Travelling Community: Men vs. Women

Traveller Site - Photo Credit - The Advocacy Project (flickr)
Traveller Site - Photo Credit - The Advocacy Project (flickr)

Travellers and gypsies are an indigenous minority who, historical sources confirm, have been part of society for centuries. Their long shared history, cultural values, language, customs and traditions make them a self-defined group, and one which is recognisable and distinct..

My question is, is it harder to be a female in the travelling community or is it harder to be a male?

Traveller Site - Photo Credit - The Advocacy Project (flickr)
Traveller Site – Photo Credit – The Advocacy Project (flickr)

Being a man:

Irish traveller men live 10 to 15 year less than the general population while woman are known to live 12 years less.

The travelling community have a shorter life expectancy and a higher suicide rate for the total population. Male suicide is 4 times as common as female suicide.

I spoke with Petra Daly who is the director of the National Traveller Suicide Project to try an get a better insight to traveller life.

Petra explained that men often find it hard to express sadness or weakness, and having to live up to high expectations to provide for a family so young soon takes its toll. Which we all know must be difficult as people suffering from mental health issues has increased.

For nearly all travellers, fighting is a way of life. Young boys begin to learn ‘bare knuckle fighting’ meaning you do not wear gloves and you certainly do not bring any weapons to a fight. Two men, with bare knuckles, sagging and ridged bellies, square off in a rural corner and smack each other to cheers and jeers of the crowd. It seems depressingly pointless, but to them it is something much greater as the winner is known as the toughest man on the site, and certainly do their fathers proud, so basically yes, it is pointless.

Not that the fighters don’t have plenty of reasons to throw their weight around, they fight for, tradition, pride, family feuds, money, maybe somewhere in the past a caravan was destroyed and resulted in a death.

As it turns out, the families bet heavily on the fights (the stakes are high), which effectively means that they’re helping support themselves by beating their own people bloody.

Above is a video showing bare knuckle fighting: Ward vs Donovan

Being a woman:

Girls have to ‘save’ themselves for marriage. If a girl has slept with anybody before marriage it is shameful to the family and they are unlikely to marry as their seen as ‘used’.

They’re not allowed walk around alone, and must tell their parents every move they make before they then have to start answering to their husbands.

Girls usually meet their significant other at gatherings, such as weddings and fairs. When a couple first meet they spend a few hours chatting and when the day comes to an end the boy ‘grabs’ the girl, which means she has been claimed. Males grab hold of the young girl and try to force a kiss, traditionally it means they are sort of reserving you as a fiancée.

Traveller women don’t have a good life, all they have is a wedding. Most of us are aware of the well-known TV show, “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.” It paints a visually arresting portrait of the secretive and extravagant world of gypsy/traveller life.

The average age for a girl to marry is 15, after a girls wedding day, they head to the caravan kitchen and remain there for the remainder of their life with kids hanging out of every part of them.

When we watch this show we think “wow that’s a lot of money” but when you think about it that’s the only day they ever really have, life after seems pretty grim as they even say themselves “a woman’s place is in the home”.

While the men get pissed down to pub prior to taking their vows woman complete their week long beauty regime. They put on their puffball dresses covered in Swarovski jewels which usually come with a 20ft train, and can weigh up to 20 stone, but they wear their wedding dress scars like a badge of honour for the rest of their life. The cost of the dress can be as high as 55,000 euro.

Below is a short clip taken from TLC, a station that regularly airs programmes of traveller life. This clip shows a young female talking about how life is a traveller.

So after looking at the facts, who has it easier? Traveller men or Traveller woman?

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About Donna Rooney 7 Articles
Love writing about things I'm passionate about.. Feel free to drop a comment, and share your opinions.. :)

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