Every argument has two sides. In the case of votes for women, it was those who were pro-women’s suffrage against those who were anti-women’s suffrage. Those against Woman’s suffrage were often referred to as “Antis.” Antis had many reasons for why women should not have he vote, however many of those reasons were unfounded or could easily be made invalid. Although, to begin with, the views of the Antis were more representative of public opinion, people would soon come to see them as old fashioned and there arguments as unjustified and unconvincing.
For many Antis, the only real reason that they didn’t want women to have the vote was simply because they hated change. This fear led to many unfounded arguments that would cloud and distort any realistic arguments they had. Antis said that enfranchising women would destabilise the political structure and an uneducated and politically inexperienced class would come into power. However, politics was something that could be easily taught and many women would begin to follow politics during this period anyway. Antis also stressed that women could not fight in the army and they should not have the vote because they couldn’t fight for their country. But just because women couldn’t fight for the country doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t. This didn’t change that fact that Antis felt that Britains role as an empire was still too important to jeopardise.
None of the British colonies wanted to give women the vote and there were fears that the colonies would lose respect for Britain and demand independence if women’s suffrage was granted. This could be a serious problem because of all the trade and income that Britain got from it’s colonies and because all of Britains colonies together had a large population. There were also vague fears that Britain would be invaded if women got the vote, because women would want to avoid confrontation and other countries would see this as an opportunity to invade. On the other hand, women do understand that force is sometimes necessary and the Antis were taking a very stereotypical view.
In fact, many of the Antis’ arguments were based around unfounded stereotypical views of women. They said that women were intellectually inferior and prone to insanity, allowing emotion to cloud their judgement. However women have often proven that they are just as, if not more capable than men, and the Antis were merely echoing the stereotypical views of the time. They claimed that men and women lived in two different social spheres.
Antis argued that politics was too dirty a game for women to get involved in and that women should stay private and worry about domestic issues, whereas men should take the limelight and be more involved in politics and war. Because Antis felt that women should stay home and look after the family, as this was a woman’s job, while politics was a man’s burden. If one crossed into the other, it would have an adverse effect. Thus, if women got the vote it would destroy the family. Since then, these views have been changed and men and women have both proven themselves just as capable of handling the other’s duties and that these perceived differences between men and women actually mean nothing.
Antis would also say that men represented women and that women could not form their own opinions and thus giving them the vote would just enable men to manipulate women into voting for who they wanted. Antis said that woman would vote against male interests and that it was God’s will that man should rule, as he created men first. However, one of the arguments that women used as to why she should have the vote, was so that women could be better companions to men and so they both might be elevated to new levels.
Women had many other arguments why they should have the vote. Most of them a lot more concrete that the Antis’ reasons why they shouldn’t. At the time, prostitution and venereal disease were large problems. Suffragists and Suffragettes both said that if women got the vote it would help eradicate the problem and raise morality in men, as laws would be passed to make sure that men, as well as women, were checked for disease and laws could be passed to outlaw prostitution as well.
Another argument often used by the campaigners was that it was extremely unfair that women could not vote. Many pro-suffrage posters would point out that women could hold positions of respect and authority, such as mayor, doctor, teacher or mother but still couldn’t vote. Whereas men could be slave owners, lunatics, convicts or drunkard and yet retain the vote. Men could even be unfit for service in the army and still have the vote, completely invalidating that argument. Women would also pay the same rates and taxes as men, making it extremely unfair that they could not have their say in how the money the spent. Women could own land or companies and have men working for them, yet still not have the vote. This could be a major problem, as women who owned companies would not be able to stop laws that would give huge advantages and job security to the men who worked for them.
On the other hand, women who worked for men were treated unfairly anyway. Women were not allowed to work the same hours as men and often had nowhere near the same rate of pay. Women wanted the vote so that they could gain improved working conditions and this would also make it easier for them to pay the rates and taxes that they had to pay. In fact, just by having their say in what happened to the money, women probably wouldn’t mind the poor conditions so much.
There were many arguments for and against women’s suffrage, some of these good arguments and others completely unfounded. To being with, women’s suffrage was seen as a joke and wasn’t taken seriously. However, by 1914, the Antis’ arguments seemed old fashioned and it would only be a matter of time before women got the vote. Antis’ arguments were unjustified and unconvincing and the women’s arguments held much reason. With the World War showing Britain that women were just as able as men, even many Antis were won over and abandoned their own arguments. But the Suffragists, Suffragettes and Antis did all agree on one thing: votes for women would bring about change and social revolution.