The Incredible Invisible Women’s Rugby Team

Today’s post comes from Anne-Marie, with something to say about women’s rugby. 

Women have a place in sport… we’re just not quite sure where that is.

It’s International Women’s Day on Friday and it always serves as a reminder to me to assess where we are. How far have women really come in the search for true equality? How much are women recognised for the achievements they/we make? How much autonomy do we really have over our bodies? You may be wondering what relevance if any this has to sport? Well, sport forms part of all our lives whether we participate in it, watch it or support teams or family/friends in it. It also happens to be one area where women’s achievements appear to me to be emasculated by men. An area where it took Katie Taylor’s almost single-handed persistent effort and campaigning just to get Women’s boxing to FEATURE in the Olympic arena. How appropriate is it then that there happens to be an International Women’s Rugby match being played on Friday evening?

There’s a women’s rugby team?

Ireland’s women take on France at Ashbourne RFC in what has been a fantastic Women’s Rugby championship so far. If they can beat France, the Women in green have the opportunity of securing the championship. They have already won the Triple Crown, HAMMERING England in the process. If they can beat France, all that will stand in their way for the Grand Slam is a final tie with Italy. So, with such momentum, potential and relative success so far why doesn’t EVERYBODY know about this?! Why aren’t they being hailed as sporting heroes across the land? Who’s ordering the open top bus so they can parade their silverware?

In contrast the Men’s team are having a dire campaign but they seem to have this air of being “the national team” and rugby fans seem compelled to support them regardless of their makeup. Our national broadcaster covers all their matches so you can’t miss them. The Brian O’Driscoll’s and Johnny Sexton’s of this world are plastered across advertising. But what about the Alison Miller’s or Lynne Cantwell’s? Why aren’t they household names? Why aren’t our daughters exposed to them as rolemodels of dedication, talent and hard work? On the other hand, the Irish Women’s Rugby team are like the Ed Sheeran’s of this world – unreliant on ‘marketing’ or hype, instead building a fanbase gig by gig. Match by match this team have gained support. They have genuine fans. They have dedicated family and friends who go to every match. But try to find any of their matches on telly and you will be sorely disappointed. Try to find interviews or news reports in mainstream media and they will take up a tiny proportion of sports coverage compared to the men. Even the dedicated rugby programme Against the Head, despite the contrasting fortunes of both International teams, will confine the Women’s coverage to less than ten minutes.

Can’t we find them.. anywhere?

Irish rugby TV are the only body who appear to be trying. They live stream the home matches and provide highlights of all of the Women’s championship matches. But who really wants to be glued to a laptop reliant on wifi/broadband connection speeds to see the fantastic rugby these women are capable of and have certainly shown in this championship. Where are RTE? Or TV3?

TG4 God bless ‘em are THE pioneers for women’s sport on telly – they have great coverage of women’s GAA. But nobody has picked up on our National Women’s Rugby team matches. Something has to happen to reward these women for their hard work and determination over the past decade (not just the past few months) and if winning a Triple Crown isn’t enough to get someone to pay attention then I wonder if winning a Grand Slam will. We can only wait and see.

In the meantime, proper rugby fans can take advantage of truly accessible, affordable and entertaining matches on our doorstep because you can attend the Women’s home matches for less than the price of a pint. Ashbourne RFC have created a great deal by allowing car entry for €20, regardless of the number of occupants and that includes your parking.

So, come Friday evening, I know RTE won’t have miraculously decided to change their programming and I won’t be relying on a dodgy internet connection, I intend being at Ashbourne RFC to cheer on the Women in Green. It promises to be entertaining and I know it’s better than watching the Men…

What Poots Did Next: Homophobia and Blood

Our last (but definitely not least!) contribution for Guest Post Week comes from Helen. Helen is a recent graduate with a MA in History and Gender & Women Studies. heS currently works for a local college in Northern Ireland and blog at @TakeitotheBR and at Her academic and blogging interests include gender, human rights and conflict resolution.

