Episode 8 – Sex, Loneliness and Powerful Women with Karen Sugrue

The Twitter handles for all of the people speaking in this episode are @KarSugrue @Kayla_cooley
and @Caitriona_Mac

Show notes can be found by clicking here


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OPENING MUSIC

Caitriona Mc Mahon
Welcome to Mental Health Hour the podcast. I’m Cat


Kayla Cooley
I’m Kayla


Caitriona
And just like that we’re on episode 8. So, I know Kayla, you want to introduce our special guest
today.

Kayla
Yeah, we’re really, really excited because today we have Karen Sugrue (with us). I’m not going to
introduce you properly ’cause I would love if you would do it yourself, but we are really excited to
talk about relationships this week because Valentine’s Day is coming up and we just want to kind of
explore it a little bit with somebody who knows what she’s talking about so Karen, I might let you
introduce yourself..

Karen Sugrue
Hi Caitriona and Kayla and thanks very much for inviting me on. I do love chatting about all the things
as you well know and so I’m delighted to be talking about relationships. I am a sociologist and a
therapist and an activist and feminist and I’m lucky enough to know you guys for the last several
years, so yeah thanks for having me on.

Kayla
I wanted to kind of start because you wear lots of different hats and I wanted to ask you how do
they… Well first of all how did they come about if you want to start at the beginning?

Karen
So, I suppose I started my professional life as a sociologist and I was lucky enough to get a job in LIT
(Limerick Institute of Technology) 20 years ago actually this month and I taught sociology for a
number of years. I taught in Cork and Dublin and in UL (University of Limerick), and then I was lucky
enough to get the job LIT and I’ve been there ever since.

I love sociology but I became a little bit disenchanted with its capacity to it just for me at that time it
didn’t reflect the real world and around that time I was really struggling with my own mental health
but I didn’t know what to do because you know sociology at that time had no language for feelings.
We didn’t measure feelings, we measured social facts which you know – feelings were something
slightly embarrassing that you never talked about or made reference to ever so I didn’t have the
language. But, I’ll put it like this and tell you how long ago it was. I had the Yellow Pages, the actual

the actual book that you saw, Yep and I opened it up under “C” for counselor because I had seen online, not
online that didn’t exist. I had seen on the telly that American people went to counselors.. So I was
like OK, I could go to see counselor and in this pile names (and i don’t know what they mean) so I
read all the names and one of them just struck me, I just liked the sound of her name so I went to
her for a year and talked about my feelings and felt so much better so quickly that I felt like I needed
to know how this works because that’s how my brain works. This is witchcraft and I need to know
how this stuff works.

So that started me on a very long process of training, so I went out to UL. They laughed at me and
said “go away sociologist, you have to do all sorts of prep work” so I went and did the prep and then
I went back to UL and I trained, and it took a further 6 years to train as a psychotherapist. It was the
best, most transformative period of my life, it really was. I loved it, and I still love it.

So, I was practicing as a psychotherapist and teaching sociology for a while and loved it. Around, and
this would have been 2015, 2016, 2017 and so 2015 as you know was Marriage Equality, 2018 then
was Repeal and in between that period of time I… It really kinda landed with me that I was working
with people who were profoundly vulnerable and I was doing lots of really nice work in the room
with them. You know, we were building relationships, and trust and we were exploring all these
issues, and what sexuality meant and all the rest of it. Then, I was saying goodbye to them at the end
of the hour, and they were going out into a world that told them that there was something wrong
with them.

Like, how it’s with young people who were pregnant and they were coming to me in crisis and you
know, I would say all of the things during the hour but then sending them out into the world at the
end of the hour and at that time it was a criminal offense in Ireland [to seek or have an abortion] and
you know the people had to travel for abortions and abortion services is if that’s what they chose. So
I kind of came to a place my head where I was like “sociology says these things are bad and
psychotherapy gives me the tools to deal one to one with people”. But people only spend one hour
out of the entire week with me and obviously the impact of the entire week is what’s bringing them
to me, so then I started looking at ways that I could participate in activism. And you know, if it’s the
world that is impacting people – and it is, then what can we do about that. So that kind of pulled me
into activism and politics.

Kayla
Wow, OK that’s fantastic, it is brilliant. I’m just thinking it might hit his spinning even just following
that OK this is where I started this is where it brought me and now this is where it’s throwing me
into, even if I’m not fully willing to be there it has to be done. So, that’s really interesting and I
wonder do you think then, say when you’re working with clients – how does the sociology hat and
the activism hat come into the therapeutic room, or does it come into therapeutic room? Or, what
do you think is the relationship between all three?

Karen
It is it there absolutely and the training that I had for psychotherapy is that you bring yourself into
the room, and so it is about building relationships which are authentic between you and the person.
So the first thing that, and this requires a lot of yourself as the therapist to kind of go “OK I need to
own where I’m at”. So you know, I’m quite public about my political stance and I do that in a very
conscious way so that anybody who comes to me, or anybody who wants to work with me
therapeutically, they’re going to know for example that I’m pro choice when it comes to
reproductive choices for women. As an intersectional feminist, I don’t think it would be very fair for anybody to come to me and find me being a feminist and that’s not what they’re looking for you
know?

They have [the right] to choose and if I’m ever working with anybody you know, I like the idea of
when you are looking for a therapist and for anybody listening to this be sure that you shop around
and be sure that you ring loads of people loads and loads and loads of people and you ring them up
and you talk to them, and you get a sense them. You should then know if they’re good and they
know their their ethical boundaries. They should give you a very strong sense of themselves and
then you get to choose what you want. This is a service, so I very consciously make sure that
everybody knows where I stand and then they can choose to deal with me if they want and work
with me if they like the cut of my jib – great and if they don’t well, then that’s that fab too.

Then when people choose to work with me, I’m bringing in a very strongly feminist stance in terms
of reproductive choices and reproductive justice but also in terms of women’s role in society in
relationships particularly and that’s obviously what I’m really eager to talk to you guys about today.
But, I would make no bones about it in that – this my stance, that’s what I bring. And, when you’re
working with somebody it’s not that I would be saying to anybody “be a feminist yeah” – not my role,
but they need to know that this is where I’m at, so that they can feel safe and that’s a really
important piece for me, I think.

Cat
There’s some really good stuff there Karen. I think what you’ve said, we’ve said in previous podcast
to people. You know, it’s like speed dating. Trying to find a counselor you know and I know there’s
that funny element [to that]. But I think to take that stance of, it’s almost like you’re interviewing the
therapist in a way isn’t it, ’cause you really need to know – do they know their s**t. You know what I
mean?

