Women, Tattoos and loads of 8's

It seems like only last week that the New Year began; yet March 8th has already come and gone. Especially considering the year, it was an extremely important International Women’s Day as the Repeal the Eighth movement is a central talking point in the Republic of Ireland, with the referendum set within the next few months.

Last Thursday afternoon began with a rally through Cork’s city centre. It was the March for Choice. Throughout the country (in Cork, Galway and Dublin), thousands of people walked together in protest of the Eighth Amendment, armed with fantastically witty signs. Hats off to everyone involved, I saw some great creativity from the Pro-Choice masses, some of my favourites being, ‘Hoes Before Embryos’, “Ireland’s Immaculate Deception’, ‘If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d date a T.D.’, or the absolutely spot on reminder of how ridiculous this all is, ‘This Shit’s Fucked Up!’ There were so many fantastic efforts made, but the one slogan that really hit me simply said ‘Respect Women’. I think this made such an impact because in two words it sums up the actual issue with the Eighth Amendment itself, it is an utter disrespect to women!

Something positive to take away from the march was the diversity of those out in support of Irish Women. Not only were there a large proportion of men present, but also there was a good representation from older generations, which is really refreshing considering that most people of a certain age in Ireland are still heavily influenced by the Catholic Church and therefore tend to be ‘Anti-Choice’ or at least complicit. In Cork, I noticed myself how few Anti-Choice members of the public were opposing the protest, even compared with last year. Sometimes they just quietly oppose with large banners of very graphic and ‘doctored’ images of dead babies, other times they try to instigate a reaction from the Pro-Choice crowd, but this year there was very little of anything. However, I’m not sure if their lack of presence was an indication of change. It would be nice to believe that this is a sign of people waking up and seeing how oppressive the system continues to be towards women and their bodies. On the other hand, I can imagine that a lot of people will be playing their cards very close to their chest until May. I guess the Referendum on the 25th will be the answer to these questions but I’m keeping my hopes up! With the Same-Sex Marriage Referendum winning by 62% in 2015, I would like to keep the faith that the Irish public will make the right decision again and that the Repeal will pass.

Personally, my only question is to what degree the Eighth Amendment will be changed. Will abortion services only be accepted in cases of rape or will women be allowed to decide for themselves, with no reason needed other than their choice? Being from South Africa, where same-sex marriage and access to abortion services have been legal for half of my life, it seems archaic to think that Ireland, a developed European country, can be trailing so far behind when it comes to basic human rights. The positive to take from this shift, and the movements which have fueled it, are the signs that the Republic is moving, albeit slowly, towards breaking down these oppressive and embarrassingly outdated systems and legislations.

The topic of the Eighth Amendment is something I feel very strongly about, so much that with a bit of friendly encouragement Pro-Choice activist Sam Boland, I wrote a letter to my local newspapers. Even if just one person read it and it made them at least think about the issue, even if it didn't change their mind, I would have counted that as a success. I've added the letter below. It was published by the Irish Independent on the 26th of February 2018 and the Irish Examiner the following day. It is an opinion piece about compassion, something I think a lot of people have forgotten.

"We trail behind on abortion law
I have noted that when it comes to many of the pro versus anti-choice discussions, that it usually comes down to an atheistic versus religious movement, the views of each being extremely different.
As the same-sex marriage was put through, the pro-choicers saw this as a step forward to be more catering for different people, giving the public the choice to marry either male or female partners. The opposition saw this as a step backwards, thinking the general population was straying further from their religious views.
They believed they had to protect this by oppressing someone else’s beliefs and this would force them closer to their’s. An acceptance would have been a kinder and more genuine approach, instead of damnation and threats. How many people were alienated by this and left the Church because of this nonacceptance?
Equally, anti-choicers believe forcing a group of people to stay oppressed will better this country, and refraining the option of choice is the way to move forward. There is a certain opinion and viewpoint that is taken on without thought, without being critically analysed or discussed, as it is just easier to listen and accept, even after the numerous times the Church has been proven to be inherently evil and destructive.
It also seems so banal and silly to justify why an abortion can be a necessary option for some women, as it so easily implies other women are doing it for the wrong reasons. If each individual woman has made up her mind and acquires what will hopefully soon be a legal and safe abortion, then that should be the right reason. A Dáil should not continue to enforce such a fundamental law, where once again, Ireland is trailing behind all major European countries in basic options for their people.
But will we move forward to a brighter future?”

Tattoo artists Molly Delahunty and Trisha O'Callaghan at Lose this Skin

While it is an important year, so many positive events took place alongside this year’s International Women’s Day in collaboration with the March for Choice, and in particular, I found it so refreshing to visit ‘Lose This Skin’, a tattoo parlor in Cork City, who hosted a ‘flash sale’ in support of the Repeal. Accordingly, the event was called ‘Tattoo the Eighth’. Several artist, including Molly Delahunty, created about thirty original designs centred around the topic of Women’s Rights. Those lucky enough to snap up an appointment left with one of the unique pieces, as well as the knowledge that all of the proceeds were to be donated to the Abortion Support Network, a charity that Molly and her family at ‘Lose This Skin’ are very supportive of.

Some of the customers were regulars, but Samantha was a tattoo virgin (see photos below). Her support towards the Repeal the Eighth movement and the concept of the fundraiser persuaded her to get her first ink job. With high nerves at first, tattoo artist Trisha, being the professional that she is, was able to easily calm Samantha. The ironic thing she said, was that she herself hates needles and medical procedures such as getting blood taken, but to her those procedures are more invasive, and usually involve taking something away from the body. However, two minutes into her session, Samantha exclaimed, “We're in trouble here. I never got a tattoo until now, not because I'm scared of it but because I knew I would like it too much. Now I won't have any money left!” Needless to say, Samantha was delighted with her first addition as the flash sale went well into the evening. I have a huge amount of respect for all those involved, ‘Tattoo the Eighth’ was a hit for a great cause.

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