Saturday, November 23, 2019

A New List of Anti-Suffragist Reasons

A New List of Anti-Suffragist Reasons Alice Duer Miller, a writer and poet, wrote a column in the early 20th century for the  New York Tribune  called Are Women People? In this column, she satirized the ideas of the anti-suffrage movement, as a way of promoting womens suffrage. These were published in 1915 in a book by the same name. In this column, she sums up reasons given by the anti-suffrage forces arguing against the womens vote. Millers dry humor comes through as she pairs reasons that contradict each other. Through this simple pairing of mutually contradictory arguments of the anti-suffrage movement, she hopes to show that that their positions are self-defeating. Below these excerpts, youll find additional information about the arguments made. Our Own Twelve Anti-Suffragist Reasons Because no woman will leave her domestic duties to vote.Because no woman who may vote will attend to her domestic duties.Because it will make dissension between husband and wife.Because every woman will vote as her husband tells her to.Because bad women will corrupt politics.Because bad politics will corrupt women.Because women have no power of organization.Because women will form a solid party and outvote men.Because men and women are so different that they must stick to different duties.Because men and women are so much alike that men, with one vote each, can represent their own views and ours too.Because women cannot use force.Because the militants did use force. Reasons #1 and #2 Arguments #1 and #2 are both based on the assumption that a woman has domestic duties, and is based on the separate spheres ideology  that women belong in the domestic sphere, taking care of the home and the children, while men belong in the public sphere. In this ideology, women ruled the domestic sphere and men the public sphere- women had domestic duties and men had public duties. In this division, voting is part of public duties, and thus not a womans proper place. Both arguments assume that women have domestic duties, and both assume that domestic duties and public duties cannot both be attended to by women. In argument #1, its assumed that all women (all being an obvious exaggeration) will chose to stick with their domestic duties, and thus wont vote even if they win the vote. In argument #2, its assumed that if women are permitted to vote, that they will all then abandon completely their domestic duties. Cartoons of the time often emphasized the latter point, showing men for ced into domestic duties. Reasons #3 and #4 In  arguments #3 and #4, the common topic is the effect of a womans vote on marriage, and both assume that husband and wife will discuss their votes. The first of these arguments assumes that if the husband and wife differ on how theyll vote, the fact that she is able to actually cast a vote will make for dissension in the marriage- assuming either that he wont care about her disagreement with his vote if he is the only one to cast a vote, or that she wont mention her disagreement unless shes permitted to vote. In the second, its assumed that all husbands have the power to tell their wives how to vote, and that the wives will obey. A third related argument, not documented in Millers list, was that women already had undue influence on voting because they could influence their husbands and then vote themselves, assuming apparently that women had more influence than men than vice versa. The arguments assume different outcomes when a husband and wife disagree about their vote: that the dissension will be a problem only if the woman can vote, that the woman will obey her husband, and in the third argument which Miller doesnt include, that the woman is more likely to shape her husbands vote than vice versa. Not all can be true of all couples who disagree, nor is it a given that husbands will know what their wives votes will be. Or, for that matter, that all women who will vote are married. Reasons #5 and #6 In this time period, machine politics and their corrupting influence was a common theme already. A few argued for the educated vote, assuming that many who were uneducated voted merely as the political machine wanted them to. In the words of one speaker in 1909, documented in the  New York Times,  The great majority of the Republicans and Democrats follow their leader to the polls as the children followed the Pied Piper. The domestic sphere ideology that assigns women to the home and men to public life (business, politics) is also assumed here. Part of this ideology assumes that women are more pure than men, less corrupt, in part because they are not in the public realm.  Women who are not properly in their place are bad women, and thus #5 argues that they will corrupt politics (as if its not corrupt already). Argument #6 assumes that women, protected by not having the vote from the corrupting influence of politics, will become corrupted by participating actively. This ignores that if politics is corrupt, the influence on women is already a negative influence. One key argument of the pro-suffrage activists is that in corrupt politics, the pure motives of women entering the political realm will clean it up. This argument may be criticized as similarly exaggerated and based on assumptions about womens proper place. Reasons #7 and #8 Pro-suffrage arguments included that womens vote would be good for the country because it would lead to needed reforms. Because there was no national experience with what would happen if women could vote, two contradictory predictions were possible by those who opposed womens vote. In reason #7, the assumption was that women were not organized politically, ignoring their organization to win the vote, work for temperance laws, work for social reforms. If women werent organized politically, then their votes wouldnt be very different from those of men, and there would be no effect of women voting. In reason #8, the pro-suffrage argument about the influence of women in voting was seen as something to fear, that what was already in place, supported by the men who voted, could be overturned if women voted. So these two arguments were mutually incompatible: either women would have an effect on the outcome of voting, or they would not. Reasons #9 and #10 In #9, the anti-suffrage argument is back to the separate spheres ideology, that mens sphere and womens spheres are justified because men and women are so different, and thus women are necessarily excluded by their nature from the political realm including voting. In #10, an opposite argument is mustered, that wives will vote the same as their husband anyway, to justify that women voting is unnecessary because men can vote what was sometimes called at the time a family vote. Reason #10 is also in tension with arguments #3 and #4 which assume that wife and husband will often have disagreement about how to vote. Part of the separate spheres argument was that women were by nature more peaceful, less aggressive, and thus unsuited to the public sphere. Or, in contrast, the argument was that women were by nature more emotional, potentially more aggressive and violent, and that women were to be relegated to the private sphere so that their emotions would be held in check. Reasons #11 and #12 Reason #11 assumes that voting sometimes is related to the use of force- voting for candidates who might be pro-war or pro-policing, for instance. Or that politics itself is about force. And then assuming that women are by nature unable to be aggressive or support aggression. Argument #12 justifies being against women voting, pointing to the force used by British and later American suffrage movements. The argument calls up images of Emmeline Pankhurst, women smashing windows in London, and plays into the idea that women are to be controlled by keeping them in the private, domestic sphere. Reductio ad absurdum Alice Duer Millers popular columns on the anti-suffrage arguments often played on similar  reductio ad absurdum  logical argument, attempting to show that if one followed all the anti-suffrage arguments, an absurd and untenable result followed, as the arguments contradicted each other. The assumptions behind some arguments, or the conclusions predicted, were impossible to both be true. Were some of these strawman arguments- that is, a refutation of an argument that wasnt really being made, an inaccurate view of the other sides argument? When Miller characterizes the opposing arguments as implying that  all  women or  all  couples would do one thing, she may move into strawman territory. While sometimes exaggerating, and perhaps weakening her argument if she were in a merely logical discussion, her purpose was satire- to highlight through her dry humor the contradictions inherent in the arguments against women getting the vote.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.