The mistaken Black Friday: why do we forget the suffragette movement?

If it is necessary to continue to remember that the struggle for women's rights, and the entire struggle for human rights, must continue? Yes. And it is not with the 'Black Friday' of shopping malls or online shopping.

It was at the end of November 1910 that a hundred and a half women demonstrated in front of the English Parliament to demand the right to vote, in the one that became known for Black Friday. It was the so-called suffragette movement, which would harden the struggle until the first women - already in time of war - were allowed to vote. In Portugal, were it not for the exception of Carolina Beatriz Ângelo and we could say that the vote would only be fully granted to women in the post-25 April 1974 period.

This whole preamble serves to expose a certain level of indignation with the world, this world of unrestrained consumption - on ou offline -, where it is fundamental to buy, sell, make the economy 'grow' and pile up a set of goods, often unnecessary. But more than that, I want to warn of the global erasure of this period of the struggle for women's rights.

Are we forgetting? In this period, yes. And what we are doing is so serious. Why? Because being a woman, in Portugal and in the world, remains a daily challenge, because being a woman remains synonymous with inequality, because being a woman remains an odyssey, especially when women are or want to be leaders; because we continue in a society that tends to silence the public voice of women and discredit it when they have it. In short, because we continue in a society that makes women inferior because it is just that: women.

Just remember the humiliating scrutiny that women with political responsibilities in Portugal have been through. Before any accusations of exaggeration, I strongly advise you to read comments on social media about personalities such as Constança Urbano de Sousa, Assunção Cristas, Joacine Katar Moreira, Catarina Martins, Graça Freitas, Marta Temido or Graça Fonseca. It is not a matter, of course, of evaluating the work or competence of the policies referred to here, but of condemning the harmful strategies that are applied to diminish, discredit and vilify their public image.

Or even the process of intellectual and character crushing that women who want to be leaders in a male dominated field go through: Marie Benedict says that it is the arduous path of the only woman in the room, Camille Paglia refers to the need that men have to feeling power over women and Mary Wollstonecraft condemned the stubborn habit of men treating women either as slaves or as jugs of unthinking flowers.

Of course, any generalization can be misleading; however, I cannot help expressing my displeasure and even disgust when I read what I read in the world, often authentically vile, from social networks, where the filters of cordiality and good education disappear, misogyny and sexism (and xenophobia and racism) are the protagonists and frustrations are spewed all the time in this garbage, which are, in large part, the contents of the so-called “social” media.

When we heard in the cafe that that person is this and that, in a baseless comment and between one beer and another, we thought it was either alcohol or a case of isolated imbecility. When today we look at digital spaces that, in addition to destroying the Portuguese language and others, destroy people, especially public women, we realize that imbecility, after all, risks being also pandemic.

But back to Black Friday - the liberator, not the consumerist. It will perhaps be good to remember that the expression came from a day of great violence against women, of fighting for their / our rights. Rights that should not be given or taken for granted. That black Friday we owe the possibility to be able to decide and evaluate, among many other things, public leaders.

If it is necessary to continue to remember that the struggle for women's rights, and the entire struggle for human rights, must continue? Yes. And it is not with the Black Friday malls or online shopping. It is with respect for the origin of the expression, it is with the support and legitimation of the ascension path of women with a public voice. It is with the vehement disapproval of expressions such as: "I don't vote for her because she is a woman", "I don't trust her because she is a woman" or "They were not prepared for a woman".

Change the mind-set it involves changing our relationship with memory, with the struggle for human rights, with the constant search for a more just and more equitable world.

Between the black Friday of the suffragette movement - liberating - and the black Friday of the post-Thanksgiving - consumerist - I choose the first. Because, unlike my grandmothers and my mother, I was born in a democratic country. They had to fight to make themselves heard. For them, for the suffragettes and for all the women who fight for gender equality and for raising their voice to an ever wider audience, I want to remember the Black Friday liberating.

I'll not forget. And I'm not the only woman in the room!


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