On the 23rd of May last year I was the proudest I ever was to be Irish.
I’m not ashamed of being Irish, I’d never hide it or deny it but you don’t get that much opportunity to be genuinely, heart-warmingly proud on an international scale. (I’m not going to go into detail of our many shames, but in case you’re unaware we’ve managed to mortify ourselves with scandal after scandal; sports, corruption, institutional child abuse, clerical child abuse, women’s reproductive rights and that’s where I trail off because you get the picture) We’ve let ourselves down as a nation consistently throughout my lifetime. But on 23rd May 2015 – we collectively, as a nation, overwhelmingly and by a huge majority, decided to be sound. That we agreed that marriage equality was a thing that we all supported and wanted enshrined in our constitution as a civil right for all.
I probably don’t need to tell you how much I supported this and the elation I felt at its achievement. That we had turned ourselves around as a nation, that we valued people as people and not as labels. And we were the first country to do it by popular vote. Ok, you can say that it should have been done as a matter of course that it shouldn’t have needed a referendum, and sure, you’re right. But the fact is we did have one and it was an opportunity for us to look at ourselves and be happy with what we saw, how we’ve changed. And I don’t care how much mud was slung or how much money was wasted I think the boost it gave the country was worth it.
Why am I talking about this… it’s slightly outside the Abbi Rode remit isn’t it? Well, on Saturday I am going to an engagement party (not for long I fucking hate those things). A party for a male colleague who is engaged to his male partner. And when he told me about the engagement I asked him who asked who – which started me thinking. The dawn of marriage equality is not just spelling the equality for gay people it’s the start of equality for everyone.
The more gay and lesbian couples who take the plunge and get engaged the more that question is going to be asked ‘So, who did the asking?’ It’s going to take a decade or two, I realise that, but it will happen it will become the norm for girls to ask girls, for guys to ask guys and eventually it will be acceptable for girls to ask guys and crucially here – FOR THAT TO BE OK. It will normalise the idea that it is a partnership and it is equal.
The onus is not on one sex to carry the burden of asking or indeed hold all the cards as to when. It will no longer be the fate of (some) girls to sit around and wait to be asked, fearing she may emasculate her guy if she asks first. It will be open to everyone, as much the responsibility and decision of one as the other.
And this can only be a good thing. For everyone – for moving forward as a society for breaking down the patriarchy, for levelling the playing field and raising the standards for us as humans.
In conjunction with that, the other question that tends to cause some ire, the issue of names, will also become far less contentious. Can you imagine anyone asking one half of a gay couple who was going to give up their name? Of course you can’t because it seems ridiculous – because you see them as equal, not one becoming part of the other as a matter of course. Wanting to be the same name as your partner is lovely, wanting your kids and your partner to all have the same name as you is of course a beautiful thought. But to automatically assume that it’s going to be done? This notion has to change, has to be challenged. I’m not issuing a decree saying that it has to now be the woman’s name, that all hetero couples take, that no child should ever share a surname with its father, I’d just like it to not be a given. It should be a discussion, a genuine one and not an assumption or an entitlement. Or indeed seen as a belligerent or aggressive if you want to have that discussion.
What’s in a name? Why get so upset? Well, why should I give mine up when I’ve worked hard all my life to understand who I am, under this name. Why should I have to give up my identity. And more importantly when the automatic default position is that the girl gives up her name, don’t you feel that sends a message to all other girls that they don’t matter quite as much as boys. That it’s the man who has primacy and the only one entitled to identity. It’s insidious and I think that with the advent of marriage equality we will see a shift in the thinking around this. As with wonderinging who did the asking it might get to the stage where no one cares who takes whose name, you only ask so you know how to address the Christmas cards.
If you’re a cis hetero couple and the bloke asked the girl to marry her and the girl took your name – I’m not vilifying you. Good for you. Make your decisions and enjoy them. I’m not judging or mocking you for it. But I’d like to see a world where more choices raised less eyebrows and caused less problems. And I believe that the emergence of marriage equality will be the catalyst that was needed for the redress of balance.
Men, you don’t need to have all the burden of it on you. Women, let’s teach our daughters that they are not chattel – given away by their fathers, to their husbands.
But I still don’t want to go to your wedding so don’t invite me. I still hate the things and that hasn’t changed.
And by the way Architect, a referendum that signals a positive change in a nation’s psyche IS bigger than a fucking general election. I’m sorry for your loss and all but general elections always give you the same old shite, nothing ever changes. THIS ACTUALLY MEANT SOMETHING.