Can you imagine an Ireland where Irish women are permitted to vote on Irishmen's reproductive choices?
That, I imagine, would present quite a few men with a problem pretty quickly.
How dare anyone tell Irish men what they could and could not do with their own bodies? How dare women believe they had that kind of veto over men?
What would also become clear pretty quickly is that, since men can't get pregnant, a vote on their reproductive choices would be seen as a heavy handed attempt to control their sex lives and limit their own decision making about when and how they chose to reproduce, right?
There would be uproar. Imagine as an Irishman how you would feel if not just your wife but your town and country took a vote to decide what you could and could not do with your own body and your own life? Would you be angry about it? I bet you would.
The double standards are so omnipresent that most of us can't even see them. Undeniably, men are half of the reproductive cycle, but did you know that represent only about a quarter of the total contraceptive use?Since the 1980's the proportion of men using condoms, vasectomy or the withdrawal method has remained virtually unchanged. They mostly leave it up to women. Since time immemorial they have been leaving it up to women. There are new male contraceptive methods in various stages of development of course, but a new 2016 method was ended when the male participants started to complain of negative side effects.
That they grumbled and gave up the hormonal study so soon is a bit rich, since women regularly complain of the side effects of other new hormonal contraceptives studies but guess what those studies still perceive. It's as if the assumption is that since women are the ones who get pregnant, they are the ones who should shoulder the real burden of prevention.
Meanwhile many men quite happily hold the contradictory sexist beliefs that they should have the legal right to ensure their partners cannot have a pregnancy termination, but they also feel they ought to have the right to refuse to support a child financially if the woman chooses not to have a termination against his wishes. One or the other, lads. You can't have both.
You only have to reflect for a moment to understand just how unthinkingly sexist our society really is. The scandals of the Mother and Babies homes and the Magdalen Laundries have held the mirror up to our own longstanding sexist assumptions.
Young working class women were disappeared into those ghastly places, many for life, as their infants were taken from them, then sold abroad for profit, or neglected so much that they failed to thrive and were buried in secret in unmarked graves. Love both? We loved neither. The last Magdalene Laundry closed its doors in 1996.
What happened to the men in those stories? There were literally hundreds of thousands of them. From the foundation of the state until the late 1990's they escaped censure and comment. They walked between the raindrops. It was the young women who were treated as the destabilizing threat to the social order. It is is the women who are still being treated this way as we head toward the referendum.
Some men will stop reading here. How dare you suggest that I'm not evolved, that I had any part in that system of sexist oppression, that I am not a careful and considerate equal partner in my relationship they will say?
Then they will quit the stage and leave entirely it to the louder panel of anti-choice men who will claim to speak for them and all Irish men. It's easier to say nothing than to face the consequences of speaking up, isn't it?
It's time for Irish men to do some hard thinking about women. They must not be obligated by law to carry a pregnancy to term or sacrifice themselves in service to an unborn child. Women are not an incubator, a resource to be used, they should not be asked to set their own needs aside the moment they become pregnant.
A woman's needs, wants and freedoms are not overruled by her reproductive capacity. Men don't own them, or their wombs, and they don't get to tell them when and how they must become mothers.