What Poots did next? The latest controversy

Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots is currently a factor in a legal battle on blood donations. An unidentified man is attempting to overturn the ban on homosexual men donating blood in NI. This case is another in a long line of Poots showcasing his inability to connect with, and properly represent, many of his constituents. My distaste for Minister Poots is well documented following his appalling record on reproductive choice alongside his homophobic prejudice.

In 2011, the United Kingdom updated the Blood Donation policy to be more inclusive of homosexual men for the first time following the AIDs scare in the 1980s. Those “whose last relevant sexual contract was more than 12 months ago” are now eligible to donate blood in England, Scotland and Wales.  Poots maintains that it is too dangerous to lift the ban against homosexual men giving blood in Northern Ireland. He has also called for further exclusions – those who have had sex “with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes”.

The Government Advisory Committee report which prompted the UK to update their policy indicated that a much shorter window existed than previously thought during which viruses such as HIV could not be detected. The period in which HIV is difficult to detect is usually up to three months. Keeping this in mind a 12 month ban still seems extremely cautious of the supposed danger of a sexually active homosexual man’s blood. While an improvement on what came before, as well as on Northern Ireland’s policy, this continues to feed the stereotype of the “promiscuous gay man.” A heterosexual man does not have to quantify his sexual life can give blood freely, whereas a homosexual man in a monogamous relationship cannot; this exposes the hypocrisy and discrimination of this policy.

For Northern Ireland, not even this 12 month window exists. Any man that has had anal and/or oral sex with another man is currently banned from donating blood in Northern Ireland. The reality is that most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV. Any ban which exists on homosexual men as a whole is a policy dictated by prejudice, not by scientific fact and medical evidence.

Poots’ comments and refusal to lift the ban perpetuates a culture of homophobia and exclusion from Northern Irish society. Ironic considering the “shared society” rhetoric which politicians (including the DUP) are constantly shovelling down our throats, yet simultaneously acting to promote the very opposite of that.

The Human Rights Commission have rightly pointed out that “Northern Ireland is subject to the obligations contained within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” This includes respect for all individuals without distinction of any kind. For the medical world to put forward 12 months as an extremely cautious safe guard against the HIV virus being transmitted through blood donations, it is therefore discriminatory for the life time ban to continue in Northern Ireland.

The case continues to investigate the legality of Northern Ireland policy.

Taking anti-abortion claims to their logical conclusions

Today’s guest post comes from Brian Carey.

Reductio ad wha?

Reductio ad absurdum, despite sounding more like a spell from Harry Potter, is an argumentative tactic where the point is to take a person’s view and to show that it leads to some especially unpalatable conclusion. The idea then is to say to your opponent “okay, you can believe that, but if you believe that, then you have to believe this, and isn’t this obviously wrong?” Hey presto. Reductio ad absurdum! Their argument is reduced to the absurd.

The problem with this tactic, as one philosopher once said, is that there is no conclusion so absurd that there won’t be someone who’s still willing to accept it. Reductio ad absurdum can never show that an argument is false, only that it commits us to some especially strange conclusions. But at the very least it can clarify what the real costs of holding a view actually are.

Here’s an example:

Abortion is murder?

“Abortion is murder” is not a claim made by everyone who is pro-life (so none of what follows applies to those people) but it’s fair to say that this is a common claim when it comes to arguments against abortion.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this is true. What would follow from it? In other words, if we *really* believed that abortion is murder, what else should we believe?

First, consider the right to travel for an abortion abroad. If abortion is murder, should there be a right to travel abroad to commit murder?
Now, maybe one could object here and point out that it’s simply not practical to check whether a woman is pregnant before she leaves the jurisdiction, and one could point out that even if a woman is pregnant, goes abroad, and comes back without being pregnant, we can’t assume she had an abortion. Besides, Irish law can’t apply to what people do abroad, right?

