Sister Suffragette

"So cast off the shackles of yesterday ..."

“So cast off the shackles of yesterday …”

Disney’s Mary Poppins had a lot to do with it, I suppose, but I don’t remember ever not knowing that women had to fight for the right to vote. I was 8 or 9 when our entire family went to see the movie at one of the glorious downtown theaters and 9 or 10 when I was playing “Sister Suffragette” (in my Mary Poppins‘ songbook for piano) and singing along. It really struck a chord with me.

I can still burst into SS and march/dance around the room for my grandkids (OK, just because I feel like it):

“… Political equality and equal rights with men,

take heart for Mrs. Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again!

No more the meek and mild subservients we –

We’re fighting for our rights militantly – never you fear! …

So, cast off the shackles of yesterday,

Shoulder to shoulder into the fray,

Our daughters’ daughters will adore us

and they’ll sing in grateful chorus,

‘Well done, Sister Suffragette!!'”

 

Only they don’t and they’re not, sadly. At least some of them. I’ve noticed over the past few years how young women blithely take women’s rights for granted. I was dismayed by some of my female students’ lack of knowledge or caring about women’s rights/women’s issues when I taught high school journalism at Central High from 2005-2010.

Just the other day a sweet young woman told me she had no idea women had to fight for the right to vote until she saw something about it on Facebook.

Don't take it for granted, girls. Women are still alive today who were born before we could vote.

Don’t take it for granted, girls. Women are still alive today who were born before we could vote.

All very disconcerting. But you girls/young women who’ve started the “anti-feminism/I’m not a feminist because …” movement need to wake up. Let me tell you a few things. Bear with an old lady of almost 59.

Though the assumption from my family and my guidance counselors was always that I’d go to college, I had perfectly bright girlfriends who were told – in 1972/73 – that their best bet was to find a good secretarial school. Or a good husband.

A slightly older friend, whose brothers were all assumed to go pre-med, was told by her father that she could go to college if she majored in teaching or nursing. That was actually quite common.

We couldn’t wear pants to school until I was in the ninth grade.

Girls who got pregnant in high school had to slip off out of state for an illegal abortion or drop out of school because pregnant girls weren’t allowed to attend. Their boyfriends could still play varsity football but the girls were denied an education.

Speaking of sports, if you were a girl at my school, other than cheerleading or drill team, we had volleyball and gymnastics. You can thank Title IX (and some feminists) for all the sports available to girls today.

stepfordI remember reading Ira Levin’s Stepford Wives and finding it chilling (read it in one sitting, which I repeated in my 30s – and it was still scary). After my boyfriend and I saw The Stepford Wives when I was 19, the good one with Katherine Ross and Paula Prentiss, he, whom I loved dearly, scoffed at me for calling it the scariest movie I’d ever seen. He said I was being silly. I said the movie was every man’s fantasy and that’s what made it so scary.

Then in 1986, when I was 30 and married with two kids, Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale. I still  have my first-edition copy. During the Reagan years and with the climate change really entering my radar, that was the scariest book I’d ever read – still seems almost prophetic at times. I’ve loaned it/foisted it on several women over the years.

Maybe it’s too hot a subject, but at least for college lit students, THT should be required reading.

My battered 1986 copy of Margaret Atwood's masterpiece. Read it if you haven't.

My battered 1986 copy of Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece. Read this book if you haven’t.

What brought this up now is that one day last week as I was working out to The Today Show, a segment came on about the “I’m not a feminist because …” girls – with photos of young women holding signs telling why they’re against feminism (from their social media platforms, which I refuse to look up).

“I’m not a feminist because I like men”? Seriously? Most of us do. Most of us are married and many of us have sons. Most of our gay sisters like men, too. This is not the point.

“I’m not a feminist because I love my boyfriend.” What? Whatever.

“I’m not a feminist because I like it when a man holds a door open for me.” I like that, too. Unless his hands are full, in which case I’m more than happy to open the door for a man. Manners are nice.

“… I like for a man to open the car door for me.” Yes, that’s sweet. I feel very special and loved when my husband carefully tucks me into the car. But I do the same thing for my mother now that she’s old. Irrelevant, girls.

“I’m not a feminist because I want to stay home with my children.” Um, I did that for a while then went to work. And naively expected to be paid the same as men for the same jobs.

Today in Arkansas women doctors with more seniority than their male counterparts, at least at one hospital, make $14,000 per year less for having ovaries. How is that fair?

I’m old enough to remember the “women don’t need to make as much as men because they have husbands drawing a salary” argument. That never held water – in addition to being ridiculous, some women aren’t married. Some are widows. Some have unemployed husbands.

Sigh.

Anyway, “I’m not a feminist because I like to look pretty/wear makeup/shave my legs.”

Silent scream. Silent scream. Silent scream.

NONE OF THOSE THINGS have anything to do with being a feminist. You can be feminine and a feminist. Feminine feminists are all around.

Look up what it means, anti-feminist young ladies. Read a little women’s history. Read current events about the atrocities still happening to people all over the world because their genetic roll of the dice made them female.

Then decide if you’re still an anti-feminist. At least be informed.

Feminists come in all types. We’re everywhere. We’re not out to destroy all things girly.

You can even be a feminist and love Barbies. I got my first Barbie at 3 in 1959, the year she was born. I’ve loved her – and Midge and Francie – ever since. I’ve been making matching dresses for my two 3-year-old granddaughters’ Barbies from vintage fabric using my grandmother’s pattern from 1964 that she used to make clothes for her granddaughters’ Barbies.

That’s pretty traditional female behavior. But I’m doing it by choice, not because someone expects me to fill a certain role.

Feminists can love Barbies – and love to sew. We can be girly-girls or tomboys.

Feminists can love Barbies and love to sew. We can be girly-girls or tomboys. We come in all shapes and sizes and demeanors.

But I bought my granddaughters a copy of I Want to Be President before I bought them Barbies.

book

P.S. Just wanted to let you know I waited for days to see if I really had to write this post – I try to keep it life, lifestyle and light in The Lolly Diaries. But an old girl’s gotta do what an old girl’s gotta do.

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7 thoughts on “Sister Suffragette

  1. you must watch a documentary on Netflix called The Punk Singer immediately. It is so timely and also really good. xo

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