Thursday, August 26, 2010

Happy Women's Equality Day From Me, Too!

I'm not quite sure how to relate to that post title. On the one hand I'm a little teary-eyed and proud of how far we have come, in some countries and for some groups of women at least, over the last two hundred years.

On the other hand I'm thinking of the fact that there are still people alive in the U.S. who were born before women had the right to vote, of the fact that so many in Afghanistan don't think girls should go to school at all, of the horrible rapes in Congo, of the many, many countries where gender inequality is still taken pretty much for granted, divinely decreed or biologically determined. It doesn't look to me to be changing quickly, either. Women's issues are horrible political correctness gone awry.

On the third hand, I'm rolling on the floor, laughing aloud with the silliness of that title. Because it IS a silly one. Yes, I know all about the propaganda value of Special Days For Important Events and so on.

On the fourth hand, This opinion piece about how the vote was won reminds us of the struggle that went on.

Women were not "given" the vote! The struggle was hard and long and the two armies were not some simple division of women against men, say. There were some women firmly opposed to the vote and some men firmly for it, the former probably because change is always frightening: It looks chaotic beforehand and may wipe out the advantages people have gained by learning to adapt to some existing system, however unfair. History is always messy, and we have a tendency to try to simplify it into something clear-cut and ultimately noble, to see it as an indomitable advance of justice and freedom for all. In reality, events were messy, people were flawed and the outcome was not as predictable as it seems in the rear view mirror.

The fight for women's suffrage was a real fight: protracted, exhausting and not without great costs.

Let us not forget that or the lesson it offers us today.