I’ve started a podcast! Episode 2 of How to be Sound is live now, on iTunes and everywhere you listen to podcasts, and I would love to know what you think. For those people with accessibility issues, a transcription of Episode 2 is below, so you can read along with the podcast if you wish!
In Episode 2, I chatted to (former) body positivity activist Rebecca Flynn about loving your body, getting rid of food guilt, self-care and being a stay-at-home parent. And more! If you like what I’m doing and you’d like to support it, you can do so at Patreon – and, if you donate at the $6.66 level or higher, you’ll get two exclusive Minisodes per month, as well as the chance to hear me read out your name on every episode!
Rosemary: Hello and welcome to Episode 2 of the… almost brand new podcast, How to be Sound, with me, your host, Rosemary Mac Cabe. Thank you so much to everybody who listened to episode one, who took the time to rate on iTunes – nobody reviewed it just yet, so I’m raging at that – but thank you so much to everybody who did listen and for all the great feedback that I got.
Before we get started I have a teeny, tiny little corrections corner-slash-addition to Episode 1. In Episode 1, we were talking about cloth nappies and a lovely follower on Twitter let me know that you can actually buy cloth sanitary towels, which I have since ordered from fluffybums.ie. I have heard kind of mixed reviews; some people say that they’re a bit clunky, and feel a bit like wearing a nappy, other people have said that they’re great, so I am going to try it out on my next menstrual period and I will let you know on Episode 3 and I bet you can’t wait!
Just a little heads up; I have a Patreon. If you go to patreon.com/howtobesound, you can help support How to be Sound, which basically means lining my pock- no, it doesn’t mean lining my pockets, it means helping me to pay for equipment and production and, you know, eventually scones and nice alcoholic beverages for my guests, if I manage to get any guests who are not pregnant. Which brings me to…!
Today’s guest is Rebecca Flynn. She is, well, or was a body positivity activist and has now taken a little bit of a step back. She’s a stay-at-home mum and… she’s probably going to hate this, I consider Rebecca one of the few influencers I follow on social media, because, more than once, she has said or done or shown something that I have gone, wow, I really want to start doing that, buy that, look into that… and I think that’s really in the spirit of what influencing should be about, so Rebecca, hello and welcome!
RF: Hi… that’s really nice, thank you so much.
RM: You’re more than welcome! No, but I mean, that’s kind of why I wanted to have you on, because a lot of what you say and do on Instagram Stories… you talk a lot about, just, your life, right, and random things that are happening, but in a way that we don’t really see so many Irish women do. And what I mean by that is, it kind of reminds me of… Busy Phillips, one day, she is… well, I know her best from Instagram Stories…
RF: Well, I’m the image of her, for a start!
RM: Absolute spit! Busy Phillips is an actress who was in Dawson’s Creek and is now, kind of, one of the best and most prolific Instagram Story-ers, I guess, but she talks a lot about how she doesn’t owe people her time and she doesn’t owe people her work, and when she gets kind of criticisms or complaints from followers, saying “oh, that’s really boring that you’re doing this”, or, someone giving out to her for doing an ad, for example, and she was so unapologetic about going, “no, I’m entertaining you, and I need, you know, you’re not paying for it so somebody has to pay for it” and I think that’s very much in the spirit of what I get from you, in terms of valuing your work and valuing yourself. So well done!
RM: So, to go back a little bit, I mentioned there that you were a body positive activist. When I first started following you, you were running the Body Positive Ireland pages on Facebook and Instagram. How did you get into that, and how did that happen?
RF: Em, so… it was a few years ago and I was pretty… I had been pretty unhappy. Well, pretty unhappy is a bit of an understatement. I had terrible self-esteem and terrible body image, and I found a women on Instagram – who, actually, I don’t want to say who it is because she’s super problematic [laughs] within the body positive…
RM: Problematic faves!
RF: Yeah. Well, she kind of was like, introduced me to the idea of loving yourself at any size, or whatever, and then I kind of started following other people and, after a while, I was like, kind of going, is anybody in Ireland doing this? I’ve subsequently found out that there were other people doing it, but I didn’t know of them, so – just, as is very typical of me, I threw myself in, feet first, going, “I’m just going to do this!” without any thought or consideration of where it was going to go. And I was like, I’ll just start a Body Positive Ireland community Instagram page, Facebook, and then I started Snapchatting about it – obviously, I’ve since left Snapchat. Yeah, so I started that up in… summer 2016. And I did it for maybe a year…
RM: Over a year.
RF: Just over a year, yeah.
RM: So, you said there that you didn’t really think about where it was going to go.
RF: Not a clue!
RM: Where did it go? And did it surprise you?
RF: Totally surprised me! It started off, kind of, nicely quiet. Like… just the right amount of engagement and the right amount of people… followers. The language around it, I don’t choose the language, but that’s what it’s called on Instagram.
RM: It does sound a bit cult-y, doesn’t it? Like Heaven’s Gate.
RF: Yeah. I’m not crazy about it, so, I was really enjoying it. Then people like yourself, and a few other people with profile, on Snapchat, started watching and then started telling people. And it was great! Delighted. But then, between a few different things last summer, I was like, okay, I’ve had enough!
RM: And, like, for the completely uninitiated, the term “body positivity” seems really self-explanatory, right? You’re like, it’s about feeling positive about your body! But it’s not really, is it? So like, what is it actually about?
RF: It’s a political movement. So… I think sometimes people conflate it with that idea of, like, I’m going to love myself, no matter what I look like. And that is amazing – but that is self-confidence, self-love, good body image… it’s not body positivity. Body positivity is a movement that was created by fat women, for fat women. And when I use the word “fat”, I use it in the sense of it being merely a descriptor. It is not the loaded term that we have come to know it as, and a lot of fat women have reclaimed it as just a word used to describe what their body looks like, like I would describe myself as being tall, or white.
RM: Yeah, yeah. It’s just a really interesting concept to me, because… So, Louise Thompson of Made in Chelsea fame, who I followed for a while on Instagram Stories because I was very interested in her fitness content, but I’ve now basically unfollowed every thin, white woman who writes about fitness, because they don’t really write about fitness in a way that I find particularly engaging or inspiring. But anyway, she’s releasing a book…
RF: I saw it.
