Now there is a title for my blog this month. The greatest mistake that America had ever made was allow women the right to vote, call me crazy but for those of us who actually believe in the ideals of equality, freedom, and the right to express ourselves and our opinions politically, isn’t this going a bit far. Ok so that’s an understatement as to how I felt about this article when I read it, and is actually the politest way I could think to describe the shock and anger I felt upon reading it, by the way yes I am a women and as my friends well know one with feminist tendencies and opinions so to me, this was a bit of a kick in the teeth. However I respect the right of Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson to his opinion and have provided a link to the article below for those of you who wish to read the article in full. Yet I hope that he also respectfully accepts my right to disagree with him. So this blog shall explore the complex relationship that women have with politics and voting, and asking the question why, as we come in England (6 years to go) to the centenary of women having the right to vote, do such out dated views, that we should not have the right to vote, still exist.
In the article Rev. Peterson states that women are ‘leading the United States down a path of wickedness because they have too much political power. Whilst I disagree with Rev. Peterson’s idea that the way in which women vote is bringing a form of ‘political evil’, to the United States, or at least this is how it appears to him, as a Republican. However it must be stated that perhaps his rather extremist view is as a result of the suggestion that in the last presidential election (2008), that more women voted for Obama and the Democrat party , his political and the party that is attempting to bring a considerable amount of change to America, which is described by some, particularly of a Republican persuasion, as attempts to bring a kind of socialism into America. For instance through the introduction of the idea of same-sex marriages; the introduction of health care reforms. As a result the suggestion by Rev. Peterson, the ‘wickedness’ that has been brought in by women voting democrat, entail the more left leaning ideas that are changing America. Which as a Republican, a group who can be typically identified as deeply Christian and extremely conservative, he would not appreciate these changes. However there is a wider comment that can be made as a result of Rev. Peterson’s suggestions, that the attitudes to women and power (in this case political, yet there are other examples) is something that hasn’t changed. Since the beginning of time it can be argued that whenever women had some form of power they were often mocked or criticized for it. In sticking with the political element to this blog post I shall stick to women who have actively participated within politics or had an impact upon them within the 21st and 20th century. However my previous statement remains women who have power have been stereotypically seen as a bad thing or something that cannot be trusted to act rationally. Once again I must state that these suggestions are my own opinions, please feel free to disagree with me and post your own comments on this subject.
As an English woman a prime example of this statement can be found in the treatment of Britain’s first and only (so far) woman Prime Minister Margret Thatcher. Now I can hear you start your tirades of how she took away milk and destroyed the miners or how she did great in the Falkland’s whichever camp you’re in, however I ask you to put these feelings aside for a moment and consider whether the fact that she was a women contributed to people’s opinions of her, in a negative manner. For instance she was known as the Iron Lady, a title given to her as a result of her determination and stubbornness with her politics and politicians, whilst this can be seen as a title of strength it can also be seen negatively as the iron lady can also conjure up images of a harsh woman, to an extent unwomanly. As it is already known Thatcher underwent voice coaching and a change of appearance before becoming leader of the conservative party, in order, it can be suggested to become more authoritative a stereotypically manly trait which is needed for any leader. However the fact that Thatcher has to adopt such traits, authoritative, stubbornness, and determination in order to succeed in British politics demonstrates how women to an extent, have to change in order to succeed in politics, and sometimes get ridiculed as unwomanly as a result. Another more recent example of the way in which women who have political power are often criticized, rightly or wrongly is the characterization of Sarah Palin as the “pitbull with lipstick” and other such stereotypes that have been attached to her. Therefore, the wider point that women who have/ gain political power is still something that is seen in an interesting manner, whilst were not burning them on the stake as witches, it can be suggested that attitudes to women being in power still haven’t changed, as women who attempt have power and attempt to create change can be criticized for it. With the negative stereotyping of women who have political power it is perhaps unsurprising that there have been comparatively less great women political figures (when compared to the amount of inspiring male counterparts) and that even today there are still very few women within the political cabinet of the U.K. that can be argued as actually having a degree of influence or the ability to change laws. Whilst I’m not suggesting that the cabinet or any political body is forced to have women with the opportunity to lead and change the status quo, I think that the relationship between women and politics remains complex and this is something that hasn’t changed since women having won the right to political suffrage. The remarks of Shirley Chisholm (a Congresswoman, for New York’s 12th Congressional District from 1969 to 1983) who said that during her New York legislative career, she had faced much more discrimination because she was a woman than because she was black perhaps remain surprisingly more relevant today than we care to believe in our modern society.
Alternatively it must be recognized that within the last 10-20 years there has been a noticeable change in the treatment of women involved within politics, for instance in America and internationally Michelle Obama is considered a very powerful and influential, within her own right as well as a result of being the first lady. Similarly Hillary Clinton, who ran in the same election as Sarah Palin can be suggested as having less negative publicity for being a politically minded women.
Thus demonstrating that whilst the public’s relationship with women in politics is no doubt complex, it is also changing. For instance in 2009 there America had the opportunity to elect its first ever women president. With this in mind the only thing left for me is to reiterate my opinion that women having the right is far from being the worst thing that has ever happened in history. It is perhaps instead a result of the negative publicity that often surrounds female politicians and women voters that has led to that particular conclusion. Yet the times are changing and there may soon be a time when women presidents and prime ministers, become the norm as it is often the case in Scandinavian countries. Who knows?
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2141530/Fox-News-guest-Rev-Jesse-Lee-Peterson-says-women-shouldnt-allowed-vote.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Lee_Peterson http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/us_elections_2008/7709852.stm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Chisholm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Palin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_Rodham_Clinton