It’s only been a hundred years, give or take, since female human beings in the United States and England received “permission” to vote alongside male human beings. We rarely think about that or about what those first female voters went through in order to achieve this milestone for our sex. But when it does roll through our heads we usually visualize a well-dressed society woman wearing long ruffled petticoats, a fashionable hat, parading elegantly in front of government buildings in pretty high button boots, while carrying a delicately worded sign, and possibly singing.
Sort of like this:
But the fight to gain the vote for female humans was actually like this:
The fourth photo is of suffragette Mary Leigh about to be force fed while in custody at Winson Green Prison. She’d been arrested for demonstration marching, and when she was bodily removed by police (all of them male human beings) and thrown into jail, she broke her cell window in protest of her treatment. Consequently, she was transferred to what was known as “the punishment cell” in the prison, and she immediately went on a hunger strike. That resulted in her being force fed. She wasn’t the only one.
Chris Trueman, on his History Learning Site has gathered historical reports on what force feeding felt like, reports which came from the women themselves. Suffragette Constance Lytton described it like this:
“Two of the women (wardresses) took hold of my arms, one held my head and one my feet. One wardress helped to pour the food. The doctor leaned on my knees as he stooped over my chest to get at my mouth. I shut my mouth and clenched my teeth. The sense of being overpowered by more force that I could possibly resist was complete, but I resisted nothing except with my mouth. The doctor offered me the choice of a wooden or steel gag; he explained that the steel gag would hurt and the wooden one would not, and he urged me not to force him to use the steel one. But I did not speak nor open my mouth, so after playing about for a moment or two with the wooden one he finally had recourse to the steel. The pain of it was intense; he got the gag between my teeth, when he proceeded to turn it much more than necessary until my jaws were fastened wide apart, far more than they could go naturally. Then he put down my throat a tube, which seemed to me much too wide and was something like four feet long. The irritation of the tube was excessive. I choked the moment I touched my throat until it had gone down. Then the food was poured in quickly; it made me sick a few seconds after it was down and the action of the sickness made my body and legs double up, but the wardresses instantly pressed back my head and the doctor leant on my knees. The horror of it was more than I can describe. I had been sick over my hair, all over the wall near my bed, and my clothes seemed saturated with vomit. The wardresses told me that they could not get a change (of clothes) as it was too late, the office was shut.”
I bring up this graphic illustration of the hardships the suffragettes endured as a reminder of how difficult it was to achieve what male human beings have always taken for granted as their right. And as the photos show, there were many men who were against the idea of women winning the vote. From the perspective of many unenlightened men, their war on women’s rights still continues to this day. But it is not only, as popular opinion would have us believe, a war being waged by Republicans or Christian Conservatives, or Islamic extremists, or macho husbands wearing wife-beaters. Rather it is a war being waged by women on other women. What do I mean by this?
When the suffragettes went after the vote, they didn’t discuss who among them was a Liberal, a Democrat, a Republican, a Conservative or an Independent, and who should be excluded from having equal rights with men on the basis of those disparate viewpoints. They saw themselves all as human beings who happened to be female wanting the same opportunities enjoyed by other human beings who happened to be male. But that solidarity no longer exists among women today because we have allowed our differences of opinions on political platform to divide us. And that divisiveness has become vicious.
Liberal and Democrat women were furious when Rush Limbaugh, a right wing fundamentalist talk show host, called Sandra Fluke a “slut.” And they were also furious when Republican Paul Ryan tried to coin a feeble and repulsive differentiation between “rape” and “forcible rape.” I agree with them. It was and is all repulsive. Yet, I haven’t heard anything coming from the left corner about Jason Biggs.
The children’s network, Nickelodeon is soon to debut a remake of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV animated series, with one of the turtles being voiced by actor Jason Biggs. On Aug. 29, 2012, during the Republican National Convention, Biggs published vile messages on his public Twitter account in regards to the sexuality, physicality and femininity of Ann Romney and Janna Ryan. If you think I’m being priggish, here are some of the things that were said, using screen shots of the actual tweets:
Bigg’s wife, another classy act just like her husband, also tweeted the following:
Are you shocked yet? I won’t get into a rant about the fact that Nickelodeon linked their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle feed to Bigg’s Twitter feed, or the fact that though they made this public statement, “It was our mistake to link from our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles twitter feed to Jason’s personal twitter account, and we quickly corrected our error,” they continue to support Jason Biggs and have not removed him as the voice of “Leonardo.” That’s already being addressed by a number of angry journalists who also happen to be parents of middle-school children. Or the fact that so far, it only seems to be The Colorado Rockies baseball team who were appalled enough by this affiliation to remove “Nickelodeon Day” from their 2012 promotion lineup.
But what I will get into is this: Why this is an affront only to Conservative women and not to all women? Why was it “heat from their conservative fans” only that got the Rockies to express their outrage and not heat from everyone?
And before you think I’m taking sides, what about the Conservative women who support and continue to support Rush Limbaugh? Why must the most vocal radio spokesman for Conservative values be a man who has no values at all when it comes to the way he perceives women? How is it possible that this man is so popular with people in general and women in particular who call themselves “Christian” and “Conservative?” If I were a Conservative woman I would be embarrassed that he’s been championed by my like-minded female associates. And I know I would be disgusted by any man who supports him.
There are two things that all of us women, in our emotionally-charged state about the 2012 presidential election are failing to see: We can have our different opinions on politics. We can disagree. We can even dislike each other, if we must, because of our differences. But what we cannot do is stand behind any misogyny just because that particular misogynist happens to support our candidate or our political perspective. To do so is to undermine everything the suffragettes fought for. When we women titter and giggle at those who make a political point by demoralizing the feminine, we are not supporting the political point; we are supporting the oppression of every female. Want to back a candidate that disagrees with Michelle Obama or Ann Romney? Go ahead. Feel free to disagree with their politics, but if you disparage their femaleness, you disparage all femaleness. You do not support your political party, you support an underlying loathing of women.
To every woman out there who banned JC Penney because they have Ellen as their spokesperson, to every woman out there who stopped eating at Chick Fil-A for the exactly opposed reason: I’m calling on all of you. Join together on this issue, like the suffragettes once did and, for the good of all women, ban anyone or anything that disparages any female just for being a human female. Ban from your repertoire of debates with your political challengers any commentary or “joke” against femininity or female sexuality. If you don’t, you don’t destroy “the other side.” You destroy yourself. For my part I , who welcome and will continue to welcome all political points of view on my Facebook page, my blog and my online magazine, I will not have a conversation with anyone who supports anyone disparaging women, whether I am of a like mind with that person on their views or otherwise. And I delete all emails that contain “jokes” about Hillary Clinton’s or Jean Kirkpatrick’s crotch. If you are a woman who is forwarding any of these along, shame on you.
This post is written with many thanks to Kimberly Moore who brought this creepy debacle to my attention in a midnight Facebook message to me. You can read her take on it, “Do You Support Nickelodeon, Jason Biggs and Obscene Tweets?” at The Beehive Blog. Note: Kimberly and I are diametrically opposed on any number of political issues. Yet we still respect each other as mothers, writers, entrepreneurs and females. Imagine that.