Thursday, 30 May 2013

What kind of women's voices can you hear?

On this day in 1431 Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Her life was so interesting that this blog could cover anything from the power of religion in wartime, to visions of angels, to the Hundred Years War, but I'm more concerned here with the power of her voice.

When she first took charge of an army in 1429 she insisted on the removal of all camp prostitutes. She forced the men to attend Church. She banned swearing and the looting of local civilians. The result was not an uproar from the French army but a boost in morale. They were now fighting with a powerful woman, a saint-like figure, at their head rather than the unsuccessful Charles VII. Yet, ultimately she paid the price for her powerful voice.

Move on to this day one hundred years ago. Emily Davison would have been planning her great bid to make England's leaders listen to her and her fellow Suffragettes. She had not planned to kill herself. She had a return train ticket in her pocket when, on 4th June 1913, she fell beneath the hooves of the King's horse but she intended to make the headlines, to make sure that women's voices would be heard.

Fast forward to today. We may have votes for women but only four of the UK Government's twenty-seven cabinet ministers are female, such a disgraceful statistic that it has earned a paragraph all to itself.

So what kind of women's voices can I hear? Ones that tell of girls being groomed by men for under-age sex, forced marriages, child brides, refusals for women bishops while yet more stories emerge of priests abusing children. I could continue but it's far too depressing so I'll end with a question, albeit a rhetorical one...

When will women's voices tell a more positive story?

30 comments:

  1. Very interesting Rosalind. I think more women should be heard,

    Yvonne

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    1. Certainly in our government, they should. Is it the same where you are?

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  2. Big applause for you for speaking out. I've asked myself that question hundreds of times but honestly have no answer. In fact, I sometimes fear we're going backwards--with the cooperation of far too many in the sisterhood. In several of our states, the use of the birth control pill is being challenged. Sad, eh?

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    1. Thanks, Kittie, that's very sad that the birth control pill is being challenged. That was what contributed to women's emancipation from the nursery in the 1960s.

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  3. I think we still have a very long way to go.

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    1. I agree, but are we travelling in the right direction?

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  4. thought provoking as always. Women's voices keep getting stronger, in my opinion here in the US, however there are always setbacks. Sometimes it's the behind the scenes work where women succeed. The Dallas City Manager, Mary Suhm, just retired and she's worked wonders for Dallas without tooting her own horn. Lots of food for thought.

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    1. Thanks, Joanne, that's encouraging that you feel women's voices are heard behind the scenes in Dallas. I'm not convinced it's the same in the UK.

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  5. Good post but as to the question of when will women's voices tell a more positive story......... Most likely when men are able to bear the children.

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  6. I love this post. I will have to look up Emily Davison. I agree that as women, we have the opportunity to show future generations of females that we are fit for leadership roles! It is not always easy, depending on the circles in which we find ourselves, but now is the time to make it happen!

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    1. The problem with going for leadership roles is that we're still being expected to take all the responsibility of running the house and having the children too. It's not possible to do everything.

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  7. A very good post Ros....I was only taking someone to task the other week during our local council elections, about making our voices heard. Some suffragettes literally gave their lives so that we women could have the vote, and I think it's scandalous that some women don't use their votes. So yes, we can make our voices heard through free elections,on local committees etc.

    But most of all we can ensure our positive stories can be heard...leading by example..and ensuring that our children listen!

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    1. Thanks, Bridget. I get incensed when people don't or won't vote. It's the very least we can do.

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  8. When indeed. My OH is Vice-President of or community and a ffebel one at best. I could do a much better job - but this is Tenerife - they don't elect women.

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    1. Sorry to hear that Tenerife is even further behind the UK!

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  9. I thought of Malala, there is something in her fearless strength that should inspire us all. I also feel that here in the U.S., women are getting stronger, a couple of really great women were elected to the senate and congress last year. And then there's Hilary, of course. But there's also a huge backlash against women by old rich white men, but I don't think women can be held back. It will take a lot more time, but I feel a change is gonna come.Thanks for this thought provoking post.

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    1. I hope you're right, Inger, because I believe that only women can bring about peace.

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  10. When will we hear a positive voice from women? When women speak up... like you just did. When more women are willing to seek leadership positions. Are there so few females in government positions because they can't get elected... or because so few are willing to run? I know far too many women who don't even follow the news or bother to vote. That isn't oppression; it's apathy.

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    1. Yes it's annoying when some women don't try but I feel sad about those who aren't allowed.

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  11. Did you see the programme on the BBC about Emily Dickenson and the suffragetes? It was fascinating - taking for granted that women's voices should be heard and working from there.

    And when will we hear more positive stories? Maybe we should shout about our own, and our mothers' and grandmothers'. These are the real stuff of history, not battles and backstabbing.

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    1. It would be lovely if we all shouted out but I fear it would also be an eye opener. Many women don't have positive stories to shout about.

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  12. Hi Ros .. you beat me with the Emily Davison story - I was going to post mine yesterday, but changed to today after the Healthy bloghop I eventually joined in with ..

    Interesting to read your thoughts and everyone's comments - thankfully some men relate and understand we're all equal and have stood up for us .. we just need more pillars of society ...

    I like Manzanita's comment ...... w h e n ... men can bear to have babies, let alone have them!

    Cheers and let's hope we have a sunny weekend ... Hilary

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    1. Yes, it is interesting to hear everyone's thoughts and your post is fascinating with bags more info than mine so if anyone hasn't been over then do pop over to Hilary's blog :-)

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  13. I am amazed at the lengths women went to in the past to achieve a goal ...more so as it was a goal they sought for others, not themselves. Will today's generation be so bold, I wonder? I am not sure.

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  14. I guess that'll happen when people stop seeing things in terms of gender and rather in terms of humanity.

    Will it happen? Probably not. People are too prone to categorize by things they can see.

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  15. Interesting, Rosalind. I just discovered an old British series called Bramwell. It's about a woman doctor in London in the 1800s. I'm not sure if it's based on a real woman, but seems it could be. Dr. Bramwell is a strong voice for women's health in the series's story. I find it appalling some of the things women had to deal with in the 1800s--for instance the removal of ovaries for mental depression!!

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  16. What a great post it really makes you think. Can I see present day or even future women going to such lengths as women in the past I'm not sure I can, but I hope so.

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  17. Great stories about strong women.At the moment I don't rate the women in government either in England or Scotland,they don't seem to live in the real world and don't understand the problems facing today's families. Women on TV are not potrayed well.Look at This Morning TV show,they always have two women on arguing for or against various topics and all the do is shout and throw insults,no one wants to listen to the others point of view.The apprentice is supposed to have women taking part who are the top of their game,they all have degrees or are in local politics or own a business and yet they shout and bawl at each other and actually dress and look like painted dolls.Not good role models. We are our own worst enemies and need a few more of the good women out there to step forward.

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  18. That's really interesting, thank you for that. Its so easy to forget that its still not a fair playing field in the gender stakes. I am very lucky that our government have been well represented by both genders (a few years ago we even had a transgender Member of Parliament). There is still some way to go but I am wondering if the reason for the low participation by females, in politics, is because parliament can behave like children in a playground, with little resolved,and at the expense of the taxpayer. I am grateful for Kate Sheppard, New Zealand suffragette, and the woman who got New Zealand woman, the vote. Slow in coming, but we got there eventually. Maybe not enough women are encouraging other women(who could tolerate the childish antics and power games of parliamentary work) to step into the political arena.By the way, I enjoy your blog.

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