades our society. Fiona could see it because her feminist education had taught her to see things that others couldn’t see. Was she the only one who could understand the disgusting “rapey” connotations conjured up by the image of a fat man with a beard stuffing himself down a chimney?… No. It was important that the child was told the truth.

“Listen Ashling honey,” Fiona began, “Santa Claus is not” …… But she never got to finish the sentence. Fiona the Feminist looked around as she heard the crunching of boots on the gravel in the yard. What she saw coming from the direction of the house made her blood run cold. A middle-aged man strode towards them wearing a flat cap and carrying a double-barreled shotgun broken open over his arm. Fiona the Feminist froze in terror for a second, but she quickly regained her legendary courage. “Get back,” she screamed,” pulling out her phone. “I have called the police already.”

“Good for you miss,” the man smiled as he walked by. He leaned down to speak to Ashling. “And how are you little missy?”
“Good thanks Mr. Farrell. ”
“You remember to give my regards to your dad when you see him next.”
“I will Mr Farrell.”
He turned and called back to Ashling as he reached the little bridge, “Don’t you worry sweetheart, Your dad will wake up soon. Strong as a horse that one.”
With that, the strange looking creature strode off across the bridge.

Fiona the Feminist rushed back to the house dragging the child by the hand behind her. Her friends inside were sobbing hysterically. Oh God, Fiona thought, has someone been raped? Fanny was trying to speak but she was so shaken up that she couldn’t seem to get the words out. “R, r r r”, she stuttered through her tears. “R, ra, ra rabbits.” She finally sobbed. “He had a gun. He gave us rabbits, …..dead rabbits.” We thought we were going to be r,r,r,aped”……Fanny broke down completely. Freda was in the kitchen standing completely still, frozen in shock. She pointed at a big oak table. There, lying on a plastic sheet were the bloodied corpses of four rabbits. “I’m calling the police.” Fiona announced. “They won’t do anything,” Freda finally spoke up with a shaking voice. “I’ve been down that road before.”

The three intrepid Feminists calmed down a little over dinner. Fanny had finally picked up the courage to dispose of the rabbits. Ashling had explained to them that Mr. Farrell often dropped off rabbits and Magda would make stew from them. “Ugh that’s disgusting” Freda said. “Rabbits are living creatures you know.”
“Yes” replied Ashling, looking a little confused, “That’s why Mr Farrell has to shoot them before Magda can make stew from them.” Ashling was beginning to think that Freda was a bit silly.

Fiona the Feminist wasn’t so sure about this. She had heard stories about misogynists in the countryside giving dead animals as sinister warnings to women, and she knew that what misogynists hated most of all, were strong resourceful women like them. Anyway, she was glad she would be back in Dublin the next day, even if it was to be just for one day. Of course Dublin was full of misogynists too, but at least there you could see them coming. At least in Dublin there were little oases of sanctuary like the Irish Woman’s Union in Temple Bar, and the Womans Centre for Historical Revisionism in Trinity College. In the countryside there was nowhere to hide.

Ashling went to her room. She remembered last Christmas with her dad. Magda had stayed with them as she often did and they went walking in the snow and visited their friends in the village. She missed her dad so much. She didn’t really like her Aunt Fiona and her friends. She knew that wasn’t right but she couldn’t help it. They just kept saying such strange things and although they were nice enough to her, they were so unfriendly to everybody else. At least she would see her dad in the morning. He wouldn’t be able to see her, but he would know she was there. She hoped so anyway. Ashling lay down on the bed and cried herself to sleep.

The visit to the hospital had been short. Ashling had become quite upset when she had seen her father. Fiona wondered if she had made a mistake by bringing her at all. They had walked down the quays through the throngs of Christmas shoppers and made their way towards Temple Bar to have lunch in the safety of the Irish Womans Union. Fiona the Feminist was in a state of calm after her lunch in the Womans Union, but the patriarchy hit her like a freight train as soon as she stepped outside.

