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Why influencers are to be commended for speaking out on #RepealThe8th

Marissa Carter, Pippa O’Connor, Suzanne Jackson and Joanne Larby have all spoken out this week.

LAST OCTOBER, BLOGGER Leanne Woodfull penned a strongly worded open letter to her fellow influencers and bloggers condemning them for their silence on the issue of #RepealThe8th.

“The silence regarding human rights and global tragedies, that I witness daily, coming from the Irish blogging and social media community, despite this happening on our doorstep, disgusts me to my core,” she wrote. “How ignorant a community have we become, that we prioritise following count or financial gain, over human rights?!”

“It’s inhumane. It’s uninspiring. It’s wrong.”

The letter struck a chord and prompted a discussion about whether bloggers and influencers have a responsibility to speak out on social and political issues.

Some argued that staying silent was a form of cowardice and motivated by an unwillingness to rock the boat. Others contended that nobody should feel compelled to speak out on a political issue if they don’t want to.

Around this time, I contacted dozens of influencers around Ireland to ask for their opinions on the issue. The vast majority of my queries went unanswered. I also contacted two agencies representing bloggers and influencers, but both declined to participate in the piece.

The influencers and bloggers who did respond on the record – Holly Carpenter, Louise O’Reilly and Sarah Hanrahan – were all pro-choice. All three stated that they felt they had  a duty to speak out.

“Personally I feel like I have a responsibility to express an opinion on important issues like this when I have such a young following who get most of their information from their phones,” said Carpenter. “Not everyone will agree but I would hate to look back in years to come and regret staying silent on such an important issue.”

Meanwhile, one blogger responded off the record stating that she didn’t feel she was in a position to speak out as she felt conflicted about the issue herself.

Since then, the debate over influencers and their role in this campaign has continued to rage on.

On a recent episode of Don’t Stop Repealin’, influencer extraordinaire James Kavanagh discussed some of the reasons he felt his peers were keeping quiet.

Kavanagh stated that some were likely concerned about the divisive nature of abortion and the potential commercial ramifications – losing followers or getting passed over for brand partnerships.

However, he cautioned against tarring everyone with the same brush and pointed out that some bloggers and influencers have valid reasons for not speaking out.

For instance, some work for media outlets and are precluded from discussing it. Others still may have personal reasons as to why they can’t discuss it.

For his part, he stated that he hadn’t lost out any paid commercial work as a result of being outspoken about #repealthe8th. 

“I would not be afraid of losing brand work or dividing your audience,” he said. “If anything, I think people in this political climate respect people who have an opinion that goes beyond taking a photo of your eggs Benedict or OOTD.”

What a pleasant surprise then to see some of the country’s leading influencers engaging with the issue over the past week.

On Sunday, Pippa O’Connor tweeted to her 79.6k followers, “If you missed the referendum debate on @RTELateLateShow you should watch now on Rte player. Educate yourself, know the facts & most importantly have your say on the 25th. #TogetherForYes.”

Additionally, she posted another tweet in which she hailed Dr. Peter Boylan as “an amazing man”.

A few days later, Suzanne Jackson of So Sue Me posted the following on Instagram:

This month on May 25th we get to vote on such an important issue. Make sure you’re registered to have your say on May 25th! #haveyoursay #togetherforyes

Yesterday, Marissa Carter of Cocoa Brown shared a photo of herself wearing a Repeal jumper and wrote a moving post about her experiences with miscarriages.

Before we had our two beautiful children – I had three miscarriages that truly nearly broke me. I couldn’t leave our apartment for three months after the last one and I couldn’t bear to speak about it with my friends. When I was pregnant with Charlie – we were afraid to celebrate.
Repealing the 8th amendment isn’t about the value you place on life inside the womb. It’s not. It’s about a woman’s right to choose. Abortion is not a decision that any woman wants to make. It’s just not. I don’t need a list of why women might want or need an abortion – it’s not my place to judge. It’s no one’s.

And today Joanne Larby wrote a lengthy Instagram post about why she’s voting Yes in the referendum.

“Put clearly and concisely I am #prochoice because this is a medical and constitutional nightmare,” she wrote.

“I am #togetherforyes because I want to enable women in Ireland to access the adequate healthcare they deserve and I support women in how they choose to make incredibly impactful and important decisions about THEIR life.”

View this post on Instagram

I’m not here to influence your vote but I am here to finally use my platform to share the thoughts I’ve had offline in the ‘real world’ for some time. Put clearly and concisely I am #prochoice because this is a medical and constitutional nightmare. The argument that the 8th stops abortion doesn’t add up when over 9 women a day leave our country to do so. When voting we are not being asked if we agree with abortion, we are being asked if we believe someone should go to prison for having one regardless of their circumstance. I am #togetherforyes because I want to enable women in Ireland to access the aduquate healthcare they deserve and I support women in how they choose to make incredibly impactful and important decisions about THEIR life. I urge you to vote in one of the most integral referendums of our generation, because the outcome will affect us all #repealthe8th

A post shared by 𝐉𝐎𝐀𝐍𝐍𝐄 𝐋𝐀𝐑𝐁𝐘 (@joannelarby) on

Over the past few weeks, bloggers and influencers have come in for a pummeling, thanks to Bloggers Unveiled. Some of the criticism has been justified, while some has been decidedly unsavory.

But the community is to be commended this week for speaking out on an issue that directly affects so many of their young and predominantly female followings. (Jackson, Carter and Larby have a combined following of 496,000 on Instagram alone.)

In doing so, they help normalise the discussion around abortion and engage with a segment of the population who arguably aren’t tuning into Prime Time debates, while also potentially leaving themselves open to criticism.

They have avoided taking the easy way out and stuck their head above the parapet in the name of a cause they believe in, which is more than you can say for some elected officials in this country.

They may not influence any votes. But if they encourage people to participate in their civic duty and educate themselves on the question at the heart of this referendum, then that’s a job well done.

Fair play.

DailyEdge is on Instagram!

About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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