STAND is featured in the 1st print publication of Zero Weekly
23rd September 2021
STAND is featured in the 1st print publication of Zero Weekly
23rd September 2021
How the viral song ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ captured the untold stories of landless Tamil farmers
13th September 2021
As I listen to the first few seconds of the new viral song, ‘Enjoy Enjaami (Enjoy, My God) that took the internet by surprise, it reminds me of Africa. It hints at the red earth. It hints at the exploited, toiling away under the sun on lands that will never be owned by them. But this is no African rap. The similarities are by design and choice only because this story has been experienced for years and years by the poor all over the world during the colonial era. The initial tempo sets the stage, and you are immediately drawn into the music. You wonder, is this an Indian song? What language am I hearing? Why did it garner over 80 million views on YouTube, sung by Australian-Sri Lankan singer Dhee and Indian Tamil rapper Arivu in less than a month since its release? The song from the state of Tamil Nadu in the very south of the Indian subcontinent was an instant hit and inspired hundreds of covers, song reactions and personal dance videos.
The world-class visuals depicted in the song masterfully captures the story of Arivu’s grandmother. Rap has always been the musical voice of the oppressed, poor, and disenfranchised. This song strikes the right chord with its listeners from its very first beat. It tells you the story of colonial India, which used to be a market for cheap labour. As history goes, thousands of poor Tamils migrated to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the 19th century to work in the tea, coffee, and rubber plantations. With time, the virgin forests of Ceylon made way for the city roads and development, and it was the sweat and blood of the Tamil migrants that made all of it possible. However, as the migrant workers became expendable, they were forcibly sent back to India with no prospect of finding jobs there either. Once there, they took up different trades like masonry and painting. Rapper Arivu’s grandmother Valliammal is from the lineage of these workers.
‘Enjoy Enjaami’ celebrates the lives of common ancestors. Rapper Arivu finds his inspiration from Dr B.R.Ambedkar who is considered the chief architect of the constitution of India, also one of the greatest philosophers, civil rights activists and statesmen of the 20th century. Arivu pays tribute to the nonviolent resistance of ‘Mahad Satyagraha’ in March 1927, spearheaded by Ambedkar to assert the rights of the Mahar community to access public water. Ambedkar questioned why the ‘untouchables’ were prohibited from drinking water from a lake, where birds and beasts were allowed to drink. The lyrics – “The lakes and ponds belong to the dogs, foxes and cats too’’ echoes the demands that Dr Ambedkar had fought for.
As you listen to the song, it takes the listener through the journey of human civilisation and questions the role of an individual in space and time. One is posed with the question of self-importance and superior assumptions of their own identities while in reality share a common heritage with every being that played a role (ancestors including) in the journey of the human civilisation as beautifully explained in the following lyrics.
“ The land guarded by my ancestors
The devotee that dances
The earth rotates around
And the rooster crows
Its excretions fertilised the forests
That turned into our country
Then our home too”
Although the word imagery is lost in translation, the sentiment, emotion, and oppression of our ancestors are not lost in the tune itself. ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ is the history of life itself and how the oppressed survived.
Featured photo by Tom Thain
What is one accessory from childhood or your preteen-era that you would still wear today? This is a question that often has people reminiscing over plastic beaded bracelets, Heelys, and tattoo chokers. For myself, the answer is easy: a red badge inscribed with six little words: “Bollocks to Austerity. Tax the Rich.”
Thanks to the Irish voters’ remarkable ability to have faith in political parties who have succumbed to drinking the neoliberal Kool-Aid of low governmental intervention in markets, eleven years later the badge is as relevant, the situation worse, the fight harder, and the representation remarkably similar. Today as in 2010 we see a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach backed by the Greens in power, although in 2021 the blame is no longer conveniently escaped by Fine Gael.
The badge sits today, as anti-establishment as ever, on my desk in my over-priced Dublin rental. Were it not a grim sign that things don’t seem to change for the better economically in this country, the placement might just seem poetic. Sadly, it serves more as a reminder of a fight that never quite seems to be over.
So, how did we get here? From the declaration of independence to the establishment of the Irish state, we vowed this country would serve her people better than the exploitation of colonialism. We would eradicate tenements, remove a foreign source of power, and be a country returned to her people. Yet today, we see public housing riddled with rats, a build-to-rent heavy rental market that has been proclaimed a “government sponsored cartel,” an average single first time buyer age of 42, and an asylum system described as “devastating” by its residents.
