As the centenary of Emily Davison's death approaches, we're reminded of how far we've come over the years, but also of the tough road that still lies ahead for women's rights. Davison was an incredibly prodigious activist in both life and death.
She fought arduously for women’s suffrage in Britain, leading her to be arrested nine times and force-fed a whopping 49 times. Her most infamous stunt involved stepping in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby, which injured her to the point of dying four days later, on June 8th of 1913.
The Guardian asked several important figures in the arts, politics, and science what has yet to be accomplished and what we should be fighting for now. Our favorite response came from actress, writer, and singer Rosario Dawson, whose statements stand out as particularly astute and thought-provoking.
“I’d fight for solidarity between men and women,” she asserts. “One big step would be to stop referring to problems which disproportionately affect women as ‘women’s issues,’ and to recognize they’re social problems that need to be tackled by everyone.”
She grounds her point in legitimate statistics – “women’s education, for instance, is central to the health and wealth of a nation, and should be factored into any good economic plan.” Investment in female education clearly yields a growth premium in GDP trends; narrowing the gender gap in employment can boost per capita income. Dawson continues eloquently: “Whenever I encounter anything to do with women’s rights…people often seem to roll their eyes, with the implication being: when can we get to more pressing matters. ‘Women’s issues’ will be relegated to 15 minutes, but what you’re talking about is the rights and welfare of half the planet.”
Although she feels passionately that there are significant strides to be made in the fight for equality, Dawson ends her statement on a positive note, expressing that there are many incredible men who are part of the movement already. “In Iran recently, for instance, a man convicted of domestic abuse was sentenced by the judge to dress as a woman and parade down the street – a big group of Kurdish men recognized that this was a misogynistic punishment and decided to respond. They posted pictures of themselves in drag, with the message: ‘Being a woman is not a humiliation or a punishment.’ That’s solidarity.”
Others had inspiring words to share as well, like English scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock.
“One problem we need to tackle is the way society pigeonholes people according to their sex, creating real barriers to female aspiration…People often respond with surprise to the fact that I’m a space scientist – they’re not expecting see a black woman in the role – and I’d like to see a time when those barriers didn’t exist,” says Aderin-Pocock.
Sir Patrick Stewart responds, “The backbone of a modern suffragette agenda must be this question: why, in 2013, do two women die every week as a result of domestic violence? This statistic is utterly incomprehensible to me. When I was a small child, I grew up witnessing domestic violence. It angers me that so little has changed since then – that countless women continue to live in fear, as my mother did.”
Former leader of the Respect Party (a socialist political party in the UK), Salma Yaqoob, points out that it is “not co-incidental that the target of Emily Davison’s protest one hundred years ago was the Epsom Derby: a symbol of privilege and tradition. It is important that feminists today do not lose sight of the importance of class and race, as the same power hierarchies which entrench economic inequality and racial division also act to privilege men over women.”
Source: The Guardian
Photos via The Guardian, RollingOut, and Google Images