Tag Archives: Politics

Response to the Movie Iron Jawed Angels…

Our class watched the movie Iron Jawed Angels. The movie follows (primarily) Alice Paul and Lucy Burns as they helped give the final push of the Woman’s suffrage movement in the 1910’s, culminating in the passage of the 19th amendment. The director is German woman, and the cast is made up of women from several English-speaking countries.

A big plot point in the movie was the clash of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which had been working towards the goal of women’s suffrage for a several decades, and the National Woman’s Party (NWP), created by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns in 1913. The two thought women had waited long enough for the vote, and their participation in the British suffrage movement taught them aggressive tactics, like street protests, specifically parades and, famously, the “Silent Sentinels.” They wanted to use these tactics in the U.S. (while  in the U.K., Alice Paul was actually arrested seven times, jailed three, and used hunger strikes while in prison, as she did in the U.S. later). Though both parties were working towards the same goals, NAWSA didn’t approve of the NWP’s tactics, especially President of NAWSA Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, who resigned in 1915 in the face of pressure to support the NWP. She thought there was a more peaceful way the vote could be won.

For this blog post, I’m supposed to tell you which organization I’d join—the NAWSA or the NWP. It easy for us to say now that we would join one or the other. There is no danger in speculating. I will try to answer this question as honestly as possible.

I would like to say I would join the NWP—they were courageous women who did something extremely outlandish for their time, and pushed the final move for the Women’s vote. I feel that perhaps if it was that time period, and I was a woman of means with parents who would still support me (or at least a paid worker of the NWP), perhaps I would join it. However, part of me believes I would be too afraid. When the Occupy Wall Street protests were happening in my Sophomore year of high school, I looked into the protest group in my area. They were picketing a national bank. I had fire in my eyes; I messaged the leader of the group and everything, to see if there was a place for a 16 year old (and my 15 year old friend). Due to a combination of lack of transportation (my mom humors me when I’m in the comfort of our home, but she wouldn’t take me somewhere to further my political activities, which I don’t blame her for), and, I think, a fear that stopped me from finding another way, I didn’t do it.

I did, however, make fact sheets about the movement, and posted them around my school while wearing one of my brother’s giant sweatshirts with the hood up. It was quite and subdued, but it did something for the movement—like the NAWSA.

So, in all likelihood, I would have joined the NAWSA. They didn’t really face violence, but I am all too sure they faced the threat of it and the general anger of others by having the positions they did. And to this, I am no stranger (I wrote a another post about the cryptic situation to which I am referring, but I fear I may not publish it after all).

Real Silent Sentinels

Real Silent Sentinels

I think this post would benefit from a list of the suffragists in the movie, and what they are most notable for. We aren’t often exposed to this part of history in media, and in school exposure is just as dismal. This movie is awesome for that reason! It gives us history in a neat, friendly, easy to digest chunk. It has its flaws, yes, but I believe the good outweighs the bad.

Oh, and a side note: I recently learned suffragette was a derogatory term that British suffragists used subversively, but in America this didn’t happen.

So here goes…

  • Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw—President of NAWSA from 1904-1915, a physician, and the first ordained female Methodist minister
  • Carrie Chapman Catt—President of NAWSA from 1915 to 1947, founder of the League of Women Voters, the International Alliance of Women, the Protest Committee of Non-Jewish Women Against the Persecution of Jews in Germany (which made her the first woman to win the American Hebrew Medal),
  • Ida B. Wells-Barnett—born a slave the year before the Emancipation Proclamation, became a teacher, sociologist, investigative journalist, editor, publisher, and book writer, co-founder of the NAACP, did notable work about lynching, refused to give up her train seat 71 years before Rosa Parks and won a settlement against the railroad company (there were many more people who did this; the selection of Rosa Parks as an icon for the movement is an interesting story for another post), the fact that she was only featured in the movie for a few lines and another silent scene is sad.
  • Alice Paul—leader of the Congressional Committee of NAWSA until becoming a founder of the NWP, part of the Women’s Social and Political Union in the U.K., earned a Doctorate in 1928, part of the Silent Sentinels protests, one of the women jailed for protesting (force fed after hunger strikes), original author of the Equal Rights Amendment that didn’t get to senate until 1972 and was 3 states away from becoming an amendment (it still isn’t one)
  • Lucy Burns—leader of the Congressional Committee of NAWSA until becoming a founder of the NWP, studied at Oxford University, worked in the Women’s Social and Political Union in the U.K., part of the Silent Sentinels protests, spent the most time of any women in the movement jailed for protesting (also force fed)
  • Doris Stevens—regional organizer for NAWSA, member of NWP, a participant in the Silent Sentinels protests, one of the women jailed for protesting (she wrote a book about it, Jailed for Freedom), supported feminist studies as an academic field (yay! one of my three majors!)
  • Mabel Vernon—member of the NWP, responsible for managing the Silent Sentinels protests, one of the women jailed for protesting
  • Harriot Eaton Stanton Blatch—daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founded the Woman’s Political Union that merged with the NWP in 1915
  • Inez Mulholland—a female lawyer, protester for pacifism in World War I, member of the NAACP, the Women’s Trade Union League, the Women’s Political Union, the National Child Labor Committee, England’s Fabian Society, NAWSA, and NWP, Fun fact: she was suspended from her college for organizing a women’s rights meeting; she held regular “classes” on the matter (makes me think of Dumbledore’s Army in Harry Potter)

Whelp, I have another post coming literally right after this one, and three more before this time next week.

