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What Would Pankhurst Think Of Us Now?

On Friday, if you were able to squeeze onto a Magic Bus in the mad dash to Uni, you may have been able to hastily pick up the brilliantly trashy collective of news articles, that is the Metro. Let’s face it, much of the journalism in the newspaper isn’t exactly ground breaking, and I once overheard someone say that “the metro was just reedit three days ago.”

As much as I love to question the journalism quality of tabloids, the purpose of this article is not Metro bashing!

The reason why I mention last week’s paper, is that there was a feature article about continuation social activism within the Pankhurst family line, and social activism within the country. Though it’s wonderful and lovely that the next generation of Pankhurst women are going to the picket line on International Women’s Day march in London, it avoids asking one serious question. A question which I couldn’t help ponder that morning at 5am, on my way to see my friend in Exeter: What would Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst make of us, the next generation of female citizens of Britain, today? Would they feel as though their long fight for equality was worth it?

In many ways, I think that the Pankhurst Sisters would be incredibly proud of us. There has been some substantial female achievement and contribution in this country, and worldwide, in nearly every industry. There have been 48 both elected, and acting, female heads of state and we could potentially have our first female President of the United States in 2016 (Hillary Clinton). Not only are women some of the pioneering leaders of the science, technology and business worlds, but within USA and Russia, for every 100 male students there are between 129-126 female students. In the last UK general election, 64% women voted; not bad, considering we had less than a hundred years of legal political enfranchisement.

Though we have made strives in our political and economic freedom, it’s sad that these are considered incredible. We still face gender objection and labels, of both men and women. Sexual harassment is still commonplace, with 44,000 inviduals, in 2012, facing some kind of sexual harassment. In many countries, the fact is that women are still politically disenfranchised, or just now getting some kind of political rights. For example, in Saudi Arabia, (Sept 2013) or restricted from their education based on their gender, in Pakistan. Would Sylvia would be repulsed by society figures, Snokki and Kim Kardashian, who have done little to deserve the social position, other than act like a sex object. 

  • Would Christabel be upset to see the little political engagement of our generation?
  • Or the fact the gender is still a defining social agent?

I think that it is especially important for us, as Manchester University students, to contemplate this impossible question. Christabel Pankhurst is an alumni of our university and we are literally walking in her footsteps. I believe we must conduct ourselves in way in which her legacy dictates.

Last Thursday, many members of the student body, both women and men, of every sexual orientation and ethicality, marched together down Oxford Road to end sexual harassment. Many suggest it was a pointless, disruptive exercise, but I firmly believe that if we don’t do such acts of social activism, then we dishonour the memories of the Suffragette movements, aswell as the possible future age of universal equality for all. I think that, if Christabel or Sylvia Pankhurst were current students, they would have been with us, joining her voice to the collective demand for safe streets for all and gender equality.

Our present course is far from what she expected our society to be, but it is up to us to make it a reality. We owe it to her and to our future daughters.

(Images belong to Pankhurst: http://www.methods.manchester.ac.uk/events/2012-03-08/, Reclaim the night: Kristen Ige)


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