RM: This year, in March or April, called Body Positive. And I wrote a blog post about it saying, basically, this is bullshit. Because she doesn’t need the body positivity movement, but she also does not speak for it – she has never advocated for, that I know of, for fat women, for women of colour, for women who are different shapes or sizes to her, and she very much seems to promote a very homogenous idea of fitness and beauty and fitness as being aesthetic, rather than, you can be fit no matter what you look like – you know what I mean? You can’t see fitness.
And I got so much backlash from people who were going, you’re basically excluding thin people from feeling positive about their bodies. Which was so frustrating – was that something that you found, when you were running the page, did you get backlash from women?
RF: I did get that. I did get that backlash quite frequently. It’s very frustrating because I’m like, how are thin women excluded? You are so included in all media, in all aspects of life. This one movement is not for you. The benefits of it – it will benefit everybody, and by all means, follow the amazing body positive activists. Go out there and do the work towards dismantling fatphobia and diet culture. By all means, please do, but the movement was created by fat women for fat women, I already said that, but…
RM: Yeah – for women whose bodies and whose images aren’t being represented by mainstream media, anywhere. Not just mainstream media, but even niche media – when you look at stuff like tattoo magazines. Sure, you have women who have, maybe, bigger breasts than they would have in Vogue, but they’re still by in large…
RF: Thin, white women.
RM: Quote-unquote, beautiful, symmetrical, very slim and mostly white. It’s really frustrating.
RF: Yeah. But that’s not to discount… all that stuff I’m saying is not to discount the experiences of how unrealistic beauty standards effect all of us. Even the thinnest, most beautiful, or the standard idea of beauty, woman could still absolutely hate her body, and hate her looks, and have an eating disorder and whatever – so that’s not to discount her experience, but it’s to also recognise that she can move through the world without experiencing the same oppression that a fat woman, or a woman of colour, or a woman with a disability. I should say people, because it is people – women are more affected by it, em, but it is getting worse for…
RM: Yeah. It’s getting worse for everyone, I think.
RF: She still has the privilege of moving through the world – you know, the world fits her. She doesn’t experience discrimination from medical professionals. She can sit in an airplane seat and fit into it and not have people giving her dirty looks or actually asking outright to be moved. So I just – okay, so, the title of your podcast is How to be Sound, and I just, like, my number one thing – just to be sound. If something makes you feel defensive and uncomfortable, instead of lashing out, and going on the defensive, question why it makes you feel that way. And, so if you feel defensive about body positivity and, like, why can’t I be a part of this movement? It’s like, you can – but you can’t centre yourself. You’re not the most important thing in it.
RM: You can help the movement, you can talk to your kids about it, you can talk to your family and friends about it – you can correct… I mean, one of the big, kind of, indicators to me of… the body positivity movement does or doesn’t focus on you, or is or isn’t aimed at you is, if you’re a woman who’s wearing a T-shirt with a bag of chips on it, right? You know those T-shirts taht say, “Fries Over Guys”, and stuff, ask yourself, is anybody going to be looking at you and going, “ha! Typical – she shouldn’t be wearing that.” Because, basically, that’s fatphobia – the idea that, it’s laughable for a fat woman to wear a T-shirt with food on it.
RF: But it’s cool for a thin woman. Or the whole idea of a thin woman who has a massive appetite… and does those eating competitions…
RM: And that being super sexy!
RF: Oh my God, isn’t she so awesome? But if a bigger, fat woman, did that, people would be appalled.
RM: They would be like, “I can’t believe she’s doing that, would she not have some self-respect?”
RF: It’s super double standards.
RM: And it’s gross.
RM: So – what was it that made you step away from the accounts. And, I don’t want to focus on this for the whole thing, because I’ve loads more that I want to grill you about, but what was it that made you think, okay, you know what? I don’t want to do this any more.
RF: Well, there was a few different reasons. Like… most people who follow me on social media know that I had a miscarriage last year, so for personal reasons, I had a lot going on with regards to… wanting to heal from that and come back from that. And now, obviously, I’m six months pregnant, so… I’m delighted, but I’ve also found pregnancy very challenging [laughs] so there was that. Stuff on a personal level.
And then, also, I didn’t want to centre myself. Because I have so much privilege. So, I am plus-size. I would be considered, what’s called, in the fat positive, body positive movement, I would be considered a small fat, so…
RM: That’s really cute. [laughs]
RF: Which is funny, because I’m nearly six foot, and I’m like, there is nothing small! [laughs] That’s my own, sort of, ideas about myself in my head, but… But I do move through the world with so much privilege. People don’t tut at me when I sit beside them… or don’t want to sit beside me on the bus or, I don’t get people saying things to me. Now, I have had some… while I’ve been pregnant, I’ve had some BMI bullshit aimed at me, so there has been that, and actually, this is my first time experiencing anything like that. And it is horrific. I can totally see why fat women, and women with high BMIs… avoid going to the doctor. But, obviously, it’s unavoidable when you’re pregnant.
But, yeah, I have all this privilege and I realised, at a certain point, I was like, I’m taking the platform away from somebody who needs it more… and it wasn’t someone particular, just, I didn’t want to be taking that platform. And it took me a while to get there! Of feeling like, well I deserve a place in body positivity too, and then I was like, you know what, I can still talk about it, I can still amplify the voices that I think are important, the messages that I think are important, but I’m not taking this platform any more. It’s not mine; I am white, only just on the lower end of plus-size…
RM: You can still shop in a lot of mainstream shops, as well.
RF: I can’t shop in Zara!
RM: Well look, none of us can shop in Zara!
RF: Yeah. The largest sizes in most mainstream shops will fit me. So I’m this white, able-bodied, cisgender, middle-class woman… and like, I’m not oppressed, you know?
RF: Obviously I’m a woman!
RM: Aside from the woman part…
RF: And, an Irish woman, in particular!
RM: So Rebecca, where do you think we are now, in terms of body positivity?
RF: Well, I do feel like, it’s a good thing that body positivity has become more mainstream but, at the same time, in the becoming more mainstream, it’s been watered down.
RM: It’s kind of being diluted, isn’t it?
