Hear Us Roar: The Time for Women is Now
When countries started electing their officials, the right was originally reserved for men. This gave rise to the Suffragette movement, where women rallied to get in on the vote. It started with localized groups in places like the US and UK, with larger international organizations such as the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance, founded in Berlin in 1904.
Despite opposition from men who believed that women had no say in government, women eventually got their day at the polling booths. American women were given that right in 1920; in the Philippines, this was granted in 1937. In Saudi Arabia, women were given the right to vote in municipal elections just in December 2015 (and they will finally be allowed to drive cars this coming June).
After getting the right to vote, women were still treated as second-class citizens. The 1960s and 1970s saw the Women’s Liberation movement. Tired of being confined to the kitchen reading housekeeping tips from Heloise, women rose up and asked for equality.
After the Suffragette movement and before Women’s Lib, women could vote but had less access to higher education and limited career choices. They could not buy their own home on a mortgage, write a will, or own a credit card if they were single. If they were married, they could get fired from their jobs if they became pregnant. Women’s Lib had a big impact on society, on politics, and on economics, and gave us most of the freedoms we now enjoy.
As the tagline for Virginia Slims (a cigarette brand targeted at women) used to say, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” There is a long way to go, however. There were murmurs, starting with grassroots efforts for equality in places where even the rights some women take for granted, such as education, have to be fought for. A young Pakistani girl named Malala Yousafzai gained a bullet in her head, international attention, and a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for defying the Taliban who says that girls do not have the right to an education. In 2015, the world hashtagged #BringBackOurGirls in outrage over kidnapping of schoolgirls brought into slavery practiced by the Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Then came 2017 and the Women’s March for equality and #MeToo movement, both originating from the US. The Women’s March, which recently had its second run, asks for transformative change on worker’s rights, reproductive rights, and an end to violence against women. Me Too was created by activist Tarana Burke on MySpace back in 2006 but gained popularity through a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano in light of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. Milano encouraged other women to speak up about their own harassment experiences.
The response to #MeToo was overwhelming, and gave rise to Time’s Up, an initiative that aims to help fight sexual violence and harassment in the workplace. The movement is backed and funded by Milano and other Hollywood A-Listers who attended the 2017 Golden Globes in black and applauded Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement awardee Oprah Winfrey’s rousing speech. The celebrated talk show host talked about the women who have endured years of abuse and assault “because they had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue”. She mentions a woman named Recy Taylor, who reported about her story of being abducted and abused, despite being warned not to do so. “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up,” she says. “Their time is up."
This article was originally published in Metro Magazine on March 2018.
Photos from Pixabay