BPB on Suffragettes

“Because of our social circumstances, male and female are really two cultures and their life experiences are utterly different.” — Kate Millett.

I am a product of my culture. I look at pictures of models on Instagram, I buy crap I don’t need and I don’t often think about the wider consequences of my ‘normal’ life. I don’t fail to recognise that this is a dumb way to be, but I live pretty comfortably. Anything for a quiet life.

A few days ago I went to see ‘Suffragette’. The women portrayed in that film did not fit the moulds of their culture. They recognised that the fight they were fighting (and it was a bloody fight) was a lot bigger than they were. They sacrificed their relationships, their children, their freedom and, Davison, her life, in the hope that women of future generations (that’s you & me, ladies) would hold an equal place as half the human race. Yes, we are half the people on this planet.

Kate Millett, a writer & social activist, argues that gender differences are rooted in our culture rather than our biology. That is, women behave in a different way to men because they are treated in a different way to men — this is still the case right here right now in 2015 (in case you didn’t know). Women still earn less money for doing the exact same thing, girls are still refused education in some countries, and some girls still suffer genital mutilation — just because they are women. It is absolutely backwards and we must change it. How? By educating our young people and rebuilding a fairer culture with their help.

We are conditioned to dress boys & girls differently, to speak to boys & girls differently — we even ‘naturally’ use different words to define boys & girls — for example, parents asked to describe their new-born infants use words like: ‘strong’ or ‘alert’ for boys and ‘delicate’ or ‘soft’ for girls. This has a great knock-on effect. For Millett, gender is “the sum total of the parents’, the peers’, and the culture’s notions of what is appropriate to each gender by way of temperament, character, interests, status, worth, gesture, and expression”[1] We can CHANGE that. Culture is plastic. Pankhurst & her followers changed our culture before the First World War and we must continue to do so.

Women learn behaviour that conveniently fits them into a specific social pattern. Women are socialized into slightly subordinate roles and men are conditioned to find submission in women sexy. The good news is that these behaviours are learned, and, with each new generation, we are gradually unlearning and creating more equal societies. We have come a long way but there’s still lots to do. So never give up the fight!

And please go and see the movie. Pay money to the people that have made this movie in the hope that they will make more like it. Take your sisters, daughters, mothers, husbands, sons, fathers, uncles and aunties. And make sure you talk about it afterwards.

[1] Millett, Sexual Politics, (University of Illinois Press, 2000) p.31

Originally published at bedpostblonde.tumblr.com. (17/10/2015)