RF: Yeah. It’s a tough one to kind of measure, because I love that fashion is changing, that fat women have more options… They still don’t have enough, as far as I’m concerned. Like, high end retailers, designers, aren’t making clothes for fat women.
RM: Oh no. They’re crap.
RF: Which is really disappointing, because, I know myself, I have the money to buy nice things that are slightly more on the expensive side, but it’s not available to me. And, you know, I’m a size 18. What about the amazing, stylish woman who’s a size 26 or…
RM: Or a 32, or a 34…
RF: They’re not being catered to at all. Obviously, yeah, we are all seeing loads more of it, but it’s still centring acceptable bodies – or, socially… what’s considered societally acceptable. Em, the kind of hourglass shape… White, beautiful women…
RM: And there still is a lot of health shaming… and I know, even, it’s a conversation that I have a lot…
RF: The health shaming is so exhausting.
RM: I have this conversation a lot at work, because I work now as a personal trainer, and we obviously chat a lot about health… so I really try not to push my clients towards, say, dieting. If a client comes to me and goes, look, I really want to lose body fat or do X, Y, Z, I will help them and give them the tools. But that’s not the first thing that I say to them, I wait for them to come to me.
RF: And dieting looks very different these days to how it used to. It’s dressed up as health.
RM: Yeah, exactly. We’re coming out of clean eating, but it’s just being replaced by other variations of gluten-free, low-gluten, the keto diet, or any of these things that are very restrictive. And that’s why with my clients, being mostly female… I know that most females who come into me have had difficult experiences with food or have had disordered eating at one time or another, so I don’t want to push that on them. But the fact that so many people come into me and they go, I really want to be X weight or fit into X size, kind of makes me go, well, we’re still really far away… because, for me, the focus is always on, from a trainer point of view, is always on health and is always on strength, and you can’t see either of those things. Do you know what I mean? It makes no difference what size you are, it makes no difference what weight you are – you can be super healthy and you can be super strong and, even if you’re not super healthy… like, I have clients, as well, who wouldn’t be, quote-unquote, healthy, because maybe they eat loads of crisps, and they love crisps, but they’re healthier because they’re not obsessing over it.
RF: This is the thing, mental health is forgotten so much within the movement and push towards health, with regards to eating fresh food and eating, quote-unquote, well. It’s forgotten, and like, so I’ve done all the diets under the sun. And the last thing I did was clean eating, Paleo – yeah, and I just remember… I was talking to somebody about it the other day, and I was like, my treat… [laughs] and I’m doing quote marks, in the evening, was two squares of dark chocolate, a kiwi fruit and a handful of almonds. And that is really fricking depressing!
And it wasn’t good for my head. And I actually ended up having a bit of a meltdown.
RM: From being so super controlled, yeah. I went on a weightloss bootcamp for a piece, and actually I’m really sorry I ever went, because I think, the year after that was my worst year in terms of body image, control about food or lack of control, the guilt that would ensue from that – but our treat would be, one day we got one strawberry and three almonds. In a little glass… it was so offensive!
RF: Who wants to eat one strawberry?! Like, amazing! This is the thing that bugs me so much about it, as well. If something’s telling me that I can’t have fricking fruit… like, oh, there’s too much sugar in that. It’s just too far – it’s too far, if you really think about it. My toddler… and kids, if you leave them be… okay, well he’ snot a toddler any more, he’s nearly four so he’s a preschooler. I don’t really know what to refer to him as anyway, three and a half year old, they have amazing intuition around food, and some evenings… now, a lot of evenings! He won’t even look at the dinner I’ve cooked, and he just eats three bananas.
RM: [laughing] What a brat! I prepared this for you!
RF: I know! I just spent an hour making this delicious dinner, and you’re just eating bananas. So we do this thing, there’s a woman, a dietician called Ellen Sattar, and she has amazing books about nutrition and feeding your family, and she’s the number one recommended person to read – by eating disorder organisations – because there’s no guilt around, she doesn’t moralise around food or anything. And she has a book about how to raise kids that aren’t picky eaters, and stuff like that, which is a concern to a lot of parents. So we just lay everything out, now, so instead of giving him a plate of food, I lay everything out in the m iddle of the table…
RM: And he just helps himself?
RF: He just helps himself. So I’m giving him some control. But I’m also in charge of what’s there. So he’ll be like, “I’ll have some of this pasta, and I’ll have a few … carrots” or whatever, but a lot of the time, because we have the fruit bowl on the table, he’ll just reach for the fruit bowl. So I’m not going to stop him! But according to Paleo, or clean eating, he’s just had…
RM: Sugar overload!
RF: Way too much sugar! And they’re always brown, spotty bananas, so they’re really sugary [laughs], yeah, so… but I’m like, they’re bananas!
RM: It’s so funny thinking about kids and how they eat. I know that my sister, her eldest son is six and doesn’t have a huge appetite, which is very unusual for our family, but my Mum and Dad, when they’re over – my poor Mum, I’m criticising my mother again, klaxon! – when they’re over…
RF: Wait until I get started! I’m joking, I’m joking.
RM: My Mum would have been very much, like, you finish everything on your plate before you get dessert. And it wouldn’t matter how much or how little was on your plate, or whether it was, like one-third things you don’t like…
RF: It’s a really Irish thing as well, obviously
RM: And then, when you grow up… I have a real hang-up about wasting food.
RM: Even though, logically, it’s wasted, whether I eat it, or put it in the bin, you know what I mean? It’s still going to end up… somewhere, in mush, gross. But she is always trying to get my nephew to finish things, and my sister keeps going, “No, Mum, no. He is allowed to stop eating when he wants to stop eating.”
RF: Yeah! Because they have amazing intuition around food!
RM: And if he just eats, a third of his chicken and two tomatoes, we don’t care, because that’s what he wants. And, like, you know, it’s not that, later on, they’re going to be like, let him eat 17 Dairy Milks, but if he comes down later on and goes, can I have some chocolate? They really let him take control. He’s not going insane, but like…
RF: I see it now, with my husband, who… he grew up in a house where they had a treat cupboard, whereas I grew up in a house where we had, fricking, carob bars…
RM: My God, you are middle-class! What’s a carob bar?