Absolutely! People don’t realize this, therapists aren’t doing you a favor. You are interviewing them,
you choose what you want to work with. We have a funny idea about therapy in Ireland, and I think
it’s because we’re so kind of… We’ve come late to this space as a society and to be honest with you,
in all things but in this too I also I blame the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church and their ethos
around the confessional and the relationship between the people and priests. And you know, there’s
a narrative out there that has made us equate that kind of a confessional environment to therapy.
It’s not like that, nor should it be like that. It is not a confessional, it is a professional service that you
decide to engage with and then you pay the person. And they better know their stuff and they
better have their boundaries in place. I have huge concern about the lack of governance over the
training of psychotherapy.

Kayla
Yeah yeah, I I agree with you! And it’s something that we often talk about. We bang this drum all the
time, not just within our crisis service but we often have to spend a lot of time telling people “look
don’t just pick any counselor, don’t just go to a service because you’ve heard about it before.”

Cat
Yeah

Kayla

“But let’s actually sit down and go through what’s important to you, what do you value most and
let’s find a therapist that kind of matches that”. So I’m really glad you said that. Coming from a
psychotherapist, that will carry weight.

Karen
For sure, you have to do that and in the same way if something comes wrong with us physically,
what do we do? We do our research into who the best consultant is, and we ask around, and we get
recommendations and then we might go to them. And, sometimes you go to this recommended person and you’re like “Oh well, I don’t like this person and that’s why I don’t feel safe here”. It’s the
same thing, and I would say to anybody – if you speak to somebody or even if you go for the first session and you don’t click with the person, you just never go back. It can be really simple, you simply never go back. But, don’t give up.
In the same way that you wouldn’t give up trying to find a good consultant, you keep looking until you
find the person and then that’s when the magic happens. When the relationship is really good, when
you trust the person [enough] to bring your authentic self, then you will do the work. But, you have to keep looking.

Kayla

Yeah I totally agree. I always say this to friends and family. I started as a child, I was kind of put into therapeutic spaces for a whole lot of behavioral issues that I was having at the time. I must have gone through Oh my God, maybe 13 different practicing professionals and I never spoke. I just didn’t
like the vibe, I didn’t like the way they asked me questions and it was only actually a few years ago
that I found a therapist and – like you said, you described it perfectly, the magic happened. I could
tell this person anything and I was so safe and it was so relatable and actually you know what, I ended up working with that person on another project outside of the therapeutic space so we had to
end our therapeutic relationship there, but I will never forget how safe and how seen I felt in that. I love when people come on and they talk about things like this because coming from you it carries
more weight. I’m really glad you touched on that.

Cat
Speaking of safe lads, what do you make of Valentine’s?

Karen
Well now, you guys know full well that you have just said my trigger words.

Cat & Kayla
Yes *laughter*

Karen
Valentine’s. So you know, look you guys know I hate Valentine’s Day with the power of a thousands
suns. This touches into all of the themes and even Kayla, as you said about feeling seen and heard
and understood and valued and validated in the room with that therapist – those things are what we
should feel in relationships. So you know, we are fed this narrative in our society that there are
particular types of relationships that have more status than others. Romantic relationships are given
enormous status, ENORMOUS and to the point where we’re fed this fairy tale, particularly women.

And the fairy tale is something like: you grow up, and you do things but the meaning of everything is to find your other half. Then you’ve done life properly. I mean that’s it. Then you retire behind closed doors and you do whatever other halves do but that is so profoundly toxic.

I mean even the language of the other half implies that you’re broken and that there is something wrong with you and, that you can never have a full life without this other person. Who, by the way is
also broken in that metaphor. Two broken people do not happy life make let me just tell you.

So even the language in that narrative, is this idea that there is one way of doing things and it is to constantly look for a relationship and you were either in a relationship, in which case you’re winning,
or you’re looking for a relationship. But either way, you’re performing as you should be and this is all encapsulated in the utter horror fest of hate that is Valentine’s Day.

Also, I feel Valentine’s Day is about capitalism. It is about heteronormativity. It is about shaming people, particularly women, who are not in relationships, and it is overall about coercing people into feeling that the only way they are valid in the world is if they are in a romantic relationship – and a heterosexual relationship. God forbid there be any kind of deviation from what society wants us to do. Also, for women, you better also be having kids ’cause it’s kind of kind of selfish if you’re not, and it’s pathetic. If you’re single, you’re kind of pathetic and selfish. Valentine’s Day encapsulates all of that.

Kayla
Wow. You’ve touched on some good stuff there. I even have a few bullet points written down here from before we started and I was thinking – “how am I going to work this into the conversation”, but you have just done that. You’ve hit on every single one of them. So, the other half and how we should then the two halves coming together as this one, singular unit and together we will take over the world. But also, what I loved about what you said there was, the goal is always to for two people to come together and that is seen as having some sort of value in society.

I suppose the way I kind of look at it is, once you come together with another person you almost have this social capital. I’d love
to know how you think then, that capital is spent in society? Like, how do people use that [relationship/social capital] to a benefit or how does the system use that?

Karen
That is a fabulous question! So my brain is exploding now, that is excellent and you’re absolutely right, there is enormous social capital in this thing called a romantic relationship. I think it does a
couple of things. I suppose the thing that I was focusing on, is the way in which and it denigrates other types of relationships. So, you’d often hear (and I think this is really damaging) the way in which romantic relationships are given a higher status and that people who aren’t in those relationships are expected to understand lesser treatment. So you’d often hear people go “well, they’re my partner so I have to put them first”. That’s the narrative that society has invented, simply
because we’re told that that’s a partnership. The romantic partnership is the most important relationship and more important than friendship.

Now I suppose this is the piece that I really want to explore is why society would constantly tell us that romantic relationships are more important than friendships? Because that’s actually a very
damaging narrative and it’s entwined with this idea of being alone versus loneliness. So you often hear single people and I’m a single person, you’ll often hear people say “she has nobody” you know
in this kind of pitying way that is value laden in an enormous way. It’s almost hard to fully verbalize but we all know what it means.

Whereas, a person might be single and have an enormous group of friends, a huge friendship group and is absolutely not alone and definitely not lonely. But, I would have had a lot of clients, who are in long term relationships and speak about nothing except loneliness.

Cat
Oh I think you know what, I think that must be one of the worst kinds of suffering.

Karen
I really feel that you’re right, because we are fed in narrative that if you’re in this romantic relationship, you’ll never be lonely again and in fact the reality of it is ,that a lot of people in romantic relationships are lonely. Simply because it is unrealistic in itself that we expect one person to fulfill all of your needs. But we’re also in a society that denigrates friendships, so we’re kind of told [that] we have to find one person to fulfill all of your needs FOREVER. It’s madness. Then we’re expected to let go of friendships. “Well that’s normal, sure they’re married now”.


You know, the World Health Organization had announced a pandemic of loneliness maybe two years pre-COVID. What they found was that with people who were experiencing loneliness, it was having
an impact on their health in the same way, according to the World Health Organization, as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That is how profoundly loneliness impacts somebody’s physical health and
mental health.


At the time there was also a concurrent pandemic according to the WHO of anxiety and depression and of course they are linked. You know, part of what I really wanted to express today, especially in
the lead up to Valentine’s Day because people who are in relationships and feel this way but also people who are not in relationships, but are told that they’re lonely.

