My intention with this blog is to encourage women to unite rather than divide and conquer each other. When I first began to write it, I worried that some women would immediately be turned off if I used the word feminism because there has been such a negative view of feminism since it’s beginnings. When I say beginnings, I am thinking late 1800’s and early 1900’s, though of course there were women fighting for women’s rights way before that time as well. But in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, women in the U.S. organized and fought the system in place to win the right to vote.
We might look at our elected officials these days and wonder if voting for these clowns does any good, but the act of voting in our electoral system is not to be taken for granted. Back in the day, women were the property of men and were considered unable to think for ourselves enough to vote for who we believed should have political power. This wasn’t that long ago.
When women won the right to vote, often it wasn’t that people believed women should have equal rights and standing in society as men, but that a woman’s place was in the home and she should be able to influence laws which impacted that home. If a woman decides to work inside her home, she should have the choice to do so- that’s fine, but she shouldn’t have to. It is not “our place” or “where we should be.”
One hundred years ago women in the U.S. could not vote. We didn’t have the right to vote until 1920, and only then because we fought for it. There were also nations who were ahead of us. In the Pitcairn Islands, women could vote as early as 1838 and in Iceland women who had their own money, and landowning women, as well as some widows could vote in 1882. Australia’s women could vote in 1902. In Poland, women could vote in 1917 and in Ireland in 1918.
However- in Mexico, women couldn’t vote until 1947 and in the Sudan, women couldn’t vote until 1964. In Jordan it was 1974. In United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is located (you can think of all the movie stars and uber-wealthy people vacationing) the right for women to vote was made legal 5 years ago in 2006 and was supposedly put into full effect this year. Women in Saudi Arabia just got the right to vote this year, though it is still questionable whether women can actually vote there now.
Women have fought for the right to participate in the larger society as upstanding members of it for years. Women couldn’t vote for much longer than we have been able to at this point, but we still take it for granted. Voting is just one example or the rights we have not had.
There has been such anger about feminism and the word feminism, but like it or not, when it comes down to it, feminism has done a lot and continues to work for women to have rights.
There is still a long way to go until women have equal access and opportunity. Whether you call yourself a feminist or not, there is still a battle for women to have the right:
1. to participate in the larger society (by voting, by speaking in society, by running for office or even by participating in groups like the PTA),
2. to maintain the ones we have (like driving, which is against the law for women in Saudi Arabia),
3. and to have decision making power over our bodies (rather than have laws that do not punish rapists or batters who hurt us when we say no, and rather than having laws that say we cannot make reproductive decisions for our own bodies).
I initially didn’t want to use the word feminism because I knew that some people would immediately turn away and not read the blog, but feminism has been invaluable. Women and men who have advocated for women’s rights over the years have been invaluable whether they call themselves feminists or not.
In speaking of women’s history, it would be hard to exclude feminism as its contribution has been invaluable to the women of this nation and though the battle continues, we still reap the bennies.