Women’s movements: a force for change

Chloe Halpenny | Jun 05, 2018
Animated image of the streets of London with green, white, and purple flowing in the streets

Join us at PROCESSIONS 2018 to march for women’s rights 

On 10th June 2018, the streets of London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast will become awash with purple, green, and white – not to mention hundreds of proud feminists. We’re talking about PROCESSIONS – an artwork demonstration marking 100 years since the first UK women won the right to vote.

The road to women’s suffrage in the UK was long and arduous. The first petition for women’s suffrage was presented in Parliament in 1832 and over the next century, women’s groups hosted rallies, refused taxes, went on hunger strike and even attempted to storm Parliament, all in the name of the vote. It was only in 1918 that Parliament passed the Representation of the People Act, giving suffrage to women over 30 owning property. The women’s movement was integral to this accomplishment.

It is this struggle that PROCESSIONS acknowledges and celebrates. To mark the occasion, one hundred artists have partnered with groups across the UK to create banners representing their causes, from supporting women with disabilities to amplifying the voices of women affected by the criminal justice system. 100 years, 100 banners.

A (cautious) celebration 

The suffrage movement – and the centenary commemorating it – is not immune to criticism. Opinions on the use of violence divided the campaign, while modern conversations often overlook the contributions of East London's working-class, socialist movement. Pioneering suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst has been criticised for a “colonial spirit,” and while some women won the vote in 1918, uniPROCESSIONS 2018 Logoversal suffrage wasn’t actually achieved until 10 years later through the 1928 Equal Franchise Act.

And what about today? How do we balance celebrating a momentous win with the knowledge that inequalities persist, from the wage gap, to gender-based violence, to women’s underrepresentation in politics? How can we praise our predecessors’ successes while reconciling that we still have an incredibly long way to go? As we’ve mentioned before, what the suffragettes started, we need to finish – our work is not over. 

 

Getting crafty: art in the women’s movement

The choice to march with banners at PROCESSIONS is no coincidence, paying homage to the hundreds of banners used by women campaigning to get the vote. According to Clare Hunter of Sewing Matters, “the Suffragettes used their needlework skills to fashion a new visual vocabulary. These were not the vast, commercially produced, painted banners of the male-dominated trade unions sporting golden portraits of political heroes.” 

Suffrage banners aren’t the only example of where art and feminist movements intersect. From the black feminist movement in the USA, to grassroots movements in India, poster art as means of self-expression holds deep roots in feminist activism around the world. Decades of authoritarian regimes in Latin America resulted inPosters from the black feminist, UK suffrage, and grassroots Indian movements powerful and political artwork by women artists, while the Guerrilla Girls “creatively complain” about gender bias in the art world. Before the suffrage movement intensified, Sylvia Pankhurst – herself trained as an artist – used art to depict conditions of women workers in British industrial communities. And of course, posters and banners alike feature in women’s marches today, from a 2017 march in Zimbabwe demanding the implementation of a section in the constitution guaranteeing equality to the #March4Women this year in London.

“Women’s movements: a force for change”

Women in Harare, Zimbabwe demonstrating, calling for Section 56 of the Zimbabwe constitution to be implemented in policyWomankind works in partnership with women’s movements around the world, from the Maasai women in Kenya campaigning against Female Genital Mutilation to the women’s environmental movement resisting land grabs in Uganda. In honour of this, we are both proud and excited to unveil our banner for PROCESSIONS, bearing the message that “women’s movements are a force for change.” It will also feature women from our partner organisations as a reminder of the thousands of women around the world who work tirelessly in pursuit of equality – often with little recognition. We’ve been especially fortunate to have had the expertise of illustrator Rudy Loewe, who has played a key role in designing and creating our banner – check out their other work here.

Moving forward

Why march? Marching certainly isn’t the only way to demonstrate your activism – donating your money or time through volunteering, hosting a fundraising event, or educating yourself and others are all powerful ways to contribute to the feminist movement that don’t necessarily involve taking to the streets. But for those who are able, marching can be a moving way to show solidarity with a cause, galvanise support, and perhaps ignite the spark in aspiring activists who might not knoPhotos inspiring the Womankind bannerw where to start. There is something undeniably powerful about standing alongside hundreds of other passionate people pursuing equality. 

Ultimately, it is imperative that we view PROCESSIONS as the beginning – rather than the end – of progress towards genuine equality for women and girls everywhere. As important as it is to celebrate the undeniable successes of the past century, perhaps we ought to ask ourselves another question: how do we want to be remembered by feminists of the next century?


March with us

Interested in marching with us in London on 10th June? It’s not too late! Email us for more information about joining Womankind in support of women’s movements – we’d love to have you!

 



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