All of these things in relationships you’re told you shouldn’t be so you shouldn’t feel how you’re feeling, that’s gaslighting. You’re not in a relationship, you feel “I should be in a relationship” because the way I’m living my life isn’t valid, that’s also gaslighting by society. Either way, you have these two groups of people, and their choices are taken away.

I would consider myself an activist in the space of reproductive rights and choice, that’s my feminism, but the choice to be single, the choice to not have children for women that’s not a valid choice in our society. We’re told all sorts of incredibly toxic things, incredibly damaging, toxic things about being single and or choosing not to have kids. We’re given an impossible set of competing ideals that we have to live up to, and you know, if you’re in a relationship, you had better be sexy
but don’t be too sexy because then you’re a slut.

You know, and then if you’re a flirt, you’re a threat to somebody else’s partner. If your partner cheats on you, it’s because:


(A) you weren’t sexy enough
or
(B) if you even manage to be sexy or partner cheats and you will then it’s probably ’cause you’re
a b**ch.


Whose fault it isn’t, is the guy. So it’s all about these impossible things that are given to women and if you’re a mother, my God, you have to look a particular way. You have to be a particular way, you have to have a have a career or you’re shamed for that. If you stay at home you’re shamed for that,

if you have a career and you’re not also baking all the things homemade and doing all the stuff then you’re ashamed for that. No matter what you do you’re shamed for how you look, how you are, what you do and all of these competing things.
Society uses shame to reduce women’s choice and that is across the board. So in relationships and in choices around motherhood, which is why you will hear me. Listen, have me back on for Mother’s
Day and I will rant about Mother’s Day!

Kayla
Yes absolutely please do come back for Mother’s Day!

Cat
Fantastic

Kayla
All of what you say is fascinating, and I I wonder then, if taken all of those things to be true because I agree with you, all of these things are set up to modify people’s behavior. I wonder then, because
you said so many important things about loneliness, is loneliness then this stick that society uses to beat us into submission?


For instance, you were too sexy in your relationship, yes your partner left you or your partner cheated on you but definitely don’t leave because you’ll get a belt of the loneliness stick!?

Karen
Yes, and this is really, really important. I’m delighted that you said this Kayla, because what happens is exactly that. So, this loneliness stick, this shamefulness about being single is used to keep people
(predominantly women) in relationships that are really, really damaging. Profoundly damaging and we’re told and I want to name this very openly – there’s a narrative out there about dying alone.

Cat
Yes!

Karen
If you don’t stay in your relationship, you’ll die alone, and I think this needs to be said – we are all going to die alone unfortunately. That is the human condition. We die alone, that is what happens.
However, we do not have to be lonely when that happens.

That’s the conversation that we need to have, because the real tragedy isn’t death, because that’s inevitable for us all. The real tragedy would be to die feeling lonely, feeling isolated, feeling that you didn’t belong, feeling un-validated and misunderstood and not loved. Also, again, love we are told has to look like romantic love but real love Is the things, Kayla that you experienced when you found that magic supervisor (counsellor).

It is the thing that we find when we connect with another human being and that connection can be romantic and can involve sex and you know, YAY if it does that’s fabulous but there are other forms of that it can be friendship.

Cat

Absolutely, I was just gonna’ say that.

Karen
Yeah, yeah and that’s why it is so damaging when society tells us that we must give all of this social status to one type of relationship, which is the romantic relationship. This idea that we can we have
these friends that we can take or leave when we need them, that’s not connection and as a result then if we are taking connection (which is profoundly… it’s almost a spiritual thing) it is a thing I that
is magic. We don’t always find it, and if you’re lucky in your life, you find it a couple of times.

It might look like romance, it might look like friendship, it might be with different people at different times depending on where we’re at, but my God we have to hold on to that for dear life because that’s what’s meaningful.

When we’re dying, that’s what we remember. We remember the times we connected. I think that all of these things are narratives and messages that are used to beat us into
behaving in particular ways in society.

The alternative then, is that, and we know that this happens a lot, it’s the people, particularly women today in relationships that are so toxic for them, they put up with things in romantic relationships that they would never dream of putting up with from friends. Because, we know how to negotiate friendships. We were told that.

And another thing, and now my God listen, you’ll never shut me up now! But as we’re talking about this, there is a terribly toxic thing that was put out by the patriarchy to tell women particularly, that relationships are hard work. “Ladies, if you want to be in a relationship, you better be prepared to work hard.”

This “relationships are hard work” [narrative], and I cannot say this enough, THEY’RE NOT, they shouldn’t be hard work. I’m banging the table now, I’m sorry, I just realized that I probably wrecked
the sound, but if your relationship is hard work then you really have to have a think because they shouldn’t be.


They should be fun, you should be looking forward to seeing the person, you should be thinking about, “Oh my God, this is gonna make the person laugh and I’m gonna send it to them”. You should
be saying to yourself “oh I can’t wait for whatever because I get to spend time with this person and we’re gonna have great fun”.

That’s connection, and that’s the thing that makes you feel like a
queen in the world. So it doesn’t matter whether it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship but if you don’t feel like a queen in the world when you’re with the person , and you feel like you constantly have to really make this effort – Oh my God even saying this is bringing down my energy… Why would we do all of that work? And it’s where we inhabit as women, worlds in which women are told we have to do all the work. And I think after COVID it became very clear to a lot of women that
we’re doing all the work with none of the power, none of the status, and for no thanks whatsoever.


Also, we get blamed for everything so…

Cat
Wow, it’s like just hearing you talk, Jesus it’s setting off fireworks in my head. So many different angles. Something else I see when a relationships maybe not working so to speak, and there is a
break-up, is that it is translated for the partner as a failure within me… So, my relationship didn’t work [and now] all people see me as a failure. It’s almost internalized, isn’t it? Even think of like….


The biggest place I see this is at weddings. You know, the “plus one” invitation. Around tables and then “aww the craters, they’re on their own.”

I think you can really see where it plays out at weddings. Another narrative that’s out there I think, is that “oh geez if we end this relationship, we’re gonna break up our family” and “what about the kids” or “it’s gonna be detrimental for the kids” when the reality is kids know when a thing isn’t working.

They would be so much happier with two, happy, satisfied parents who are living separately and living their best lives than [two parents] who are living miserably. I think that’s another weapon people are being beaten with.

Karen
That is so important because those are the two things that people say, “I don’t want to die alone” and “the kids” and the kids thing is really important because and it’s something particularly that’s
visited at women’s door.


The idea being that “oh if you leave x, y and z” or “you need to stay for the kids” because of course everybody is emotional safety lands on women’s door, to their detriment. Women are always told,
almost from birth, don’t put yourself first – that’s selfish. So, it takes a lot of work to unpick those
narratives but what’s really interesting and important is what the evidence says.

