Thursday, March 8, 2012

Suffrage a la Lady Gaga

Feminist Law Professors just posted an awesome video made by the folks at Soomo Publishing. It's an ode to woman suffrage, Lady Gaga-style! Enjoy:

By the way, regarding the fact that all the performers in the video are white: the prevailing response (on FLP and in the Youtube comments section which, as we all know, is a bastion of truth and righteousness) is that woman suffrage was a largely white, middle-class movement and, hence, the video is historically accurate. But...I think that's a little bit of a cop out.

Yes, the suffrage movement was incredibly problematic in terms of race. Some suffragists believed, for example, that the 15th amendment--which gave black men and male naturalized citizens the right to vote--was an insult to women because it allowed men of lower standing (read: non-white, working class, less educated, etc.) to have power over white, educated, upper-middle class women, thereby degrading and corrupting the political system which (white, upper-middle class) women would be better able to keep pure. And suffrage organizations like the NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association) barred black women from membership.

So, yeah, that's pretty problematic.*

However, there were a lot of suffragists who were women and men of color (many of the former abolitionists turned to the suffrage movement after the Civil War): Sojourner Truth, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Dubois, to name a few.

Despite what some suffragists (including "heroes" of the movement like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton) would like us to think, the movement wasn't all white...why not at least acknowledge that in the video?

All that said...I do love this video.

* Professor Louise Michele Newman's written a fascinating book about race and the suffrage movement that discusses all this in much more detail: White Women's Rights: Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States (Oxford UP, 1999).

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