Interview – Kathryn MacPherson, undergraduate student, 21


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The Independent Online

Interviewer (RM): Do you vote (regularly, rarely etc.)?

Kathryn MacPherson (KM): Almost every single opportunity presented to me, be it civic or for the SU [Students’ Union], or anything in between. Way I see it, if I don't know the issues at stake, I can learn in order to make an educated vote - never a bad thing. And people endangered their relationships, jobs, families and lives just so I could vote unimpeded. I don't think that's something to take for granted, and I really try not to. However, I didn't do things like vote for local PCC, because I don't think I can justify making decisions for a town I only live in sometimes, and also couldn't even begin to find the building. My bad.

RM: Do you feel voting is a duty?

KM: In many ways - I do subscribe to that old adage that you can't complain if you don't vote, and I love complaining. And I think people do need to understand that being a citizen is a relationship of reciprocity; not the Big Man handing down edicts from on high - not if you, en masse as a people, decide otherwise.

RM: Would you say you take your right to vote for granted?

KM: Sometimes you do lose sight of how so many people are disenfranchised worldwide, and what that actually means - to have lived an entire lifetime with no civic rights, no idea of what it means that your opinion, unqualified though it is, matters (however infinitesimally) to those who dictate so much of your life.

RM: Would you say you value your right to vote?

KM: I absolutely value my right to vote - as a member of a sector of society which doubly couldn't vote, I feel like two fights were fought for me and other black women - one against racism, one against sexism. That we've reached the societal point when I can vote without so much as a raised eyebrow thrills me every time I get to do it.

RM: What about your peers? Do you think they take their right to vote for granted, do you think they value it, do you think they vote at all?

KM: I do think young people take the ability to vote for granted. As I say, we've lived our whole lives taught that our opinions matter, our voices should be heard - we don't fear our own intellectual independence. Right or wrong, we can say it without fear of persecution - at least in the eyes of the law. It's just a lack of empathy on a lot of people's parts.

RM: How would you rate the knowledge of young women in general on the suffragettes?

KM: I think young women have quite an abstract idea of what the suffragette movement did for them? They're aware that they made their lives what they are, but don't know exactly what those changes were? Or have any idea of what was sacrificed.

RM: Do you consider your right to vote as being any different from that of man, if so in what way?

KM: In an ideal world, no. And I will always appreciate that when it comes down to it, my vote counts for the exact same as a man's does, and vice versa, no matter if it's a 'men's' or 'women's' issue we're voting on. But I do think that voting should mean more to women, because we haven't always had it - just like we haven't always had a lot of things.

RM: Have you heard of Emily Wilding Davison? (If so, do you know who she is?)

Emily Davison is GREAT. Duly without Wikipedia-ing it, she was the one who was killed at the races, right? And at some point she threw herself down 10 flights of stairs and fucked up her spine in protest at something? Without knowing exactly what rights she was campaigning for women to have, I appreciate her voice, and oddly, a respect for her devoting her body to her cause. Men undergo physical trauma every day in the name of sports (it's really interesting looking into the prevalence of mental health issues/suicide in ex-NFL players, for what it's worth...), women only ever suffer in childbirth, as far as the public eye is concerned. Nice, in as respectful a way as I can say it, to have a woman in history who used her body for what it could DO, not what it could produce.