There was a Christmas tree right outside. Fiona the Feminist hated Christmas trees. When she had been in college, her Woman’s studies professor had explained that the tradition of Christmas trees had been rooted in an ancient German custom; to light candles and attach them to trees in the forest, each one a celebration of the rape of a woman. A girl in her early twenties emerged from a pub wearing something resembling a Santa costume. She wore a red top which left little to the imagination, a skirt which barely covered her buttocks, a pair of long black boots and a Santa hat. On the back of her top were emblazoned the words “Sexy Santa”…… Fiona the Feminist was deeply disturbed. She didn’t know whether to feel anger or pity towards the girl. She wanted to warn her, to give her the benefit of her experience. Fiona wanted to let her know that she was making herself a target. Fiona couldn’t do that of course because that would be victim blaming. Fiona the Feminist shook her head helplessly. Sometimes she thought, its hard to be a feminist.

Fiona the Feminist led her friends and her niece back towards Jervis Street where they had parked Fanny’s car. As they walked across the Ha’penny Bridge, Ashling dawdled along behind, lost in her own thoughts. Light flurries of sleet had left icy patches on the surface of the bridge and Ashling almost slipped a few times. She could see her Aunt and her friends further away now, lost in their own conversation. An old man in a ragged coat and cap, shuffled along in front of her carrying a shopping bag. He lost his footing on the ice and fell backwards, sending Ashling stumbling too. Cans of food spilled out onto the concrete. “Are you OK mister?” Ashling called out. She began to pick up his items as he picked himself up. He looked at her and smiled. “Oh don’t worry sweetheart, I’ve had harder falls than that.” She handed him his bag. He crouched down to talk to her. His clothes were torn and dirty and there was a jagged scar running down his face. He was quite scary looking. The look in his eyes told Ashling that she didn’t need to be afraid of him though.”What’s your name?” he asked. Ashling told him. “And what do you want for Christmas Ashling?” I just want my Dad to get better and come home,” Ashling replied. The old man stuffed his hand in the pocket of his coat and pulled out a shiny silver case. “Here” he said, “give this to someone special.”

Ashling could see her aunt Fiona running back across the bridge now followed by Freda and Fanny. Fiona didn’t stop running though. She slammed straight into the old man, almost knocking him over again. “Leave the child alone you filthy pig,” Fiona screamed. The other two joined in. “Pervert, Scumbag,” they screamed. The old man tried to walk away but they kept blocking his path. Ashling began to cry. “Please stop,” she pleaded with her Aunt. “He didn’t do anything wrong.” A young police officer arrived in the commotion.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded to know.
“A pervert trying to interfere with a child. That’s what’s going on here,” screamed Fiona. “Are you people blind?”
“I’m not blind” the officer replied. “I saw everything. I was watching from across the river.”

The officer turned to the old man. “Are you OK sir?” The old man grunted and began to shuffle off. “What?” Fiona was furious. “You’re just going to let him go? You people disgust me. Typical. The Gardai and the pedophiles sticking together.” Fiona was right in the officer’s face now. The officer grabbed her firmly by the shoulder and pushed her back against the railings of the bridge. “Calm down and back off or I’ll do you for assault.” Fiona the Feminist stifled her anger. Strategy ,she reminded herself, it was all about strategy. There was no point in getting arrested. That was just giving the patriarchy what it wanted and anyway, everyone knew what happened to women in police stations. Ashling stuffed the little silver box in her pocket so Fiona wouldn’t see it. The old man turned back for a second as he was walking away. He smiled at Ashling, tipped his cap and called out – “Merry Christmas Little Lady.”

They stopped for a coffee on the North Bank of the river just to calm their nerves. Fiona the Feminist was furious. The forces of the state protecting rapists and child molesters – no surprise there. She tried to explain to Ashling that the man were probably homeless. “That’s terrible” said Ashling. Fiona gently explained to her that these men were homeless because they had done terrible things to women and that they were often very dangerous. They were also dirty and lazy and stupid and never worked for a living. Ashling wasn’t convinced. She had spoken to the man. She had looked in his eyes and she had seen kindness in them. He didn’t look dangerous to Ashling.

