By Julia Brennan
A group of ladies proudly known as The Wonder Women from county Wicklow band together to chat about security in Ireland for women.
A local women’s chat circle has opened up in the centre of Wicklow to both promote womens’ well-being and have frank and healthy discussions simply about what it is like being female. They have named themselves The Wonder Women Club, a local drop-in where women can support women through deep and meaningful conversations on female empowerment and self-love.
The meetings consist of sitting, listening and learning intently about the different life journeys of the individual women present, the youngest being 20 and the eldest 65. Discussions can range from how social media affects the female body image to consent in sex to women’s safety in nightclubs. Every week, different topics can be discussed and experiences shared and empathised with. When entering the small room of twinkly lights and relaxing music it is like entering a new atmosphere, a safe space where no judgement could possibly be felt.
After many events involving numerous breaches of security for women in both the UK and Ireland came to light once again, it felt like a good opportunity to have a sit down and ask what real life women think of Ireland’s treatment of its female population.
I spoke to Hannah and Sheenagh, two young aspiring women and co-founders of the Wonder Women Club. The intuitive pair came together to create a group of like-minded people who could chat through all of their similar experiences as women in Ireland.
“The inspiration was essentially the fact that we needed a space for ourselves as much as we realised other people needed it,” said Sheenagh. “Both me and Hannah went through a series of events that genuinely felt targeted at us as women, for example different forms of sexual harassment, different forms of street harassment and we were sitting back saying that there is just nowhere we can go to sit and talk about this stuff,” she added.
Hannah, the other half of the brains behind the operation had herself experienced sexual assault a few weeks before the club was set up. “I really wanted to meet women that would support me, there can be a difference between talking to strangers and to friends, friendships can be very intense but with people who don’t know you coming to support you, it can feel very nice,” she said.
I asked the group if they felt that Ireland was progressive enough in regard to security for women, all of them collectively said no.
“Sheenagh and I had a bad experience on the DART recently where we and another girl were harassed and it was not even that late at night or anything,” said Hannah. “I think there should be security guards on DARTs for people’s safety, it is such a scary feeling to be alone or even with a friend and be harassed like that,” she added.
“It’s almost like there are more ticket inspectors than security guards,” said Clara. “There are plenty of security guards on the Red Line but it feels like they are there solely for intimidation rather than to be of help.”
“Security guards come on the DART to intimidate but they are never there when something actually goes down,” added Sheenagh. Sheenagh also stated that Hannah texted the emergency number made available on board when anti-social behaviour occurs, no one responded. “Those who are supposed to help don’t care, and it’s awful because it can be such a comforting feeling that if something did happen to you, someone would care,” she said.
Many of the members attending the chat circle all had varying reasons for taking part. Clara had voiced that finding a club after leaving school was challenging. “There aren’t very many places outside of school or college where you can go and meet people of different age groups that isn’t a sports club or a Slimming World group, there was no middle ground until this came along,” said Clara.
Emily, another participant, told me that despite having a friend group with similar interests, chatting about female-orientated things proved tricky. “In my first year, I fell into my friend group who are mainly all guys. We all like the same stuff and we’re all kind of nerdy and get on really well together but there are just some things that I feel I can’t talk about with a group of all guys but that I can talk about with other women,” said Emily.
“Recently we had gone on a holiday and bear in mind, they have known me for nearly a decade and they asked me why I wear so much makeup, I said it’s not for you it’s for me,” she said with a laugh.
Joan, an older woman who had moved from Tallaght to Wicklow to be with her husband fifteen years ago, told me she had seen an advert for the support group on Facebook at a time when she had been feeling particularly low. “My husband has dementia and Parkinsons, and I feel very alone, I know nobody here, most people I know are back in Tallaght so I feel it is lovely to be able to come and talk to a nice group of women,” she said.
The way in which the group brings up subjects that could be deemed ‘taboo’ or uneasy for others also seems to be a very positive factor for members. “For me to be around a group of like-minded women and be able to discuss topics particularly ones that are uncomfortable is great because a lot of the time you can think: am I the only one going through this or is there something wrong with me? And it can be nice to find out that there are other people going through the same thing,” said regular member Anzel.
Colette, another regular member, had known Sheenagh and Hannah for years before the group started. “I thought it was an amazing idea, I felt it would be nice to hear other people’s perspectives and also talk about mine and maybe learn a bit from all of it,” she said.
Another member, Róise, voiced that events in the UK drove her to search for a movement that felt similarly in her frustration. “I was angry about what happened to Sarah Everard, and my boyfriend suggested I join a movement as a way of putting my anger into something and all other movements appeared really big or too far away which felt overwhelming, then I found this and it seemed like a good mix of fitting it into the week while also being able to make friends,” she said.
Upon meeting this group of unique individuals I realised that all it can take is just one small group of incredible and supportive women to make a powerful impact on society today.