When, on the March 8 2017, walkouts began from every college and university in the Republic of Ireland in support of the Repeal Coalition, predictably opinions were already spilt as to its purpose and its effectiveness. To the believers, Strike 4 Repeal signified much more than an awareness campaign; instead becoming an embodiment of the frustration so recognisable in the (then) complete absence of political action on abortion.
To the cynics it would isolate those on the fence while further luring the repealers into a false sense of certainty surrounding themselves with only those who agreed.
It’s been exactly four months since Strike 4 Repeal and I would have then, and probably still do, cast myself into the believers category if for no other reason than finding myself generally unable to shake the uneasy feeling that comes with telling another person how they should speak to issues dear to them. Strike 4 Repeal worked: The turnout proved that there was nationwide buy in from Irish society, the husky (and later broken) voices barely audible through megaphones showed that people were pissed off and ready to mobilise, the walkouts allowed people to physically control the order of business of their cities as if signalling that while controlling traffic would suffice for now, legislators’ control was next. I attended the Trinity walkout, black jumper’d and fresh faced, meeting and joining with other organised marches by College Green and West Moreland St. before finally settling at O’ Connell Bridge for the afternoon.
While the volume of protestors struck me first, it was the diversity within the crowd that stayed with me long after. It’s probably natural to want to control marches and social movements to a degree, refining the message to one clear unmistakable argument but, if anything, the mix of hardline feminists (those people who just like the idea of equality really), gymsharks (self explanatory), ‘day-one repealers’ (the hipsters of the movement), those guys with the block-rocker in the shopping trolley (everyone’s new best mate for the day), and social justice warriors (you know, those types who generally just want to see women be in control of their own bodies?), all combined to humanise the repeal movement as a complicated mixture of individuals with different inspirations and aspirations. Gender fluidity standing beside Alt-Bro’s might, on the face of it, not make a whole lot of sense, but it’s pretty fucking inspirational if you ask me.
Strike 4 Repeal allowed people, maybe for the first time, to enter the movement in an environment that wasn’t assumably intense or demanding of any hardline ideology in return. How many it was able to convince looking in on the marches from the outside is up for discussion, but it did allow people to get involved that until then hand’t found their opportunity.
The bad news is that pressure won’t keep itself up, and running closer into a referendum now set for 2018, it’s now more important than ever that those favouring a repeal of the 8th amendment continue to remain vocal and active. The good news (and it’s very good news!) is the potential for more block-rockers and stringer tops at repeal events.
Bros of Ireland, listen hither! You’re wanted, you’re needed, and you’re invaluable to this movement. The more diverse, contradictory and seemingly confusing the movement becomes, the stronger it will remain. One of the most effective and widely used mechanisms to slow down or stop social movements is achieved through stereotyping, belittling, and over-simplification. The more complex a social movement’s demography becomes, the more difficult it is to do that.
The free-spirited, alternative, liberal, nonconforming, Alt-Bros may have set the stage for the incoming generation of conscious males. They’re like steroid enflamed unicorns of optimism but sadly are few and far between. The Alt-Bro’s cousin, once removed is The Lad. To keep this brief we need ‘The Lads’. You’ve probably met one in a bar. You know the type – friendly, of a generally well-meaning disposition, almost always happy, possessing abnormally high levels of ‘soundness’, doesn’t seem to have the best luck in his love life regardless of how good looking and generally ‘sound’ he is although this is generally a topic of light hearted fun rather than a deep-seeded existential crisis. Compliments tend to fly under his radar, and can have a great night among any social group once there are a few cans involved. He’s possibly from Donegal and he most definitely has a very active Paddy Power account to bet on horse racing tips he gets from a closed Facebook group he pays 20 quid a month into.
Democracy North Carolina is a non-partisan not for profit organisation who’s aim is to reduce the influence of big money in politics. They’re in the business of writing reports, and years of doing so has led them to publishing a widely-acclaimed guide to election campaigning. In it they address the need for campaigns to abandon the hunt for votes from those who politically affiliated to an extent that they are unlikely to support you. Instead they suggest going after those who are likely to support you and the generally large group of people in the middle or, those who could be reasonably swayed either way.
For every steroid fuelled ‘Alt-Bro’, there are 50 Whey Protein, FullFill Bar and Muju fuelled ‘Sound-Lads’. For the Repeal movement to be successful it should attempt to establish, through the combination of its centralised, area, and local campaigns, a potential voter base in the referendum that is most likely to mobilise and actually vote. To do this Ireland’s ‘Lads’ will be critical to success.
They may come across as uninterested, but don’t let their infectious demeanour fool you. The Irish Lad is the soundest creature known to taxonomers and are not ones to stand idly by in the face of the systemic marginalisation of Ireland’s women perpetrated through some really un-sound abortion legislation. The Strike 4 Repeal march turned a lot of people on to the idea that message behind the repeal movement stretched far beyond the realms of could have been originally anticipated. Lads are sound. They give a shit and they should be far more active in this campaign than they have been to date. Now is the dawn of the Irish Alt-Lad.