This is all before we even look to rising levels of homelessness, a crisis with levels dubbed “not high” by our then (and current) Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar in 2017. Is this symbolic of the governing parties of Ireland? That old tactic of insisting that an issue is not yet at crisis level while burying heads in the sand until such point as a crisis occurs?
And of course, while talking about housing it would be remiss not to mention Direct Provision (DP): a horrifying and inhumane situation arising in the modern era in the same state which writes off mother and baby homes as a shameful thing of the past – a state which does its utmost to avoid the necessary conversations around them both. These serve as two features of Irish accommodation that you would be hard-pressed to justify, and so the government simply doesn’t even try; it just seems to hope people will forget about DP. It isn’t supposed to be a home anyway, more of a (never-ending) stop-gap, so why would the conditions need to be any good? Can’t we let the market fix that too? Furthermore, the state of accommodation and halting sites for members of the Travelling community in Ireland makes a mockery of modern anti-racist sentiments in the country.
Part V of The Planning and Development Bill (1999) called for developers to have to include a proportion (up to 20 per cent) of properties or land in a development sold to the state (the local authority) as social housing, in developments of nine houses or more. These developments are known as “mixed tenure estates,” whereby private property owners and social or affordable housing residents live in the same development.
A revision to the Act in 2002 (by a Progressive Democrat/Fianna Fáil government) allowed for a financial payment of the equivalent value of the land to be paid to the local authority, much to the delight of building associations and developers around the country who had opposed Part V since its inception. This revision meant that while the housing supply was increasing, social housing was not being contributed to the stock, allowing for an increase in private ownership in the market. While it was found that Part V had a relatively limited contribution to social housing output, the revision meant that, in many cases, no developmental contribution was made at all. In 2015 this proportion was further reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent.
Additionally, with a renewed property bubble spiking housing prices, often local authorities could not afford to purchase land or properties from developers, resulting in no addition being made to social or affordable housing stock whatsoever.
Part V is symbolic of the shambolic planning that is a legacy of the Irish state. The long-term consequences of the revision (which is once again up for amendment in 2021) meant that public and affordable housing stock was not boosted. Lack of intervention by the government ensured housing prices were not capped, and so the unaffordable inflation of both house prices and rent continued.
“The right of a private landlord to make money is protected in our Constitution – but the right to housing is not.”
While the state could not afford 20 per cent or 10 per cent of developments, the ESRI this year estimates that by the end of 2021, the state will have spent €1.4 billion on the payment of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to private landlords, subsidising a lack of state infrastructure with social welfare which perpetuates inflation of rents, which the government also refuses to cap.
The right of a private landlord to make money is protected in our Constitution – but the right to housing is not. So, while rents have been allowed to increase by 4 per cent per annum, a figure which is not matched by salary increases or indeed by increases to minimum wage, the taxpayer is not just footing the bill for their own unaffordable rent, they’re footing the bill for HAP too: even the government can’t afford the rental market in this state.
And really, none of this should be surprising. The Irish property market is not advertised as forever homes, but as investments, whether at a small-scale to individuals with money to invest in the build to rent market, or to vulture and cuckoo funds looking for the investment of their neoliberal dreams.
The state’s solution to the problem of the Irish housing market seems not to be much different in the Irish modern state than it was during the era of British landlords: emigration of our (domestic) young. Admittedly today, the solution of emigration is paired with an assumption that inheritance will balance the disadvantage of our generation, not exactly the method of redistribution of wealth the leads to a successful welfare state – I come back to the solution of my favourite accessory: tax the rich.
The legacy seems to remain of a land that does not provide viable opportunity or quality of tenure to its people, and so watches them set sail for countries happy to welcome the hard-working Irish with open arms. Trendy as world travel may be, our government doesn’t seem to recognise that it is no coincidence that those who stay are of either considerable means or those for whom leaving is not an option. For those in the middle, when faced with the prospect of rental inflation which exceeds salary, and with home ownership being a prospect only when paired with inheritance tax, if you’re lucky enough to have something to be taxed on, leaving is logical.
A post-colonial society, successive Irish governments have behaved like anxious school children, scared that the headteacher (the market) will chastise their adult choices. To save themselves the anxiety of taking the reins on the Irish economy, politicians have distracted themselves by blowing bubbles and crying to supranational supervisors when inevitably the bubbles of fantasy burst. For all the criticisms of Irish people throwing the baby out with the bath water during political scandals (with Phil Hogan still licking his wounds over this tendency), in election after election, we never seem to learn that no matter how shiny a bubble may seem when it’s growing, it really does always burst.
