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A century of concern trolls

This is a letter to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle from 1916. Look, this person is just trying to be helpful to the cause!

“Have to voters of Montana stopped to seriously consider whether there will be gain to them in sending a young woman to congress? Admittedly there will be novelty in such a proceeding; admittedly the state will be talked about for such action on its part, but will the talk be beneficial to Montana or otherwise? Montana has earned something of a name for herself as one of the most progressive of states looking for practical results rater than the sentimental or freakish; and voters should seriously consider whether by casting their votes for Miss Rankin, regardless of how attractive a personality she may have, they would not be giving the state undesirable publicity.

“Have the suffragists of Montana considered whether the sending of a young woman to congress would promote the cause of suffrage? Is it not true that such action on the part of the voters of this state, by unduly advertising the desire for office on the part of women, would seriously retard the suffrage movement in other states?

“Is there any justification for the claim that the women of Montana owe suffrage to Miss Rankin? Is it not true that other women, Mrs. H. L. Sherlock for example, were working for woman suffrage before Miss Rankin was out of her cradle? Did not suffrage come to Montana rather through the example of other states around her, and through the action and votes of men of the state? Miss Rankin undoubtedly had a part, but no more than many other men and women.

“Has Miss Rankin had the life experience that is necessary to make her a useful servant of Montana in the halls of congress? Does she understand the land questions arising in this state, the questions relating to the various irrigation projects, and other matters of practical importance to the state’s development? If Miss Rankin was a young man instead of a young woman – of the same age and experience – would anyone think of sending her to congress? If we are going to send a woman to congress from Montana, would it not be well to send one who has had a woman’s part in life, who has won her place in the state in a woman’s way?”

I liked this bit best: “Is it not true that such action on the part of the voters of this state, by unduly advertising the desire for office on the part of women, would seriously retard the suffrage movement in other states?” Don’t look to eager, ladies, it might hurt the cause if you’re too bold.

The implication that she’s not a real woman who won by following a “woman’s way”, and at the same time questioning whether a woman could actually know anything about the practical, manly issues in Montana is just icing on the cake.

The candidate, by the way, was Jeannette Rankin, who won the election handily and went on to become the first woman elected to the US Congress. She was a dedicated pacifist who voted against our entry in World War II…and she was also a Republican. I don’t think she’d fit in any more.

Comments

  1. Vicki says

    Rankin had good, or at least very interesting, timing: she was the only member of the House to vote against U.S. entry into both World Wars. The noteworthy thing there is that she served exactly two terms in Congress.

  2. says

    Concern trolling is kind of interesting, strategically. It’s an attempt to hijack a crowd impulse (or maybe a natural democratic urge) by implying that a plurality will doubtless agree with the troll – therefore, the masses have spoken. Except that they haven’t. If you think about it that way, it’s easy to see that the concern troll is actually admitting they probably don’t have a plurality at all, and most likely need to be told to fuck off.

  3. LTFT says

    In addition to her time in Congress, Rankin remained active through the late 60s, leading marches for women’s and civil rights.

  4. says

    Did not suffrage come to Montana rather through the example of other states around her, and through the action and votes of men of the state?

    Yeah, what about the Menz?

  5. Aquaria says

    Did not suffrage come to Montana rather through the example of other states around her, and through the action and votes of men of the state?

    Well, it couldn’t have come from the women, since they didn’t have suffrage, only men did.

    Like most accomdationtards, he’s both annoying and stupid.

  6. A. R says

    There aren’t any indications about the sex of the author of the letter, so keep in mind it could be a woman complaining.

    Exactly, in fact, many anti-suffragists were female, much like many of today’s anti-feminists and anti-choice activists are women as well.

  7. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    If Miss Rankin was a young man instead of a young woman – of the same age and experience – would anyone think of sending her to congress?

    This at least is gender-fair – but only by being ageist. Classic tone-troll approach to squeeze in some reasonable sounding words amongst the inanity, clouding the message so a quick read makes it seem oh-so-sensible.

    And it’s not like having nice middle-class, mature, decent, god-fearing, chaps in congress has worked out all that well, has it. Maybe you’d be better of with an actual mob of kindergarteners instead of a bunch of people that simple act like one.