The three women decided to get out of the city early so as avoid the heaviest traffic and get back to Wicklow before dark. They made a quick diversion to collect their dole payments on the way.

In a hospital room in Dublin City, Tom Sinnot struggled to open his eyes. His head felt as if it were about to explode. He scanned the room, taking in the drips and monitors that surrounded his bed. It all came back to him. He remembered his workmates screaming their warnings, the groaning of strained timber , the snapping of steel cables and the slow crashing of the giant pine. He remembered the screeching of wood on steel and the huge yellow lumber truck careering forward, scattering enormous trunks of timber as if they were matchsticks. He remembered throwing himself over the edge of a small ravine to avoid the avalanche of debris and he remembered the sudden explosion of red mist inside his own head. After that he remembered nothing. He didn’t know how long ago it had been. He figured he could have been out for days. He noticed three doctors standing beside his bed. He tried to focus on their conversation. “I’ve never seen anything like it”. One said. Another nodded in agreement. “He just snapped out of it. I can’t explain it. All his signs are normal. It’s almost a miracle.”

The doctors finally released Tom on the morning of Christmas Eve. He had told them he was going home for Christmas whether they liked it or not. He was collected by his friend Sean early that morning. They stopped off in the city Centre before making the drive to Wicklow. Tom wanted to pick up plenty of supplies for Christmas and he wanted to get some gifts for his daughter. He knew that Ashling would be hoping for a visit from Santa Clause and he wasn’t going to disappoint her.

It began to snow more heavily as Toms friend drove him through the mountain roads and sleepy villages of the Wicklow mountains. It felt good to be going home. Tom had been born and raised in Dublin but he had lived in the mountains for so long now that he called Wicklow home. He knew every turn in the road and every village he passed through like the back of his hand. He probably knew half the people who lived in them too. It was great to be home even though he didn’t really remember being away. He was worried about Ashling. He trusted that Magda had taken good care of her but he wasn’t so sure about his flakey sister Fiona. Six months! He couldn’t believe it. Six months was such a long time when you’re only six years old. He hoped that Ashling would be OK with him; that she wouldn’t be nervous or uncomfortable.

They drove into the little yard in the early afternoon. Tom was a little nervous now. He spotted Ashling straight away, standing at the doorway in her favourite blue winter coat. He got out of the truck and hesitated for a minute. Any worries he had evaporated as Ashling squealed “Daddy” at the top of her lungs and threw herself at him with the force of a miniature hurricane.

Fiona the Feminist emerged from the house. Tom was relieved to see that she was dragging her suitcase behind her. He put his arms around her for a hug, but there wasn’t much mutual warmth in their embrace. He asked Ashling to run inside for a minute so he could talk to her aunt Fiona.

“So Fiona” he said “Still fighting the good fight?”
“If you mean still fighting for equality for women then, yes I am,” Fiona the Feminist sniffed.
Tom knew he would have to invite Fiona to stay for Christmas. She was family after all and she had stepped in to mind Ashling when needed. It was the only decent thing to do.
“You’re welcome to stay for Christmas you know? Your friends too. There’s not much room but we’ll squeeze them in somewhere.”
“Oh you’d like that wouldn’t you?” sneered Fiona, “especially since your little sex toy is away.”
That did it. Tom wanted rid of her now. He was looking forward to spending a nice Christmas with his daughter and he was not prepared to allow his sister to ruin everything with her constant bitterness. He needed her gone soon too. If it kept snowing like this the roads in the area would soon be impassable and he would be stuck with Fiona for at least two weeks. Tom knew exactly how to get rid of Fiona though. –
“You’re right,” he said. “I was planning on sneaking into the room where your friends are sleeping and giving them a nice surprise on Christmas morning. I haven’t raped me a feminist in ages.” He called out to his friend Sean. “Hey Sean, have the lads in the village found any fresh meat for the annual Christmas gang-rape yet?”. Fiona was purple with rage. She spat something unintelligible through gritted teeth and stormed towards the car. Job done.

