Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Why shouldn’t women be allowed to vote? I’ll paraphrase on behalf of some man in the Olden Days who probably thought he was enlightened. It won’t make any difference, they’ll just vote the same as their husbands.
For anyone who doesn’t know, back in the Olden Days women weren’t allowed to vote. I’m not sure when exactly in the olden days, because even though Wikipedia is just a mouse click away I just can’t be bothered. Try and imagine a time when men all had walrus moustaches and the world was coloured sepia, and you won’t be far off.
So, back in the Olden Days women weren’t allowed to vote. An archaic system, sure, but it has to be taken in context. Suggesting to the lawmakers in pre-Victorian society that all men were created equal was as radically subversive as suggesting that the sun would one day set on the British Empire. Saying that all women were created equal to men, well, that was just the opium talking. In the days when suffrage was limited entirely to white male Protestant landowners, women weren’t the only people scratching their heads and wondering who voted the latest batch of idiots into power.
And then along came Mrs Pankhurst and her bunch of militant suffragettes. They got run over in horse races, they held rallies, they chained themselves to things, and they blew other things up. They were the terrorists of their day, and they were treated like it. They were sent to prison, where they went on hunger strikes. They were chained down and force-fed, a disgusting procedure that involved having a tube inserted down their throats while they struggled. Some actually died because of the violence of the procedure. The suffragettes paid a high price to secure future generations of women a very basic right in a political system that’s been calling itself democratic for a couple of millennia longer than it’s deserved.
So I should thank Mrs Pankhurst, and I do thank her most of the time, except for on election days when I wonder if she wasted her money on lengths of chain and padlocks. When I walk into the local church hall to cast my vote (I’ll leave separation of church and state for another day) I don’t do it with any sense of fierce feminist pride. I do it knowing that this is my weekend, it’s half an hour of my life that I’d rather be spending somewhere else, and that, whether incumbent or opposition, the government always wins anyway.
Except this time. The federal election was a week and a half ago, and neither major party has enough seats to form a majority government. A lot of people are whinging about the Independents who suddenly hold the balance of power, but that’s not the real danger, it is? The real danger isn’t to the democratic process in this country, it’s the fact that for a week and half we’ve had a caretaker government that is effectively hamstrung when it comes to actual governing, and the sky hasn’t fallen in. And if we can do it for a week and a half, why not for years to come? Let’s face it, the engine keeps running even if there’s nobody at the wheel.
I say, in this time of political uncertainty, let’s get rid of the government completely. I’m not advocating anarchy because, frankly, I picture anarchists as people who wear berets and talk in sinister tones. I’m talking about the ultimate exercise in apathy. We’re Australian, people, we’re already apathetic, or, you know, whatever. And Parliament House could be reopened as a childcare centre or something useful.
It’s not what Mrs Pankhurst had in mind, and I do appreciate what she did for me, but I can’t shake the sinking feeling that until some decent candidates step up, her struggle was wasted.