Featured photo by Tom Thain
This article was supported by: STAND Opinion Editor Olivia + Programme Assistant Alex
After a year-long delay, the ever-raging coronavirus pandemic, and the lack of spectators in stadiums, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were far from normal. However, this year has also seen a shift in the attitudes of the Olympians, and for the first time ever, female athletes have made it clear that they have not been happy with what was once considered the norm, and are taking a stand to change the Olympics, and international sports, forever.
One of the ways in which sporting federations have failed to address inequalities in sports is through the continued sexualisation of women’s uniforms. The Olympics are not the only villains in this story, with almost every national and international sporting organisation holding questionable rules surrounding the uniforms worn by both male and female competitors. All of these discrepancies surrounding the tightness and shortness of women’s uniforms combine to make these athletes as sexually marketable as possible.
In 2004, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter suggested women soccer players wear “tighter shorts” than their male counterparts in order to attract more viewers. Similarly, the Badminton World Federation tried to pass a new rule in which women could only wear skirts or dresses to play at an elite level, with no regard for the actual functionality for this new uniform. The reasoning was “to ensure attractive presentation” and increase interest.
Arbitrary rules like this are still commonplace in sports, with the Norwegian women’s beach handball team being fined €1,500 by the European Handball Association’s Disciplinary Commission for “improper clothing” as they refused to wear bikini bottoms to compete in the Euro 2021 tournament. The team instead wore thigh-length elastic shorts, which are still several inches shorter than the looser fitting shorts worn by their male counterparts. This news caused such a stir internationally that singer P!NK has since offered to pay the fine for the team, and has also spoken out about the sexist rules within the sport.
Similarly, the German women’s gymnastics team took a stand and wore full-length unitards, covering their thighs and lower legs, as opposed to the usual unitards worn by competitors. These full-length suits are customary for men to wear, but these women were outliers in their field as they chose to let their athleticism shine through and not their body shape. Sarah Voss, a member of the German gymnastics team, explained the decision when she said that “when puberty began, when my period came, I began feeling increasingly uncomfortable [wearing the tight gym outfits]” and that she hopes that her decision will encourage other gymnasts to wear what they feel comfortable in. The sexualisation of women’s gymnastics uniforms also has a severely negative impact on the perceived intensity of their sport. Sports writer and author Kavitha Davidson, put it perfectly when she said that “At least in the [United] States, the most prominent faces [in gymnastics] like Simone Biles are women who wear leotards, who wear makeup, and that defies what people might want to point to as toughness or as a dangerous sport.”
Similarly, gymnast Suni Lee amazed the world when she won the all-around gold medal with lash extensions and a set of acrylic nails applied. The fact that she completed a gold-medal routine without even so much as breaking a nail is insanely impressive in itself, but we must think critically about the society we live in, in which a world class athlete felt it necessary to compete with these additional obstacles in the name of appealing to the unattainable beauty standard expected of women.
Jaime Schultz, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies the intersection of sex, gender, and sexuality in women’s sports epitomises the overlying issue when she said “Women athletes—we can’t win for losing … You’re either too sexy or you’re not sexy enough or you should cover up or you should show more or you should talk about mental health or you shouldn’t talk about it. You should be superhuman but don’t be too human. It’s just a range of issues that I think women athletes have to deal with, and especially women athletes of colour, that mere mortals like us can’t understand.”
“Another way in which women are diminished in the sporting world is the questioning of their femininity.”
Another way in which women are diminished in the sporting world is the questioning of their femininity. There are many ways in which athletes can have a biological advantage over their competitors, such as genetics, levels of various hormones, mentality, training, nutrition, recovery times, and even factors as simple as how the athlete feels in the morning, compared to their competitors. There is a fixation on testosterone levels by the regulatory bodies, and an indifference towards other characteristics that could be equally as unfair.
Take for example, Michael Phelps. Phelps is a swimmer and is currently the most decorated Olympian in history, winning a total of 28 medals during his career. Phelps has exceptionally long arms, giving him a longer wingspan. He also has double-jointed elbows and large hands, which act like paddles. Phelps also has double-jointed ankles, giving him 15 per cent more ankle bend than his rivals, and large size-14 feet, which act as flippers. He also has an extremely high lung capacity – almost twice that of an average human – and produces half the lactic acid of his competitors, meaning that he recovers from gruelling training sessions far faster than others. In a nutshell, Phelps won the genetic motherlode, and this has been celebrated throughout his incredible career.
In contrast, let’s take a look at Caster Semenya. Although she does not speak about it publicly, it is believed that Semenya has an intersex condition, meaning that her body allegedly produces testosterone at a higher level than most women. In 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that if Semenya wanted to continue to compete, she would be required to take medications to lower it.