A couple of things need to be said in response. First, while it’s true that Irish law doesn’t apply to you when you go abroad most of the time, that’s not always the case. Most countries, including Ireland, apply certain kinds of laws extraterritorially, which means you can be prosecuted here for doing something that might not be legal abroad. At the moment, this mostly applies to things like conspiracy to commit terrorism, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t necessarily be extended to cover murdering an Irish citizen abroad, even if murder is legal in that jurisdiction. (Remember, we’re assuming that abortion is murder)
Second, while it’s true that we can’t check whether every woman is pregnant, what if we had a woman who strides up to border control and proudly claimed that she’s travelling to the UK to have an abortion? There’s no practical difficulty here in working out whether she’s pregnant or intending to have an abortion – she’s just admitted it to us. Remember – if abortion is murder, we need to treat this case like we would treat a case of a mother who approaches border control with her two-week old infant and claims she’s travelling to the UK to kill it. Surely in that case we would at least want to detain the woman and subject her to a full psychiatric examination.

Finally, consider that those who object on practical grounds when explaining why women should have the right to travel rarely do so on principled grounds. This essentially admits that they would like to detain women if they could; it’s just that the logistical difficulties are too great
Consider now a woman who threatens to kill herself unless she is allowed to have an abortion. If abortion is murder, this is analogous to a woman who takes a 2-week-old child hostage and who threatens to blow herself and the child up unless we kill the child.

If the only choice in that case is between letting the woman kill them both, or saving the woman, maybe we ought to save the woman (since the child will die anyway). But if those are not our only options – if, for example, we could detain and arrest the woman without harming the child, then surely we ought to do that (in fact, if we had to kill the woman to save the child, this would also be justified).

If a woman makes a credible threat to murder me, it is right that she is detained until she is no longer a credible threat to my life. If abortion is murder, and if we apply the same principle consistently, then it follows that if we are presented with a woman who issues a credible threat (via suicide) to the life of her child, then we ought to detain her until such time as she can give birth and is no longer a threat to the child.

So, there’s the bullet that pro-life people must bite if they think abortion is murder. They must favour detaining suicidal women who demand an abortion (possibly women who have been raped) and force those women to give birth.

Unfortunately, I’ve recently pressed this argument against two pro-life people who decided that they would rather accept this conclusion than reject the premise that abortion is murder. That’s fair enough – at least they’re consistent. But at least arguments like this can make it clear exactly what is at stake if you really believe that aborting a foetus is the moral equivalent of murder.

A Religious Pro Choicer – Stephen Spillane

Guest blog by Stephen Spllane who blogs at and

ImageSome people believe that it is impossible to be a practicing christian and be pro choice on the issue of abortion. But while it is true that a lot of Christians are pro-life, we all are not. Many of Ireland’s most militant pro-lifers are of course Roman Catholics, but other Christian denominations often get associated with them.

It is worth noting that in 1982 the Irish Council of Churches- the representative body for Protestant churches in Ireland- voiced concerns over the 8th Amendment. While all of them did oppose ‘abortion on demand‘, they foresaw reasons why an abortion should be an option.

This was repeated at the recent hearings in front of the Oireachtas Health Committee.

So how can you be a Christian and Pro-Choice?

Earlier this year I found this quote from Victor Griffin, the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, in 1982:

Abortion is morally wrong. However, at some time there may be rare unfortunate cases in which it is resorted to as the lesser of two evils. It is wrong to enshrine the Catholic view of this in the constitution

While for some abortion will always be morally wrong, who are we say to say it is morally right for a child to be born no matter what?

Morals to me are a personal thing. While there are very big moral positions that we all share (we should not steal, we should not kill etc), when abortion comes into the question everything goes a little grey. There is no hard and fast rule that we can apply as many on the Pro-Life side believe. We cannot impose our morals on others as we are not in their shoes. We are not in their position. If we were would we not like a choice? I know I would. Wouldn’t you?

Have we the right?

I recently came across an article on the website for the Association of Catholic Priests. The title caught my eye- “have we the right to insist no woman can ever have an abortion in Ireland?” That is the crux of the argument for me.

Why should anyone decide that a medical treatment cannot be given to you because of their religious beliefs? At the end of the day, that is why abortion is illegal in this country. It is because we decided way back in 1983 to enshrine that “Catholic view” of conception into our constitution. How is that right for those who are not Catholic? Or those who do not subscribe to all of the Church’s teachings? There’s plenty of those Catholics around!

