Every time a movement happens that gives me hope for the future of my kids, I always make the mistake of reading comments sections. Then I lose hope all over again. Why people work so hard to resist the idea of human rights for all boggles my mind. I once worked for someone who embodied the racist/sexist/homophobic white male, and after countless episodes where he felt the absolute freedom to speak whatever nonsense he was in the mood to speak that day, I confronted him. In that confrontation he said that he has the right to his opinions, and that we could agree to disagree. But no, I didn’t agree with that. When one person’s opinions hinder the human rights of another, they’re no longer entitled to their opinions. If you were seeing a therapist, they would tell you from the outset that anything you say will be kept confidential, unless what you say infers harm to another. At that point the therapist would raise the alarm. Right now there are a lot of alarms being raised, because there’s a lot of harm being done. As I tell my kids, it’s not ok to harm each other, we are not allowed that right.
I have this banner hanging on the wall outside my kids’ rooms. It’s the Suffragette slogan, and I keep it there to remind them and myself that they are the young, and they can break the gates down.
Lavinia Dock, “The Young Are At The Gates,” June 30, 1917.
If any one says to me: “Why the picketing for Suffrage?” I should say in reply, “Why the fearless spirit of youth? Why does it exist and make itself manifest?” Is it not really that our whole social world would be likely to harden and toughen into a dreary mass of conventional negations and forbiddances–into hopeless layers of conformity and caste, did not the irrepressible energy and animation of youth, when joined to the clear-eyed sham-hating intelligence of the young, break up the dull masses and set a new pace for laggards to follow?
What is the potent spirit of youth? Is it not the spirit of revolt, of rebellion against senseless and useless and deadening things? Most of all, against injustice, which is of all stupid things the stupidest?
Such thoughts come to one in looking over the field of the Suffrage campaign and watching the pickets at the White House and at the Capitol, where sit the men who complacently enjoy the rights they deny to the women at their gates. Surely, nothing but the creeping paralysis of mental old age can account for the phenomenon of American men, law-makers, officials, administrators, and guardians of the peace, who can see nothing in the intrepid young pickets with their banners, asking for bare justice but common obstructors of traffic, nagger’-nuisances that are to be abolished by passing stupid laws forbidding and repressing to add to the old junk-heap of laws which forbid and repress? Can it be possible that any brain cells not totally crystallized could imagine that giving a stone instead of bread would answer conclusively the demand of the women who, because they are young, fearless, eager, and rebellious, are fighting and winning a cause for all women–even for those who are timid, conventional, and inert?
A fatal error–a losing fight. The old stiff minds must give way. The old selfish minds must go. Obstructive reactionaries must move on. The young are at the gates!
Credit: Lavinia Dock, “The Young Are At The Gates,” The Suffragist, June 30, 1917.