All hail, the new suffragettes. But let's not try to fight too many battles

Do you prefer 'Suffragette', 'suffragist', 'feminist' or just 'pro-woman'? As the Pankhursts then and now remind us, it's deeds, not words that count

Share
Related Topics

Wonderful news this week that a glorious group of women marched on Parliament demanding equal rights for women and men. Led by Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, and organised by UK Feminista, they took to the streets to make MPs aware of urgent issues including the impact of cuts on women, the representation of women in Parliament, childcare access, and the low rate of prosecutions for rape.

Now, if you know only one thing about the original suffragettes, the simple version of history (which will do fine for now), it is that they chained themselves to railings demanding votes for women. And that this worked. So it’s not just that they’re known for one sole mission – they’re known for one sole mission that worked. Votes for women. Got them. Bam. “Deeds not words” was their rallying cry, repeated at this week’s march.

And so I find myself wondering if this New Suffragette movement, as it is known, might be trying so hard to bring every women’s issue and every woman with it that its voice is being lost in the multitudes.

I’m not suggesting people don’t need to bang very loudly on the doors of Downing Street to ask what the hell these men are up to, threatening to meddle with abortion rights, making cuts that hit women hardest, and all the other pressing stuff. I just wonder if a suffragette movement that carried on the specific work of its foremothers – say, representation of women in Parliament – would prove the harder hitter. And what a brilliant legacy it would be, if the first wave gave women the right to choose which man gets the power, and the great-granddaughters gave women every chance to be in power.

This all comes in the week when a survey says only one in six women in this country would call themselves a feminist. Well, I’m proud to be that one in six, but if other women aren’t, I'm not going to argue about a word, even one I love as much as feminism. If a gay man doesn’t want to describe himself as a homosexual because the word has, for him at least, rather gloomy and old-fashioned connotations, then he doesn’t have to. Similarly, if a woman who believes in equal pay and power doesn’t like the F word, her actions are more interesting anyway.

The twisting, shrinking corridors of semantics are full of trapdoors. Deeds not words, they said. Votes for women. Women being voted for. Men and women voting for men and women. Deeds not words. Bam.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?