What the literature says, which is really clear. It’s exactly Caitriona as you said. The literature says that kids do better with adult caregivers who are happy.


Kids do not do better in households where the adult caregivers are unhappy. Not only do they not do better as kids, but when they grow up they’ve had no role model for happiness as an adult. So
what happens is, they recreate those patterns because they’ve never seen what it’s like to be a happy adult. They don’t know how to do it. So actually, this is a powerful piece of information
because what it tells us as adults, is that if we have children in our lives, we actually have a moral duty to make ourselves happy so that they will know how to do it for themselves.


But that takes a lot of unpicking of these toxic things that are told to women about being selfish.

Kayla
Yeah, it’s fascinating. It’s like what Caitriona said, every time you start talking, more fireworks are going off in my brain. I suppose just to bring it back for a second to a thing on careers and there as well as dying alone.

I wanted to bring it back to the dying alone thing because I thought it was really interesting when you said it. I watched a little, (it’s no secret to anybody who listens to this that I spend too much time on the Internet and on tick tock but) I saw an old interview this morning with
Amy Winehouse.

The interviewer was saying to her “you said you wanted to retire by the age of 30” and [Amy Winehouse] was like “I never said that”. Then [the interviewer] brought up the little snippet of where she [Amy Winehouse] said it so she was like, “oh OK yeah, well I suppose, I want a family and I want to get married and have children because I don’t want to die alone”.

So sadly, she equated ending her career at a certain time with, this will mean if I give up what I love I won’t have
to die alone. When in reality, the real thing is one partner in the relationship is going to die first, which means the other person is going to be left alive, meaning we’re both going to die alone.

So it’s just really interesting the way you put it. I’d love to hear your take on this, but women and careers in the relationship and how much is expected there. So if you wanted to talk a little bit about
that I’d love to hear it?

Karen

Yeah. I mean, first of all, how very sad for Amy Winehouse. That’s so sad and actually I feel kind of sad for all women when I hear things like this because ,we are all told that we… It’s like we’re given all of these competing messages.

We’re told “of course you can be whatever you want”, “course you can, of course” but you know, “you need to do it all at the same time” and so kids? “of course, it’s easy, everyone has kids and have to work of course, but Jesus ladies be thin. Make sure your house looks well, do really well in your career and also, your children better be high achievers too or
else you’ll be blamed!”

Cat
And they better have a TikTok channel channel….
*laughter*

Karen
Yeah, exactly! It’s these impossible things and then also, this idea that we’re going to die alone this is…It’s… There’s such… You know, I think I’m just getting pulled all around the place with what you said, Kayla. Because I find it quite emotional and you know, we’re all women in the world who have been told these terribly, terribly damaging things and

I’m always brought back to what the fantastic
Panti Bliss said in their amazing talk that time in 2014, they said:

“you know we’re all a little bit homophobic, because we were brought up in a homophobic society.”

And I would say we’re all a little bit misogynistic, because we’re brought up in a misogynistic society. It’s really, really hard to unpick those things and really difficult as women in contemporary society,
the way in which the patriarchy tells us that, “yeah be all things but if you’re not all things it’s your fault. It’s ’cause you’re lazy, or you’re not hard working enough. Or you know, sleep??? NO! and also,
you should have kids and you should love every minute and if you don’t love every minute, well as a woman there’s something kind of wrong with you so maybe check your mental health.”


Then we also get blamed for everything, we can blamed for everybody else’s failures and sometimes, I feel we haven’t really moved on terribly far from being called witches, which was effectively the
way in which women were kind of controlled and shamed several centuries ago. I feel that we are all still being called some version of witches, just the words are different.

We’re told we are “unhinged”, we’re told “b*tches be crazy” and indeed some of us are still called witches. Very high profile women, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald was called which in the one of the national newspapers there about two years ago. So high profil,e confident, powerful women – they do it because they somehow “trick” people and use their magic to do it.

All of that is blaming and shaming women, so I kind of feel like I’ve gone off away from what you said and I really apologize, but I think one of the key things is we’re constantly in that narrative that women should do X Y and Z and that there’s a formula to be happy and if you don’t follow the formula, well then you’re not going to be happy, you’re gonna be sad and lonely and pathetic and you’ll have no friends and it’s all awful and maybe people will invite you as their like a sympathy invite like the wedding thing and then you’re there and it’s all embarrassing and God help us… But the reality is, and the reality being the evidence, the
evidence shows a lot of very different things.

First of all ,the evidence clearly shows, unequivocally, that single people report higher levels of happiness, personal happiness than people in relationships. Why is that? I can tell you this, they also report being less lonely! So, turns out, the single people put more time and effort into friendships. They’re more involved in the community, they do more projects, they travel more, they get involved in more passion projects..

All of which embeds them in community, and we know, what is the most protective factor for mental health? It is being part of things that are bigger than yourself, like being involved in the community. So actually, turns out single people do far better, they are less isolated.


So what’s really interesting is that we have this incredibly competing narrative that is against what the literature says, all parts of the literature! Single people doesn’t harm children, single people are
happier! We are still embedded in this toxic narrative that says that women should stay in relationships regardless of how bad the treatment is. Now, who benefits from that?

Cat
I think as well like you know, when I look at your trauma stuff, Bowlby comes up a lot – attachment theory, and I suppose as we all know, his thing is you are attached to your primary caregiver and
then later in life that’s gonna come out in such a way and will develop into your primary relationships.

But I suppose, that’s on the basis or the assumption that we’re gonna have this one amazing relationship that is going to “fix you”. This whole like “you’re gonna go on now to marry your father” kind of thing, or you know someone that reminds you of your parents or your siblings or
whatever but it doesn’t really talk about attachments to friends.


We have lots of friends, and they might have whatever attachment style, but I mean, say if I have a secure attachment style, in general when I’m with them you can see that [my attachment style] it regulates them. It can clam them down and it does play out with friendships.

Karen
I think that’s really important. Of course! We’re told, I mean this idea that we find a romantic partner and that’s all set up for the like, our whole lives?? That’s madness! And it’s actually based in a time when life expectancy was much less. When I separated from my husband there a couple years ago, a very good friend mine said “you know in an earlier time, you’ve had had a really successful marriage, it’s just that one of you would have died!”

*Laughter*


We were together for 22 years and that’s a really successful marriage laughs. We’ve got these social structures like marriage, that’s based on us having much shorter lives and not changing as much.
So, society now has changed completely. We’re living to our 80s and 90s. We’re traveling the world, we don’t just have one career the way we used to, we now have three careers (most of us) and
during that time obviously people change enormously…So you change your friends, of course because people change, we change partners too that’s just part of it, not always but there’s no rules.


So to tell us that there is a rule, and that you’re doing things right if you follow the rule – that’s just a reduction of choices and it’s not a reality piece. It couldn’t be because society is so very, very
different.

