Brenda Power vs Panti

I’m aware that my readership includes some non-Irish residents, so the current furore about Brenda Power, Pride and marriage equality may be lost on you. So, here’s my cut out and keep synopsis of what’s firing up our airwaves right now.

The characters:

1. Brenda Power

Brenda Power is a journalist who has had stints on TV (with RTÉ) and radio (Newstalk). She has written for the Daily Mail and now has a column with the Irish edition of the Sunday Times. I wasn’t terribly aware of her work, but Googling brings up repeated mentions of ‘controversy’ and ‘tabloid’, so I guess it’s fair to say that she may not be winning any awards for outstanding contributions to journalism.

2. Miss Panti

Miss Panti (Rory O’Neill) is a prominent Dublin drag artiste, bar owner, writer/performer and activist. She is perhaps best known for being the compere at the Alternative Miss Ireland and the annual Pride event in Dublin. She has become a vocal supporter of marriage equality taking advantage of her spaces online to promote and rally. Check her on Facebook (over 3,600 followers), Twitter and her blog.

Background

Pride parades are “events celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) culture. The events also at times serve as demonstrations for legal rights such as same-sex marriage. Most pride events occur annually and many take place around June to commemorate the Stonewall riots, a pivotal moment in the modern LGBT rights movement” Wikipedia.

This year’s Pride event in Dublin had the theme Pride & Prejudice?. Panti and others called on participants to show their support for marriage equality by wearing half a wedding dress or suit to highlight and criticise what many perceive as an inequality in the forthcoming Civil Partnership Bill in Ireland. It is estimated that over 12,000 people took part in the parade on 26th June.

Brenda Power’s article in the Sunday Times.

On July 5th, Brenda Power’s article, You can’t trample over the wedding cake and eat it, appeared in the paper and online versions of the Sunday Times. The piece makes some key points:

  1. If gay people wish to have their unions recognised as marriage, this would change the definition of marriage.
  2. Gay people actually can get married if they wish: they can marry someone of the opposite sex.
  3. Civil partnership is only different to marriage because of the (in)ability to adopt children. (She does not explicitly say that gay people should not adopt, but there is much suggestion that this is the case. She clarified on a Matt Cooper’s Today FM radio show that indeed, she believes that it is not in the best interests of a child to be raised by a same-sex couple) [mp3 of interview].
  4. Gay people cannot expect society to take them seriously ‘judging by the get up and carry on of some of those in the Pride march’, and if their spokesperson is a ‘bloke in a dress’.

The weakness of these points were quickly pointed out and there has been a great deal of anger from many, especially with the gay community. Power herself wrote a follow up article acknowledging the criticisms but standing by some of her opinions (even citing misogyny as a reason for her being criticised). Her central argument being that

“Marriage is primarily intended for the protection of children who may result from a union of a man and a woman, which is the only sort of union capable of producing offspring.”

And here is where I ask: Really? Is that what marriage is ‘primarily intended’ for? Read that sentence again and then remind yourself of how she also claimed that gay people can in fact get married if they wish (to opposite sex people).

Power is entitled to her (however odious) opinions, but her opinion of marriage are almost comical in their contempt for the institution. Call me romantic, but surely people, whatever their sexuality, want to get married to formally have their love recognised by law?If children come about afterwards (or before), fine. Power’s columns (what I have read of them) are not terribly well written, but having these weak and indeed fallacious arguments threaded throughout exposes her even further.

Power has been dropped from RTÉ and Newstalk. There is an editor at the Sunday Times who should ask him/herself some tough questions about quality control.

____

On a lighter note, perhaps it’s a coincidence, but given the appearance of the Virgin Mary in a tree stump in Limerick, it surely is amazing that a gay punter found an image of what he’s claiming is Brenda Power in his packet of crisps.

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6 comments

  1. David Minogue

    Enda, you put that together very well,

    I was fairly indifferent to the whole marriage/civil union debate until Power’s first article. Yesterdays article, especially the headline made me more angry.
    The Sunday Times is generally a good, intelligent read but to attack a huge percentage of their readership is a bad move, i’m not buying it again until I hear of an editorial apology, the paper was milking it this week with a separate letters section from the previous week.

    it is impossible that BP doesn’t have any gay relatives and indeed fellow journalists. Imagine if her children were gay how would they feel, I would hate to see a time when people’s opinions couldn’t be expressed but BP’s have just come out with neither understanding or caring.

    I will admit that for me Pride seemed like a big drag day out and I know closeted friends who never go because of the media centring on drag queens as is the world over in Pride parades. I do feel there is a real divide in the Gay community at present but I think Gay voices are much more vocal now and that is a great thing. I will however never accept the word queer. Just because it is academically accepted does not lessen the blow when it’s hurled at you in Dublin city centre out of nowhere as I have too often experienced first hand.

    Thanks for posting, I really love hearing your opinion on these issues.

    D.

    • eguinan

      Thanks D,

      I’m not sure what’s going on with Brenda Power. I can’t really believe that someone who trained as a barrister could think that these arguments could pass any kind of critique.

      I’m reminded of something my mother used to say: “paper never refused ink”.

      ‘Queer’ to me has always been a academic or strong political word too. Outside those contexts, it’s a dangerous one to fling about.

  2. Padraig Kenny

    When I heard her comments about same sex couples and child adoption on the Last Word I couldn’t believe my ears. Then I read her article. I can’t remember the last time I’ve read anything so irrational, nonsensical, and so utterly bereft of logic. I’m getting a bit sick and tired of certain commentators regularly peddling this kind of muck and sophistry. What really made my blood boil was the undercurrent of disgust/contempt in her piece.

    I think people are entitled to their opinions, but only if those opinions have any rational and factual basis. Speaking of which, I heard Panti on the Last Word – he was measured, well informed, and intelligent. The perfect antidote to Power’s histrionics.

    • eguinan

      Hi P,

      Exactly, I think what made most people’s blood boil was that same tone. If one looks closely at the two pieces, one finds that she says very little directly, but she creates a smokescreen of weaselly phrases that say nothing much, pad out the 800 words but still allow her to audition with Sunday Independent-like levels of sneering.

      As I say, I can’t imagine her ever being proud of her contribution to the written word.

    • eguinan

      Ooh controversial! I must admit the visuals/slogans put me off a bit: just a little OTT. But good to have both radio recordings together in one place.

      Thanks!

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