Wednesday 4 June 2014


Fourth of June is a big day for the rights of women - at least in the business of being able to vote in democracies.  06/04/1919 (American style date for American event) saw the passing by congress of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution: XIX. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." It wasn't until August of the following year, when enough states had ratified the amendment, that it started to take effect, so bonnets off to Susan B Anthony and others for carrying that through.  Anthony was an interesting woman who came up with some nifty schemes for putting her Suffragette agenda in the public eye and making it seem absurd to deny women the right to vote.

Six years earlier, to the day 4th Jun 1913, a maverick and radical Suffragette in England pulled a spectacular stunt by stopping the English King's horse Anmer more or less in its tracks in the middle of the Epsom Derby.  I wrote yesterday about the physics of inertia: when a small object, moving or otherwise,  comes into contact with a large moving object, the smaller one usually fares worse.  This was certainly the case when Emily Davison (~50kg) tried to pin a suffragette favour on Anmer's (~500kg) bridle; at least that's what current frame-by-frame analysis of the Path√© film seems to suggest. It was politically expedient at the time to write her off as a suicidal mad-woman but her action certainly helped push the tide in favour of  votes for women and after that became the all-thinking-people norm, it became necessary to rationalise the reckless action of the dead woman. Notwithstanding the famous return railway ticket from her day at the races, which stopped the inquest jury brining in a verdict of suicide, my reading (not very extensive) of the earlier history of Davison's career as a suffragette is that there is a whiff of self-harm about her. She was repeatedly jailed for her actions and endured many episodes of force-feeding - which by more sober accounts is a foul and degrading (not to say eye-wateringly painful) way to treat someone . . . anyone.  During one episode in jail she pitched herself 10m down an iron staircase to bring an end to the force-feeding of herself and other women.

Okay, catechism time.
Q. Who runs society in the West
A. White affluent middle-aged males
Q. Who get's the bum's rush?
A. Everyone else.
Q. For whom do we have to legislate so that they get a semblance of equal/fair treatment.
A. Women, blacks, homosexuals, children, old people, the physically disabled, people with an extra chromosome, the mad.
Equality is partly about respecting the difference in other people.  I don't force people to listen to hip-hop, or speak French, or pee standing up; I want to make life easier for people who have less than me; I think we should allow others to make their own decisions and life-style choices no matter how daft or wrong-headed they seem to me. What about you? We've come a long way: black people are no longer enslaved except in the middle east and parts of islamic Nigeria; women can have bank-accounts; we don't hit children anymore; we don't force-feed people  . . .
. . . except if they are Irish and anorexic, or British and anorexic then the law allows The Man to invade their personal space and sense of what's right, because The Man knows better.  100 years after Emily Davison, surely we can respect an adult's right to be different even if it makes us feel achingly uncomfortable and even if they die.

British people are notoriously kinder to their pets than to their neighbours and my .uk readers will be delighted to hear that Anmer, the colliding horse, was not seriously injured; although he was never much of a success as far as winning races was concerned.

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