But, I think one thing that’s really coming to the fore since COVID, now we’re still in the area of anecdotal evidence because it’s too soon really for too many publications, but we’re seeing
this coming out of a number of places – so things like family law practices, citizens information, and counselors and so on and what they’re all starting to report is that there is an unprecedented degree
of relationship breakup.

I feel that that is not surprising given the last two years that we’ve all been through, and the close quarters that people had to live in. Also, all of the structures that people use to support themselves were gone overnight..

We couldn’t meet anybody, we couldn’t see our friends, we couldn’t do anything, we were stuck where we were, unmoving for long periods of time. I can tell you, it shone a light on what was happening. It shone a light on things that we probably were making ourselves too busy to see, but when you’re there 24/7, and we’re hearing huge amounts of women particularly whose partners at the start of COVID who’s partner disappeared upstairs, closed the door to bedroom and did their 8
hours at work.

Meanwhile, the female partner or woman partner is downstairs also doing her 8 hours work of course but also homeschooling the kids, feeding the kids, entertaining the kids, and doing their job, the job of teachers and the job of childcare all at the same time.


That has had a profound impact on women’s mental health, and I think that women are tired of that.
I also think it’s unsurprising that this has happened.

Kayla
Yeah, absolutely. I’d like to just give a plug to, when you were talking there the one thing that came into my mind was COVID Women’s Voices on Twitter. They are fantastic, I learn from them stil,l all
the time through Twitter. Basically, it was that the biggest part of the caregiving roles ended up with the women throughout COVID.
Karen
Yes!
Kayla
When we were making decisions on Covid, and how to tackle it, women voices weren’t included so it was completely counterproductive.
Karen
Yeah

Kayla
So yeah, I just saw an opportunity to give those ladies a plug because they’re wonderful. The other thing I wanted to say is that this is really interesting for me, what you’re saying about how we have
this one relationship and we’re seen as almost “clean”. If you’re seen as having lots of relationships, you’re a slut or the male equivalent of that and one thing I see on TikTok all of the time (I’m sorry to keep going to tick tock) but
Karen
No, no [it’s important], go!

Kayla
My research is online and digital stuff so…. And what I see is, people sharing videos [saying] “when your love interest has only ever had one relationship and can’t do long term, [that is a] red flag. Then
then you see this other cohort of videos that are saying “when your love interest has had seven relationships in the last year, [that is a] red flag. So, it’s like OK… What’s the magic number?

What do you want? Somebody who is “clean” or somebody who has “experience” in being in relationships
and can clearly I suppose sustain long term relationships? So, what’s what are the magic thing here?

Cat

But what’s wrong with someone that could have… I think this whole thing right, if a marriage breaks down “Oh my God unsuccessful marriage”, I hate that. What’s wrong with having like three successful marriages?

Karen
Nothing! And you know what, I love this and you guys know I absolutely love talking about sex and sexuality, and this is so important. So like, the first thing is that we have been moved away by society
from looking at the quality of connection and we’re really into box ticking and that’s why the marriage thing you know – “Oh my God everything’s a failure” and the thing is, very often when marriages fail – the woman is looked at.

That’s part of why women want to stay in relationships,
because they are blamed when something happens! They’re blamed if the partner cheats, they’re blamed ’cause maybe they let themselves go or something and the “other woman” is very often blamed because she maybe “tricked” the guy.

You know what the problem is, is that we don’t look at the behavior of the guy. Now, you said about the male equivalent of this and I actually disagree. I don’t think that there is a male equivalent in terms of the appropriate sexual number, because men are not slut shamed in the
same way that women are. Because men are actually given higher status.

Kayla
Praise, yeah.

Karen
Because it’s linked to hegemonic masculinity and toxic masculine norms that men be sexually assertive and aggressive. Whereas women are expected to (if we’re looking at sexual scripts), women are expected to be a little bit meeker, a little bit subordinate and men are supposed to be dominant.

So there’s a lot of really competing, difficult sexual scripts for women and even knowing how to navigate that space? Jesus, I have no idea how young women navigate that space. It is impossible to navigate as a 45 year old, let me tell you!

So I don’t know how young women [do it]. But what I am aware of is, although the nature of the exact content of the scripts has changed since I was that age, the fact that there are competing scripts has not changed. So just to say about your “what’s the number?” There is no number, there’s no number for women!

She’s always wrong. She’s either had not enough partners,
in which case there’s something wrong with her, or she’s had too many partners, in which case she’s a slut.

The thing is, it is not about the woman, it is about the way in which society constructs these impossible standards for women and that is a form of social gaslighting. Whereby, women are always feeling that they’re wrong, things are going wrong in the relationship and it’s their fault.


Because of all of these crazy competing things, we can choose one thing to fit our circumstance because they’re all there!
Do too much, do too little. And actually, very often the narrative of do too much is given to women and I think that this is really, really damaging. Women are very often told that they’re too much, too
emotional. Whereas anger for men, isn’t considered an emotion but for women it is considered emotion. Too needy, too loud, “don’t be loud ladies”, “don’t take up too much space physically”.

“oh don’t be too fat, don’t laugh too loudly, don’t laugh too much, don’t eat too much…”The laughing too loudly thing, I know that when I was younger I used to have this this huge big laugh and
several times, men said to me things like, “it’s not that funny love”. I internalized this kind of shame like, “Oh my God Oh my God maybe I’m you know… Maybe it’s not that funny” but this is what society does to women.

It has an enormous number of narratives and the whole purpose of them all is to make us smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller, quieter and weaker and if we stand up for ourselves then we’re “crazy”.

Even the women who stay in abusive relationships, people go “I would
never stay in that”

Cat
That drives me mental.

Karen
Yeah, what do we do stay or go? Have sex, don’t have sex? Take our power, don’t take [our power]? No matter what we do, it’s our fault and we’re wrong and if we get raped well, “what we were wearing? Were we drinking? Why weren’t we at home? Come on now let’s look at that, maybe women should stay at home!”

That was the narrative after Ashling Murphy, “maybe we all need to
stay at home in the evenings” and thus making it about our behavior.

The extent to which were blamed for absolutely everything astonishes me, I’m really and truly astonished. It’s not getting any better and I work in, as you know, I work in the political space a little bit as well and actually that’s one of the hats I forgot to mention it start.

What I see with high profile women and women who have any kind of a public profile, is that they are blamed for everything because really powerful women make people feel uncomfortable. They are not doing the gender script “right” and they are blamed for everything because they’re expected to be all things for all people.

I think women in general are expected… There is an entitlement to women’s time, energy, emotional resources. We’re expected to be mothers, comforters, listeners. We’re not expected to claim power
for ourselves or time or give energy to ourselves and I have gone on a complete rampage there and I don’t know if I got the question…

Kayla
No, no – I think you’ve stayed with it. I’m just wondering now I suppose, I’m getting curious because I know that a portion of our listeners would be in the LGBTQIA+ community and I’m wondering how do these, or how would you say that these are social scripts play out in same-sex relationships?

