"Anti-Opinions"

"Votes for Women” Vol. VI. (New Series), No. 249, Newspaper (folded), Friday, December 13, 1912, "Anti-Opinions" Section "Votes for Women” Vol. VI. (New Series), No. 249, Newspaper (folded), Friday, December 13, 1912, "Anti-Opinions" Section "Votes for Women” Vol. VI. (New Series), No. 249, Newspaper (folded), Friday, December 13, 1912, "Anti-Opinions" Section

"What a pity it is that our legislators do not realize that woman's place is in the House as well as the home!"

Suffragette pamphlets and newspapers frequently engaged directly with oppositional viewpoints. These writings took great care in first presenting anti-suffrage arguments in their own words and then deconstructively revealing the contradictions contained within them. Pamphlets printed largely for distribution and for the purposes of converting others to the cause tended to strike a meticulous and measured balance between situating themselves knowledgably on the ground of their opponents and emphatically undermining these same foundational premises, pointing to logical fallacies through rhetorical questions.

However, in columns such as the recurrent "Anti-Opinions" series in Votes for Women, the "kindred spirits" addressed likely already subscribed to suffragette viewpoints. In these publications, humor emerges alongside more serious forms of persuasion as a prominent verbal resistance tactic. Establishing a connection with these readers more often employed healthy doses of sarcasm alongside logical dissections of the various conservative arguments presented by the reporter.

In this particular "Anti-Opinions" column, found in the December 14, 1912 issue of the newspaper, quippy retorts to the "'Anti' muddle" abound, arguing on behalf of women's participation in both local and national government, more equitable parenting models, and equality of economic opportunity. "To Be Good Citizens" skewers points made by Lady Jersey, ironically deemed "illuminating," that participating in lawmaking was a small, insignificant portion of citizenship and that "every woman could [instead] do her part in carrying out laws which existed already." The reporter responds "No doubt! So could men, but one can hardly imagine Lady Jersey recommending their disenfranchisement on that account," and editorializes with tongue-in-cheek that "no explanation was forthcoming as to why men had ever troubled to fight for the vote if it meant nothing now they had won it."

This recurrent strategy of replacing an argument about women with the same argument but applied to men highlights the absurdity of such thinking. In a spotlight on Sir James Barr's remarks regarding the responsibility of women for furthering the race through an understanding of "nature's laws," amusingly entitled "Always the Mother's Fault," the anonymous author similarly critiques the double standard that does not deem it "necessary to preach to fathers as well as mothers on their duty." By contrast, "Who Cooks the Dinner?" jokingly adopts traditional arguments about women's innate domesticity while ventriloquizing similar arguments about male incompetence in this sphere, pointing to the House of Commons' recent bungling of a "change in the catering department" and punnily lamenting that "our legislators do not realize that woman's place is in the House as well as the home!"

This shuttling between a rearticulation of and logical deconstruction of "Anti-Opinions" requires both a parodic assumption and inversion of traditional stances on gender roles. This strategy illustrates how the suffragettes used humor as a cathartic form of self-distancing resistance to patriarchal rhetoric. It also illuminates writing itself as a crucial tool for undermining the system from within.