A little something I wrote on suffrage… Splendid or Too Long?!!
Teamwork: Rethinking Votes for Women
In her article, “Three Questions about Womanhood Suffrage,” Carole Pateman argued that there are three critical questions political scientists have not answered about women’s suffrage. These three questions included: (1) “Why did it take so long to get the vote for women?,” (2) “Why did women themselves organize against their own enfranchisement?,” and (3) “Why was the vote won in the end?” (Pateman, 194). Pateman argued that the “tenacious resistance of opposition” was only part of the reason why it took women so long to gain the vote. Demanding the enfranchisement of women was perceived as a direct attack on the patriarchal order and the powers and privileges of men. Suffragists were asking society to redefine men’s and women’s roles where men would no longer be despotic and women would be individuals and not subordinates. Men monopolized public spheres and an attack on this system was perceived as an invasion of women and was responded many times with men reasserting their masculinity in violent ways. The length of struggle for the franchise was due to women posing a threat to social order and questioned the traditional views of what it meant to be a man or woman (Pateman, 195-197). Pateman stated that female anti-suffragists in Britain were elites who did not want to loose their unique private power over male leaders. However, since anti-suffragists in America came from varying social classes, these women organized against their own enfranchisement because of the perceived threat it posted against the family. This was largely framed in the fears of a loss of protection as women entered into economic competition with men, a loss of economic support by husbands, a loss of the protected status as a wife, and possible abandonment of men. Thus this “unsexing” of women and loss of femininity, would lead to a deterioration of the family structure (Pateman, 197-198). Pateman argued that the reason for the eventual enfranchisement of women was not because views of women changed, but that views about the vote changed. By the end of World War One, parties and governments were not afraid of women being part of the electorate, because they were more insulated from voter’s power. Additionally, Pateman argued that there was a “taming of the franchise” which meant the idea of parties and governments being men’s-only clubs abated. This “taming” also included the support of men’s leadership through women’s auxiliary clubs who pledged allegiances to political parties, thus lessening the threat of women to politics. Finally, the franchise was “tamed” as governments set up patriarchal welfare systems that offered “handouts” to women, which also enforced the “continuing power and privilege of men” (Pateman, 198-200).