  8. MGM says

    I love the way the arguments are phrased like rhetorical questions. It’s as if the author’s trying to remind us of something incredibly obvious rather than make wild and unsupported claims. Also, maybe instead of assuming that Rankin’s too young to understand the issues, you should fucking investigate her positions and see whether they make sense. You know, not act like an ageist moron, if it’s not too much trouble.

  9. says

    If Miss Rankin was a young man instead of a young woman – of the same age and experience – would anyone think of sending her to congress?

    Actually, this bit reminded me, right away, of tone/concern trolls we’ve had here who have used the “you wouldn’t say that to a woman!*” argument to no avail.

    *Usually concerning the offer of a decaying porcupine, which, yes, we’ll happily say to a woman and often have.

  10. Erulóra Maikalambe says

    Actually, this bit reminded me, right away, of tone/concern trolls we’ve had here who have used the “you wouldn’t say that to a woman!*” argument to no avail.

    *Usually concerning the offer of a decaying porcupine, which, yes, we’ll happily say to a woman and often have.

    Apparently “temper tantrum” now falls under this category.

  11. Part-Time Insomniac, Zombie Porcupine Nox Arcana Fan says

    Can someone please explain exactly WHY there were women who were anti-suffragists? Or pretty much anti-anything that would actually be good for women, for that matter. I’m sure some of the same ones prided themselves on being oh-so-practical and even logical, so why the hell couldn’t they see the benefits to having the right to choose, the right to vote, etc? Is it some form of, I don’t know, Stockholm syndrome?

  12. Ing says

    @Part-Time Insomniac

    Because if you don’t insist that the shit you put up with was the way things were supposed to be and was for a greater good then it means all the shit you put up with was for nothing.

    And that’s can’t be it…because that would be horrible *nervous laughter*. It couldn’t have been just a random meaningless act *hysterical nervous laughter*

  13. says

    @Part-Time Insomniac

    if you grow up in a patriarchic culture, you’re bound to be influenced by it, irrespective of gender. It still happens today.

  14. captainahags says

    Also interesting to note is that Jeannette Rankin was the only person, male or female, to vote against America’s entry into both world wars, IIRC. Actually, I think she was the only person to vote against WWII, so that may be by default. Point still stands though.

  15. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    “If Miss Rankin was a young man instead of a young woman – of the same age and experience – would anyone think of sending her to congress?”

    She was 36, educated at the University of Montana, and from a politically prominent wealthy family … of course they would have sent her!

  16. says

    PTI:

    Can someone please explain exactly WHY there were women who were anti-suffragists?

    For the same reason there are still female anti-feminists, female anti-choicers and so on. Plenty of women buy into the kyriarchy/patriarchy lock, stock and barrel. I’ve heard plenty of women go on about the ‘natural order’ and all that crap. On the other side, we have young women who consider themselves ‘chill girls’ and they are down with the menz, oh yeah.

  17. says

    Gosh it’s nice to see that we’ve come such a long way. I mean women have complete control of what happens to their lives and bodies now. Wait what… What the hell is a personhood law?

  18. psanity says

    Ah, I just knew the Horde would enjoy this jeweled time-capsule — it’s kind of like being in two places at once, isn’t it? I should have checked before sending the link to PZ — maybe it’s a letter to the editor, but I had assumed it was an editorial. I’ll try to call the reporter who’s been putting together this historic series, and ask her.

    Before I even got to the “be nice, ladies” bits, in the very first paragraph, I was struck strongly by the tone. Rang like a bell, and the bell was, oh, every accommodationist article and blog I’ve ever read. It just made me grin. Today’s weasels may be sneakier and more well-oiled, but there it all is.

    The implication that Ms. Rankin was both not enough of a suffragette and not enough of a womanly woman, was just the pink sprinkles on the cupcake. I wonder how many logical fallacies are crammed into this one little screed?

  19. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    Caine, thank you for ‘kyriarchy’. I’ve never heard the word before but it sounds as if it makes a lot of sense. At least, I think it might. Trying to read the Schüssler Fiorenza quotation in the wikipedia article seems to have melted parts of my brain. I suppose that’s the problem with trying to make sense of a highly contextualised statement from an intellectual milieu that is not one normally habituated by oneself.

  20. Cassius Corodes says

    “Can someone please explain exactly WHY there were women who were anti-suffragists?”

