It is the afternoon of October 11, 1908, in Trafalgar Square. A handsome woman stands at the base of the Nelson Monument addressing a large and curious audience. She leans toward them, clenching her fist. In her bonnet and veil and her well-cut woolen coat, she is the very image of respectable Edwardian womanhood. Her name is Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, and what she is arguing for is women’s suffrage. She wants the House of Commons, which will convene on October 13, to give women the vote.
She was not arrested that day, though others were, for encouraging people to “rush the House of Commons.” In a speech to supporters of the cause she was later to say: “It is about time the House of Commons got rushed a bit. It is about time that a rushing wind went through that valley of sleep and re-animated those dry bones into some semblance of manhood and animation. They were dreadfully afraid we were going to rush them- horribly afraid…I submit to you that no force on earth can rush the House of Commons. You might as well try to rush the waxworks of Madame Tussaud’s, or the Mummies in the British Museum, as try to put any sort of life into those deadbeats who sit on the government benches.”
Anna Holmes: But it’s also about apathy. Even now — after Mr. Sheen began carpet-bombing his bosses in radio rants, prompting CBS to shut down production on the show — observers still seem more entertained than outraged, tuning in to see him appear on every talk show on the planet and coming up with creative Internet memes based on his most colorful statements. And while his self-abuses are endlessly discussed, his abuse of women is barely broached. …The privilege afforded wealthy white men like Charlie Sheen may not be a particularly new point, but it’s an important one nonetheless. Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears are endlessly derided for their extracurricular meltdowns and lack of professionalism on set; the R&B star Chris Brown was made a veritable pariah after beating up his equally, if not more, famous girlfriend, the singer Rihanna. Their careers have all suffered, and understandably so. Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/opinion/04holmes.html
Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence was a leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union, the most militant of suffrage groups, founded in 1903 by the redoubtable Emmeline Pankhurst. Because the Cabinet could not or would not agree on a suffrage bill, the W.S.P.U. had declared war on the all-powerful Liberal Party. The women did everything to make the Liberal leadership unconfortable: they heckled cabinet ministers whenever they attempted to speak, they organized huge “monster meetings” to heap ridicule on the government, they sent task forces all over England to work against Liberal candidates in Parliamentary by-elections, they chained themselves to railings outside of Downing Street, they chased after Prime Minister Asquith on the golf course and beseiged his London home, they pushed their way into the House of Commons, and they scuffled en masse with the police.
Holmes: …This hasn’t been the case with Mr. Sheen, whose behavior has been repeatedly and affectionately dismissed as the antics of a “bad boy” (see: any news article in the past 20 years), a “rock star” (see: Piers Morgan, again) and a “rebel” (see: Andrea Canning’s “20/20” interview on Tuesday). He has in essence, achieved a sort of folk-hero status; on Wednesday, his just-created Twitter account hit a million followers, setting a Guinness World Record….But there’s something else at work here: the seeming imperfection of Mr. Sheen’s numerous accusers. The women are of a type, which is to say, highly unsympathetic. Some are sex workers — pornographic film stars and escorts — whose compliance with churlish conduct is assumed to be part of the deal. (For the record: It is not.) …Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/opinion/04holmes.html a
Tough tactics, purposely tough, for the strategists behind the W.S.P.U.; Emmeline Pankhurst, her daughter Christabel, and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence- knew that such pressures on the government would keep the issue alive. By their imaginative methods of protest, they virtually invented political activism as we know it.
In 1908, at the age of forty-one, Emmeline Pethick Lawrence was new to the suffrage movement. For nearly tweny years however, she had devoted herself to bettering the lot of the working class, first as a “sister” in the West London Mission, then as head of her own organization, the Esperance Girls’ Club and Social Settleme
It was not a conventional life for the educated daughter of a wealthy businessman. Perhaps the seeds of rebellion had been sown some years before in the Victorian nursery in Weston-super-Mare near Bristol, where she and her brothers and sisters were ruled, as Emmeline later remembered, by a “succession of ignorant and inefficient nursemaids who cared neither for their job nor for their charges.”
Returning home after finishing school in Germany, Emmeline became increasingly aware of the gulf separating her privileged life from that of working people in London. Then, at a restless moment in her life, she chanced upon a novel by Walter Besant and James Rice about a young heiress who changes places with a penniless factory girl; the novel, as Emmeline later wrote, suggested that ” it might be possible to share with girls of my own age, who had been deprived of all that meant delight to me, some of the things I valued myself.” She began to work at the West London Mission as a way to serve others; but it was also her personal salvation, her key to an independent life.
Anna Holmes: “Gold diggers,” “prostitutes” and “sluts” are just some of the epithets lobbed at the women Mr. Sheen has chosen to spend his time with. Andy Cohen, a senior executive at Bravo and a TV star in his own right, referred to the actor’s current companions, Natalie Kenly and Bree Olson, as “whores” on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program on Tuesday. Arianna Huffington sarcastically tweeted that Mr. Sheen’s girlfriends “symbolize modesty, loyalty and good taste.” Mr. Sheen’s own nickname for Ms. Kenly and Ms. Olson — “the goddesses” — is in its own way indicative of their perceived interchangeability and disposability….
…It’s these sorts of explicit and implicit value judgments that underscore our contempt for women who are assumed to be trading on their sexuality. A woman’s active embrace of the fame monster or participation in the sex industry, we seem to say, means that she compromises her right not to be assaulted, let alone humiliated, insulted or degraded; it’s part of the deal. …Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/opinion/04holmes.html
In 1901, at age thirty-four, she married Frederick Lawrence, a brilliant lawyer who was bent on political and social reform and who had the financial means to act on his conscience. Fred was full of admiration for Emmeline’s accomplishments, although years later he was to say that he married her because she smoked cigarettes, was able to get off moving buses, and refused to wear gloves when she went for a walk. Linking their names, the Pethick-Lawrence’s became a reforming team to recon with.