RF: It’s like this disgusting pretend chocolate; you don’t want to know! Oh yeah, totally! [laughs] But, em, like I used to bring mackerel and brown bread to school for my lunch!
RM: I used to bring tuna and kitchen.
RF: Oh… kay…. [laughs]
RM: That’s the same thing!
RF: So my Mum would have always been… you know, we don’t have things like that in the house. Now, I was allowed to spend my pocket money on sweets if I wanted, on a Sunday or whatever, but within… it was restricted, it was limited. Whereas Jim had a cupboard that he could just go to whenever he wanted, and have crisps, biscuits, chocolate… like, a whole myriad of what we refer to as “junk”. I don’t like calling it junk, I call it goodies! I don’t like calling it a treat, either, because that, psychologically, makes us think that…
RM: God, it’s all so fraught, isn’t it?
RF: It is so fraught, so I just say goodies! It feels like a more positive word around things like that. But yeah, so, I, when we started going out with each other, or when we first moved in together, I just was astounded that there could be chocolate in the house and he wouldn’t touch it. Whereas I’d be like, aaaaarrrr! Eating the whole thing, you know, and then spiralling into, like, I hate myself, I just ate, like, a massive Galaxy, or whatever.
I had to re-learn, over the last couple of years, how to listen to my, sort of satiety – am I, have I had enough now? And it took a couple of years of just allowing myself to stuff myself, basically, and… I did learn it. But Jim learned it when he was a kid, because he was just allowed access to it. It wasn’t restricted.
RM: It wasn’t the forbidden, yeah, which is so interesting. I think, I mean, I was talking to someone about the psychology behind, like, starting a diet on Monday and finishing everything in the cupboard on a Sunday, and being lik,e I’m going to eat all the treats. So I would kind of be more like that… more like you with, having chocolate in the house, going, how can you have chocolate in the house?
RF: Well now we have it – we have a goodies cupboard, and it’s packed full, and some evenings I’ll go to it and I’ll take something, or I’ll take a load of things, depending on my mood and what I feel like and my hunger, and then I could go four evenings without even looking at it, which is just unthinkable to the way that I was brought up – and even now, my mother was asking me about it, because she’s just, “I just can’t have things like that in the house”, and I was like, well you can, but you have to allow yourself to eat them if you want them! And then you’ll get to a point where you’ll be like, I actually don’t want it any more.
RM: In taking away the guilt, in taking away the, that’s a treat, in taking away the, you have to earn it, in some way it becomes much more normalised and you want it less for the sake of itself.
RF: And not moralising around it! Like my Mum [laughing] – and now I’m going to feel bad for saying this – but she says, “Sunday sin-day”, so she has her, like…
RM: That’s very cute though!
RF: It is kind of cute!
RM: Especially from a religious point of view.
RF: Because we’re not religious at all! She’s the biggest heathen ever. She calls it Sunday sin-day and she, you know, if she wants dessert, she’ll have a dessert, and that sort of thing.
RM: But only on Sunday?
RF: Only on Sundays. Whereas I’m, like, every day is sin day! Food is not a sin. I’m eating what I want, when I want… and then, obviously, when I talk about that, I get people telling me that I’m promoting obesity…
RM: There’s a big market in obesity promotion these days.
RF: Oh – totally! Especially because, as far as I’m concerned, obesity is not a thing. I don’t think that we should pathologise people’s bodies.
RM: No, true. Yeah. And that’s something that we were kind of talking about off-air, beforehand, when the question of health comes up, with body positivity, I was listening to Sofie Hagen, who is a Danish comedian, her podcast, called Made of Human, which I love, and she was talking to a body positive activist whose name I’ve totally forgotten – she’s based in New Zealand and she’s a body positive academic, her name is Cat something but I just can’t remember. I will put it in the notes, in the podcast notes, so you can look it up. But the podcast is really worth listening to. [It’s Cat Pausé, and I am really annoyed that I didn’t remember that!]
She was talking about how, when people say, “but what about health? What about the health implications?” that she will basically say to them, “unless you are a doctor – and not just a doctor, but my doctor – I am not talking to you about my health.”
RM: It’s none of your business, and what we’re talking about isn’t the health – or lack thereof – that’s associated with being fat, but affording fat people the same respect, and the same right to feel proud of themselves, and to feel happy, and to exist in this world without judgement and discrimination that we afford thin people… because you just can’t see health.
RF: I drove myself absolutely cuckoo on Snapchat, I was blue in the face… trying to explain that people could be healthy at all sizes. I would go into, like, citing academic articles and, you know, just because somebody’s living in a bigger body doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy and stuff… and then, after I had my like, ugh, I’m so exhausted of this and I’m stepping away from it, and my mental health is more important, and yadda yadda, and then I came back to Instagram, and then started doing Instagram Stories, and that kind of started building up again – I said to myself, oh God, I don’t know if I want to do this. I don’t know if I want… like, a following – I hate using that word. I’m not sure I want to do this again, but it’s happening, and people were like, “oh I’ve found you! I loved you on Snapchat and I found you!”
RM: That sounds kind of creepy! You were like, “I left for a reason!”
RF: I didn’t mind that, but… it was like… [makes scary monster sound] it’s happening again.
RM: I was one of those people, by the way!
RF: Am I going to start getting these, what-about-health messages… and why can’t I, I get given a hard time because I’m skinny, and I was just like, “oh God…” and all the work I had to do, and I just said, d’you know what? I’m not going to do it any more. I’m just going to say to people that nobody owes the world their health. It’s nobody else’s business, and… Google it.
RM: That’s a good response for 99% of queries I think one gets on social media.
RF: But also, as well, I kind of feel like the what-about-health people aren’t actually there to learn. It’s just…
RF: Okay, so there are some people who genuinely are confused and, because we’ve been told so much that it’s not healthy, or whatever… so… but you can usually gauge it. So I put up a post, a few weeks ago, and someone replied saying that I was promoting obesity and that health was the most important thing and stuff… I was like, not only that, like, talking about health erases so many people – you know? People who are ill. Or people who have disabilities, or people who aren’t in full health, you know? So focusing on that is actually ableist and unfair on people with chronic illness or disease… So there’s that element as well. But I just… I replied to her and I was like, I’m not talking to you about this. Because I just knew from the tone that she didn’t want… she wasn’t there to learn. She was just there to tell me, “you’re wrong; I’m right; the end.” So I was just like, if you want to, you can Google it. And I left that up for 10 minutes and then I was like, actually no, I’m blocking her! Because I was just like, I’m just going to block people who…
RM: That’s totally valid!
