Sunday, 2 June 2013

The suffragettes

I recently read an article on The Guardian on the inspiring suffragettes: "Nine Inspiring Lessons the Suffragettes Can Teach Feminists Today."

I read the article with enthusiasm, amazement and utter awe. I don't even remember reading about the suffragettes since school. We only make passing reference to the heroic efforts of women in the Western world who fought for equal rights these days. We responded in shock to the rather Taliban-like views spewed by the Republicans during these recent US elections, especially regarding rape and abortion. We went around saying, "But look at what was achieved by the suffragettes in the US and Europe and, look how far back society has gone back. 

It good and rather necessary to read in detail about the utter bravery of these women. 

I look forward to teaching my daughter about these heroines as she grows up. 

These are my favourite bits:
"There's often tension today between those who deliver feminism with humour and those who prefer unfiltered anger – the suffragettes showed that both are necessary." 
"In a male-dominated society, women are often brought up to identify with men, to see men's views and rights as paramount, and so it's not surprising that many women oppose their own liberation. In the suffrage era the most prominent was Queen Victoria, who once wrote a letter stating she was "anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad wicked folly of 'Woman's Rights', with all its attendant horrors, on which [my] poor sex is bent". 
"Their detractors were often very powerful. Winston Churchill described the militant movement as a "copious fountain of mendacity", while Arthur Conan Doyle opted for "female hooligans". The only useful response was to take strength from the insults. The current deputy editor of the New Statesman, Helen Lewis, has written that today "the comments on any article about feminism justify feminism", which mirrors Rebecca West's reflections on events of a century ago. "The real force that made the suffrage movement was the quality of the opposition," wrote West. "Women, listening to anti-suffrage speeches, for the first time knew what many men really thought of them."
 "Nothing has done more to retard the progress of the human race than the exaltation of submission into a high and noble virtue," he wrote. "It may often be expedient to submit; it may even sometimes be morally right to do so in order to avoid a greater evil; but submission is not inherently beautiful – it is generally cowardly and frequently morally wrong."

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