Here Comes Yer Man: How #men4yes breaks male silence on abortion
Irish sportsmen and TV personalities launched the #men4yes campaign on 25th April in support of a Yes vote to repeal the 8th Amendment. The move has been welcomed by campaigners, even if some thought it has come a little late this close to the vote itself on 25th May. But men actually advocating for women to have choice when it comes to their own health is a big deal in Ireland given our history.
For literally all of recorded history, men have dominated public spaces and public life. It’s been men who have legislated on the rights of women (civil, social and medical) and men who have dominated the medical profession.
Their squeamishness towards women and women's bodies has led to some truly bizarre medical claims and treatments. The wandering womb was the belief that the womb moved around the body and was the cause of most women's pathologies. The Stethoscope was invented because a male doctor didn’t want to put his ear to the chest of a female patient.
So for thousands of years, men have been coming up with strange and elaborate ways to police and regulate women's bodies. It struck me as odd then, that a refrain I kept seeing come up again and again during the beginning of the Repeal campaign was that this was a ‘woman's issue for women to decide’. Why the silence? Why now?
The choice to have an abortion or to have a child is a women's issue and is for women to decide. However in modern day Ireland women have no such choice. Men voting Yes does not impede on women’s right to act over a women’s issue - it supports the right of women to act on the issue themselves. There is no such thing as political neutrality; to stay silent is to stand with the status quo.
The #men4yes movement is an essential part of #together4yes as it takes vital steps in acknowledging that society in Ireland is skewed towards men and away from women. Every single one of the drafters of the Irish constitution were men. This is despite the tireless sacrifices of the female soldiers of Cumann na mBan (The Irishwomen’s Council) who fought bravely alongside male soldiers during the Rising, despite the work of Countess Markievicz and countless other women who helped create the modern Irish state.
When Richie Sadlier tweeted out his support of #men4yes yesterday he was told to “leave people alone to make up their own minds” from a disapproving follower - apparently comically unaware of the irony in this statement. Similarly Gordon D’arcy’s tweets of support were met with multiple replies claiming “real men protect women” or some variation thereof. This ‘real men’ rhetoric only highlights the way Irish society and the Irish constitution was built for men. There is no such thing as a ‘real man’ and if there was, why should he be threatened by abortion?
These men of Ireland - pundits and sportsmen and other public figures - are doing the right thing by speaking out in favour of women's rights. None of them were alive when the builders of this modern nation state cemented misogyny in it’s founding document but they are now using their platforms and their privilege to speak out for those the state has shamefully let down.
To vote yes May 25th if not a vote for women having abortions. It is a vote for choice. It is a vote to acknowledge that men of privilege and power had no right to regulate women's bodies when the Constitution was amended in 1983 and have no right to do so now.