I attended lots of anti-austerity protests with mam from a very young age. My mam would sit me down and explain why we must protest and fight for change and why we must always speak up. I liked that and even though I was a quiet child, I was always opinionated.
I remember loving the feeling of solidarity, as well as the passion and drive I felt when I was surrounded by a community of activists. I remember feeling empowered. I felt at my best when I knew I was part of something bigger than me and that as part of that we were making change together.
Yet while I remember feeling the fun and excitement of protesting, it’s not the same anymore.
I now fully understand the impact that certain social issues have on me or a minority community. It was and still is liberating for me to protest, speak up and demand change but it now comes from hurt and anger. It comes from a feeling of being oppressed in my own country. But most of all it comes from fear.
I started to become more and more aware of my oppression as a woman as I got older. I started to notice how acceptable sexual assault towards girls was. I started to notice that boys my age and even older felt I owed them something, their ego jabbed when I wasn’t interested or when I told them that they had no right to touch me inappropriately or at all if that’s what I wanted.
I noticed the misogyny in the arguments from the no side very quickly once I was aware of the eighth amendment
I started to question why this misogyny existed? Why are women and girls treated this way?
At 11 years old I did not want to make my confirmation. I didn’t know exactly what I didn’t like about it, but I knew I didn’t. I was aware that nobody had asked me if this is something I wanted to do, but instead they expected me to.
However, I knew I had a choice because my mam wouldn’t pressure me into being part of something I didn’t want to be part of.
Yet I felt a pressure from other places to make my confirmation. I’m not sure exactly where the pressure was coming from but it was there, the same pressure I often felt as a young woman. I felt the pressure but could never pinpoint exactly where it was coming from. Control is often subtle. On my confirmation day I vividly remember the priest talking about how we’re all grown up now and proceeded to suggest that all the boys will grow up to be footballers and all the girls would marry them. I was appalled.
I wanted to be an archaeologist. I asked for dinosaur books from my mam every Christmas and here this man was telling me that I aspired to marry a footballer. I am intelligent, I am strong, I fight and work hard and this man saw the highlight of my future to be marriage. I spoke out and I told the priest I wanted to be an archaeologist.
This was the moment protesting changed for me. This was when it was no longer as fun but scary, as now I knew my future depended on speaking out.
Urging people to vote for change in this referendum on the eighth amendment is not fun. I don’t get that feeling I once enjoyed as a young activist and I’m not doing it as a hobby. I do it because I’m scared.
I really struggle with my mental health, and I fear for the state I would be in if I was to find myself in a crisis pregnancy. I am tired of the misogynistic comments and actions that I’ve had to deal with since I was a little girl. I’m sick of feeling like a second-class citizen. I am tired.
I noticed the misogyny in the arguments from the no side very quickly once I was aware of the eighth amendment. That’s when I knew this is something I had to look into, even before I’d properly chosen a side.
Because although I don’t like the idea of abortion, I hate the idea of a woman having to do it alone
I realised that the eighth amendment wouldn’t allow me to have full control of my body, my future and my well-being. I noticed I was in danger. I didn’t like the idea of abortion and it’s not something I think anyone likes to think about.
As I’m writing this I’m performing in a piece called Not At Home, an installation made to bring women’s stories home. Women who have made the trip to England, scared and alone. Women who have had their own country turn its back on them when they needed the safety and comfort of their country the most. When I read their stories, I get shivers down my spine when they describe the procedure. But what makes me more uncomfortable is knowing they had to do it alone.
Because although I don’t like the idea of abortion, I hate the idea of a woman having to do it alone. What’s more, I hate the idea of a woman feeling like a criminal because of the heart-wrenching decision she had to make, feeling ashamed and scared and having to look at posters that judge her for her decisions rather than stand with her and support her. I value the foetus but I will always value the woman more, no matter what her circumstance, to make the decision she feels she needs to make. I trust her.
I believe misogyny is in everyone, including myself, but I’m aware of it, and I try to address it as it arises. But the scary thing is so many people aren’t aware of it, like the many of those who fight for a no in this referendum. If they did address their own misogyny, they would trust her too.