As Ireland prepares for a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment, the constitutional ban on abortion, men seem to have a lot to say on the subject. I know: shocker, right? There is no doubt that abortion is a hugely emotive subject, but it takes a special kind of arrogance and sense of entitlement – that only a patriarchal society affords – for men to feel that they have a voice worth hearing, in any debate on the issue. While a man is talking, there is a woman not being heard.
You could make an argument that even the most conservative man should vote to repeal. Why? Because it should be the last direct involvement Irish men have on the female reproductive rights’ debate. It would basically clear the deck of any barriers to new legislation, allowing women to discuss among themselves the legislative protections they want in place for women, foetuses and doctors.
In a time of #MeToo and #TimesUp, a time where there is a historic opportunity to address systemic gender-power imbalances that are so deeply rooted in society, is it not time for men to formally lay down their arms on the abortion debate, allowing women’s voices to be heard? What perspective can any man possibly have to offer on the subject that women have not already considered? What level of arrogance is needed, whatever you might feel about the moral and ethical issues of induced terminations, to think that your male brain can parse nuance and complexity in a way that the other half of the population cannot – the half directly affected by this issue?
I would also challenge the major media, from RTÉ to all the major radio stations, newspapers and websites, to give only female representatives, politicians or experts the use of their platforms to comment on this subject. We have female advocates, members of religious orders, TD’s, philosophers and medical professionals. Let’s hear from women alone, without interruption.
Just as I would find it odd to hear women feel the need to contribute to a discussion on the rules and considerations that should be given to vasectomies, I find it equally incongruous to hear men feel the need to interject on the subject of female reproductive rights, or the rights of a foetus. Men would have no problem shouting down a woman offering her opinion about vasectomies. But that’s the problem. We have no problem shouting down a woman offering her opinion about anything. And that comes down to a basic lack of respect for women’s abilities – about everything. On this subject, of all subjects, that surely has to change.
Come on fellas, let’s agree, we can sit this one out. We should. We must. The ladies have it covered. Leave them to it.