RF: I’m six months pregnant, I’m a stay-at-home mother with a, like… very… spirited child.
RM: Speaking of language!
RF: …who is exhausting, and I’ve enough to deal with.
RM: The idea of work and unpaid labour is really interesting to me, as you touched on there, with… I feel like social media opens the door for people to demand a lot of you.
RF: Mmm-hmm. And then they tell you, “well you’re putting yourself out there!”
RM: How do you decide what work you’re going to put in? For the last 72 hours I’ve had the most frustrating conversation with somebody… I was talking about trolls, and I was going – and I wasn’t saying forums like Reddit shouldn’t exist, I was just saying, these people are assholes. And she replied saying, “well how are they worse than you saying what people should or shouldn’t do with their kids” or, she said something about, “well, you belittling rape victims by talking about your story, which wasn’t rape”, etc etc.
RF: Oh, it’s yer one!
RM: I think it’s actually a different one.
RF: There do seem to be a couple of women with agendas.
RM: There are a few people who keep bringing up… I wrote a piece on my blog, ‘Why I did not report my Rapist’, about, em, an experience I had – trigger warning: rape – in college, and a lot of people disagreed with the definition which is, you know, people are totally entitled to their opinions and…
RF: Well, they don’t get to discount… it’s not fair on you that… Nobody else gets to tell you about your experience.
RM: No. But what I was going to say was, there are certain times when I’m 100 per cent not engaging with this. And then, over the last three days, I dunno, I was feeling kind of like, you know what? I’m just going to get into it with you and I’m not going to give up until you give up. And we had this ridiculous back and forth where she was going, “you clearly have a lot of time on your hands”, and I was basically like, “listen Jennifer, if the choices you’ve made in life are making you unhappy, and you wish you had more time, that’s something you need to deal with on your own time”. And she was basically saying, “I have kids and I have a full-time job” and I was like, “well I don’t”. And that’s not my fault. Or, rather, that is our faults entirely – that we’ve chosen these paths.
RF: People have such blinkered views of the world sometimes. It’s like, believing that their experience is the universal experience? So…
RM: I think it’s an easy trap to fall into if you don’t try to think outside it.
RF: It totally is. And it’s very normal, very human, way to think…
RM: We just have to push ourselves to think, my perspective isn’t the only one.
RM: Like, how do you decide when you’re going to engage? Are you like me, in that you’re like, some days I’m in the mood to be kind of bold or a little bit playful – in a kind of a, you know what, I’m just going to get into this because you’re being ridiculous… you know what I mean? How do you define what you’re willing to work at.
RF: Uuuhhhh… it honestly could be just my humour and, do I feel like defending myself today? Or am I just better off ignoring them? I get absolutely so irritated when people say to me, “just ignore the haters”. Because I’m like, no! You don’t know… So when I was on Snapchat and I was getting a lot of people disagreeing with me, and you know what? The things I was talking about do, oftentimes, push ideas that are… I guess, with any sort of activism or dismantling of any kind of oppression, people are going to feel uncomfortable with the ideas. That is normal. And they’re sometimes going to want to rail against it and debate it.
RM: From my being a, quote-unquote, follower of your Snapchat, you weren’t talking about the colour you were painting your living room. Do you know what I mean? You weren’t going, I’ve gone for this cool beige, and these slightly cooler beige curtains. You were talking about the eighth amendment. You were talking for a while about having a miscarriage – and I think a lot of people disagreed, or, kind of felt that they had a right to disagree with your choice to share that.
RM: You were talking about body positivity, and people were accusing you of promoting obesity. So there were a lot of topics that people would consider divisive…
RM: …whether or not they should be is kind of another question.
RF: I remember a friend of mine saying to me, the fact that you’re pissing people off means that, you know, you’re doing something good.
RM: That it’s a conversation worth having.
RF: You’re pushing people out of their comfort zones, and stuff like that, and I was like, okay, that’s fine… but… basically, when people tell you to just ignore the haters – that was a thing that happened on Snapchat. It’s really hard to ignore it because – and I know there’s the whole thing of, you’ve put yourself out there. Yes, there is that element, but I never wanted to be, like, famous or anything – not that I am! But… you know, I do have people, who I don’t know, come up to me and say, ooh, I watch your Instagram Stories, or whatever! Which is always really nice, but also, that’s weird to think about!
RM: It is a certain type of fame, or infamy… the modern type of micro-fame.
RF: It’s exposure. You do feel exposed. It’s really hard to ignore the haters. You get to hear the inside of people’s heads, what they think about you, all the time. And nobody fricking needs to hear that!
RM: No. No.
RF: If anybody could hear the inside of my head… If I think something negative, or disagree with somebody who’s talking about something on Instagram Stories, I rarely send them a message.
RM: And did you ever?
RF: Because it’s expecting, that’s expecting work from them. No, because I’ve basically curated my Instagram to be all women that I agree with. Ha, ha! They all have amazing opinions! I do engage – I do send messages, and I love engagement. Like, sometimes I find it a bit weird that there’s people who’ve never said hello, or never engaged…
RM: But still follow, yeah.
RF: That’s actually the majority of people, and sometimes I’m like, I get paranoid, are they just watching me and they’re going, God she’s an eejit!
RM: That kind of hate-following.
RF: Yeah. I do get a bit paranoid about that sometimes. Hearing people’s thoughts about you like that, on a daily basis, is really, really wearing. It does get you down.
RM: It kind of reminds me of that episode of Buffy – I think I’m going to talk about an episode of Buffy in every single podcast that I ever do – where she’s suddenly able to hear people’s thoughts. And it starts driving her mad.
RF: Yeah! That’s exactly! I have not seen this episode of Buffy, I’m sorry Rosemary…
RM: Have you seen Buffy?
RF: I served…
RF: I served David Boreanaz once in a restaurant.
