13. Ballots Aren’t Necessary For Cleaning Sink Drains
Yes, this was a real argument for denying women the right to vote. After all, they were put on God’s green earth for one purpose and one purpose only: to take care of their husbands, children, and home. The right to vote was not just immoral, evil, and unethical; it just wasn’t necessary. Women did not need to vote, as all of their duties could easily be performed at home. Anything done outside the home might, heaven forbid, detract from their domestic chores.
I’m sure that the current and the next generation of men, who were shipped off to fight in World War I and World War II, were grateful for the women who could vote and work outside the home. As Rosie the Riveter showed, the strength of women in the public sphere was heavily relied on in holding the nation together while so many young men were overseas fighting. Good thing that the suffragettes had already paved the way for women to begin moving into essential positions.
After all, cleaning sink drains isn’t a necessary skill when your nation needs you to be building fighter planes.
This argument brings us around full circle, back to the “anti-feminism” surrounding the followers of Trump. Many people did not vote for Hillary Clinton, not because they didn’t agree with her policies, but because they just believed that there was a natural order, created by God, and according to that natural order, women need to remain at home. Hillary had violated that natural law; after all, her husband was known to have affairs and some believed he would have been faithful if she had been a good wife. Along with this same thinking, people feel Donald Trump should be supported, entirely regardless of his misogyny and emotional impulsivity, because men belong in politics and women belong at home.
Sadly, the concept of the “natural order” is one that generations of suffragettes and women’s rights advocates will have to fight in the future. It is one argument that will not go away. It finds its basis in different theologies that advocate patriarchy, in social theories that insist on the primacy of men, and even in biological sciences. The battle continues, not for the right to vote, but for the right for women to have equal rights, both at home and in the public sphere.
In the year 1910, when suffragettes were beginning to win the fight for the vote, Baroness Orczy, the author of The Scarlet Pimpernel, wrote a book entitled Petticoat Government. Like The Scarlet Pimpernel, Petticoat Government was about the French Revolution, the abuses of the aristocracy, and the ordinary people. Rather than critiquing the guillotine, however, it looked at the massive influence that Madame de Pompadour, a mistress of King Louis XV, held over the French government. This critique of women in government — written by a woman — did not concern the dealings of an elected official but rather someone that many considered to be a prostitute.
One concern about giving women the right to vote was that the government would fall under “petticoat rule,” meaning that it would come to be run entirely by women. Considering that women were not viewed as being competent in their own right but instead were expected to stand beside their husbands, this ideal was seen quite negatively. Today, though, there are entire cities that are run exclusively by women, and some countries are contemplating what the repercussions of a solely female government might be.
Perhaps there is something to this argument, after all. Also, maybe a “petticoat government” wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
16. The Evil Women May Incur Is Worse Than The Good They Already Have
Like plenty of the previous arguments given against women’s suffrage, this one contains several rather obvious false assumptions. The first false assumption is that the government, as it currently existed, was excellent. However, the era of the women’s suffrage movement came to be known as “the gilded age,” because though it looked clean and pleasant on the outside, the government was rife with corruption, infighting, and greed. Trusts and monopolies had become even more powerful than the government, and the progress of building the American railroad was destroying the environment. The men’s government, which did not allow women to vote, was sorely lacking in morality and foresight for the future.
The second false assumption is that evil will be the result of women getting the right to vote. There would not only be uneducated, emotional women finding themselves exposed and torn apart at the voting booths, but the very fabric of society — concerning the separate roles of men and women — would be torn asunder. The result could only be complete social decay.
However, what did women voting bring about? Social progress and reform, leading up to the rights of African Americans to vote and today fighting against gender discrimination and harassment.
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