In 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote for the first time. It was the culmination of decades of work by women from varying backgrounds and just as varied goals. However, they all shared a vision that women should be part of the political process in the United States.
One woman was Susan B. Anthony. Described as compassionate and having a keen mind, she was a fierce abolitionist and led the legal crusade to allow women to keep their own property and earnings. She once said,
Forget conventionalisms; forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, work your best works, looking to your own conscience for approval.
Her newspaper, The Revolution, extolled the virtues of motherhood and marriage, while maintaining that women needed a political role in helping to define laws that, while not defying moral law, would create a safer society for women and children.
One wonders what Miss Anthony would think of this election season. As Jennifer Marshall notes, we seem to be going backwards on women’s dignity:
Women’s liberation is parodying itself in “The First Time” spot featuring Lena Dunham, 26-year-old creator of the shockingly sexualized HBO series Girls.
“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody,” Dunham provocatively begins the ad. “You want to do it with a great guy.”
“My first time voting was amazing,” says Dunham. She salaciously describes her vote for Barack Obama as a rite of passage to womanhood, dangling a policy teaser about free birth control along the way.
It is an astonishingly base, sex-centric monologue that degrades public discourse and demeans young women in particular.
As Ms. Marshall points out, we’ve gotten to a point where women are allowing their sexuality to be objectified for political purposes. Rather than thinking our best thoughts and speaking our best words, some women seem to be satisfied with titillating campaign videos and innuendo for electoral purposes. She concludes, “To sexually pander toward the youth vote is to degrade the sober calling of citizenship. And to so trivialize female sexuality is to deal a setback to the dignity of women.”
I can’t help but think Susan B. Anthony would agree.
Read Jennifer Marshall’s “Backward on Women’s Dignity” here.