Katarina Valieva is one of Breaking the Glass Ceiling’s regular contributors.
On Sunday, 21st of January I had the honour to witness and participate in the March Time’s Up that took place in London. The march aimed to raise awareness and show resistance against sexual violence and other forms of oppression that women are subjected to. While I was standing there observing the crowd I noticed a big sign made by Women`s Equality Party that stated: «We have been marching for 100 years». For some reason this statement had a huge impact on me but this statement, in reality, serves as a reflection of women`s fight for a fairer and more equal society. This sign made me think differently, since I originally had a very cynical view on protests. I thought they made little or no difference when it came to changing legislation. However, this march and examples in history proved me wrong.
There were a great number of various marches organized by women to fight against injustices and inequality in society but I will look at three movements around the world: suffragettes movement in Britain, workers` march of February 1917 in Russia and feminist protests in the US in 1960s.
One of the most notable examples of women`s marches and movements that occurred in British history are, perhaps, the suffragettes movements that took place in the late 19th and early 20th century. The movement advocated the extension of voting rights to women. The founder of the movement, Emmeline Pankhurst established the Women`s Social and Political Union (WSPU) with the motto `Deeds Not Words`. The primary objectives of the Union were to fight against political inequality and to empower women from different social classes. Suffragettes launched various marches across Britain raising awareness of gender and political inequality. Often the protestors were treated poorly by the police forces. There were reports of women being tortured during their imprisonment. The Daily Mirror in their headlines labelled 18th of November 1910 as `Black Friday`. On that day suffragettes launched a march on Parliament to put pressure upon the government and demand the voting rights for women. During the protests women were reportedly physically and verbally harassed by the police forces and men. Despite this traumatizing experience, suffragettes continued their fight and women were partially franchised in 1918.
Another example that I would like to mention is the march by Women`s Worker in St Petersburg that took place on 23rd-24th of February, 1917. The February Revolution of 1917 is widely studied by scholars and there is no doubt on its impact on Russian history. However, people tend to forget that women were the first to march the streets of St Petersburg. One of the most striking and fascinating details of these protests is that it was not organized in advance. Women from different factories united together, marching against the injustices and poor treatment that was experienced by the Russian Manufactory workers. The march was joined by other people and even the armed forces. Russian women also took an active part in the formation of a new political order in Russia. For instance, Alexandra Kollontai entered the First Soviet Party and worked closely with notable figures such as Lenin and Trotsky. Just like the suffragettes, Russian women united and fearlessly opposed the oppressive social and political order by protesting and raising awareness.
In the 1960s the USA saw a wave of protests organized by women who fought against inequality and targeted issues like illegal abortions, unequal pay and aggressive foreign policy. The American public witnessed an emergence of influential feminist scholars such as Kate Millet and Betty Friedan. Women united together to garner the public`s attention on gender inequality. Kate Millet alongside other women activists boycotted companies like Colgate to fight against the lack of employment opportunities for women. In 1968, civil rights activists and feminists protested against racial discrimination and objectifying (?) nature of the Miss America Pageant Competition. The movement raised awareness on beauty standards and women`s liberation movements. This era of feminist movements is still remembered even today and its legacy altered the lives of many women globally.
Women, indeed, have been marching for 100 years and probably even longer. Now, in 2018, there are still a great number of challenges that need to be tackled and overcome by women. I believe that only together we can fight for a better life where there will be no oppression and discrimination. I did not believe in protests, but history and my own experienced proved me wrong. Women have been marching for 100 years and managed to build a fairer and more respectable society and they will fight more, until all battles are won. I hope that my article convinced you that you are powerful and that protesting does make a substantial difference in the fight against inequality.