“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens
can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” once said Margaret
Mead.?What’s included in “women’s rights”?
That has changed in focus over time. In ancient cultures, women had some rights
that women in later cultures did not have. The early feminists (early 19th
century and before) often focused on women’s education and property rights.
During the 19th century until 1920, women’s rights activists often focused on
suffrage. In the so-called second wave of feminism (1960s, 1970s) which was the
main progress in this field, women’s rights included reproductive rights,
economic rights, equality at home and in the workplace, and more.
To start with, we are going to introduce the social evolution
of women in terms of gender parity. We can then ask ourselves : in what sense can
women’s right be considered as a form of progress ?
First of all, let’s have a closer look on suffragettes,
as it is, indeed considered as the biggest wave of revolts in the history of
women. Militant political action among women began in Britain in 1903 with the
formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union for the right to vote. This
organization was led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her two daughters. Women of all
ages and classes demonstrated on a massive scale; however these demonstrators
were jailed, locked out of their meeting places, and thrown down the steps of
Parliament. National divisiveness ended in a truce at the outbreak of World War
I (1914) with the WSPU’s decision to support the war effort. The ensuing
mobilisation by the WSPU of thousands of its members for voluntary
participation in the war industries and support services was a highly
influential factor in overcoming government resistance to WSPU aims. The right
to vote was granted in 1918; it was confined to women age 30 and above though
1928 the voting age was lowered to 21.
But let’s look at a different point of view, and show the
evolution of equality between genders. To illustrate this point I am going to talk
about the movie Made in Dagenham, which is based on a true story. It explores
the movement that caused a significant law reform. An extract from the film
Made in Dagenham (2010) draws our attention to the fact that women were still
officially discriminated against in Great Britain in the second half of the
This extract takes place in a Ford car factory in London and
stages underpaid women who demand equal pay to men. Rita O’Grady, which is the
main character in this movie, leads this in the 1968 Ford Sewing category in
Dagenham. These women workers walk out of their job in order to protest against
sexual discrimination. This event causes This strike causes a lot of public
attention around the world and was seen as out of the ordinary to many because
it was not in a woman’s nature to do anything else other than the traditional
family roles. The strike is successful and leads to the Equal Pay Act 1970.
The fact that women were less paid than men for an equivalent
job relied on the idea that when it was done by a woman, a task was less
valuable. Once more, it took much determination to make mentalities evolve and
to obtain official and legal recognition.
To conclude we can se that the places of women in the world has
evolved over the years however nowadays women are still fighting for some small
inequalities that are present. But we can ask ourselves, are women going to be
more powerful than men one day? “Bah! Suffragettes. I’ve no time for
suffragettes. They made the biggest mistake in history. They went for equality.
They should have gone for power!”
? Jennifer Worth, Shadows of the Workhouse