Women’s Suffrage and the Slow March of Progress

Women's SuffrageThis was an important day for women’s suffrage in 1918, UK women over the age of 30 got the right to vote. Even then, certain property requirements applied. It took until the end of that same year for women to be given the right to serve in parliament. But it took a whole decade for women to get voting parity with men. The Representation of the People Act 1928 allowed everyone over the age of 21 to vote. It’s nice to look back and be happy that women finally got the right to vote. But how frustrating it must have been for women of that time, even if the original Representation of the People Act 1918 was a huge victory.

This has some resonance in the Democratic primary for president. But not as much as I think people might believe. The truth is that you need the Clintons and the Sanderses. But they are not examples of these poles, because both of them are of the marginal change varieties. What we need are more radicals who say, “Change now! We’ve already waited far too long!” In other words, we need people who terrify the establishment. We need Thomas Paine and Malcolm X. The fact that Sanders terrifies the establishment is an indication of just how far our society has gone off the rails.

I can wait. I don’t like conflict and I hate violence. But my life is good. I don’t have to worry that I’ll be killed by a police officer just because I don’t do exactly what I’m told to. I don’t have to worry about much of anything at all. Given my inclinations and idiosyncracies, if I weren’t a straight white male, I’d probably be doing 25 to life in some prison somewhere.

So I respect those who are impatient. And we all should. They are critical to our development, whether it is in the fight for women’s suffrage, racial equality, or economic fairness.

11 thoughts on “Women’s Suffrage and the Slow March of Progress

  1. Changing the law takes so much steady and relentless pressure from hundreds if not thousands of people. The women who got universal suffrage had to fight for decades and even though some of it seems to be going quicker (marriage equality took about half the time suffrage took), it still takes enormous pressure to get anything changed.

    Plus, you get tired of always losing after a while.

    • And there are different kinds of issues. I use the Cheney example: rich people have gay children, but they never have poor children. It’s surprising that women’s suffrage took as long as it did given that everyone knew them. It should have been clear that all the stereotypes were wrong. But people can be amazingly clueless when it comes to this kind of stuff.

      • Since stereotypes on women last for centuries despite it being clearly not the case, it really shouldn’t be a surprise.

        I don’t know why they persist even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary but then purging and bleeding persisted for centuries without any evidence it worked.

        • Yes, well, if you are one of those leech deniers, I don’t know what to say.

          I’ve had the experience in the business world of being totally ignored at meetings, I think because I was short and skinny. I’ve had the experience (Several times!) of saying something, having no one react to it, and then having some big guy say the same thing a bit latter and get kudos for it. In those cases, I think people were not even conscious that I spoke (I do tend to speak quietly). So when Alpha Male said it, he thought it was his idea — he got it through a kind of osmosis. Generally speaking, people divide the world into people worth listening to and people not worth listening to. The other thing is that if I get angry that I’m being ignored, I have a Napoleon complex. But men who are jerks 24/7 are just go-getters. I don’t mean to equate what I’ve gone through with what women go through. But I do have some appreciation for it.

          • I’d guess that you were ignored at meetings because you knew what you were talking about, and Big Guy got listened to because everyone knew he was a fool.

            Nobody likes to feel dumb. If you hear better ideas than yours from someone with more experience and insight, it makes you feel dumb. If the same idea comes from a fool, it’s collaboration. We all work together, thanks for participating, Josh! (Josh farts loudly in acknowledgement. All laugh. That Josh, what a great guy!)

            It’s not the same as what women go through. Nor is one run-in with a power-mad cop the same as what African-Americans go through. But these experiences do help us learn and sympathize. We’re closer to understanding where they’re coming from than we were before.

            Wow, I can’t believe I typed that. It’s almost a positive bunch of paragraphs about how people can relate to one another. I won’t do it anymore, I swear!

            • In the game Runequest, charisma is defined the ability to get people to follow you. So in the game, the best thieves have low charisma scores. It allows them to be almost invisible. I am someone with a very low charisma score. I’m like the guy who yells, “Let’s get ’em!” And then I look back and no one has followed me. I actually have a few experiences like that. Because in some circumstances I can be quite brave — foolishly so. But I can go to a party where everyone knows me (but not well), and have no one notice that I was ever there.

              For the record, I don’t mind this. In general, I don’t want to be noticed. But I think that’s what’s going on. Also: charisma isn’t really about who you are but about who other people are. If I were a billionaire, I would have a lot more charisma, even though I’d be the same guy. Anyway, I think that’s also true of women and people in minority groups. I think about it like The Terminator’s POV display. People look at me (or a woman or whomever) and decide, “No threat,” and then that person effectively disappears from their “viewer.”

              Related: think of Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men. He really doesn’t have charisma and the kid would have been convicted if it hadn’t been for one principled old juror.

          • Leeches can be useful for bruising and hematomas, not for a fever because you have bronchitis.

            Being quiet is a thing women go through at meetings but I think the internal process for handling it is much different. You probably never felt like you were wrong if you were talked over or ignored. But you did get the damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation that women get. Which is frustrating to the extreme.

            • I did get some of the “thinking you’re wrong,” because being ignored makes you second guess yourself. But mostly, yes, I just thought there was something really wrong with all them. And I was right. The solution, of course, is to change the system. (I would think that because I love thinking in terms of systems.) It isn’t necessary to have hierarchies. It isn’t necessary to have meetings where the loudest or most aggressive person “wins.” In fact, now that I think about it: hierarchies greatly distort human relations. Even if you do believe in hierarchies, there will be a different one for every conceivable human behavior. And that means what you end up with is a kind of web where everyone is above everyone else in some things and below everyone else in other things. But that is not an idea that those at the top of the capitalist system even want people to think about.

    • It took 73 years from first proposed to passage.

      It was over a hundred for taxation without representation. Even longer for for full personhood for non-whites. And even then there are continuing roadblocks.

    • I think women would do better now than they did then. But when it comes to issues that deal with economics and the power of the rich, it is probably worse now than it was in that earlier period.

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