The suffrage movement had existed since the 1860′s , surfacing now and then as a public issue, subsiding again when another when another women’s suffrage measure was defeated in Parliament. But, in 1906, out of the labor movement in Manchester, came Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters to show the established suffrage societies in London what political activism was all about. Inspired by their courage, Pethick-Lawrence joined the W.S.P.U as Honorary Treasurer.
Holmes: Objectification and abuse, it follows, is not only an accepted occupational hazard for certain women, but something that men like Mr. Sheen have earned the right to indulge in. (Mr. Sheen reportedly once said that he didn’t pay prostitutes for the sex; he paid them “to leave.”) One can’t help but think that his handlers might have moved more quickly to rein in their prized sitcom stallion if his victims’ motivations weren’t assumed to be purely mercenary. (Or if they enjoyed parity and respect with regards to their age, influence and earning power….
…These assumptions — about women, about powerful men, about bad behavior — have roots that go way back but find endorsement in today’s unscripted TV culture. Indeed, it’s difficult for many to discern any difference between Mr. Sheen’s real-life, round-the-clock, recorded outbursts and the sexist narratives devised by reality television producers, in which women are routinely portrayed as backstabbing floozies, and dreadful behavior by males is explained away as a side effect of unbridled passion or too much pilsner. As Jennifer Pozner points out in her recent book “Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty-Pleasure TV,” misogyny is embedded within the DNA of the reality genre. Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/opinion/04holmes.html?pagewanted=all
Every time a suffragette was arrested, Fred Pethick-Lawrence was there at police court with bail money and comforting advice. Over the years, he lost a fortune in legal fees and even served a prison sentence himself, convicted of conspiracy “to damage the property of liege subjects of the King” ; a trial which followed an afternoon of window-smashing by the suffragettes. Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence risked material comfort, her reputation as a “lady” , even her health in pursuit of the vote. She was first imprisoned in 1906 after making an illegal attempt to speak in the lobby of the House of Commons.
As it happened Emmeline had a nervous collapse and was released after a few days. To her credit, she not only faced imprisonment several times again but also endured the hunger strikes and forcible feedings that were to become the lot of the suffragettes. The last time she went to prison for the cause, in 1912, she spoke from the dock with characteristic eloquence: “We have been bruised and battered by the Government’s police; we have been pursued by the government’s prosecutions, herded in the government’s prisons, and beset, inside the very walls of the prisons, as well as outside, by the government’s spies. But the spirit of liberty has grown apace, and the women of the country will hold onto the idea of liberty like grim death…”
Holmes: On reality television, gratuitous violence and explicit sexuality are not only entertainment but a means to an end. These enthusiastically documented humiliations are positioned as necessities in the service of some final prize or larger benefit — a marriage proposal, a modeling contract, $1 million. But they also make assault and abasement seem commonplace, acceptable behavior, tolerated by women and encouraged in men.
Which brings us back to Mr. Morgan, who, like many of Mr. Sheen’s past and present press enablers, showed little to no urgency in addressing the question of violence against women. “You’re entitled to behave however the hell you like as long as you don’t scare the horses and the children,” Mr. Morgan said at one point. Scaring women, it seems, was just fine. Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/opinion/04holmes.html?pagewanted=al
Its the omni-present male gaze driven by the media success formula: feed and feed on the fear. Television in particular, is a forum that fetishizes murder and death with life being an existential, nay Darwinian struggle against psychopaths, killers and rapist; with little explanation for the actions of the “crazies”. Obviously, these dramas, even in the comedic interpretations of a Charlie Sheen tend to support reactionary views at their source. Interestingly, most of these shows such as “Criminal Minds” tend to suggest that dangerous weirdos and perverts are most often fund in middle-class communities. We are told that it is “normal” to live in perpetual fear of the wackos.
Its offshoot show, “Suspect Behavior” is also propaganda. It implies that the deranged and unhinged are everywhere, and only unswerving loyalty to the forces of authority is protection against the evil-doers.
Why Suffragettes insist on being treated as political offenders.
No one nowadays is likely to accuse Suffragettes of cowardice or of a desire to shirk responsibility for their actions. Yet some people cannot understand why they refuse to submit to prison discipline. The reason is that they refuse to allow the rights of political prisoners, won for them by the heroism of great men and women of the past, to fall into disuse. They accordingly have protested and will continue to protest against the treatment which the Government have inflicted upon them. Read More: https://bora.uib.no/bitstream/1956/4517/9/Treatment%20of%20the%20suffragettes%20in%20prison.pdf
The Hunger Strike
Originally Suffragettes protested in words against their treatment. Finding this useless, they decided to protest by deeds. They rebelled against the prison regulations and they adopted the Russian method of the hunger strike. At tremendous personal cost they refused all food. This placed the Government in a difficulty; they did not want to let their women political opponents die in prison, because they knew that would raise a storm of indignation in the country. They did not want to yield and treat women as political offenders. So instead they released them from gaol after letting them starve, some for 90, other for 100, others for 120 and even 150 hours.
But this did not break the resolution of the women. Therefore Mr. Gladstone in September 1909, determined to employ against them the inhuman practice of forcible feeding by means of a tube passed through the nostrils into the stomach. The danger and injury caused by this operation have been attested by many doctors, over a hundred of whom have petitioned the Home Secretary against it. Read More: https://bora.uib.no/bitstream/1956/4517/9/Treatment%20of%20the%20suffragettes%20in%20prison.pdf