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29th Jun 2016

Hey Brendan O’Connor: If I want to walk around with streaky tan and my arse hanging out, that’s my prerogative

O'Connor likened some of the concert-goers to a "junior prostitutes’ convention"


Last weekend, ‘Sunday Independent’ columnist Brendan O’Connor wrote an opinion piece about some of the teen girls who attended Rihanna’s concert at the Aviva Stadium. It annoyed and offended a lot of people.

Here’s what I have to say to Brendan about his shameful and shaming article.

Dear Brendan,

Taking a stroll down Talbot Street the night of the Rihanna concert and thinking it fit to describe what you saw as a “junior prostitutes’ convention” tells me an awful lot about you and your views about young girls and women.

Brendan, don’t you realise that you yourself are capitalising on the sexualisation of young girls by writing an article in which you talk about young girls’ asses? You are advancing your own career with more shares, likes, and tweets – and yes, even this piece – all the while profiteering off the back of the very thing you apparently denounce.


In a never-ending quest to be a polemicist, you have hit on your softest target yet: teenage girls. Never mind this “Rihanna tramp”, as you call her; she can take it. But what about the 12-year-old girl who you think looks like a sex worker? Grown men commenting on young girls’ appearance needs to just stop.

“Now, I know that some feminists would accuse me of slut-shaming right now, and would argue that these young women are empowered, that they are owning their erotic capital,” you wrote. “To which I would respond by questioning the erotic capital of a 12-year-old with badly applied streaks of fake tan, walking around town dressed like a sex worker”.

Indeed Brendan what would you have to say if someone actually mistook one of these girls for a sex worker? This feeds into the narrative of rape culture. Saying that if they look like “junior prostitutes” that they must be promiscuous, and if they are attacked, they were probably “asking for it”. Indeed, Brendan, another issue I have here is why you are even contemplating the “erotic capital” of a 12-year-old girl in the first place?

I’m sorry, but if the sight of teenage girls’ bodies doesn’t “sit right” with you, and makes you feel uncomfortable, then look away. Cross the road or move to a country which still treats women as second class citizens and covers them up from head to toe.

“They were all trying to outdo each other by being more Ri-Ri than the next one. And I saw all the boys too, delighted boys, who possibly wouldn’t be able to believe, if indeed they thought about it, that this was their gift feminism had bequeathed them”

So “the gift feminism has bequeathed” boys, in your opinion, is sluttier teens? Sounds to me, Brendan, like you whiled away your teenage years in Cork wishing and hoping to one day encounter the exotic and oily women you pored over in your crusty porno mag.

Leave the kids out of this Brendan. You could be writing about anything in the world, and instead you’ve decided to pick teenage girls as a target. I suppose you thought that teenage girls are getting it too easy these days and they need a firm talking-to.

Likening a Rhianna concert so flippantly to a “junior prostitutes convention” is not only bizarre, it is a slap in the face to any women and, indeed, children who have been forced into the sex industry.

It is a slap in the face to any woman and, indeed, children that has been the victim of sexual abuse.

It is a slap in the face to women who experience victim shaming after rape because their appearance apparently warranted a sexual reaction in a man.

Brendan, why are you fetishising innocence? It’s as if nothing or no one can escape your chauvinist gaze.

Girls will be girls, Brendan. This is the 21st century. If I want to walk around with streaky tan and my arse hanging out, that is my prerogative. Heck, if I want to walk around town on a sunny day topless, just like you men, I might.

I suppose I’ll finish with a thank you.

Thank you, Brendan. You have reignited a spark in me. Every time I think that feminism is an outdated or overwrought concept, someone like you comes along with the charm of a bag of spiders and helps me realise that I’m not just fighting for myself anymore.

I’m fighting for that 12-year-old with streaky tan, scantily clad, and cheering her on for having the confidence to go see her favourite pop star and wear what she feels good in.