Today I would like to tell you about a book received thanks to the operation Critical mass of June organized by Cabelio. Critical Mass proposes to each one to choose a book in a list of works gathered around a similar theme, and to read and criticize the book received in one month.
The theme of June was non-fiction, subject as vast as interesting…
So I received for the voting rights of the women of John Stuart Mill published in Editions IX [link], a collection of four speeches by this philosopher and fervent British feminist of the nineteenth century.
First of all, I have to say that I really liked the book itself in all object. Its small size makes it very comfortable to read (and easy to slide in a handbag!), and the paper is soft and good quality.
In addition, Editions IX uses the rule of proximity, a grammatical rule of which I did not fully know the existence and which consists in granting in kind and in number the adjective, the past participle and the verb with the name that precedes or follows them immediately. This rule (I learned that it had been commonly applied until the sixteenth century) finally offers an alternative to the umpteenth "the masculine prevails!"
Mill's texts, which are still surprisingly modern, show the extent to which the latter was in advance (or the late British society…), especially when we know that the right to vote will be granted to women in the United Kingdom about sixty years more Late in 1928.
I had never heard of Mill when I received this book, and I must say that it was a very nice discovery! I had not imagined that these texts would be so topical and I must admit that I knew quite little (or not at all) of the nineteenth century male feminist figures. When I started to annotate this book, and to underline the phrases I liked, I had to reason myself not to underline all the phrases!
"We should not deny them what we give to everyone except: the right to be consulted on the choice of their representatives; The ordinary occasion to designate in the Great Council of the nation the spokespersons of their feelings…. »
A new Vision
For this criticism, I would not separate the words of the four speeches, because they are more or less written in the same vein and with the same verve. It can just be noted that in the first speech of this book, Mill is facing the House of Commons, thus facing a floor of men, the vast majority of which is against the opening of the right to vote to women, while in the other three , he addressed the members of the National Society for women's Suffrage, which allowed him a much more free and virulent tone against those who would rather not see women gaining the right to vote.
For Mill, the female right to vote would allow women finally to be regarded as true British citizens, which would at the same time change the relationship between men and women, and would allow men and women to live "truly in Companionship ".
It must also be noted that Mill's work was influenced and accompanied by the writings of his wife, also a feminist and philosopher, Harriet Taylor Mill.
"Is it good for a man to live in perfect communion of thought and feelings with a being carefully held in an inferior position in relation to him?" […] The time is approaching, Sir, where men will stoop to the level of women if women are not hoisted to the level of men. »
But John Stuart Mill obviously does not just stop at the women's right to vote, and militates for a true women's education, for full access of women to politics, for the protection of Women against domestic violence and a profound Change of mindset as to the so-called "inferiority" of women.
For him, it is unworthy not to let women vote and dismounts with ease the two main arguments of "anti-suffragettes", namely that 1) women have enough influence on the men who surround them for not needing the right to vote , because they vote through their fathers/brothers/husbands and that 2) women are not sufficiently educated and/or too under the influence of the clergy to formulate "correct" political opinions.
At this, Mill responds with an ingenious comparison and a simple solution.
Women have enough influence to do without voting rights? Rich men also have considerable indirect influence and yet no one has considered a single minute to withdraw the right to vote.
Women are too ignorant and in the pay of the clergy? Let's give women the ability to educate themselves properly and give their other ears to listen to their stories than those of the priests.
"Even if there is only one in twenty thousand to vote, it would be a godsend for all of them to be able to do so." »
A modern spirit
He also insists on many occasions that women are able to bring many things to a government and that their access to politics can only enrich political discussions and acts in many respects.
A government exclusively composed of men is by nature inclined to be easily content with it. Mentally, men are more indolent than women, and far too quick to believe that they have done whatever it takes, or that there is no point in doing anything. Their consciousness and their feelings need to be stimulated, and for that we need the more energetic and vigorous impulse of women. »
Mill also advocates that the perpetrators of violence against women be given sufficient sentences and that violence and abuse of women are considered as real crimes, real offences, and even today we have many Progress to be made on this subject.
Most men, they say, are incapable of such terrible brutality. Perhaps it is true; It seems, however, that they are perfectly capable of letting it be perpetrated. »
What I also very much appreciated in this collection, besides the words of Mill themselves obviously, is the enthusiasm of the latter. At no time does it seem flinch and repeats in all these speeches that the day when women will be granted the right to vote and a real place in society will not be long. He continued to campaign until the end: The last speech of the book was 1871, two years before his death.
This collection has made me very pleasantly surprised by its modernity and its correctness, and I recommend it to all those who wish to learn more about this great figure of the Movement for women's right to vote (and women's rights, more generally). I find it important to have feminist writings written by a man, especially when they exude such emotion and truth.
So thanks to Cabelio for this beautiful discovered and to soon!