Today marks the birthday of Emmeline Pankhurst, the radical activist for women’s rights, whose involvement in the suffragette movement played an invaluable part in the securing of the female vote, and she will live on forever as a feminist heroine the world over.
Indeed, today’s world is unrecognisable in comparison to Pankhurst’s. Not only do we have the vote, we have more and more women in positions of power in politics, business and finance and as of yesterday, July 14th, the Church of England backed the decision to allow women to become bishops. (Not so much my bag, but a good thing nonetheless.) Yet there are regrettable similarities to Pankhurst’s time that somehow still remain, lingering like a bad smell. And they can be found on my very doorstep.
One such woman in power is Louise Richardson, the first female principal of St Andrews University. She has battled controversy and triumphed against pre-existing prejudice in order to gain this prestigious position and do us all proud. Yet when her male colleagues enjoy lunches at the Royal and Ancient clubhouse round the corner from the university, Richardson has had to sit alone eating sandwiches from a lunchbox. Why, you ask? Well because she’s a woman, of course!
Although the club is getting there in terms of progression, eventually reacting to pressure both local and further afield for them to broaden their minds – and doorways – and hold a vote for female admittance, it seems completely bizarre that this decision hasn’t come sooner; that we have reached 2014 and these utterly retrograde rules remain intact. On the same day as the country takes to the polls to vote in the Scottish referendum, the R & A will hold a ballot as to whether or not women should be accepted into the club, which has so far admitted exclusively men over their threshold. Women, on the other hand, are restricted to entering the club only one day a year. Oooh, lucky us. I now ask, like countless many before me, in what century exactly do the executives of this club think we are in?
While places still exist which ban entry on grounds of gender, as does the pungent stench of inequality which it seems my generation will be inhaling along with those of our mothers, grandmothers, and their grandmothers before them. Although a lot of progress has been made since those first years of the suffragettes, it seems that there is a long way to go yet in securing gender equality, in all of its forms. I hold out hope, however, that the right decision is made among the club’s management come September. Don’t make the women roar, boys.