Does it mean that if we had a Jehovah Witness majority in this country that we would have voted to ban blood transfusions? Its crazy. I have the greatest respect for Jehovah Witness’, Jews and Muslims who do not try and make those around them obey the same religious laws as them. It is time the Roman Catholic Church (and other Christian Churches) did the same.

We as Christians should be looking inwards and ensuring we live our lives right, as that is what we are asked to do during Lent. We should not be stopping women from choosing what they do with their bodies when it will have no effect on us. It is ridiculous that Churches in this country want to prevent women of other faiths and none from having an abortion.

While I envisage there will be some discussion at the Church of Ireland Synod later this year on this issue, I am not sure what way it will go going by the discussion last year on Human Sexuality, but it will be divisive. But it will most likely set the tone for the conversation in the wider society on this issue.

I look forward to the Government finally bringing in legislation on this issue, and it finally being allowed.

Bisexuality: Thinking in Opposites

Nicola Moffat is a fourth year PhD candidate in the School of English, University College Cork. If she’s not glued to a screen, you’ll find Nicola stuck in a book or swearing over a pile of unmarked essays. Some of her favourite things are monsters; art; ranty conversations; her nasty cat, George; and going for walks with her other half and her spotty dog, Pepper. She blogs at Monsterivity

I’ve been thinking about sex this week.  A lot.  And that’s not just because it’s Valentine’s day and I’m supposed to be thinking carnally.  I’ve been thinking about the different ways we express ourselves sexually and how we impose limits on those expressions, depending on our views.  This week has also been a learning curve for me where I’ve had to face my own prejudices.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say that Bi doesn’t exist, that you have to be either hetero- or homosexual.  It’s been said, by the way, by people of varying sexualities, not just heteros.  This “either or” rhetoric smacks of something very familiar -you can either be a man or a woman, you can either work or have kids, you can be either emotional or rational . . . how many times have we found ourselves standing just here?

I think in some ways this is why I like being Bi: straddling (if you’ll excuse the pun) this perceived boundary between hetero- and homosexual means that, in some sense, bisexuals break that boundary down and expose the fiction of opposing sexualities.

The rhetoric of “either or” defines by creating oppositions and can therefore be considered a form of patriarchal discourse; in much the same way that patriarchy has defined opposites in men and women, white and black, reason and emotion (ad infinitum), the creation of a hetero/homo binary repeats this opposition, bringing with it the inequalities associated with these binaries.

Casting identities and practices into dichotomized pairs leaves no room for the fluidity of sexuality or creative identity practices, not to mention refusing the possibility of trans* identities and polyamorous relationships.

Can we give up returning to this place?  Can we move on now?

Pro-Life Vs. Pro-Choice: Missing The Point?

Today’s guest post comes from Penny. Blogging at Penny Gets Lucky about things like feminism and sexuality, Penny’s comments have been featured here before and I was delighted that she was willing to write a post for the Tea Cosy. 

A Difficult Topic

Abortion. It’s an ugly topic. Emotionally charged, difficult to sort out, and fraught with hyperbole on either side.

So I’m not writing this to discuss my views on abortion, per se. I consider myself both pro-life and pro-choice; the two are not mutually exclusive, regardless of what the rhetoric in each camp may say. I believe that every wanted baby should be given the best possible chance to make it into this world; and I believe every woman should be allowed to make a fully-informed decision as to whether she wants children or not. No one should enforce having babies; and certainly no one should enforce not having babies.

Right now, though, I think there’s a piece of the abortion-debate puzzle that’s largely getting ignored. We’re all so worried about what happens if abortion were made legal, or what happens if abortion were abolished, we’re forgetting to ask a fundamental question… What if we simply made abortion obsolete?

Making Abortion Obsolete?

Read the rest at the Tea Cosy’s new home

Gushing & Giving

It’s Guest Week! While I’m off visiting the Ladyfriend, I’ve handed over the Tea Cosy to a bunch of the best guest posters a blogger could wish for. Today’s post comes courtesy of Tori from Anytime Yoga. A secondary teacher in the US, Tori enjoys many things in life: making education and critical thought fun for her students, making yoga accessible to her blog readers, and writing about sexual and reproductive health with frankness. As for other things in life — namely, running, writing catchy author bios, and remembering to do the dishes — well, those she is working on. 😉


Note: This post discusses menstrual bleeding and blood donation. It also contains a brief mention of miscarriage.


