In October of 1903, the women of London decided that they had had enough. Emmaline Pankhurst and her colleagues began a campaign of loud, aggressive, and often violent protests over the silencing of their voices and the inequality that they faced.
These women were told by their new prime minister that they needed to be “patient” and “civil” in their petitions, but patience, civility, and submissiveness had never gotten them the respect they demanded.
Five years later, Miss Nell and Olivia Smith chained themselves to the railing outside of Downing Street, as their fellow suffragettes, fighting under the banner of “Deeds, Not Words” committed acts of vandalism that were sure to get them arrested. They refused to bail themselves out of jail, and went on hunger strikes to prove the seriousness of their campaign.
In November of this year, a man who has been openly misogynistic, who has legitimized objectification of and violence against women was elected to be the leader of America. 10 days after that election, I asked my boyfriend to help me affix steel chains to my wrists.
Each “bracelet” took about five minutes to put on, requiring two strong hands and two sets of pliers. These chains have no clasp. They do not slip over my hands. They will stay with me, day and night, through every shower, and every workout, and every class, and every work shift, until we no longer have a misogynist, admitted abuser, and a beacon for violent sexism in our oval office.
The fight for women’s equality has never been a pretty one, and the women responsible for the fact that I have the right to cast my vote – the right to own land, the right to choose whatever career I would like to pursue – were loud. They were aggressive. They were unapologetic. They were dramatic. They made grand gestures, and put themselves in the spotlight where they could not be ignored. They fought tooth and nail in the public arena so that I could have what I have today.
My daughter will be six years old when the president elect’s first term ends. She will be six years old before the first possibility that I could remove these. She will be six years old and never have a memory of me without them. My daughter will know, as will anyone who sees me and asks about my chains, that I will fight for her every single day until atrocities like the results this election cannot be duplicated.
My boyfriend looked me in the eye, as he reached for the pliers to seal these chains around my arms, and asked, with all seriousness, “are you sure you want to do this?”
I’ve never been so sure.
We have four years. Four years to choose a leader worthy of our nation. Four years to take a stand, the way those early women did, and say “we will not be ignored.” Four years to force our country to take us seriously when we say that if you degrade us, if you act violently toward us, if you discriminate against us based on our gender, we will chew you up and spit you out.
We will not diminish the memory of our feminist foremothers. We will not fail to make them proud.
It’s time to take up their chains.