I’m researching material about the emotion of jealousy pushing away the one you want to keep close, and stumbled upon this article about suffrage. In our post-modern post-feminist society where most people agree to equal opportunity for all while at the same time admitting to wide ranging general differences between the sexes, it’s interesting to look back on what insights might have been contained in the old ignorant ways.
Were some of the predictions of the anti-suffrage movement born out? Are men more effeminate now, and women more masculine? I’d love to see a study that would say something useful about the old fear that women are more easily swayed by emotional political campaign ads than are men.
OTHER FEARS THE ANTIS’ HAD IF WOMEN WERE CONSIDERED EQUALS
- More strongly the anti’s conception of women’s emotional composition aggravated their fears about women’s suffrage. Whereas men were described as rational and emotionally stable, women were portrayed as “high strung,” tense, irritable, and potentially irrational. “Their delicate emotional equilibrium could easily upset by a strain-like voting.” “When women generally vote and hold office, ” warned one anti-group, “nervous prostration, desire for publicity, and ‘love of the limelight’ will combine to produce a form of hysteria already increasing in the United States.” Those women already involved in the suffrage movement were pointed to as case studies of hysteria. “One male doctor who opposed woman suffrage declared that he could not shut his eyes ” to the fact that there is mixed up with the women’s movement much mental disorder.” “Another anti spoke of the insane craving of the suffragists to imitate men and of her pathological contempt” for women’s work.” (Mayor, 67)
THE THREE CONCLUSIONS THE ANTIS’ AROSE AT DUE TO WOMEN’S “EMOTIONAL BEHAVIOR.
- Since all women suffragists bordered on hysteria there was no need to take their arguments seriously.
- There was a real danger if other women cane under the influence the suffragists. “As one Anti warned, “all woman are potentially hysterics.” Men had an obligation to protects other women from contamination of the suffragists.
- A women’s emotional instability would make her a dangerous voter. She would let her feelings rather than her intellectual concerns be her primary reason for voting. “Since women obviously could not be trusted to behave rationally, they would be extremely dangerous in a political setting.” (Mayor, 67)
OTHER ARGUMENTS THE ANTI’S STRESSED AGAINST WOMEN AND VOTING
- In addition to this, the antis stressed that women were intellectually inferior and could not make educated decisions. “Women did not have the intellectual capacity of men because their brains were smaller and more delicate. One anti observed that “the fiber of a woman’s brain is likely to be as much finer as the phobia of her sin…”
- The other explanation to women’s intellectual inferiority was related to the same basis for diagnosing hysteria. They argued that the women’s thought process was less equipped to handle logical progressions than were men’s. For example, an anti said that “women’s mind arrives at conclusions on incomplete evidence; has a very imperfect sense of proportion; accepts the congenial as true and rejects the uncongenial as false; takes the imaginary which is desired for reality, and treats the undesired reality which is out of sight as non-existent-building up for itself in this way… a very unreal picture of the external world.” Another anti said that “while women’s minds seemed to move rather in curves and circles, following lines more beautiful, perhaps, but irregular and disconcerting, men’s minds seemed to move along in a straight line.” (Mayor, 68)
- “Women in politics would mean corruption and irrationality.” But this argument did not cease here; the antis took this even farther for their own benefits. They warned that if women got the vote they would compete with men in the male sphere and lose the qualities which made them feminine. An anti said, “‘The question to be decided…is simply this: Is it desirable to have women become masculine, instead of retaining the characteristics of her own sex?” Another anti said that over time those changes would alter the very temperament of women. (Mayor, 68)
OTHER MISOGYNIST IDEOLOGIES BEHIND THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST SUFFRAGE AND THREATS IT POSED
- While women would become more masculine, antis argued that men would become more effeminate. Male antis saw women in politics as a threat to their masculinity. “Giving women the vote was views as a shirking rather than a sharing of responsibility, and therefore a resignation of manhood.”
- They predicted the shifting of gender roles as expressed their views quite bluntly. “Woman suffrage would produce a nation of transvestites.” (Mayor, 69)
- Once traditional sex roles were tampered with the family structure would annihilate, argued antis. The antis argued that women had a separate but equal form of power. They could shape their children’s growth. The antis argued that giving women political power was not the solution to women’s dissatisfaction. ‘They advocated that women use the power they had within the home to produce sons and husbands who were effective extensions of themselves.” (Mayor, 71)