Ashling lay in her bed feeling completely content for the first time in ages. Her Dad was home safely. Her nasty aunt Fiona had left. Tomorrow was Christmas day. They would walk down to the village together. They would go to the little graveyard behind the church and lay some fresh flowers on her mothers grave. Then they would stroll around the village greeting their neighbours. The adults would drink Irish coffees and the kids would run around pelting each-other with snowballs. Later they would go back to the house for a big dinner. Her Dad’s friends would visit with their wives and kids. There would be gifts exchanged and songs sung. It didn’t get any better than that.

Ashling just wished that she had a gift to give to her dad. But she suddenly remembered the old man on the Ha’penny Bridge and the little silver box he had given to her. “Give it to someone special,” he had said. Ashling clambered out of bed and rummaged through the chest of drawers to find the box. She wrapped it carefully in red paper and tucked it away again. She began to drift off to sleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. All was right with the world.

Something woke Ashling up. As her eyes blinked open, she could see that there was a man standing at the end of her bed. At first she thought it was her Dad but as her eyes began to focus in the darkness, she recognised him. It was the man from the Ha’penny Bridge. Ashling knew that she didn’t need to be afraid. She just lay there and smiled at him. He tipped his hat and began to fade from view, but before he disappeared, she heard him whisper – “Merry Christmas Little Lady”

On Christmas morning, Ashling awoke to find a little pile of brightly coloured packages at the end of her bed. Her squeals of delight rang through the house. “Hey Dad, Santa Claus was here,” she shouted at the top of her voice as she began to tear the packages open. After breakfast, Tom made a play of looking around the room in confusion. “What’s wrong?” Ashling asked. “What’s wrong? No Christmas tree, that’s what’s wrong.” Tom replied. “I Know,” said Ashling. “Aunt Fiona said they were part of the big mean partynarky or something.”
“Well I think it’s terrible not to have a Christmas tree at Christmas. But don’t worry. We’ll soon fix that. Why don’t you get your coat and we’ll go for a walk.”

Tom picked up an axe form the shed and they went for a short walk into the forest. On the way out the door he pulled two Santa hats from his coat pocket. “I think we’ll be needing these,” he said, handing one to Ashling. They found a small pine about five feet high, chopped it down and dragged it home. Ashling and Tom spent a few hours decorating the Christmas tree with red and gold baubles and coloured lights.

Just as they were leaving to walk to the village, Ashling remembered the gift she had prepared for her dad. She handed it to him and watched him open it. He gasped in surprise. He examined it more closely. It was a silver cigarette case with a Celtic design running around the edges in a gold inlay. There were some lines from a famous W.B.Yeats poem inscribed on the back and the letters TS were carved under an engraving of a deer on the front. There was no mistaking it. It was the cigarette case that his wife, Ashling’s mother, had given him on their first Christmas together more than nine years previously. He had lost it in the forest a few years later and all his attempts to find it had failed.

He looked down at his daughter “Where on earth did you find this?”
“Santa Claus gave it to me”, Ashling replied.

Tom scooped his daughter up in his arms for a hug and whispered in her ear – “Merry Christmas Little Lady”.

Fiona the Feminist was feeling relieved to be spending Christmas day in the relative safety of Dublin. It had been a very tough week. She shuddered at the thought of those dark forests around the cottage in the Wicklow mountains. She wondered how often they rang with the screams and cries of raped women. She had survived though. She had been threatened by misogynists with guns and sent terrifying rape threats in the form of dead animals. She had even been taunted with rape jokes by her own brother. She had been assaulted by a pervert and then further assaulted by the police. She had stood firm though; firm and proud against the forces of the patriarchy and the forces of the state. She had faltered but she had not fallen. The patriarchy had once more failed to break her indomitable spirit. She poured herself a glass of wine and raised it in a toast to herself. “I’m a woman,”she said out loud. “I’m a woman hear me roar.”

Disclaimer:

No feminists were harmed during the writing of this story.

Helpline:

Any feminist who feels “threatened,” “offended,” “cyber-bullied,” “violated,” or otherwise “oppressed” by this story is invited to seek help at http://www.wearevictims.com