RM: Was it back in the day, when he was a total ride?!
RF: It was in 1999.
RM: Oh my God, I bet he was a fucking lasher, was he?!
RF: Like… I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t speak. I was just basically like, stood in front of him until he said what he wanted. I didn’t even say, “would you like to order”, I was just like, “HOLY SHIT”
RM: He’s so beautiful, and very tall as well I think…
RF: I’m the most embarrassingly star-struck person ever, I think. When I worked in another restaurant, my boss made me move sections because Dave Fanning was in my section… [laughter] and I was like, “oh my GOD, IT’S DAVE FANNING!” I was completely flipping out. The restaurant was 10 minutes from RTE, like, we were practically the canteen.
RM: For people who were too fancy to go to the actual canteen.
RF: Yeah, exactly.
RM: Similarly, I saw Anne Doyle once in Jervis St, and I said hello to her because I thought she was someone I knew. I’d say she gets that a lot. It was that kind of very familiar face, where I was like, “aw hiya!” You’re my Mum’s friend! And then I walked away and thought, oh God, that was Anne Doyle. And another person, actually, probably like the David Boreanaz thing… I have had several Twitter, kind of, arguments? With Bressie. Where I don’t agree with what he’s saying and we’ll have a little back and forth, kind of… I think, in the last year, I’ve definitely got less argumentative. I am less likely to initiate the arguments, say, than I used to be.
RF: Twitter is… exhausting.
RM: I used to be quite argumentative on Twitter, and we’d had several barnies where I’d been a bit rude to him and he’d been a bit defensive – rightly – and then I saw him at a Super Valu event a couple of months ago and I was literally like, oh my God he’s so tall and he’s very good-looking in real life, and then I was really mortified that he might see me, and be like, “there’s that bitch who’s always fighting with me on Twitter” and I just had to leave! I thought, this is ridiculous.
RF: I believe he’s a dreamboat.
RM: He is very… very tall and very good-looking. Yeah. Fine Mullingar stock. That sounds like I’m going to auction him off, that sounds really gross. [laughter]
One of the other things you talk about a lot – this is really like, now I’m just going to tell you all the things that you’re interested in – one of the things that I had…
RF: You were talking about something I said last week, in the last podcast, and I was like, I totally forgot about that!
RM: I thought, I may as well have you on, so I can accuse you of having said all of these things, to your face. You talk a lot about self-care and, interestingly, one of the other podcasts I listen to a lot is The High-Low, which I mentioned in the last podcast as well – I need to find other podcasts to talk about – but Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes are two very posh London journalists, and they were talking about self-care and saying that they really disliked the phrase, because they think it’s really self-indulgent, and just kind of a stupid…
RF: They’re probably mistaking it for… sorry!
RM: No, you’re fine! They were just saying it’s a stupid phrase for something that we are all entitled to anyway. And it struck me that sometimes I feel as if people in positions of privilege are like, we don’t need that phrase, do you know what I mean? Because they have time and money to have baths and do face masks. Do you know what I mean? So it’s not like other people, having to take time out…
RF: And, I think a lot of people think that that’s what self-care is, is pampering. And sometimes self-care is actually just saying, “I’m going to go easy on myself today and allow myself to stay in my pyjamas and mope around the house”, or, conversely, “I’m going to get up, get dressed and go out for a walk.”
RM: But it can also be pampering as well, can’t it? In my defense!
RF: And I like a good pampering. Em… that sounds really rude, for some reason! [laughs]
RM: It does! Ha, ha! I think it was the way you said it!
RF: But I… [laughs] Sorry, I’m just laughing now! I’m just imagining your man from the Simpsons going, “that’s a paddling!” Em… anyway, I do enjoy pampering myself. I love doing face masks, I love having baths, that sort of thing. I love going for a massage, but for me, frequently my self-care looks like cooking. I find that really therapeutic.
RM: Whereas I really don’t, so that would not be my idea of… My idea of self-care is, like, ordering a takeaway and allowing myself to watch six episodes of something on Netflix in a row without feeling guilty that I shoudl be doing something else.
RF: There’s that element too, and I do sometimes say, well, I’m not… well in my house, I’m the only one who cooks, so… And Jim does all the cleaning.
RM: But… you are the stay-at-home mum…. you’re, like…
RF: We have a very unusual situation, because Jim works… he’s in a band, so he works oddly sporadic… he works every weekend night and a lot of weeknights. But we’re both there during the day.
RM: He doesn’t walk off with his suitcase every morning at eight am, going, “bye, honey!” and come home at six.
RF: No. But he does leave at bedtime, which is really annoying! Any parents listening will know, bedtime is fraught!
RM: Do you think he ever is like, I don’t need to leave for an hour but I’m getting out of here?
RF: No. No! I would absolutely string him up. No!
RM: Isn’t there some book, where… eh, I don’t know if you’ve read it and I can’t remember what book it was, where the couple, she discovers that her husband has been saying that he’s been going to work or something, and she finds out … Oh no, he’s working on his book and she’s left at home, minding the kid, and she calls over to his mother’s one day and realises that he’s been going to his mum’s and sleeping. And, like, they have a really small baby and they have this huge… it’s almost the end of their relationship, where she’s going, “you’ve been lying to me, and robbing me of this time when you could have been helping”.
RF: Especially when you have a newborn, a small baby, I used to call it the tired Olympics, like, who is more tired?
RM: The more I hear about having children, the less… enticing it sounds! But the kids are very cute!
RF: I am going to plead the fifth on talking about kids at the moment. And whether or not I recommend it.
RM: Okay, okay, we’ll revisit!
RF: We’re having a little bit of a tough time with my three-and-a-half-year-old at the moment, it’s just whatever phase he’s in. It might be to do with the fact that I’m pregnant, and he knows that there’s a baby… he’s very aware of it. So there’s a few different things, but he’s… spirited. Very, very spirited!
RM: My sister is pregnant as well; she’s due in May, and her son – she’ll probably murder me for saying this but it’s really funny – her son said to her one day, [in American accent] “Mom, you are a big lady”, when she was getting changed in the morning and, being pregnant, she was thinking, he’s noticed my bump, and she said, “do you think there might be some – like, why do you think that is, do you think there’s some reason for that?” and he goes “nope! You have always been a very big lady!” and she was really peeved.
