Something peculiar happens to me whenever I enter my local polling station during an election. I involuntarily burst into tears. Every time. Sometimes it might be a solitary tear running down the cheek, at other times uncontrollable ugly sobbing, but I inevitably come out bleary eyed and needing a stiff drink.
The funny thing is – I know absolutely nothing about politics. I know that I am ‘left-leaning’ – not a raging Commie, but I sympathise with leftist principles and I believe in equality for all… in fact I’ll stop there, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t got a clue what my personal politics are. So, why the tears? It’s as if every time I exercise my right to vote the spirits of the millions of women who were never able to exercise this basic human right rise up and remind me of how lucky I am.
It scares me to think that as recently as a hundred years ago, I would not have been able to do this. Every aspect of my life would have been decided by men. Just think about that for a moment. I might have had some influence, but no rights at all. The men in charge believed if women were allowed to vote it would ‘upset the system’. Sadly, this is still the case in some countries in the world.
But thanks to those brave women and men of the suffrage movement who pursued the issue, both peacefully and violently, and continued even when horrible events threatened to halt them, such as Emily Davison famously dying under the King’s horse or the imprisoned suffragettes on hunger strike less famously being force fed through the rectum, our voices can be heard. Without them, I would not be writing this.
Here’s a mind-blowing theory: If the history of the earth was condensed into one year, humanity would appear at about 6pm on New Year’s Eve, and the modern industrial era would start at about 2 seconds to midnight which therefore means women have only had the vote for less than a second! There’s still a lot of work to do.
A lot of my friends are like me in that they have no tangible political persuasion so they rarely, if ever, use their vote. It’s a hassle to research who the political candidates are and to find out who’s lying about what policy this time and who’s going to make the most changes to your community, but it’s worth it. I usually cram the night before, check out their manifestos and decide who I trust the most. Then, with a good supply of tissues, head to the polling station and proudly handover my polling card. I just wish every woman in the world had the same right.
This is why we have to keep making use of this privilege and make our voices heard, only that way will our sisters all over the world one day be heard too.
So, even if you don’t know what your personal politics are and if the only thing you know about the Suffragettes is the ‘Votes For Women – Step In Time!’ song from Mary Poppins, make sure you use your vote the next time you are called upon. Your gender needs you.