Dear angry, young, white, Irish man in the LoveBoth hoodie,
I think you left our conversation feeling like you had a win. I think you thought it was a conversation. I think you thought that this was a conversation, and I think you thought it was possible to come out a winner.
You’re brash and proud and able to spout talking points like no-one’s business. Someone somewhere taught you that you could use the loudness of your voice and the size of your physicality and the height advantage you have to intimidate women. Someone taught you that this is a competition, and that the one who shouts the loudest and doesn’t let the other person finish a sentence is a victor.
I am profoundly sad for you.
I am sad that somehow you gained the idea that you have the right to behave like this toward women. I’m sad that when I walked away, you were left with a feeling of superiority. I’m sad, and still stung by the barefaced cheek of you, that you find it appropriate to discard the work of women older and wiser and infinitely more insightful that you with a derogatory comment.
Mostly I’m just sad that you picked the wrong side.
Because, here’s the thing. You see this as a competition? You’re going to lose. You might lose on Friday, and you’ll feel – I don’t know how you’ll feel. I know it won’t sicken you to your soul. I’m sad for you because of that too, in fact. If the vote isn’t carried I’ll feel it like a gut punch deep in the core of me, like a retch, like a blow to the cervix. What will a Yes win mean to you? I don’t know. Your blankness and your canned propaganda left me with no sense of investment, just a fading impression of noise.
But even if No wins on Friday, you’ve lost. You’ve gone all in on the wrong side of history. What you don’t seem to get, what none of your pushy, arrogant comrades seem to get, is that this movement isn’t going anywhere. The women of Ireland have had it with the archaic, restrictive, oppressive form of patriarchy you represent. We’ve just straight-up had it. And we don’t know who taught you to act like this, but we’re going to find him and we’re going to tell him we’ve had it too.
You have no idea of the power of women. The depths of care, and intellect, and empathy, and perspicacity that are present in the room when we meet. The bonds of friendship that we’ve made during this campaign and the times we’ve argued and the times we’ve cried. You talk to one woman like you’re above her. Son, you don’t know how out of your depth you are now.
You tried to tell one woman you know better than her about the physiology of pregnancy because you got an A1 in biology in your Leaving Cert and you’re not an idiot. You told me that mental health was vague and insubstantial and that your Dad has depression and it’s not killing him. You are so, so young.
I’ve been working on this campaign for a few years. It’s no time at all. I know women who’ve been fighting against the 8th from the time it was cooked up in the fevered imagination of a fundamentalist Government and used to quell us obstreperous women, us legal scholars, us activists, for decades. I have the privilege to campaign with a group of lawyers who are among the most intelligent women I have ever met. (We have, you might be surprised to hear, some men, also.) We work hard and we support each other and we have endless conversations among ourselves and with the public even when we feel like we’re only being held up by an invisible net of caffeine and adrenaline. Every last thing we do is invested with the kind of care that you cannot even envision.
Maybe some day you’ll get it. Maybe when you’re 30, or 40, and you’ve found a partner, and she’s had a pregnancy or a pregnancy scare or a diagnosis of something that’s gone horrifically wrong, and she goes to her doctor and her doctor freely and legally tells her about all her options and gives her the care and warmth that 170,000+ Irish people since 1983 have missed – maybe that day you’ll remember the day you shouted down the small woman with the law leaflets and left feeling like cock of the walk.
You gestured to your own body, said “if the baby is inside me…”
I said, “you don’t have a uterus.”
You waved your hand away; a minor detail.