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The Conversation We Should Actually Be Having About The Referendum

An article published in 2018, shortlisted for the Blogger Awards

imagery by Martin O'Neil

She lays there replaying her dream, knowing full well that her nights met with such vivid dreams are also accompanied by a lack of adequate sleep. Although she’s been having difficulty getting up when her alarm goes off recently, she is now wide awake as subconsciously, she likes to be the first one up in company. Finally, he gets up and after a few minutes, they both are ready. She sits at the head of the bed while he puts on his shoes and states, “We should probably stop by a chemist then". She agrees.
At reception, he hands in the key card and she continues past to the bar where a stack of fresh newspapers lay. The headline reads: “Repeal the 8th Mural Painted Over”. Vivid blues and reds stand out to her as she skims the page for well-hidden writer’s bias. She glances back, puts the newspaper down, and meets him at the revolving doors. They go in separate sections and when out, she veers left and he follows in an irreverent haze.
The sidewalks aren’t too busy for George’s Street on a Monday morning. They take up the entire sidewalk when they can, walking and chatting about London. She asks a lot of questions, knowing full well this may be her only chance for a while. She’s interested in moving. She takes note at how well they actually get on during this short chat. They get to a split in the road, his office on the left and her flat straight ahead. He stops; she hovers. “Well” he says, “thanks for seeing me”. A joke follows about not waiting 18 months to see each other again then, a pause. Knowing full well what he should say here, she knows he won’t, and in her mind a nano-second passes by in which she debates if she should bring it up. Instead, she welcomes his hug, cheek kiss, and English farewell murmur.
They part ways and as she’s walking home, she makes a mental list of all she has to get done that day starting with a shower. Then onto class, work, leaving work early, and going to the chemist. She purposefully simplifies the list, deciding to clear her head of any and all other thoughts.

Stories like this are happening every day here in Dublin; the chillingly apathetic. In light of the current Referendum, I feel these underlying emotions and concepts need to be addressed.

I read an article yesterday about the oversimplification of the VOTE NO posters which brought to light the danger of simply making this conversation solely about abortion. It highlighted the flat out lies and scare tactics used in the VOTE NO posters while telling the stories of individual women put in relevant difficult situations. This writer understood the importance of expanding this conversation around Repeal the 8th past just abortion and onto humanity itself by highlighting the sensitive, volatile nature of humanity; in this particular case, the humanity of the women affected. And although I’m delighted to see the conversation evolve to discussions about how women must feel when put in difficult situations and how morals/ethics aren’t always universal (therefore can’t be blanketed across all situations), it’s simply not enough.

The conversation has to change from the surface level topics of abortion and women’s rights to the deeper, psychologically and societal evident concepts. It has to surpass the debate of what is ethically right and onto whether the way women have been defined in Ireland for the last 200 years affects our entire definition of these ethics themselves. We can sit and debate what we personally think is ethically right and wrong but first, as an entire society, we have to rid our definition of “morality” of it's self-serving angle.

It’s as if people feel the need to vote on the 8th Amendment based on their own personal opinions about abortion. When really, we’re voting so that people can actually have personal opinions about abortion. This referendum isn’t about abortion; it’s about taking steps towards no longer suppressing humanity. And as I get to know Ireland’s history more and more, the progressiveness of Dublin’s youth cannot hide the psychological effects left behind from hundreds of years of oppression. 

I cannot sleep. It’s half two in the morning as I write this and I know I have to be up early for meetings. But personally, nothing is more important than putting pen to paper on these issues. I’ve been feeling sick to my stomach recently mixed with a sense of unshakable teenage angst, and although the latter looks good on me, these days I’ve felt simply off. And tonight I finally realized why; why I’m so unsettled about the conversations going on right now around the Referendum. We are failing Ireland’s youth and failing Ireland as a country when we make this conversation simply about abortion. When we oversimplify these conversations, we form angry, hurt women who don’t understand why they aren’t viewed with the gentleness and empathy typically extended to humanity. And this forms women who become silent and worst of all, apathetic. Apathetic to concepts they should really care about – such as abortion itself. The consequence of this is women who wholeheartedly believe they are on their own, left to deal with huge issues completely by themselves. And maybe the only way you can deal with everything on your own is to become apathetic to it all.

The woman above, she knows her apparent apathy. She wonders if she should at least be curious to knowing whether a child would’ve formed in her if she hadn’t taken the morning after pill. She wonders if he, because she feels like it would be a he, would have any of his father’s charming English accent. She thinks she should hate herself for being so apathetic towards this conversation currently going on in her head, but then she remembers her long term relationship, the only one she can count on, the one with herself. At this point there’s very little that could make her not like herself, as she’s spent years being kind to herself.

 Sometimes I feel numb in light of the conversations currently going on around the Referendum. I delight in the times that I don’t, knowing full well every time I feel something, I’m subconsciously fighting those primal thoughts I’ve been socially trained to believe. The ones that say women don’t deserve to be extended the same amount of humanity, depending on their situation, beliefs, race, or social class.

The concept we are here even having to fight for women to have the right to make decisions about their own body brings tears to my eyes. And everyone is looking at me funny in Starbucks as I’m fiercely writing away with tears quietly streaming down my face. I’m just exhausted as a woman being judged for doing my best in situations no one can fathom experiencing themselves. And I’m exhausted having to fight for minorities to be extended the level of humanity every single person deserves. I’m exhausted having to explain to people why judging someone’s situation EVER is absolutely an inadequate way to treat a human being.

I don’t care what you believe about abortion. I actually openly accept all people’s views on the topic, as long as they don’t silence the others. As long as they don’t restrict the others from entirely existing. And that’s what Voting No does, it says the other side, the other opinions, and the other views simply don’t deserve to exist. And let me tell you, this sounds like the start to an extremely viscous cycle of control and oppression.

I will always fight those concepts. I will always fight movements that believe there is a justifiable reason to view someone as less of a human being, because there never is.

It scares me every day that if for some reason I was to get pregnant in this country, I wouldn’t have the ability to make my own decisions on the matter. More than that, it scares me the long-term psychological effects that experience could have on me. One that as I fight with the toughest decision of my life, I also am fighting against believing soul crushing lies about myself. And even worse, probably going through it all on my own.

I don’t know if my words will find the right place in Dublin’s media and news circling the Referendum. I also don’t know if they will move others as much as they move me. But I hope it brings light and ultimately awareness to a conversation we should be having in the next few weeks.

All my love,

Courtney Sharp

May 8th is the last day to register to vote for the upcoming Referendum. May 25 is the Referendum voting day. Voting is sexy.

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