Similarly, two other South African runners, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, were forced to withdraw from the 400-meter race in this year’s Tokyo Olympics, after a medical examination showed that the two women have high testosterone levels. This overemphasis on the powers of testosterone is outdated, and only serves to fuel stereotypes regarding the levels at which men and women compete. Phelps’ natural biological variation is celebrated rather than regulated, while Semenya’s, Mboma’s and Masiling’s are all vilified.
The irony of the unfolding situation is the progress that the International Olympic Committee released a statement on International Women’s Day, stating that this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games will be landmarks in gender equality, and will be strides towards a more inclusive society. It will be the most gender balanced games in history, with 49 per cent of the participants being women. They have also edited the scheduling, in order to ensure equal visibility of men’s and women’s events, and also includes more mixed events than ever before. However, this potential is undermined when gendered microaggressions present these athletes with hurdles to overcome, that ultimately have nothing to do with their athletic abilities. The point of the Olympics should not be to see who can most successfully navigate the toxic rules of a regulation that out of step with the modern world, but rather to award the passion, dedication, and strength of these humans.
Featured photo by Nicolas Hoizey
This article was supported by: STAND Women Editor Ellen + Programme Assistant Alex
It’s difficult to define Britney Spears. Despite this, the media have tried to in the past and continue to do so. Innocent, virginal, slutty, an unfit mother, crazy! Before the Free Britney Movement came to the fore, very few questioned the labels that were placed upon her. After her public breakdown in 2007, she was deemed unstable and was never really redefined in our eyes. To say Britney is crazy is uncomplicated and requires little reflection. Yet, this view allowed Britney’s conservator to take control of her life, despite her early protestations, while the world stood idly by. The New York Times’ Free Britney documentary and its incredible account of the role of the media in her life left me wondering how women are defined by the media today and if anything has changed in the years since Britney’s “breakdown”.
Even in 2021, many women continue to be defined by the media in a one-dimensional way. Some are sexualised to sell papers with recent headlines such as “Demi forgot her clothes” or “Kendall Jenner sizzles in barely-there thong” coming to mind. While these women are undoubtedly consenting to this exposure and at times benefitting from it, society at large suffers negative consequences as a result of this portrayal of women purely as sex objects. As people like the Kardashians are over-sexualised, some women are vilified, creating a narrative that can be used time and time again. Celebrities such as Taylor Swift have been portrayed as slutty, while men who have had many relationships never get associated with this term. Meghan Markle is constantly portrayed by the British media as difficult and manipulative. This simplistic, one-dimensional portrayal of women in tabloid media makes it easier for us to consume but it has real world consequences.
The effects of the one-dimensional coverage of women are profound. Sometimes similar stories are handled differently. Undoubtedly, society at large suffers from women being so singularly defined by the media.
The contrasting ways newspapers covered abuse allegations against Caroline Flack and Ryan Giggs highlights how similar stories can be handled differently by the mass media. Flack was vilified from the outset, with headlines such as “Flack’s bedroom blood bath” appearing in media coverage. She was made out as a deranged, violent woman who beat her boyfriend with a lamp, allegations he expressly denied. The “blood bath” referred to was from Flack herself engaging in self harm, yet tabloids still sensationalised the event, casting doubt over whether the blood was hers and likening it to a scene from a horror movie. Her boyfriend, clearly perplexed at the misleading nature of the coverage was quoted at the time as saying “Can everyone stop now?”. He, more than anyone, saw the devastating effect the sensationalised coverage was having on her mental health and its role in her subsequent suicide.
Ryan Giggs has been treated differently in the aftermath of the allegations of abuse that surfaced against him, with the BBC running the headline “Ryan Giggs denies assault allegations after arrest.” This appeared to highlight his proclamation of innocence and not the allegedly violent abuse suffered by his partner. When Giggs could no longer fulfil his role as Wales manager owing to the charges against him, the Sun declared that he still planned to help Wales in their Euro soccer bid on an informal basis. The level and nature of the coverage received by Giggs was incomparable to that of Caroline Flack. While Caroline was vilified again and again by the British press labelled a violent abuser despite protestations from her partner that what had happened was being mischaracterised, the coverage of Giggs highlights his willingness to “clear his name” despite ample evidence of his guilt.
“When the media furthers the perception of women as sex objects, that has knock–on consequences throughout the society.”