Thanks for reading!

Women in Government–If this were a survey, the results would be rubbish!

Women are dramatically underrepresented in our government. They share this under representation with other minority groups (and I’m using that term in its sociological definition—a group that is subset from the social majority which holds most of the power in a society—and not it’s “popular” definition [and I say that with as much feigned-butsortofactual-disdain as possible] of numerical majority, since, you know, women are the numerical majority *phew*).

This is a problem. It’s sad that I even need to say that. Or that there may be people reading this that disagree.

In 2013, women make up 18.3% of the U.S. Congress. There are only 5 female Governors. That’s 10% guys.

50.8% of the U.S. population is female!

Oh, and don’t sit nice and comfy in front of your computer thinking haughtily “at least the U.S. is better than other places.” Oh no…Oh no honey, it isn’t though. According to the UN’s infographic Women in Politics 2012, we place 78th in a ranking of countries by women in congress. That’s 78th place after other places tie with each other. We actually tie too–with Turkmenistan.

If you’re one of those people who think Muslim women are super oppressed in “their own” countries, I’ll be glad to burst your superiority bubble. Of the 15 countries with the highest populations of Muslims in the world, 9, (N-I-N-E!) beat us when it comes to female representation in government. In fact, most of the nations we deem “developing countries” beat us as well!

Now, discussions like this tend to start leaning towards the idea of biological and set femininity—that women are better at handling issues related to women because it’s something inherent in them. I’d like to break that part of the discussion right now. According to Unicef’s The State of the World’s Children 2007,

“Women are often exposed to different patterns of socialization and have different life experiences than men and are likely to bring their experience and expertise to bear on their political decisions. While important changes have been taking place over the past few decades, in most countries, women still bear the main caregiving responsibilities for their families, including children and the elderly” (54).

These patterns of socialization are also why women are less likely to run for office. Many women aren’t socialized to think they can hold a political office, so they don’t strive for it as much as men who are socialized to think they can. The effect of this socialization floods into many other fields (STEM, I’m looking at you! >.>)

A good way to think about the problem of under representation of women in government lies in sociological research. The idea that a sample must be an accurate representation of the total population being researched is constantly drilled into the Sociology student’s head. In order to collect data from a sample (the group of people who were picked to participate) that actually represents the total population, you need to make sure that it’s made up of individuals that actually match the characteristics of the population.

If you’re doing a study that isn’t about gender or race, and you want to make sure these variables don’t disproportionately affect your results, there are sampling methods to help you do this.  One is especially good at representing the ideas of the total population as a whole, by making sure the proportions of people in the sample are the same as in the population—it’s called proportionate stratified sampling. If 10% of a certain population is female, 10% of your sample should be randomly selected females. If 20% of the population is white, 20% of the sample is white.

If, however, a researcher wanted to know how the opinions of different genders or races differ, you need to have a sample size of each category so you have enough data from each to do a comparison (this could be used if, say, you wanted to do a survey on women’s vs. men’s opinions in the field of engineering). This is called disproportionate stratified sampling.

The key with disproportionate stratified sampling is, you want more opinions from a certain group.

Hehehee, the only public domain picture I could find was of one of former President Bush's State of the Union addresses, though, he did appoint Condeleeza Rice as Secretary of State, so perhaps he applies more positively than one may think to this post.

Hehehee, the only public domain picture I could find was of one of former President Bush’s State of the Union addresses, though, he did appoint Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, so perhaps he applies more positively than one may think to this post.

Hopefully, you can see how I think this applies to the government. If the sample (elected officials) is unrepresentative of the population (the U.S. citizens), how can their ideas truly represent the whole? Spoiler: they can’t. No, the “sample” has a disproportionate number of men than the total population, and that metaphorically makes it a disproportionate stratified sample. Their opinions are inordinately overrepresented. Unfortunately, “unrepresentative” in that first sentence applies to literal government representation—elected officials are meant to carry out the will of the citizens who elect them.

Some may say “Men can represent women just as well as women can!” That could be and in some cases is very true! Unfortunately, most of the men in government simply don’t pay enough attention to issues that affect women. That Unicef’s The State of the World’s Children 2007 thing from earlier also stated,

“A study of legislatures in the United States, for example, found that women feel a special responsibility to represent other women and consider themselves more capable of representing their interests ” (54).

Women don’t just think they are more capable of representing other women’s interests, they really do represent them. According to the UN’s infographic Women in Politics 2012, of the 1065 portfolios held by Women Ministers (in government, of course), in 188 countries, 98 fell in the category of “Social Affairs” (9.2%), 79 in the category of “Family/Children/Youth/Elderly/Disabled” (7.4%), 73 in the category of “Women’s Affairs/Gender Equality” (6.9%), and 68 in “Education” and in “Employment/Labour/Vocational Training” (6.4%).

Women in government truly do advocate for other women (though, it should be noted, although women are more likely than men to advocate for women’s issues, not all women advocate for women’s issues.)

So don’t let your subconscious prejudices hold you back—go out and vote for your qualified female mayors, representatives, senators, and governors!