People power, Ecofeminism and the Eighth

15 June 2018

Meaghan Carmody from YFoE Ireland explains the recent landslide vote to repeal the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution, how it links to other struggles and should give us hope.

On May 25th, history was made.

The people of Ireland voted almost 2 to 1 to repeal the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, an amendment installed in 1983 that gave equal right to life to the foetus and the mother. That year, the vote was won by 67% to 33%. This year, that figure was flipped, with 69% voting to remove the 8th amendment. The descriptors being used is 'landslide'.

For the interim 35 years, the women of Ireland were subjected to human rights abuses unparalleled almost anywhere else in Europe. Shame covered this country like a black cloud, as women were effectively exiled in order to receive the medical care they needed. Over 140,000 of them.

The system that thinks it okay to oppress women, deny them bodily autonomy, force them to reproduce unless they have the financial means, support system, freedom, stability and all the other accoutrements necessary to bring another life into this world is the same system that sees the natural world as a source of profit over which man has dominion (Genesis 1:28).

Women and nature have been marginalised in modern patriarchal society. All forms of domination, racism, sexism, classism etc., are connected, therefore one cannot be eliminated without the other. It is no coincidence that the same system that sees nature as something to be domineered and controlled is also the same system that seeks to control women via controlling their reproduction.

Ecofeminism resides at the nexus between feminism, environmentalism and capitalism – challenging the power relations that lead to the subjugation of women, the natural environment, people of colour and the underclass.

Yes, I am proud to be Irish. But the truth is that we never should have had to fight for this in the first place. Nobody should ever have to fight for what is rightfully theirs, yet that is what is happening all over the world, from the indigenous tribespeople in the Amazon fighting for their land, to communities protecting their drinking water from the impacts of fracking in Lancashire, to the Sami tribe of Norway resisting the dumping of toxic mining waste in the area where they find their food.

The surge of people power over the last few years has been fascinating to witness and at times intensely emotional. Black jumpers emblazoned with REPEAL became a feature of Irish fashion. Young people unafraid to wear their politics on their sleeves, quite literally. Embodying the change they want to see.

That day in May was special not just for the people of Ireland who have been impacted by the 8th amendment. The outcome caused ripples all over the world, as people everywhere recognised the gravity of what had happened. Power had been taken away from a whole population, and now it was returning to its rightful owners.

The outcome of the vote was so significant because it shows that the courage of people to fight for what they believe in can result in the change we want to see. Steadfast campaigners made this happen – not politicians who jumped on the bandwagon at the last minute. However, those who advocate for the continuation of the current exploitative patriarchal, capitalist system that has driven the planet to the brink and with it the beings who depend on it, they want us to believe that it's only politicians that can make the changes we want to see.

On May 25th we saw how wrong they were.