So why does one-dimensional coverage of women in media matter? Newspapers and magazines inform people’s views and opinions. It affects how we as society see women unconsciously. When the media furthers the perception of women as sex objects, that has knock-on consequences throughout society. In Women Aid’s recent project ‘It’s time to flip the sexist script,’ they highlight how the sexual objectification of women “underpins domestic abuse” and furthers the belief in some men that they own their partner. While this is an extreme consequence of objectification, it is not the only one. Defining women so narrowly in news and entertainment media perpetuates stereotypes that continue to permeate throughout society with women more frequently defined as crazy or diva-like, while these terms are not commonly associated with men.
Women can be sexy, slutty, demanding and difficult – but so can men. Defining female celebrities so singularly in tabloid media is dangerous. For Britney, it inflicted untold pain, as the narrative around her was changed and sensationalised by the press. The coverage around women should reflect all of the nuances and imperfections that come with being a person, not caricatures solely defined by a characteristic from which it is easy to create a narrative. Britney cannot be defined so singularly, just like women all over the world cannot be defined by one or two labels. It’s time all media coverage starts reflecting this, and women start demanding it.
Featured photo by Charisse Kenion
This article was supported by: STAND Women Editor Ellen + Programme Assistant Alex
Wealthy suburbs can be identified by the amount of tree coverage in the area.
The School of Geography at University College Dublin published an extensive report in 2017 that verified this statement’s accuracy. This study found that in comparison to North American and European cities, Dublin falls into the category of cities with the lowest tree coverage at 10 per cent.
Paris, France has a similar level of tree canopy coverage, with 10.8 per cent of the city shaded by greenery.
However, these figures are dwarfed by North American cities. 50-53 per cent of Atlanta, Georgia is shaded by tree coverage, along with 54.64 per cent of Sacramento, California.
Although Dublin City recorded 10 per cent tree canopy coverage, there exists a disparity between the number of trees in north Dublin versus south Dublin. Fingal County Council recorded 9.80 per cent canopy cover across its constituency, while the figure for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council was 16.38 per cent.
This disparity suggests that a greater number of trees and greenery are planted in areas populated by larger, more expensive homes beyond the city centre.
“Participation and inclusion are key to fostering a sense of ownership and pride in public space.”
“Responsibility for the installation and maintenance of public space trees rests with the council, but this should not preclude the public from engaging and participating in what is planted and where,” said Barry Lupton of Horticulture Connected in a statement to STAND News. “Participation and inclusion are key to fostering a sense of ownership and pride in public space.”
The financial divide between north and south Dublin was evident even before national house price inflation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2018, a year after the publication of UCD’s tree coverage report, the average house in south Dublin was worth €459,229, with north Dublin homes recording an average value of €343,177.
“Local Property Tax should be part of the contribution for tree planting,” said Fianna Fáil Councillor for Kimmage-Rathmines, Deirdre Conroy. She noted that she does not “understand why Dublin City Council have never planted trees in particular areas, such as Crumlin’s large green spaces.”
The shade cover provided by leafy trees during the summer months can quite literally prove to be the difference between life and death on a hot day. This becomes an especially grave concept when rising global temperatures and the increasing frequency of Irish summer heatwaves are considered. With fewer trees planted in inner-city and less wealthy urban areas, their residents may feel the impacts of climate change and hotter summers more strongly than those in suburban areas. This trend has also been observed within the United States, with less wealthy people disproportionately affected by a lack of leafy shade coverage.
According to American Forests, a nonprofit organisation and creator of the Tree Equity Score map, “tree cover in almost any American city is also a map of income… lower-income neighbourhoods usually don’t have as many trees.” Inevitably, this means that residents in lower-income areas are more likely to fall victim to heat-related illness during high temperatures.
Research has revealed that the heatwave mortality risk increases 2.49 per cent for every 0.6 degree Celsius increase in heatwave intensity. The mortality rate then increased by 0.38 per cent for every one-day increase in heatwave duration.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations also argues that if trees are strategically planted in urban areas, they can cool the air by 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. This would reduce the need for air-conditioning units in warmer climates by 30 per cent and reduce energy consumption in the area.
Alwyn White of Greenleaf Ireland spoke to STAND News, saying that “Success is not really about [the] quantity of trees planted. If a lot of tree planting fails or has to be removed before they mature, then the return on investment is never realised. Planning and investment in getting the correct structure for the trees to develop within is essential to get good long-term outcomes where the trees can thrive and people and property are protected from root heave damage.”
Ultimately, trees improve the quality of life in any given location, and the unequal access to tree coverage around the globe appears to be indicative of a greater social divide.
Featured photo by Stephen Leonardi
This article was supported by: STAND Programme Coordinator Aimee + Programme Assistant Alex