Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Historical Feminist Movements

This week Ms O'Connell gave a presentation on suffrage, linking it to feminism today.  I think she did a really good job creating an engaging presentation and I learned a lot of new things about influential suffragettes.
The article we read beforehand was about "suffrage cookbooks", which I really think I had heard about previously to reading the article but I totally can't remember where.  I appreciated the use of humor in spreading the feminist ideology, especially in recipes like "Pie for a suffragist's doubting husband".  I think it's very important to make light of even the worst situations, and satire is a very effective tactic for creating social awareness.
It was really upsetting for me to hear about the racist attitudes of the most famous suffragettes of the era, especially Susan B. Anthony, who was on the dollar coin, so I'd heard of her for a long time. It's hard to idolize women who were only for their own advancement, and not the push for equality that is often the central argument of feminism. I've been thinking lately about the Treasury's decision to update the ten-dollar bill to feature a female-- it has not been announced yet who it will be, but there are finalists. One obvious choice to represent females in a male-dominated arena would be a feminist icon, but many of the feminist icons were very prejudiced against black people and didn't support suffrage for them, and then I started thinking that there are no people of color featured on American Currency as far as I know, besides Sacagawea on the not-often-used dollar coin. I think a good choice for the woman featured on the ten-dollar bill would be Sojourner Truth, because she advocated for the civil rights of both women and African Americans and embodies the ideas of equality better than any white suffragette.
One of the most interesting parts of the presentation for me was hearing the arguments against women's suffrage (i loved the political cartoons), especially from other women. You would think that they would have wanted more political freedom for themselves, but there was this strong feeling that allowing women more freedom would turn the existing social order on its head. People argued that if women could vote and work, men would have to stay home and boil water and wash the baby-- a horrible fate. It reminds me a lot of attitudes today regarding changing concepts of gender and trans people gaining more rights. I've heard arguments that if we allow people to choose which bathroom to use based on how they identify, grown men will be infiltrating ladies' rooms to look at underage girls. These misconstruings of reality are totally based on fear of upheaval of societal norms, and it just goes to show that some things never change.
The wave theory of feminism is interesting, and I do see the different "themes" that ruled feminist ideology in the different years, but I think calling them "waves" isn't the most accurate description. I think the term waves implies periods of increased feminist activity bookended by a lapse in interest. Since the last three stages are consecutive, with no gaps in between, I don't think "waves" are the best way to describe them. I also don't see a big difference between the third and fourth waves. I think since 1960 or so,  feminist is better described as an evolution of beliefs.
I'm completely used to it now, but when I think about it I realize how incredible it is that women like me did not have the most basic signifier of citizenship, the ability to vote, less than 100 years ago. We have made so much progress since then, and even though now there is no perfect equality, it's impressive how quickly we've made drastic changes.

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