Women, Literature, Sex and Culture

by Clare Gorman (Volume editor)
©2020 Prompt XVIII, 126 Pages


This edited collection of essays brings together discussions on the role,representation and perception of women from the early 1900s to the present day. Each of the chapters is strong on the diverse ways in which gender and radical discrimination are rooted within topics like education, media, literature, sex and culture. The innovative nature and originality of this book dwells within the fact that the essays are written by women onthe topic of women, giving the collection an all-female narrative and space.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Foreword (Mary McAuliffe)
  • Preface (Clare Gorman)
  • 1 The gendered roles and work environments in the chef profession in Ireland (Mary Farrell)
  • 2 Sexual consent: Are the lines really that blurred? (Yvonne Murphy)
  • 3 The woman who would teach Irish (Celia de Fréine)
  • 4 Media landscapes and striptease cultures: Patriarchy, portrayal and bodies (Brenda Murphy)
  • 5 Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s poetic women (Isobel Ní Riain)
  • Index
  • Series index

←x | xi→

mary mcauliffe


In 2017, I attended a conference run under the auspices of the Women On Ireland Research Network entitled ‘Women and Irishness’ at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) in Waterford city. The theme of the conference was premised on using the centenary of the Easter Rising in Ireland to ask questions of gender, women and femininity and how they intersect with the idea of Irishness. This symposium aimed to bring together current scholarly work critiquing female experiences, how women are represented in culture, media, and socialization through the lens of an Irish experience. Over two packed days, there were panels on topics ranging from sports/leisurewear, porn, sex, sex education, women and ageing, gender in the culinary arts, women in science, to the underrepresentation of sportswomen in the mass media. Keynotes were delivered by Professor Louise Ryan (University of Sheffield), on stories of Irish migrants to London; Professor Ann Fogarty (University College Dublin), on contemporary Irish women’s writing, specifically looking at the writer Eimear McBride and the idea of women and identity within McBride’s work; Dr Máire Leane (University College Cork), on the representation of adolescent female sexuality in Ireland; and Dr Mary Condren (Trinity College Dublin), questioning the depictions of women as angels or sinister temptresses within mythologies.

While not all attendees at the conference were academic or early career scholars, it was to the credit of the organizers that the final panel (on which I participated) spoke to the underrepresentation of women in senior positions within the third-level system in Ireland. There was a very lively discussion regarding the reasons this imbalance still exists and what we need to do to rectify it. Many conferences such as this leave one buzzing with new ideas, thinking of ways to continue research and activism within and outside of the academy, as well feeling the solidarity of spending time among those ←xi | xii→who understand the importance of viewing all issues through a gendered lens. However, the event often fades into memory as more conferences and more challenges arise. This is why I am particularly delighted to see that a publication is now coming from the 2017 ‘Women and Irishness’ event, and even more honoured to have been asked to write a foreword for it. There are many ways of thinking of women and Irishness – oftentimes it is the challenges that Irish women have endured through the last 100 years that are discussed. We often, by necessity, read about the Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalen Laundries, the exclusion of Traveller women, migrant women, working-class women from specific definitions of Irishness. However, other aspects of women and Irishness can and should be unpacked.

For all their disparate subject matters, a solid link that connects the five essays in this volume is gender. From Mary Farrell’s in-depth study of the gendered work environment in the Irish chef profession, through to Isobel Ní Riain’s discussion of the role of female empowerment and sexuality in Nuala Ní Dhomhaill, these essays touch on concerns of representation, inclusion, and gender activism. The other essays similarly deal with issues of sexual consent, educational equality and the representation and portrayal of women in the media. A woman I have long been fascinated with is Louise Gavan Duffy, who embodied the campaigns for equality; an educator, nationalist and Irish-language enthusiast, she was involved in campaigns for female suffrage, Irish freedom and Irish-language education. Celia de Fréine’s chapter on Gavan Duffy shines a new light on the work of this important woman.

Based on detailed surveys, Mary Farrell’s and Yvonne Murphy’s chapter open up the world of chef work and consent respectively. Delving deep into one of the biggest industries in Ireland, Farrell’s original research forefronts the underrepresentation in the industry, especially at senior levels. Murphy’s invaluable research demonstrates that as women mature, they gain a better understanding of and more confidence in concepts of consent. This begs the question of how we need to inculcate this confidence in younger women, so they too can be confident around consent. The never-ending questions around how women are portrayed in the media are central to Brenda Murphy’s essay. Women as commodities, fetishized or hypersexualized, ←xii | xiii→women as victims, as others – the continuing objectification of the female body in the media is impressively drawn out by Murphy.

Ní Riain’s discussion on the poetry of Ní Dhomhaill shows also the questioning of the status quo, both in terms of gender and language. The links between the disparate essays is the centring on women, work and activism. The research and analysis here – on women in chef work, representation in the media, attitudes to sexual consent, and the use of poetry and literature, education and the Irish language to question the status quo – are important in our understanding of women within Irish society. What has been achieved and what still needs to be achieved?

It was my pleasure to attend and participate in the 2017 conference from which this collection stems and it has been my pleasure to read and introduce these chapters, which unpack many vital issues relating to gender and Irishness.


XVIII, 126
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (August)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. XVIII, 126 pp., 7 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Clare Gorman (Volume editor)

Dr. Clare Gorman’s research is in the field of culture, cultural criticism and social studies. She is currently working at Technological University Dublin.


Title: Miss-representation
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146 pages