Feb 02 2013

Another way of saying shut up

Michael Nugent points out a classic example of the special rules by which what would be an utterly normal tone of voice and wording and manner in a man get called “shrill” when it’s a woman speaking. The woman is Senator Ivana Bacik, asking questions at the parliamentary hearings on abortion law. She speaks firmly, and with an edge, but not the least bit “shrilly.” But hey, she’s a woman, and she’s talking firmly and with an edge to men. Must be shrill. Stands to reason.

In an opinion piece titled ‘We can’t be cowed by shrill voices’, editor Michael Kelly wrote:

“Ms Bacik clearly disagrees with the Catholic view that all human life is sacred and that in pregnancy mothers and their unborn child should have an equal right to life. Can’t she disagree politely, however?

A gentleman is one, the old saying goes, who can disagree without being disagreeable. The same surely applies for ladies.

Shrill caricatures have no place in mature debates. It is becoming increasingly difficult in modern Ireland to have a calm and rational debate about things people disagree about.”

He makes her a child, too, and one who has no place in parliamentary hearings (despite the fact that she’s a Senator).

Well maybe Michael Kelly divides humanity into two types: potential priests, and shrill babies.

Senator Bacik speaks at 2:36:


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  1. 1

    Click through to Nugent’s blog to hear exactly how not-shrill she really is. A great deal more calm and composed than a great deal of what goes on on C-SPAN, I’ve gotta say. Kelley seemed to be whining about (among other things) the fact that she used the word “misogyny” in her rebuke…well, I hate to break it to you, O Catholic Opinion Columnists, but calling that level of calm critique “shrill” when a woman is talking is in and of itself sufficient to characterize you as misogynist!

    (Oh, and by the way…if you’re trying to restrict my most basic rights to my body and indeed my very survival, I am under no obligation not to be disagreeable to you. If you had to face death from grotesque ideologically-driven medical neglect, I would LOVE to see how “calm and rational” you would be!)

  2. 2
    Forbidden Snowflake

    So the take-away lesson is that tone-trolling in the presence of double standards is a vehicle for misogyny. Not surprising, but valuable point.

  3. 3
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    I had to cover my ears when Senator Ivana Bacik spoke, the sharp shrillness just about cut through my eardrums.

    That sounded like intelligent and principled disagreement backed with an earned outrage. No wonder Michael Kelly condemned her and could not argue against her.

  4. 4
    Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin

    Ivana Bacik has been a long time campaigning, and certainly won’t be cowed down by those who try to point the finger at her. Scroll down the link to see a photo of her in action a decade ago.

    X case march in Dublin – 10 years on – Struggle http://struggle.ws/wsm/news/2002/anvmarchFEB.html … Feb 16, 2002 10 years earlier in 1992 the courts placed an injunction…

  5. 5

    The only man I’ve heard the term “shrill” used to describe is Richard Dawkins.

  6. 6
    bad Jim

    My irony meter was utterly destroyed by this line from Kelly’s piece:

    Ironically, it’s usually the people calling for a calm debate that are first to descend into name-calling and vitriol.

    So, “misogynist” is vitriolic, but “shrill” and “vitriolic” are not?

  7. 7
    John-Henry Beck

    That’s definitely not something I would have thought of as “shrill”.

  8. 8

    Anything to avoid addressing the content.

  9. 9
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Well, she’s a woman and she has her own opinion.
    That’s disagreeble to start with.
    And she’s passionate, which is something like a crime.
    Funny, I wouldn’t have said that Michael Nugent was very different in tone and passion…

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