That’s [something] really interesting to me, so you have for example let’s stick with women, you have two women together in a society that is typically built for and by men… So one thing that stands out for me, and I know you wanted to talk a little bit about sex and sexuality as well and I think that’s really important, especially from women.

So, the sexual conversation is always dominated by the male perspective, but how do you think those scripts play out when you have two women who, should “technically” as society says be more submissive, quieter etc, how does that play out?

Cat

Can I just say before, sorry Karen, but you know what drives me off my nut? People say to me and Kayla “who’s the man in the relationship?”

Kayla
Yeah, and clearly there isn’t one, that’s quite literally the whole point it’s literally the whole point..

*Laughter*

Karen
I think it’s so frustrating because part of that is that it’s more of the same old thinking, and it’s not even old it’s contemporary thinking but it’s based on these models of how people should be. It’s this hetero, patriarchal scripts about being in the world. So when you have a same-sex couple, people go “OK yeah, OK fine, that’s grand but but but…. How do I? Where is my framework? OK the only framework I have is heterosexual couples so they must be a heterosexual couple with vaginas”


*laughter*


One of the things that I find, I guess most exciting about queer theory, queer lives, queer identities is this idea that and I feel such…. I have to say, I’m old so I’ll say it wrong but I just have to do a massive shout out to people identifying as non-binary.

For me, they epitomize the struggle to break away from the old hetero-normative lies. This script that we were all told, “if you’re a woman you did this, you be like this. If you’re a man you do this blah blah” and we have the non-binary community going “Oh no no no no no no, I don’t feel that, why would I want to be this? Why would I want to be this? There’s so much toxic crap about both, I want to build and forge something new!”


I think that that is part of why the non-binary community represents such a threat to contemporary society, and you’ve got the darlings of my pal Peterson and so on, who talks such a lot about “having
a problem, having a problem with knowing how to talk to non-binary people” and so on and so on and so on.

Because this is what it comes to: we have forgotten that people are people in our rush to make them into the categories that we understand. So they have to be male or female, they have to be gay or straight, they have to be mad or sane. It’s all of these incredibly divisive binaries. You have to be single or in a couple, and again there is a
whole middle ground!

Cat
There has to be a box doesn’t there? There has to be a box to put you in so I can understand you.

Karen
Yeah and my God, it better be a binary ’cause I can’t go, yeah it’s not it and the binary usually lands into what’s “OK” and what’s “not OK”. And with the “not OK”, sometimes I’m good enough to accept the “not OK”, but there’s a real martyrdom of like” that’s alright, I’m OK I’m down with this” and that is about the person that’s about them going “I’m really woke”
*laughter*


but it’s not about you. It’s about the people who are embodying this new space, and I think, I don’t really know if this answers your question, but I think for me, it is about looking at ways and this for is relationships as well and ways of living in the world – looking at ways that are not the same as what went before.


So I followed some people on social media and that have kind of forged new ways to be in the world, so I love “Mommunes”, I don’t know have you come across this but “mommunes” are groups of
women with kids who live together, and it’s…

Cat
Yes! l I’ve seen this! it’s amazing !

Karen
Women are living together in in friendship groups and they mind each other as kids, they… So, some of them are stay at home moms for all the kids and some of them are not but I love that ’cause it’s
based on friendship, but it’s also based on the reality of child rearing.

I remember when I went back to work after having my second kid, and oh I was tired ’cause Dan did not sleep EVER! And I had two
kids under 3 and my partner traveled a lot, so I’m mostly at home with them myself. Then I went back to work and I was just like, a broken woman really in terms of tiredness but, I remember being
asked by a male colleague “how was I doing?” and I said “I’m really tired , I’m really struggling now trying to get it up” and he said “you need a wife”


*laughter*


and I thought yeah, I do, in the way that society constructs that – yes I need another adult to stay at home and prepare everything for me. Because this is what he meant, he wasn’t tired even though
his kids were comparable age because he had a wife. The wife did all the food, so he never had to do a shop at 6:00 o’clock in the evening when he left work. He was never trying to balance two small
kids in the car and the shopping trolley, trying to get food and all of those things – he just arrived home from his day’s work to a meal and happy kids.

So I suppose for me, I mean that’s that old framework but for me, when I think about that mommune, Oh my gosh. You arrive back to your
house where your kids are taken care of by a loving adult, and you’re friends with the adult so you have the laughs and joke with them..

Cat

It’s the dream!

Karen
And then somebody has made your food and you just have to sit down and eat your food and talk to the people that you love enjoy spending time with?? I mean it is the dream and also I’m seeing
increasing numbers of young people talking about living with their friends, and I love this.

I think this is magnificent, friendship groups living together and having involved lives. This is for me, this is queer lives in the way that I understand queer – finding new ways to be in the
world that are a rejection of the old framework, that work for us in in modern society.

I just think it’s… and it’s moving away from this old idea that we have to be a monogamous heterosexual couple…blah blah blah box tick box tick = happy!

You know that there are other forms of relationships and happiness out there if only we can free ourselves from the old narratives.

Kayla

It’s amazing to hear you say that because, I think it also links up with the mental hoops people will jump through, and the mental gymnastics that people will complete in order to understand
something.

There’s this great account on Twitter and it’s called “Letters of Note”, and in that you can read wonderful letters from all kinds of people throughout time, that were written and sent.

One of the ones that always cracks me up is how historians painted Virginia Woolf as this heterosexual woman, who liked to write. Then, all of a sudden – these really sexually charged letters came to the forefront, that she was sending to a woman. All of a sudden historians are like “yeah and they were best friends”


*laughter*

Cat
Of course there were.

Karen
Yeah yeah!

Kayla

You don’t read Virginia Woolf’s letter to her “best friend” about how much she missed her… These letters were, like I mean I was getting flushed, I was like “Jesus Christ”. You know, there was no
denying it that these letters were filled with lots of different things – love, companionship and sexuality, and all these wonderful things. But, the mental gymnastics people will complete to deny
this.

Karen
Jesus, yeah yeah yeah and this is… I love that you brought in history because there are so many queer historical figures, who’ve had their queerness completely eradicated from the story of their lives.

So it’s like, particularly around women and queerness, like they’re there. I think there’s often an attempt to completely eradicate women and we saw this very clearly in Irish revolutionary history. There was a really concerted attempt to completely eradicate women from that story. that was all dudes, but even the women who couldn’t be eradicated – their queerness was eradicated.

So there were several women of the original Cumann Na mBan army who would have been very well known queer women, who did astonishing things. Set up children’s hospitals, that were solicitors,
they lived together for their whole lives, they were completely dedicated to each other but – as you said Kayla, they were just friends!

*laughter*

Kayla
“They were roommates” (Old internet video reference)

*laughter*

Karen

They were yeah! They just shared a bed ’cause it was cold! But my favorite revolutionary is Countess Markievicz, she was magnificent but her sister who’s called Eva Gore-Booth was one of the original
authors of queer theory!