But her husband actually stays at home and looks after the kids, and she works full-time, and one of the things…
RF: I’d say society are really cool about that.
RM: Well that’s what I was going to say. A lot of the time when I mention to people that her husband stays at home, they’ll say, “well how does she feel about him not working?” and I’m like, they have three kids – so, he does work, like, pretty hard actually. You know, and I mean, I’m not as defensive as that about it because they’re not my kids and it’s not my husband, you know, but I’m always really taken aback when people say, like, he doesn’t work. Because no, he works really hard. That’s really difficult.
RF: Considering people are spending thirty thousand quid a year on childcare.
RM: And more for three of them! And where they are, as well, they live in Indiana in the middle of nowhere, and if they were to do the childcare thing, I think it would be a half hour drive there and a half hour drive back, so you’re adding in more and more time. As a stay-at-home Mum, do you feel like your role or your work in that area is valued or undervalued by society, you know? What’s the reaction you get – or how do you feel saying it? Do you feel weird saying it?
RF: I hated saying it. Up until last year, as well, I was quite heavily involved in pro-choice activism, and I took a step back from that as well for various reasons… I’m hoping to get involved again now before the Referendum starts.
RM: You’re going to be busy, I’d just like to point out.
RF: I know, yeah! So… anyway, I would always say, “I’m a stay-at-home parent but I’m also an activist. I’m also a pro-choice activist and I’m involved in Parents4Choice.” Hey, Parents4Choice people, you’re all awesome! But yeah, I would say that because I felt like I needed to give… and then I was like, I’m not oging to say that any more. I’m not goin gto say that I’m a pro-choice activist or a body positive activist any more, because there’s nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home parent. It’s enough. But I viscerally felt like people were completely disinterested, once I said I was a stay-at-home parent. And I did have one woman say to me, “oh but, you’re so smart”, and I was like, yeah?!
RM: All the more reason to be at home, making my child smart too!
RF: This is the thing – as a woman, you can’t win, because you’re criticised if you go to work as well, and then… I have to say, I personally, as a stay-at-home parent, and this is just my own situation. I’m not projecting this on to anyone else who’s a stay-at-home parent. I have so many privileges. We’re really lucky. We’re very comfortably off. We have a lovely home. We live a quiet, slow-paced life, which is how I like it. And I refuse to feel guilty for it, because everybody insists that you be busy all the time, and I’m like, no thanks.
I have – I do have loads of privileges. We get to go on a nice holiday every year, yadda yadda, so I don’t really include myself in the kind of like… capitalism benefits from the unpaid labour of women… which it absolutely does, but I don’t include myself in that, because I feel like I have a very cushy, privileged life. I don’t feel like it when Frank is having massive meltdowns, and I’m like, OH, GOD, but I feel like a bit of a fraud, being a voice in any way for that kind of… stay-at-home mums who…
RM: Well like, you don’t feel like you’re in the bracket of stay-at-home mums who are at home, working really hard, being put upon and judged by society, having a tough time…
RF: Yeah. Like, Frank’s in Montessori five mornings a week so I have free time…
RM: Jim’s there a lot, as well.
RF: Jim’s there a lot. We have a cleaner. You know… I have all these amazing privileges that so many women don’t have, that I feel wrong claiming that space for myself, of being, like, oh, poor us, poor stay-at-home mums or, more specifically, poor me. I don’t feel that way. But I do feel that… so yeah. I did have someone say to me, “you’re so smart”, and I was really offended and hurt by it. It was just like, you know, what I’m doing isn’t of any less value to the high career woman… But this is the thing, that lots of my friends are parents who work full-time and I just can’t believe how much they have to do. Especially women! Because they still have to do so much in the home, as well as having their full-time jobs, so that’s part of the reason why I, personally, wouldn’t put myself in the bracket of having a hard time or being oppressed in any way.
RM: But I mean, I think that’s to do with the fact as well that society tends to forgive – quote-unquote – women who give up work to look after their kids when there’s an economic imperative. Do you know what I mean? They go, oh, she gave up work because they just couldn’t afford to put the child in childcare. You’re not in that bracket, so there is a difference there.
RF: It wouldn’t have been economically sound for me to continue with the work. So, I went back to work for eight months when Frank was nine months old? I went back to work for eight months and it was more just … I went back part-time.
RM: And what did you do?
RF: I was a massage therapist. I went back part-time and, in the end, even though it was only part-time… I was just like, I’m not making enough money… I’m not earning enough to justify it, and I was like, I want to be at home, as well. So it was just like… we’re lucky that we could make that choice and I can stay at home. But now I’m in the position of going, like, what the hell am I gonna… because I don’t want to go back to being a massage therapist. I’m like, what the hell am I going to do when I grow up? But I’m having another kid, so obviously that’s…
RM: Well just keep having kids! But one fewer than you’d originally planned, because it’s much better for the environment. So, say you were going to have six, and just have five.
RF: I am definitely not having five children. Shop is closed after this baby arrives, as far as I’m concerned!
RM: I just don’t know how… there’s a woman who comes to the gym, she’s the sister of the owner of the gym I work in. And she’ll sometimes come to class and bring two of them, so she’s like breastfeeding the baby, in between sets, and then puts the baby back in the stroller and the other kid’s playing in the corner. It’s amazing, but I just don’t know how she does it.
RM: I know! Well, we’re going to wrap it up – but, and this is something I’m going to ask everyone, is there anything you’d like to get off your chest? Is there anything that’s driving you mad at the moment or, anything that you’re loving and want to talk about?
RF: So, obviously when you’re pregnant it’s quite all-consuming, so I’m thinking about a lot of pregnancy stuff at the moment, and both my sisters are very recently pregnant too – they’ve both had their babies now.
RM: Did you plan that? The three of you?
RF: No, no….
RM: Because that would be gas! Let’s all have a baby this year, at the same time.
