What I Do and Don’t Love About National Women’s Equality Day

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On National Women’s Equality Day, August 26th, I am certainly glad that women in the U.S. are no longer harassed, manipulated, or shamed out of their fundamental and not male-conceded right to vote.

But I dislike the name of the holiday, only because:

  • Equality encompasses about a thousand things beyond voting.
  • How many other social groups were wrongfully delayed their right to vote in this country? A separate holiday for each may be warranted but is bound to get confusing.

Still, I’m definitely a fan of a day to reflect on suffragists and all they did for society.

Are We Sometimes Weird in How We Express Our Gratitude for Voting Rights?

This is a subtle thing, but I hope our language leans toward conveying that women always had every right to vote. It’s not that in the 1920s we got something, or that we now “get to” vote. It’s that bullies got out of the way and no longer denied what was always constitutionally ours. It’s not that those powerful people gave us permission and now we are so grateful to them.

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And sure, as in many cases of oppression, the oppressed bought into it to some degree until a large enough mass were able to organize against those with power. Tons of women opposed suffrage right along with men.

But I think the point still stands. Women always had every right to vote in this country. As we all know, small adjustments in language send incredibly different messages.

I overheard this today at the gas station: “I’m grateful that leaders had enough vision and wisdom to learn to let women vote?” Hmmm. Okay, kindof. 

I overheard this today at the thrift store: “I’m grateful that wise men realized our innately-caring natures as women, and that that means we should vote.” Yeah, not so much (I am an equality feminist not a difference feminist).

Instead of saying things relative to leaders giving us rights, I could choose to say I’m grateful to not have that issue on my plate along with so many other problems. Or that I’m grateful toward God for the situation I am in now, regarding my voting rights. Or that I’m grateful toward all the early suffragists who dedicated so much life-energy, so that after the 1920s, I would not be as bullied about my voting rights as they were.

Leveraging the National Toward the Global

I think it’s okay to have a national holiday about women’s suffrage, but it has even more value if we stay anchored in a realistic global perspective, framing the voting freedoms we enjoy alongside what life is like for others.

I think it’s helpful to think along these lines instead: Because suffragists fought off so much injustice, I get to be that much less-distracted and less-hampered in applying my courage toward global injustices against women.

What I mean is, many of the issues women face daily around the world are way worse experientially than the oppression of someone denying your right to vote, or the injustices I have encountered as a woman in the United States. It’s not like we can’t celebrate our right to vote, but it’s just an opportunity to leverage that feeling of gratitude toward something that could materially improve another woman’s life.

An opportunity to become like our heroine suffragists.

I’ve revisited this in 2014. Here’s an article from earlier this year that shows what really ignites my courage to do more, to live life more congruently

8 Women Who Already Made The World A Better Place In 2014 by Charlotte Alfred