So, a lot of contemporary queer theory is based on stuff that she published in the early 1900s with her lifelong partner, that she met in Spain. They lived together, they published this periodical talking about queer lives, they had different language at that time, but it was very well known and they were really profound artists and creators of culture.

They have both been almost utterly eradicated. [Only] now are authors and historians coming to the fore and bringing these lives back.


Doctor Mary McAuliffe in UCD, she does a lot of work on this and I hope I’m not getting her name wrong, but she’s magnificent for this. Going to history and pulling out the queer lives that have been
silenced. Locally actually, Sharon Slater who’s a fantastic local historian in Limerick, she does the same in a really, really powerful way.

She talks about women and I include women who broke the
mold and did not agree to live their lives within the framework of womanhood, as it would have been regardless of who they want to have sex with. But they refused to perform womanhood in the way that it was told to them at the time. They refused to be ashamed, I think there is an element of queerness in that too. I really feel it is quite powerful.

Kayla
Definitely, it’s fascinating, and Sharon Slater does lots of historical things that fall into different categories and she’s wonderful on Twitter. We will include her handle in the show notes, but there’s this whole thing on TikTok as well where young, queer people now are coming and young
transgender people and are calling themselves gender-benders.

Where it’s like, they’re saying “some days I feel like this, some days I feel like that” and it’s not really non-binary but it doesn’t have to be linear and it doesn’t have to be book-ended with either yes or no, straight or gay or whatever.


I think throughout history it’s really interesting to go back and read about these characters and really
examine them, and go “hmmmm, maybe that’s what they were talking about…”

Karen
You know I absolutely I love the idea of this generation coming up on picking those gendered frameworks and it’s such it’s a powerful form of resistance. And it is unsettling for the oldies because we are socialized so profoundly around gender, that it is challenging.

The thing is, since the dawn of time, resistance has been challenging. So you know like in the in the 1960s, when you had the second wave of feminism, those original women did not want lesbians as part of that wave of feminism because whatever reasons (that I never really could understand what they were talking about) but the thing is, the radical feminists of that time were the ones who said YES the lesbians are
a part of feminism, of course, they must be part of feminism! And they knocked down, and they made damn certain that part of feminism would be a woman’s right to choose whomever she loves.

That is now a core part of feminism, but what’s really interesting I guess, is that a lot of those feminists from the 1960s that knocked down those walls and now what we call the trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFS) who cannot accept that trans women are women. They have
this essentialist notion of womanhood, so they refused to accept trans women as part of contemporary feminism.

They are the same women who fought for gay women to be included in the movement in the 1960s!! So, resistance, as it comes, is going to be the thing that unsettles us. And we either are able to reflect
on what that means for us and why we’re unsettled, or we become hardened in our position.

I think at the moment we’re seeing a lot of people really solidifying into quite a brittle position of opposition. “No!! Those people can’t be involved, it has to be only these types of people and the
people that I give permission to.”

Whereas I see a generation coming up, and they’re like “yeah listen, I’m saying I’m making my own way forward, I totally reject your way of doing things, it’s crap” and honestly, I don’t blame them.

Who would want to be a woman? Honest to God, who would want to do that because of the way they’re treated? I get it. And equally, men are told they can’t cry or be emotional? and they’re only allowed to be angry? Like this is shocking stuff and back I suppose, to where we started about connection there is all of these binary genders.

They are so rigid that it is impossible to really be your authentic self because you’re playing all these scripts, and you’re performing all these scripts, so how can we? No wonder there was a pandemic of loneliness, because we’re not allowed to be ourselves, our authentic selves!
Which might have nothing to do with gender it turns out…

Kayla
yeah it’s it’s so interesting how all of these different things are kind of common in and playing on the same soccer pitch basically yeah and I wonder if we were to bring all of what we just spoke about back to relationships and from your psychotherapeutic hat.

What would you say to someone who is maybe looking at their relationship now and examining it and thinking all of the things like God maybe I want to leave but maybe I don’t, if I leave I’m gonna be lonely or what would you say to that person who’s maybe spends more time evaluating their relationship than enjoying their relationship?


Karen
I think for me what it comes down to is choice so we as adults in the world have to weigh up the reality. The reality is, it is many different things depending on who you are so you might be weighing up your relationship and you might be making a decision and you will make that decision based on your family around you. Do you have kids? Do not have kids? What stage are they at? What’s your financial circumstances? Where do you live do you live? Beside friends? Do you live beside support people?


If you did decide to be single what would that be like, how would you arrange that? It is all about choice, so I think that when we unpick narratives, shameful narratives we take away one of the
sticks that are used to beat people. And, when that stick is taken away, then you can make an authentic choice.


Now somebody might decide “actually you know what…. I’m choosing to stay in this relationship. It’s not everything that I want, but it’s some of the things that I want. It works for me right now” – that
that’s an empowered choice. It might be that I stay in this relationship for a while but I recognize that I’m missing something, so I’m going to go and find that thing maybe, in friendship groups.


Maybe in the wider community. Or it could be, that you have a really frank and robust discussion with your partner and you tell them that you’re really unhappy and that you’re lonely, if that’s the
thing and it might be that the partner says the same. Or, it might be that you then split up, or it might be that you then come to a place where you go “well let’s have an open marriage, this works,
we’re great friends you know.. let’s do this” and I guess this is what I mean by choice.


This was said to me at the start of my training and I’ve never forgotten it. When a person does nothing, they do something and the something is that they are not changing, they’re deciding not to
change where they’re at. But very often, the damage is not done by saying “OK I’m just, I’m choosing this for the following reasons”, the damage is done when they stay where they’re at, but they tell themselves that it’s someone else’s fault.

Then they have a narrative, an internal story where they’re
a victim, and no happiness comes of that because power has been given away.

So, I suppose that’s what I would say to – choose and the brilliant Glennon Doyle says it as she says everything brilliantly, and better than anybody else, but she says “choose your tough”. It’s tough to
choose to break up a long term relationship and there is a lot of work to do, and it is tough also to stay in a relationship that you are not happy in.

Choose your tough.


Cat
I love that I love that now, that’s a really good one. I’m gonna be thinking about that for the evening.


Kayla
So, the other question I have on relationships is, if you were to give somebody advice who, maybe hasn’t been in a relationship for a while so – somebody who’s not in a relationship now but wants to be and is exploring that landscape, what would you say as a psychotherapist to be cautious of going in?


Karen
I would say that women, particularly, are taught not to trust their instincts. We are taught to cede some power sometimes. So the one thing that I would say, and it’s nothing to do with romantic relationships or otherwise, but I would say that a lot of the work I have done myself and when I’m working with people is about getting myself to learn and for people to learn what our instincts are telling us.

