I love to vote. I love researching policies and manifestos, parties, and people. I love the fact that I have a say and that in some small way, I can make a difference in this funny old world. The only thing I am sad about is that in this country we don't seem to get stickers after we vote. This is something I would like to change, so if you would like me to make an, 'I'm a voter' patch, hit me up!
But I know that this same adoration for the polling station is rare nowadays. In my constituency for the local elections last week, the turnout was around 44%. That's a lot of people not voting! Now, I'm not here to tell anyone off, but what I want to do with this blog post is to emphasise the long old journey this country has been on for universal suffrage. Seriously, it's no joke. Whenever it is time to vote, I cannot but think of the efforts of those before me. All I have to do now is pop over to my local community centre. It's hard to fathom that it was not always this way.
Having just recently voted myself, my mind has been going back to some of my heroes, the Suffragettes. A group of ordinary women who accomplished an extraoridnary task. The right to vote. In 1913, Emmeline Pankhurst gave a speech on a fundraising tour in the United States. She gave this talk while having a warrant on her head. What a woman! She said this:
"It is about eight years since the word militant was first used to describe what we were doing. It was not militant at all, except that it provoked militancy on the part of those who were opposed to it. When women asked questions in political meetings and failed to get answers, they were not doing anything militant. In Great Britain it is a custom, a time-honoured one, to ask questions of candidates for parliament and ask questions of members of the government. No man was ever put out of a public meeting for asking a question. The first people who were put out of a political meeting for asking questions, were women; they were brutally ill-used; they found themselves in jail before 24 hours had expired. We were called militant, and we were quite willing to accept the name. We were determined to press this question of the enfranchisement of women to the point where we were no longer to be ignored by the politicians."
I'd like to think that times have improved but in some walks of life I really don't think they have. Although there are more female ceo's and members of parliament, we still have so much work to do. I love how Pankhurst so confidently condemns the double standards found in her society. Even with a warrant over her head, she was not afraid to call out injustice. Inspiring!
I then came across an excerpt of a letter written in 1913 by Emeline Pankhurst calling for more militancy within the WSPU organisation. In it she said:
"There are degrees of militancy. Some women are able to go further than others in militant action and each woman is the judge of her own duty so far as that is concerned. To be militant in some way or other is, however, a moral obligation. It is a duty which every woman will owe to her own conscience and self-respect, to other women who are less fortunate than she is herself, and to all those who are to come after her."
I love the degrees of militantcy that Pankhurst discusses. There is always something we can do to help. Whether that be signing petitions, joining marches, or simply standing up for silenced voices. Let's be more Pankhurst shall we?
This letter also made me realise that voting without fear is still a privilege in this day and age. It is still my 'moral duty' to help other marginalised people. I found a really good article (here) that highlights how many people still struggle to vote. On that note, just this week, the Queen announced that from now on, to vote in the UK, members of the public will require photo ID. This may not sound like a big deal but photo ID's are not free. I read another interesting article on this new move by the government. It stressed the point that mandatory ID's would eventually undermine democaracy in this country. Therefore, this seemingly small and subtle change will prohibit so many from voting. Also, real cases of elecotral fraud are so ridicuolously low.. which makes you wonder, what is the real reason behind this change? Like my brother Josh always reminds me... Question everything!
So there it is. My love letter to voting, though sometimes it may be flawed and often the choice of candidate can be tricky... it's still a priviledge that needs fighting for and it is something that I hope to never take for granted.
Peace out pals,