White Feminism Is Annoying

MacDonald, Robin. 1998. “‘White Feather’ Feminism.” Itech.Fgcu.Edu. January 13. http://itech.fgcu.edu/&/issues/vol1/issue1/feather.htm is worth reading for a historical account of Pankhurst’s World War I strategy of combining the pro-suffrage and pro-enlistment movements via the now notorious “White Feather” movement.

Her daughter devised the strategy of the “war between the sexes” to recruit working class women in what had, until then, been an effort to secure the vote for wealthy white women only.

Briefly, the Pankhursts shrewdly exploited the vulnerability of working class boys and young men — none of whom could vote — by shaming them into enlisting. By “feathering” them (as it was called), women could establish (risk free) their own patriotism while simultaneouly manufacturing the appearance of weakness in men.

They would organise marches targeting men for “feathering”, many of whom were on brief recuperative home vists between fighting, while some as young as 16 committed suicide as a result:

Mrs. Pankhurst toured the country, making recruiting speeches. Her supporters handed the white feather to every young man they encountered wearing civilian dress, and bobbed up at Hyde Park meetings with placards: “Intern Them All.”

In the mythology of feminism, women are pacifists and men are aggressors. The Pankhursts, in fact, toured both America and Russia urging women to commit their wavering menfolk to a war in which millions of men lost their lives.

The least that men can do is that every man of fighting age should prepare himself to redeem his word to women, and to make ready to do his best, to save the mothers, the wives and daughters of Great Britain from outrage too horrible even to think of

— Emmeline Pankhurst

We offered our service to the country and called upon all members to do likewise . . . . As Mother said, ‘What would be the good of a vote without a country to vote in!’ . . . . She called for wartime military conscription for men, believing that this was democratic and equitable, and that it would enable a more ordered and effective use of the nation’s man power.

It’s not known how much of the post-war anti-feminist backlash can be attributed to the nastiness of Pankhursts methods, which were regarded after the War as having been in extremely poor taste.

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