How do we feel? Women particularly are told to judge situations based on how other people are feeling.
They’ve had a party, everyone else had fun then they think it was a success. Did they have fun? No, they were shattered. Christmas – is Christmas a success? Everyone had a great time. How was your
Christmas? I am wrecked I need another holiday. Those are the things that you often hear from women and what it is, is that they’re judging a thing from outside of themselves.


Just to touch on sex again – women are also told the same thing about sex. Was it good sex? “Well, he came ”. What about you? “Oh no no no no, I needed more of whatever but he came”.

Over and over and over again we’re told to judge based on whether another person is enjoyed themselves so I think that one of the key big pieces of liberation actually for women, will be to and
by the way men are taught to judge things on whether they thought they enjoyed themselves like with sex, was it good? yeah I came and so on. Was it a good party yes I had a brilliant time and so on
it’s a very gendered very coercive way of teaching men and women to be in the world so I would say for me that one of the biggest most liberating things to do in terms of all relationships, be they romantic, sexual, friendship whatever even with your family your family of origin whatever trust your instinct.

Your instinct will tell you. Are you feeling joy are you feeling excitement do you feel like your best self or do you walk away from an interaction with that person and you feel shamed, worried, is your energy down? are you second guessing yourself? are you going oh Jesus.. I said… did
they…..

Trust your instincts if you’re walking away from interactions with a particular person and you are full of joy your energy is like the world feels like a good place, you feel like a good person then trust that and you’ll know that that is the right place to be with the right person.

Kayla

Yeah, love that. That’s brilliant. Yeah I think we should definitely if you would be open to it bring you back for Mother’s Day because I think especially with the sexual thing and sexuality I think there’s a
whole conversation there specifically.

I often hear some of my friends that are in heterosexual relationships around Mother’s Day almost like an orgasm is a Mother’s Day gift and it’s like, is that a once a year thing for you or??


Karen
Ohhhh, yeah.

Caitriona
Is that annual?


*Laughter*

Kayla
Yeah and it’s like my friends will often say “yeah it was fine”, but they don’t actually have a nice experience. It doesn’t have to be always about the orgasm, but even the experience wasn’t really pleasant for them, so I think we should definitely bring you back. I I’ve loved this conversation!


Karen
Well, just to say, I love this. You know I would talk to you forever, and I would be delighted to talk about Mother’s Day. Do you know the wonderful Margaret O’Connor?

She is a local psychotherapist who has set up a practice specifically aimed just working with people who are deciding whether to
have children or not. She does a lot of advocacy work around the country for child free women and the choice to be child free and she’s a fabulous feminist.

So, just to give you her name she’s amazing and I know that ye would love her, she’s just the most gorgeous person. She’s, I feel, really powerful to talk to women who choose to be child-free ,and how liberating that is, but also all of the shameful messages that they are given.

Cat
Yeah, yeah very true!


Kayla
Yeah, and we’ll include Margaret in the show notes as well for anybody who’s interested in reading more! I have two more really quick questions for you before we finish up…


Karen
Sure!


Kayla
This is me being nosy, what was the last book that you read?


Karen
OK, so I have read and I can’t remember the name of it – Queens… Oh it’s a piece of young adult (YA) fiction and it has a gender reverse. So it’s like Game of Thrones with gender reverse. All of the warriors are women, the person fighting to get the throne is a woman, the power lies with the
woman, land ownership goes from woman to daughter and magic in it goes from woman to woman, mother to daughter and it’s just it’s fabulous and I absolutely loved it.

I I actually love young adult fiction because you know what, real life is so complicated sometimes. It’s very hard to know who are the goodies and who are the baddies, but in young adult fiction you know.

It’s really clear who the goodies are and who the baddies are and you can root for the goodies you can hate the baddies.

I particularly love the idea that we have a generation coming up with this young adult fiction where you’ve got gender reverse stuff, you’ve got The Hunger Games with Katnis Aberdeen kicking ass!

And I know that Kayla, I’m sure we’ve talked about this but, you know the….. oh she’s the one that I recommend…. His Dark Materials?

Kayla
No???

Karen
Oh my God Kayla!!! Have you not read… You haven’t read His Dark Materials?


Kayla
No???


Caitriona
Well I’m going to be no help here….


*Laughter*


Karen
You have to read it Kayla. You will lose your mind!

Kayla
I’m so excited!!


Karen
It’s a piece of young adult fiction but to be honest with you, it’s not. Most of the people who love it that I know are adults. It brings in gender, sexuality, spirituality, existential stuff, social justice, it is everything.

It’s so brilliant, that’s the one I’m gonna recommend – His Dark Materials trilogy!


Kayla
OK perfect that’s it. I’m going to look into straight away. [For anyone listening] don’t panic we will include links to all of these things in the show notes. I don’t think the young adult genre gets enough
attention in general.

One of the best books I’ve ever read in my whole life was The Book Thief which is from YA and it’s just beautifully written, oh it’s just a gorgeous book.


My last question to you, is there anything you would like to plug? Be that your Twitter, be that
Together For Safety, anything you would like to plug – go for it!

Karen

So, two things. Together For Safety is the local organization that is working for legislation to bring in safe access zones around hospitals, clinics and doctors so that protesters won’t harass vulnerable
people going into hospitals for medical appointments. We’re coming up to stage three of the legislation on Thursday and in the meantime we’re just asking everybody at any point if you could
possibly ring, or contact, or write to your local elected representative and tell them that we need this legislation as a matter of urgency.


So that’s the first thing, and the second thing I’d like to plug is the Directly Elected Mayor (DEM) in Limerick. So this is coming up this year, we think, or early next year. The legislation is still being tweaked but we suspect it will be in the next 12 months. It will be a mayor that is elected directly by the people.

It will go to a vote and you’ll go in there, there’ll be a list and you’ll vote your for someone – like a presidential election. We want to make sure that there are diverse voices.

Given that we saw what happened in COVID, we had all the decision makers being men, we want to make sure that there are diverse women. Not just one woman, diverse women’s voices from diverse
communities. So we’re working hard to make sure that women run.

So if you were a woman listening to this and you would like to run please contact me or together for safety or Limerick
Women’s Network and we will put you in touch with or we will contact you. But mostly just encourage people in your life to run.

You might have seen very recently that the Women For Election
organization and the See Her Elected organization, both of you whom are very active on Twitter and social media – they are plugging this under the hashtag CountHerIn or CountMeIn and they are really
trying to encourage women nationally to run, because we will not change things until we get more diverse women into positions of decision making power!


Cat
Fantastic, you’re some woman. Fantastic stuff happening.


Kayla
I don’t know how you fit it all in! It’s been just such a lovely and well-rounded conversation, I really enjoyed it just thanks million for spending the last more than an hour with us!


Cat
We are so sorry for keeping you so long!


Karen
No, thank you so much. I loved every minute of it guys and thanks so much for having me on!


Kayla
And if you want to follow Mental Health Hour you can do so on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. See you soon!


Cat
Bye!


*CLOSING MUSIC*