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?