I’m going to let you know up front, this post is born out of my own ignorance. It concerns a subject that is sensitive to many people and, so you know, I’m on the side of the women on this one. I have no problem with the movement I am about to talk about, I would have been in favor of it if I were around when all this happened. I do not want it reversed. I would, however, like it to have a different name for the movement and it’s followers as the one it has makes remarkably little sense to me. The words in question, in my mind, are “Suffrage” and “Suffragette.”
Again, I have no problem with the movement. I am all in favor of equal rights, including the vote, for everyone regardless of gender, race, creed, species, religion, sexual preference, or any other method of societal division. I realize we’re not really there on equality and need to work on it a bit more, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about those two words. Let me give you my history with it.
Picture it. Eastern Tennessee. Roughly 1975. A little boy is watching Saturday morning cartoons on the ABC Network, in particular, one of his favorites, the Superfriends. (Yes, I like DC Comics.) Sometimes before, sometimes after and even sometimes during the show, in the midst of a commercial break, there would be a somewhat educational interlude called “School House Rocks.” These were brilliant little musical cartoons that taught math, English, science and history. They are available on DVD if you want a flashback. I do highly recommend these to parents. Your kids will love them. Mine did. I digress.
One of these particular School House Rocks episodes is one that made no sense to me whatsoever. Well, I say that. I understood parts of it. The title of the piece was “Suffering Until Suffrage.” I understood the concept of suffering. I understood that this piece was about women getting the right to vote. I did not really understand why they didn’t have the right to vote in the first place – still don’t if I’m honest about it. Nor did I understand what the word “Suffrage” meant as it is not explained in the song.
The Suffrage. I broke it down to be the Suffer Age. And, according to the cartoon, people who were on the side of the vote were the Suffragettes. “Suffer” and “Age” are words even when you’re as young as I was. I was pretty sure they’d made up the word Suffragettes. Sounds vaguely like what someone would call a fan of the AFC team in New York. The Suffer-a-Jets. (It’s the Jets and they are not the best team on the planet, thus the suffer-a-jet reference.)
It didn’t really help that the character in the cartoon was, in the 70s, rather androgynous. We didn’t have cable television because no such thing existed back then. We had a fuzzy reception on good days. I saw a skinny character with big hair, a star on a tee-shirt and maybe a cape. The voice sounded neither male or female to my ears. The DVD that I got about a decade ago has remastered the video and it is clear(er) that the character is female. That’s not a cape, it’s a ponytail! And there are tiny little lines indicating some breasts. The voice is still pretty mixed.
So, we go from the Superfriends, to someone who could be a super hero, singing about “Suffering until Suffrage” and one of those words doesn’t sound like it should be a word. Let’s add some logic. If you were suffering before, THAT should be the suffer age, right? And when you get the vote, thus ending the suffering, that should be the Rejoyce-age. Calling it “Suffrage” sounds like you’re not exactly happy you got it. “Yay! We got the vote! It’s the Suffrage!” That’s very similar to the Christian “holiday” of “Good Friday.” “Yay! The savior is dead!”
I would like to also point out that my history classes, and this is through college, never got this far into American history. None of them. I had to look this up when the internet began to exist and I remembered to look it up. While I’m at it, I would like to take up a little thing with the teachers and ask, why do we remember her as Susan “B.” Anthony?
Susan B. Anthony was one of the leaders of the movement, in case you somehow missed that. But why do we recall her middle initial? Michael B Jordan, the actor, I get. The “B” in that case is the actor trying to distinguish himself from the basketball God. (Incidentally, the God’s middle name is Jeffrey so it’s Michael J. Jordan.)
But here’s my point, name another Susan Anthony. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Susan C Anthony, the author of Spelling Bee Books didn’t exist yet. well, I looked it up and there was a craze to use a middle initial so she adopted the “B.” She wasn’t born with it. It sounds vaguely like a someone who isn’t very good with conjugation wanted to be transsexual. That, of course, is looking back at it with today’s eyes. Using the middle initial just for the sake of using the middle initial, or even the middle name, sounds a bit pompous, like Donald J. Trump, David Ogden Stiers or Henry Cabot Henhouse III – a pompous idiot, a guy who played a lot of pompous idiots, and Super Chicken.
Also, while I’m being picky, Suffrage seems to have been mostly a white woman thing. Did any non-Caucasian women get to vote? And calling it the Suffrage makes it sound like they’re the only ones who suffered ever. I think you should be careful with that kind of thinking. Who’s looking at you now? That would be anyone with a non-Caucasian skin tone, homosexuals, pansexuals, transsexuals, multi-sexuals, and lest we not forget, the group that believes it has suffered the most in the history of ever, the Republicans. (That last entry on the list is filled with juicy, 100% Grade A sarcasm brought to you by a grant from the Exxon/Mobil company. Enjoy.)