Today is Women’s Suffrage Day. 85 years ago, women in the United States gained the right to vote. In the 70’s, we used to have a parade, dress in period costume, and do public readings. Now, the only thing I have to look forward to each year is Ellen Goodman’s annual Sexism Awards.
The suffragists–known then and even now by the sexist, demeaning nickname, “Suffragettes”–paid a great price to get the vote. They were belittled, threatened, beaten, chained, kicked, dragged, choked, had their heads bashed against prison walls, and were force-fed, causing permanent physical damage. President Woodrow Wilson stood by quietly while the women were stalked and tortured, then took credit for the 19th Amendment when the inevitable occurred.
Though it is nice to acknowledge the anniversary of women’s suffrage, it is perhaps more important to acknowledge that women in this country could not vote until the 20th Century. And that our nation–land of the free–was a so-called democracy for 144 years before half of its population could cast a vote.
In this shocking appearance on “Meet the Press” last week, PNAC bigshot Marc Gerecht allowed that since America had done okay as a “democracy” for almost 150 years without women voting, that was proof that democracy-building in Iraq does not require women’s suffrage. George W. Bush seems to agree with him, but then–why wouldn’t he? He is doing everything he can to derail women’s rights in his own country.
Kansas State Senator Kay O’Connor is probably giving a thumbs-up to Gerecht as I write this. In 2001, she said:
I think the 19th Amendment, while it’s not an evil in and of itself, is a symptom of something I don’t approve of. The 19th Amendment is around because men weren’t doing their jobs, and I think that’s sad. I believe the man should be the head of the family. The woman should be the heart of the family.
I know irony was supposed to have died in 2001, but this was a female office-holder speaking. In fact she is running for the office of Kansas Secretary of State next year (and has already been fined for an ethics violation).
Women vote, but they vote against their own interests, even against their own safety. Consider all of the California women who voted for Arnold Schwarzengger, an unindicted but well-established sex criminal. Millions of women voted for George W. Bush, who not only doesn’t mind sending their children off to die for Halliburton, but who wants to curtail their control over their own bodies and to encourage the dominance of an extreme patriarchal religious movement.
Nowadays, when August 26 rolls around, I wonder if there is much to celebrate.