Sunday, 14 February 2016

How Cats were Used to Discredit the Suffragettes

In earlier posts we saw how the Victorian’s viewed pet cats as overtly female - and this wasn’t a good thing. For a start, the Victorian’s used the link in a negative way by implying both cats and women were promiscuous with a natural inclination to low morals, and therefore in need of a firm male hand for their own good.

The independent nature of cats was another negative point against them. A good wife and mother was obedient to her husband, and her purpose in life was to please her husband (qualities more associated with dogs than cats).
A hard-done-by husband struggling to cope at home,
whilst his suffragette wife is out.
Note the scalded cat under the table
Therefore what better way to discredit the growing women’s suffrage movement than to use propaganda images of cats? Linking women to cats in such an obvious way sounded a warning shot across the bows of early female emancipation, subtly linking independence with promiscuity, and making the former seem less desirable.

In the mid to late 19th century women fought for the right to vote in public elections. Prior to this they had no political rights and were not allowed to vote in elections. This was because husband’s looked after their women, freeing them from the need to worry about political matters so they could concentrate on rearing children and keeping their husbands happy.

However, since the industrial revolution many women now worked full-time, and the inequality of their lives became increasingly difficult to ignore. Incensed by their lack of rights, women organized themselves into groups to campaign for the right to vote. As you can imagine, their menfolk were less than thrilled and felt threatened by their women wanting to be more independent.
You couldn't be both feminine and a suffragette.
Being a suffragette changed you into a hissing spitting monster


In the 19th century, women Suffragists worked towards 'The Cause', which was a general movement to improve women's rights. Originally apolitical, as time passed the idea of 'Votes for Women' took shape and became a focal point. At first the suffragists campaigned using entirely peaceful means, but by the early 1900s a breakaway movement led by Emmeline Pankhurst became impatient with the slow progress and became increasingly militant. 

By 1912 their motto was “Deeds not words” and these new suffragettes were prepared to go on hunger strike and use violence to draw attention to their cause. All of which left male politicians with the problem of how to handle this political insurrection. One tactic was to discredit the suffragettes, and for that they used images of cats.
A fat conceited cat making a fool of herself
by demanding a vote

Postcards were circulated showing images of hissing, spitting cats, sending a message that femininity had gone terribly wrong. Other images, showing an angry cat holding a placard saying “Down with the Tom Cats”, which implied men had better watch out if women got the vote.

Another image showed a fat, ugly cat dressed in a suffragette’s sash, lecturing a room full of toys. The message being that the cat is self-important and engaging in a childish fantasy.
By 1914 the suffragettes learnt to fight fire with fire. They created the powerful “Cat and mouse” poster, in response to the Prisoner’s Temporary Discharge Act (April 1913)-also known as the “Cat and mouse” act. The government used this law to release women on hunger strike from prison, only to have them re-arrested once they had gained weight and health back at home.
The suffragettes turned male/ female iconography
on its head, to great effect

The “cat and mouse” poster reversed traditional roles, and had men play the part of a cold-blooded killer (the cat) preying upon the defenseless mouse (the woman). As a propaganda poster it made a huge impact, largely because it reversed the imagery associated with men and women.


In Britain, women over 30 gained the right to vote in 1918. 

4 comments:

  1. And then much later a woman became Prime Minister of England while another in Israel.

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    1. A classic case of "Deeds not words".
      Thanks for visiting.
      G

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  2. I know you will certainly not publish this, but I'll write it anyhow. The men who opposed female suffrage were spot on, one needn't do more than look about oneself to see it. Can you seriously maintain that the shameless, vicious, cold-blooded and often outright murderous modern woman is superior to her humble and modest Victorian ancestors? The restrictions placed on them were indeed for their own good, rather like not letting a child drive or play with knives. Female suffrage is only another manifestation of the ancient war waged by the serpent and his followers against all law, all hierarchy and rightful order. Feminism is nothing more than the Marxian doctrine of class warfare applied to the relations between the sexes. The result is nothing but misery for all. What have these modern women used all of their "rights" for? They avail themselves of them in order to commit crimes for which they would have been rightfully punished in better saner times. They engage in disgusting public exhibitionism wearing "clothes" which no inmate of a 19th century house of ill-repute would have dared to wear. They make use of liberal laws to break up their own families and extort the man who was stupid or unfortunate to have married them (that is if they marry in the first place and don't simply engage in concubinage), and they murder their own unborn children when they prove to be an impediment to the pursuit of a life of dissipation. As Our Lord said "By their fruits you shall know them." Feminism and that which produced it are evil trees that bring evil fruit. May those whose minds are darkened correspond with the graces which God in His mercy deigns to send them before it is too late for their souls.

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    1. Would anyone care to comment on the above?

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