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'Ireland is the champion of progress at the moment, it's beating everyone else hands down'

Columnist and author Caitlin Moran gives her view on Ireland post-Eighth referendum, and on what it means to be famous.

 Ireland has given us hope. In America where you would think the left would be mobilising, they’re really not. There has not been the intelligence, and the wit and the mobilisation and the thinking on your feet that Ireland has had. 
I think Ireland is the champion of progress at the moment, it’s beating everyone else hands down.

Caitlin Moran is an author, columnist, broadcaster, comedian, and an influential cultural commentator. Her best known books are How To Be A Woman and How to Build A Girl; the first has sold over 400,000 copies and the second is a number one bestseller, as well as being adapted for film.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reported she was the most influential British journalist on Twitter in June 2014 (@CaitlinMoran).

Although she grew up with her seven siblings in Wolverhampton, Moran’s father is Irish, so she has an interest in and a unique perspective on Irish society and how it’s changed.

She was involved in the Repeal campaign “as much as she could be”, and speaks about it now with genuine awe.

It was the first progressive campaign since the rise of social media. And it was the first progressive campaign in the last five years in the Anglophone world where they won, progress won, the left won.

“And to me talking about that campaign, it points to the future and how we’re going to change things and it makes me very excited for Ireland’s future. 

It gave hope to women [in the UK] and that was massive – I don’t know a single woman who didn’t watch that announcement and burst into tears. All my friends were on Facebook and watching it and crying our eyes out.  

She said that the most significant and unique part of the Repeal campaign was that it was a grassroots movement, and didn’t come from the same figures you always see in the media.

Like here, with the anti-Brexit campaign, it’s still the usual people making speeches in London and talking to the media, like an old-fashioned patronising way of doing things.

Moran said that campaigners having a discussion with their peers and explaining the thought process behind the Repeal movement was an effective way of running a political campaign.

I am astonished that every single progressive political organisation in the world has not been beating a path to the door of the Repeal campaign and asking ‘How did you do it?’ It was magic.
They’re the only ones who cut through – fucking hell Ireland, you did it. Women of Ireland, you did it!

When Trump visited the UK, Moran said that she and her family attended the protest.

We all stood around the Trump’s balloon and thought what everyone else did which was “It looks smaller than we thought it was but we’re going to pretend it’s bigger because this is an important protest”. 

Her advice for Ireland on Trump’s visit here in November was directed at businesses.

“Any businesses on that protest march route, you’re going to do fine business that day. Bring out your finest neon whistles, sell as many snacks and wines as you want, because the anti-Trump protesters, they are thirsty, dedicated protesters, and they will both party and protest at the same time.”

How to Be Famous (1)

The book

Moran’s new book is called How to Be Famous, and grapples with various concepts around fame to the backdrop of London in the 1990s.

It tells the story of a 19-year-old woman who writes a monthly column about how the people around her are “handling fame badly” – through drug problems, through romantic relationships, or by accident.

She talks about there being three types of power, and what kind of influence the power of fame has, particularly in parallel with the rise of social media.

There’s infrastructure power, you’re connected through the judiciary, the courts, governments, the NHS. The second is obviously capital, financial, businesses, people who inherit money and then reinvest it. And then the third power is fame, the reach that you have, the ways that you can change a life is fast and powerful.
If you’re famous like Kim Kardashian, you can change the shape of people’s mouths or bums, literally overnight. You saw with Kylie Jenner, you can wipe billions of the value of a company just with one tweet.

The book is semi-autobiographical, and based partly on Moran’s own experiences and partly on the experiences of her friends.

“Not all of the bastards and penises happened to me,” as she puts it.

Moran used examples of sexism in the media and entertainment industry that had happened to her as fuel for parts of the book. While still in the writing process, the Me Too movement in Hollywood erupted, reinforcing the message.

“In 1995, sexism was done in a kind of jokey, ironic way. It worked in two ways – ’cause it hurts you, but it also doesn’t allow you to be angry about it afterwards.”

It made you felt like you couldn’t speak, which at the age of 19 was deeply confusing. The more disguised sexism is, the more confusing it is.

She said that the change in what society expects from girls and young women has changed dramatically in a hundred years – and the next step for feminism is for what’s expected of men to be similarly redefined.

Men are increasingly being left behind – what’s expected of them is exactly the way it was in 1880.

She said that that change will only happen through a shift in culture, and not by a change at government level.

“I think art and culture can fix so many things that can’t be fixed by money, or governments or politicians.

“I know that what gave me hope about what I could be – who I saw on TV was the books I read,” she concludes. 

The International Literature Festival Dublin presents Caitlin Moran at the National Concert Hall in Dublin tomorrow, 7 September. For more details and tickets, visit the NCH website.

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