I’ve been thinking about a couple of comments that Marcus Ranum made on my last post (thanks for the food for thought, by the way!). Here’s the exchange:
Yes, women and people with uteri are second-class citizens in Ireland. We have a constitution that tells us that we have a special place within the home, shouldn’t be bothering our pretty little heads with economic labour, and are legally equivalent to a fertilised egg. I mean, technically you could even say that a male foetus has a higher status than a grown woman, since at least the foetus is expected to go get a job at some point in the future.
Of course, women and the uterus-enabled aren’t the only ones living with second-class citizenship in this lovely country of ours. Trans people still can’t have their genders recognised, queer people are barred from equal marriage and can be legally discriminated against if we work in education, and let’s not even start on direct provision and arbitrary deportations of asylum seekers, or the abysmal way that the Travelling community are routinely dehumanised, or people on years-long waiting lists for public healthcare, or non-Catholic families being shoved down school waiting lists or.. oh, I could go on. You know I could go on. We have no shortage of second-class citizenship (or residency, or humanity) in this country.
Does being second-class citizens mean this space is less our home, though?
I guess it depends on what you mean by home. This is the place where I’m from and where I’ve lived most of my life. It’s where most of my friends and family are. It’s where I go to work, rent an apartment, play roller derby. It’s the space where I do my activism and community building work. More than that, it’s the context that created and developed most of the way that I think. I’m an Irish person who’s lived in a bunch of other places but kept coming back here (so far, at least) and that slightly-diluted Irishness is who I am. Being from a country that treats me as second or third class and finding home in the spaces of resistance we create within that is who I am.
The majority of people in this country are second-class citizens.
Let’s imagine for a second, though, that we should all up sticks and leave. We’re in a space that doesn’t see us as fully human and that shoves us, to one extent or another, to the margins. Let’s blow this joint and get the hell out of here, right?
Where would we go?
Because there isn’t one country in the world where women, queers, POC, immigrants, religious minorities, poor people, PWD, and all the rest of us aren’t marginalised. There are places which are better than others. There’s places where it is easier to create pockets of community for ourselves where we can live full and rich lives. But there’s nowhere where we are fully included and equal. Nowhere.
I think that it’s easier to look at other countries and wonder why the hell people don’t just leave (ignoring the fact that people often do, or that leaving is by no means simple). We forget that it’s not a choice between living somewhere that marginalises you and somewhere that doesn’t. Or that sometimes the price of less-marginalisation in one regard is more exclusion in another, and separation from the culture and community that has created and nurtured you. Or that telling people to leave is another tool in the arsenal of those within our society that would prefer to shove us under the carpet.
Let’s remember: we have a habit of granting ownership of a particular thing to the most privileged people within it. There’s an argument that I’ve had a ton of times with a close friend of mine about atheism. She sees atheism- particularly organised atheism- as a movement made up of privileged white men who use their trumped-up oppression to excuse virulent racism and misogyny.
And she’s got a point. There’s a lot of that. Of course, look at just about any social movement and the people with the
loudest most amplified voices are those who had most privilege to start off with. Take some time to look beyond the people who’ve already been given pedestals, though, and you see something far richer and more interesting.
Yes, I’m a second-class citizen. So are most people.
We are made second-class by people who have no more claim to this country than I do, who have been given pedestals they never earned. If we concede that our second-class status makes this less our home than theirs, we give the keys to that home to the people who would rather have us either shut up or leave. We will be made second class citizens wherever we go.
So, I do refuse to say that this is not my home as much as it is someone else’s. I reject their right to decide for me where my home is, or to speak for this place as if it were theirs. It’s not. It’s mine too.
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