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Women Died to Give You the Right to Vote

23/06/2016 15:21 | Updated 23 June 2016

This morning I voted in the EU Referendum. I also posted on my Facebook wall that I was voting and urged all people, especially women, to do the same. And yes, I used that cliched argument that women died to secure the right for women to vote. This is what I said:

I think I've made my feelings pretty clear on this debate but now I just want to say Please Vote. Once upon a time, as we all know, women weren't deemed worthy enough to vote. Many women gave up their lives or endured great hardship over the course of 60 years to eventually win women the right to vote. Not bothering to vote is to ignore what these women fought so hard for.

One friend disagreed with my approach and called me out on guilt tripping women into voting. I see her point and as I pointed out it was the people 'not bothering' to vote rather than those actively choosing not to that I was trying to appeal to.

But it did get me thinking about what I really meant. To me it's all to do with intention. If someone chooses not to vote because they have weighed up all the arguments and they really disagree with all the options open to them, then I do agree that it is their right to choose not to vote. I don't agree with the choice - in the same way that my generally lefty liberal political leanings would mean I would never agree with someone's choice to vote for UKIP - but I can agree that it is their right to make that choice.

But the decision not to vote should not be taken lightly - in the same way that whichever way you choose to vote should not be a decision taken lightly. To me, not bothering to vote because you didn't take any time to find out the facts and weigh them up and come to an informed decision by yourself, is not ok. I think we all have a duty to do that as a citizen of the country in which we live.

I think most of us are happy that we live in a democracy and that we have the opportunity to vote in our MPs. Sure, we may grumble about picking between bad and worse, but we are being asked to elect representatives nonetheless.

I voted in my first general election just 2 months after I turned 18. I wasn't really sure who to vote for at the time and I made a throwaway comment a few weeks before the election that I probably wouldn't bother voting - that they all seem a bit crap. My mum (who isn't in any way a political activist) told me that women had fought to give me the right to vote. I didn't feel shamed or guilt tripped, but it did shake me out of my apathy and made me go out, find facts out about the candidates and what they stood for, and turn up at the polling station that morning to put a cross in the box that I had chosen.

Since my own post this morning I've seen a lot of other posts encouraging women to vote, and a lot of comments disagreeing with them for 'shaming' or 'guilt tripping' women into voting; saying how voting is just one more responsibility we as women have to bear, and why can't we guilt trip the men too. Unfortunately, I think the original argument about women dying for your vote has become cliched. I think perhaps it has become a statement thrown around too casually, and that because of that some people feel that it shames women into voting.

But let's look at that statement and really think about it. Women died to give us the right to vote. Emily Wilding Davison went on hunger strike and was force fed through a tube over 40 times. Then she stepped out in front of a thundering horse and was trampled to death for her cause - the cause of securing equal rights and the vote for women. If she and those other women had done nothing, then we may still be living in a society where men make all the decisions and women are seen as pieces of their husband's property and not actual human beings with beliefs and opinions of their own.

This may be history that's so far back few people can remember, but it was only 100 years ago. So yeah, I will take the risk that a woman might read this and feel a bit guilty for not bothering to vote.

Yes, I don't like making anyone feel shame or guilt. And yes, I agree a lot of pressure is put on women. And yes, wading through all the propaganda from this current referendum has been a chore for the entire voting population of the UK. And yes, I'd be the first to write an angry post about women having to do something that men did not have to do blah blah blah.

But this is not one of those things. Asking women to take part in the democratic process of our country, and using pictures from history to illustrate why they should not be complacent about their right to do so is not shaming anyone.

It's only shameful if the reason you're not voting is because you can't be bothered. And then you bloody well should feel ashamed.

This post was also published on my personal blog at soozibaggs.com

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