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Women in Politics

'A deeply sexist trope': Criticism of newspaper witch cartoon of Mary Lou McDonald

The National Women’s Council of Ireland has said such depictions deter women from entering politics.

THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S Council of Ireland (NWCI) is among those to criticise a newspaper cartoon depicting Mary Lou McDonald as a witch. 

The cartoon appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Independent and accompanied an opinion article by columnist Eoghan Harris which focused on Sinn Féin.  

The article accused Sinn Féin of striving to work up a “a frenzy” in the media about the garda investigation into Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s leaking of a draft government agreement with GPs

The article described the controversy as “a witch hunt” and the accompanying article echoed this with a depiction of the Sinn Féin leader as a witch. 

The cartoon also features a number of smaller figures dressed as paramilitary figures holding placards saying ‘United Ireland’ and ‘Brits out’. 

The cartoon was criticised by a number of politicians yesterday with the NWC saying that the witch drawing is “not an acceptable way to depict any woman in politics”. 

“Representation of women in politics remains unacceptably low with Ireland ranked 101st in the world for women parliamentarians. We need more women in politics and acts such as this derogatory depiction deter women from entering politics,” the group tweeted this morning. 

Speaking this morning on Newstalk Breakfast, NWCI’s Women and Leadership coordinator Emma DeSouza described the witch depiction as being an example of the barriers women face entering politics. 

“It is a deeply sexist trope used to dehumanise women and is exactly the type of behaviour that deters women from going into politics,” she said. 

McDonald herself responded to the image, tweeting: “We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn – Deal with it #womenpower. ”

A number of politicians from other parties also criticised the choice of image, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan said: 

Depicting female politicians as witches is another way of trying to force us back into a box. We’re shrill, malign, emotional etc. This undertone is present in the national media regularly (the cartoon today just a very blatant and disappointing example). #EverydaySexism

Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill tweeted: “I don’t share Mary Lou McDonald’s politics of populism or her approach to violence. But I don’t want to see her portrayed as a witch. Or any woman. Enough. Let’s deal with the issues of our day – straight and direct.”

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