RF: No, it wasn’t something we’d discussed. My older sister, I didn’t even know that she was thinking of having another kid. And then my younger sister, I knew she wanted a kid but I didn’t know it was, like, imminent. But yeah, we all ended up being pregnant at the same time, which was pretty cool! But just, obviously, because the three of us had been all discussing our different experiences within the maternity system… and there is just so much mistrust in women and their bodies and their body’s ability to birth, in the Irish maternity system. I don’t know if it’s just the Irish maternity system – it’s definitely in the States and stuff as well. It just feels like there’s always someone who’s going to say something that makes you scared or… kind of doubting yourself and what your body’s able to do and that kind of thing. So that’s been bugging me lately!
But I’m so delighted to have a new niece and nephew, so that’s on the positive side of things. I’m really, really excited.
RM: [laughs] She loves – every single podcast, she’s going to nose her way in, the dog, into the room, wagging her tail.
Speaking of the Irish maternity system… I had planned on this being a segment where we always give out about something, because I do love to complain, but, I mean, who doesn’t? But one of the things that, speaking of maternity care, that has been quite good this week is… Micheál Marti, coming out and saying that he is going to support the campaign to Repeal.
RF: It’s fantastic.
RM: And what I also love is that I saw the most amazing petition today on Twitter from Young Fianna Fáilers, basically saying that they want him out of the party because this is not what Fianna Fáil stands for, and it was the most…
RF: Because it isn’t what Fianna Fáil stands for, which is why it was just so surprising…
RM: Yeah but it was just the most amazing, badly written little petition of somebody who’s literally at home in a rage, banging words out on the keyboard going, “Micheál Martin does not represent the party. It’s about family and it’s about…”
RF: Your time is up, Fianna Fáil!
RM: And at the time I looked at it, it had 34 signatories and said, “help us get to 100.” [laughs] And it was just so, so good, so that’s been making me happy.
RF: Well that’s the thing about Micheál Martin, he’s obviously a great career politician because, I don’t doubt that him doing that is self-serving. He knows that’s what the people want. That’s why, I think, Leo Varadkar, so far, has just been sitting on the fence and won’t give his own opinion… And it’s really stupid of him.
RM: Could Micheál Martin be our next problematic ride? First it was Prince Philip, now Micheál Martin…
RF: No, God, no! No politicians ever! No.
RM: I’m sure… what’s that young guy’s name? There’s the nice redhead from the inner city, whose name I can’t remember…
RF: Oh! Gary… oh yeah, he is…
RM: Gary Gannon.
RF: Yeah, he’s the social democrat, isn’t he?
RM: Yeah, he’s a bit of a ride! AND the Minister for Housing, he’s…
RF: Eoghan Murphy. I’m here going, oh my God, I just said that Eoghan Murphy is a ride, and every feminist in Ireland is going to hate me…
RM: But he is cute, in a very boyish kind of way.
RF: His constituency is where my Mum lives, and this is a few years ago, there was a street party on my Mum’s road and he came along, doing his politician thing…
RF: [ignoring RM completely] and we were all like, swoon! He’s so attractive! He doesn’t stand for anything I believe in, but…
RM: Sure it doesn’t matter! Who cares?!
RF: Yeah! It’s like Romeo and Juliet, you know?
Can I just say another thing? One of the reasons I stopped doing the Body Positive Ireland thing is… just to say, as well, that I am terrified – still terrified – of being an outspoken feminist on the internet. For two reasons – for being trolled by MRAs and the likes, and also that I just feel like, at some point, the feminist community, who are doing so much great stuff, but it’s like, nobody is ever good enough… and I don’t want to end up being the person that there’s that backlash against.
RM: Yeah… it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I think, definitely, being an outspoken feminist… on Twitter, or on any form of social media… you do get an awful lot of shit. It can be easier to deal with on some days than others, and other days you get a flood of it, and it can be so overwhelming and so difficult to deal with.
RF: Yeah. I was listening to Louise McSharry’s podcast, where she’s talking to Louise O’Neill…
RM: I haven’t listened to that one yet.
RF: It’s great. And Louise O’Neill is saying that she took a huge step back from social media in 2017, because she was getting such a hard time. And it just reiterated again, in my head, I was just like… I don’t want that sort of profile, where you’re attracting… and, you get it too. Jeepers, you get it really badly…
RM: I get it less now than I used to, because I am less outspoken… not less outspoken, I’m just less frequently outspoken. I will occasionally come out with… like, “extreme feminist statements”, but I just don’t do it as often as I used to, because it needs to be on the day when I’ve got up, and I’ve had a good day, and I have my armour on and I’m ready. It can’t be on one of the days when I’m feeling really low and feeling really terrible, and then I go on and I get this barrage of abuse, because those are the days that I can’t deal with it. So it just depends.
RF: And the type of person I am, I’m just, I know I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Any time I do get criticism I’m crap at handling it, so… That was another one of the reasons why I stepped back.
RM: And… with that, this has been Episode 2 of How to be Sound. Thank you so much, Rebecca, for being with me today.
RF: You’re very welcome! I really enjoyed it.
RM: Where can people find you? Or do you want them to?
RF: [laughs] No! I’m hiding! You can come and add me on Instagram, where you’ll find me… woffling on Instagram Stories, either cooking or talking about social justice, feminist issues. My handle is ridiculously complicated and nobody can ever get it, but anyway it’s @its_r2theb – R, the number two, the, B… I told you it was complicated!
RM: Its just like that Billie Piper song, [sings] honey to the B… we will put it in the show notes, so people can find it. And on Twitter?
RF: On Twitter it’s just @beccafly.
RM: Why couldn’t you have done that on Instagram as well?
RF: [laughs] Somebody had already taken it by the time I made it to Instagram.
RM: Bastards! I’m really sorry now that I didn’t just do Rosemary, on everything. Because when I joined Twitter, Instagram, Gmail – not, like, I’m an early adopter – but it was quite early, why did I bother putting in my complicated, A-in-the-Mac surname? But: you can find me everywhere @rosemarymaccabe with an A in my Mac, rosemarymaccabe.com and if you want to email the podcast – if you have any questions, observations, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much to my producer, Liam Geraghty, you can find his podcast, Meet Your Maker, everywhere you listen to podcasts, and please do rate and review How to be Sound on iTunes. It really helps not just my ego but also other people to find the podcast and hopefully listen in and enjoy it too! Thank you so much.