I saved three lives today. At least, that’s what the sticker from the American Red Cross blood drive tells me.

My donation experience today was surprisingly easy. I mean less in terms of wait time or needle sticks and more in terms of how my body reacts. For example, my blood pressure was normal, even as I anticipated them checking my iron. More than that, my hemoglobin was well into the healthy range — something I’ve not seen in a good long while. The donation itself — from needle in to needle out — took under five minutes. When it was over, I could promptly sit up, stand up, and walk myself over to the canteen — all without feeling flushed, lightheaded, or like I was on the verge of passing out. At the canteen, I did stay the required minimum of ten minutes, but I felt physically well enough to go long before I finished my water and Cheez Its.

All of this is a far cry from the last several times I gave blood. I used to do it in my late teens and early twenties. While my iron was technically high enough to qualify, blood donation left me feeling fatigued, dizzy, and nauseated for the next day or two. For a number of years in between then and now, I was altogether too anemic to donate, to the extent of being far more likely to need blood than to be able to safely give it.

See, among other idiosyncrasies, I have a menstrual history of chronic pain and gushing [explicit menstruation/bleeding talk at that link too]. It had always happened — and my iron had always been borderline — but after a miscarriage in my mid twenties, my hemoglobin levels plummeted and never really recovered. I mean, to the extent that being only “moderately” instead of “severely” anemic is not really recovering. Because it involved constant — not just period-long — symptoms, it was easy to feel like a lot of my physical life limits stemmed from my menstrual flooding. Limits which, now that I am healthy enough to give blood easily, are vastly reduced in scope and severity.

It’s difficult to explain why this is important to me. While giving blood is a nice and helpful thing to do for other people, it’s not like choosing to do it renders one morally or socially superior. And yet, when I couldn’t give blood**, I often felt inferior — like there was something wrong with me that made me not good enough to donate blood. Regardless of what, if anything, can be done about it, it’s uncomfortable and disheartening to repeatedly bump up against feelings of not good enough.

Ironically, the thing that made me healthy enough to donate comfortably is something others think may not be good for me in the long run. I started a new birth control pill over the summer. Though my periods have not become what I would term “light,” they have lost their, “Dear God, how is there any blood left on the inside?” feeling. With the iron rich eating habits I’ve adopted over the years (kale + me = BFF), my hemoglobin has soared to record levels. There’s still the pain issue to deal with, but not being so draggy all the time makes even that easier to manage.

Generally, I just feel better.

Until such a time that someone hears that I’m on birth control pills — let alone my particular brand of pill*** — and starts getting all concerned, as one “someone” also did today.

“The estrogen in birth control pills can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.”

“Which pill? Isn’t that the one with all the lawsuits?”

“That’s the one where one of the ingredients carries, like, double the risk of blood clots.”

“And your doctor is okay with you taking that? At your age and weight?”

You know what? All these things? Technically supported by evidence. I do not dispute that this medication increases my risk for some adverse health outcomes. That said, it improves my quality of life. And also? All these things? Asked and answered, multiple prior times in my life.

I’m never going to please every person who’d like to weigh in on my health. But I’m also getting to the point where I’m comfortable articulating the believe that I never have been under any social or moral obligation to do so (though I would suggest that social pressure is another matter entirely). As long as I’m not harming others with my decisions — and I think it would be pretty difficult to harm others with my personal health choices — then I get to prioritize my health as I see fit. I get to be the boss of my body.

I get this one shot at being alive and having a body. It’s hard enough to learn how to cope when my body doesn’t behave as I’d like it to. Other people’s hangups about my body and my health are going to have to remain just that — the concerns of other people.


** I’m a faculty advisor to a student organization that organizes multiple blood drives each year, so there’s ample opportunity for me to come across “Give Blood Today!” messages.

*** I participate in some online discussion spaces devoted to my same health issues, so this isn’t necessarily a matter of random folk on the street asking about what I’m doing to secure the state of my uterus.