    You can go to the middle east and elsewhere and find out first hand. Its actually not uncommon to see people fervently fighting against their rights.

    I would think some of it would come down to those in favour of social order (aka stability, tradition etc) against the inherent risk of trying something new. Hence the doomsday portrayals of the consequences of such actions.

    Another part might be the fact that human rights are by no means inherent or intuitive. It is just as “natural” for slavery to be the norm as it is for the current liberal democracy to be the norm. So the pull factor towards it is much weaker that you might expect.

  21. D. C. Sessions says

    I don’t think she’d fit in any more.

    Not hardly — back then, the Republicans were the pacifists. Mostly out of isolationism, but pacifists nonetheless.

  22. says

    Tim:

    Caine, thank you for ‘kyriarchy’. I’ve never heard the word before but it sounds as if it makes a lot of sense. At least, I think it might. Trying to read the Schüssler Fiorenza quotation in the wikipedia article seems to have melted parts of my brain. I suppose that’s the problem with trying to make sense of a highly contextualised statement from an intellectual milieu that is not one normally habituated by oneself.

    Jadehawk has written a bit about it, it might be worth poking around her blog. It’s not the easiest thing to wrap your head around.

  23. Cassius Corodes says

    Caine – Are there really women around you who don’t think women ought to vote? Where do you live?

  24. says

    @30 – Cassius Corodes – “Are there really women around you who don’t think women ought to vote? Where do you live?”

    There are people around who think that “liberal education” is bunk, never mind the right of females to vote. What right should the ‘intellectual elites’ have in pushing rationalism into the minds of defenseless children?

    If you think it is not that bad, it is. I wrote a take down piece about some individual’s post titled “Intellectual Rape; Liberal Teachers Invade the South to “Evolve” Students Ideology”

    My red pen of justice nearly ran out of ink…

    The crazy is out there, and is all around us.

  25. Carina says

    “Is it not true that such action on the part of the voters of this state, by unduly advertising the desire for office on the part of women, would seriously retard the suffrage movement in other states?”

    Bwa-hahahahaha that is so funny!!!! Blithering idiot!

  26. WBenson says

    Jeannette had an undergraduate degree in biology and was a founding vice-president of the American Civil Liberties Union.

  27. kirk says

    Jeanette Rankin is one of the reasons I have to be proud of my home state. She’s also an example I use when talking to my friends here in Boston about how it’s tough to sometimes pigeonhole the Western and mountain states as simply “conservative” or red. Not that she’s a very recent example of liberal action, but it also helps explain Montana’s popular Democratic governor.

    I remember going to the Statehouse when I was in high school and testifying on a bill that would grant student journalists full protection of the First Amendment (in light of a Supreme Court decision granting school principals editorial control of school newspapers). There is a giant statue of Rankin that’s the dominant feature of the rotunda entranceway of the Statehouse.

    Despite her being voted out of office after her vote against each war (and being elected again some time after the first one), the state is very proud of her and her role in the political advancement of women. It would be nice if Montana voters would be as progressive on other issues, but that’s why I’m living in Boston now…

  28. Mambocat says

    Thanks for this piece of history, PZ.

    The author sounds like Phyllis Schlafly in a previous life.

    People will vote against their interests if they are well-enough indoctrinated. Look at the working class, unemployed males who truly believe that generous tax cuts for the super-rich will somehow benefit THEM. Look at today’s Christian women who believe that the words of the Bible supersede their own rights and needs.

    We humans surrender our freedoms far too easily, and readily empower other humans who have no actual civil authority over us: starting with the most trivial things:

    “A beer on Friday after work sounds nice. I’ll call my wife to see if she will let me go…” instead of “Sounds good — let me check in with my wife to see if we have other plans.”

    “My cat died. I want another one, but my boyfriend hates cats, so he won’t let me have one.” Since when does your boyfriend have this authority? Who GAVE him this authority? Does he have a dangerous medical allergy, or are you just bowing to the whims of someone you date who wants to deny you access to something you value? If so, can’t you see that this is a manifestation of serious control issues?

    “I was so grateful the doctor LET ME have a cup of orange juice while I was in labor, and he LET ME do my whole labor drug-free.” (This came from a woman who had a normal, vaginal delivery, of a non-high-risk pregnancy).

    It’s sad how quickly some people surrender their freedoms.