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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

10

It's the Anniversary of Susan B. Anthony's "Illegal" Vote

Susan Baddest Bitch AnthonyAlong with 13 other women, Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for voting in the 1872 election; she didn't pay. The most famous part of the speech that followed this incident in 1873 is this, I think: "It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union." But I love the part where she claps back the hardest (ETA, her accepted oligarchies very much aside): 

To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household – which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.

Etc, etc, etc.



10 Comments / Post A Comment

Monkey

"an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured" Yeah, having a hard time loving that part.

Jia Tolentino

@Monkey yes yes yes that part is terrible. I wonder if she would be intersectional if alive today and I am hoping and believing the answer is YES though

Monkey

@Jia Tolentino I cherish that dream, anyway. And regardless of anything else I think we can all agree that she has literally the best bitchface of all time, so.

cthulahoop

@Jia Tolentino Inveterate lurker here who made an account just to say how hurtful it is to read that quote (on the Hairpin!) in a celebratory context, asides aside.

swearjar

another lurker here. this is actually... really gross, and i'm disappointed to see this here.

snakelet

And...another mostly-lurker. I don't want to dogpile, but the Saxon/African aside is horrible, and too much to stomach--I can't celebrate any of the rest of it, because I'm left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Anthony must have said other things just as righteous re: women voting without referencing race (I hope?)--so I don't understand why this quote was used. Especially if we're looking at Anthony and her fight for the right to vote in the context of minority voters, who are often disproportionately affected by voter ID laws (as in the first "Etc" link).

cee
cee

@snakelet I don't understand -- are you suggesting that we shouldn't have to read a quote which makes it obvious that SBA said and believed racist things? I kind of feel like that would be more of a problem, morally speaking: that would be to fictionalise her into a paragon. (and then, of course, we in time could 'discover' that she also believed and said racist things, and then decide that she is in fact an ultimate monster and nothing she did was of value because of her moral turpitude.)

Isn't it essential that we be willing to talk about the fact that people can hold opinions that are morally unconscionable to you or i, and also simultaneously do things that are great or noble or advance the course of human freedom?

snakelet

@cee Of course I do believe that "people can hold opinions that are morally unconscionable to you or i, and also simultaneously do things that are great or noble or advance the course of human freedom". But that's not what this post is discussing--it's too short for that nuance (though I would _dearly_ have appreciated more nuance). Rather, in this context, the Hairpin is celebrating Anthony "clapping back the hardest", with a parenthetical (barely) addressing and sweeping past the problematic sentence that I keep running up against.

I am a woman of color, and to me, reading the Saxon/African lines under a celebratory "clapping back the hardest, guys!" feels like a punch in the face, even though it is just, for Anthony, an aside. It hurts that it was stuck under an umbrella of "go Anthony", even with Jia's "accepted oligarchies very much aside" parenthetical.

Honestly, if they'd just trimmed the quote to end with the second sentence, I'd have had no problem with the "clapping back the hardest" language, at all. The first bit of Anthony's quote IS great, and I know that Anthony accomplished wonderful things, even if she did also hold problematic beliefs.

If I were to shut down every time I was confronted by "people of the past weren't PC", I wouldn't be able to function. But I think if the Hairpin is going to use and publish this quote of Anthony's in its entirety, then we do in fact need to "talk about the fact that people can hold opinions that are morally unconscionable", rather than framing the quote as "girl power" and brushing the racism off with a parenthetical.

kimkrypto

@snakelet thirding or fourthing this. Susan B. Anthony's quote is textbook White Feminism (TM) and it really hurts to see it presented as empowering-with-slight-caveat. Jia, I think your writing is incredibly smart and on point, and I loved your critical piece on the mixed-race magazine cover. Posting this quote approvingly seems to set the boundary that The Hairpin is meant for everyone but black women. Anthony is literally justifying the enslavement of black people. How in good conscience can this feel liberatory for all women?

queensissy

I don't know if this is going to put this in any better context, but there was a whole lot of bad blood between white women and African Americans leading up to and just after the fight to ratify the 15th Amendment. As I understand it, initially the two groups were in the fight for voting rights together, but then women were abandoned when it was perceived by "no discrimination on basis of race" supporters that fighting for women's rights was going to sink the ship. This of course leaves women of color completely screwed, and I'm not condoning SBA's sentiment here. I'm just saying there may have been an element of, "Screw you; I'm not fighting for your rights if you're not fighting for my rights."...

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