Philippine Senate Fifth Philippine Legislature First Session The Woman and the Right to Vote
Address Delivered By
Hon. Rafael Palma Senator for the Fourth District
In support of Bill No. 23 of the Senate in the sessions held by said body on the 22d and 25th of November, 1919
Manila Bureau of Printing 1919
THE WOMAN AND THE RIGHT TO VOTE
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Senate:
I have seldom felt so proud of being a representative of the people as now, when it gives me an opportunity to advocate a cause which can not be represented or defended in this chamber by those directly and particularly affected by it, owing to the leven of prejudice that the beliefs and ideas of the past have left in the mind of modern man. The cause of female suffrage is one sure to strike a sympathetic chord in every unprejudiced man, because it represents the cause of the weak who, deprived of the means to defend themselves, are compelled to throw themselves upon the mercy of the strong.
But it is not on this account alone that this cause has my sympathy and appeals to me. It has, besides, the irresistible attraction of truth and justice, which no open and liberal mind can deny. If our action as legislators must be inspired by the eternal sources of right, if the laws passed here must comply with the divine precept to give everybody his due, then we can not deny woman the right to vote, because to do otherwise would be to prove false to all the precepts and achievements of democracy and liberty which have made this century what may be properly called the century of vindication.
Female suffrage is a reform demanded by the social conditions of our times, by the high culture of woman, and by the aspiration of all classes of society to organize and work for the interests they have in common. We can not detain the celestial bodies in their course; neither can we check any of those moral movements that gravitate with irresistible force towards their center of attraction: Justice. The moral world is governed by the same laws as the physical world, and all the power of man being impotent to suppress a single molecule of the spaces required for the gravitation of the universe, it is still less able to prevent the generation of the ideas that take shape in the mind and strive to attain to fruition in the field of life and reality.
It is an interesting phenomenon that whenever an attempt is made to introduce a social reform, in accordance with modern ideas and tendencies and in contradiction with old beliefs and prejudices, there is never a lack of opposition, based on the maintenance of the statu quo, which it is desired to preserve at any cost. As was to be expected, the eternal calamity howlers and false prophets of evil raise their fatidical voices on this present occasion, in protest against female suffrage, invoking the sanctity of the home and the necessity of perpetuating customs that have been observed for many years.
Frankly speaking, I have no patience with people who voice such objections. If this country had not been one of the few privileged places on our planet where the experiment of a sudden change of institutions and ideals has been carried on most successfully, without paralyzation or retrogression, disorganization or destruction, I would say that the apprehension and fears of those who oppose this innovation might be justified.
However, in less than a generation our country, shaken to its very foundations by the great social upheavals known as revolutions, has seen its old institutions crumble to pieces and other, entirely new institutions rise in their place; it has seen theories, beliefs, and codes of ethics, theretofore looked upon as immovable, give way to different principles and methods based upon democracy and liberty, and despite all those upheavals and changes which have brought about a radical modification in its social and political structure, or rather in consequence of the same, our people has become a people with modern thoughts and modern ideals, with a constitution sufficiently robust and strong to withstand the ravages of the struggle for existence, instead of remaining a sickly and atrophied organism, afraid of everything new and opposed to material struggles from fear of the wrath of Heaven and from a passive desire to live in an ideal state of peace and well-being.
In view of the fruitful results which those institutions of liberty and democracy have brought to our country; and considering the marked progress made by us, thanks to these same institutions, in all the orders of national life, in spite of a few reactionists and ultra-conservatives, who hold opinions to the contrary and regret the past, I do not and can not, understand how there still are serious people who seriously object to the granting of female suffrage, one of the most vivid aspirations now agitating modern society.
I remember very well that in the past, not so very long ago, the same apprehension and fears were felt with regard to higher education for our women. How ridiculous—the same people argued—is it for woman to study history, mathematics, philosophy, and chemistry, which are not only superior to the assimilating power of her deficient brain, but will make her presumptuous and arrogant and convert her into a hybrid being without grace or strength, intolerable and fatuous, with a beautiful, but empty head and a big, but dry heart! However, we admitted the women to our high schools and universities and made it possible for them to attain to the degree of bachelor of arts and graduate in law, medicine, and other professions. Can it be said that those women have perverted the homes of their parents or that, when they married, they were a source of disgrace or scandal to their husbands? We are now able to observe the results, and if these results are found to be detrimental to the social and political welfare of the country, it is our duty to undo what we have done and to return to where we were before.
Fortunately, nobody would think of such a thing. From the most cultured centers of population to the remotest villages, public opinion fervently approves and applauds the education of women, and even the most backward peasants send their daughters to the cities and go to the greatest sacrifices imaginable in order to make it possible for them to ascend to the highest pinnacles of knowledge. Though ignorant rustics, they reason in their own rude way that woman and man are made of the same clay, and refuse to believe that because it has been their fate to have daughters instead of sons, they must condemn them to bear the chains of ignorance, incapacitating them from being useful to their families, society, and their country.
Education has not atrophied or impaired any of the fundamental faculties of woman; on the contrary, it has enhanced and enriched them. Far from being a constant charge to the family, the educated woman has often been its sustain and support in times of great need. The educated woman has not become a blue-stocking, that fatuous creature imagined by certain elements, nor has she lost any of her feminine charms by being able to argue and discuss on every subject with the men. On the contrary, it seems to lend her an additional grace and charm, because she understands us better and can make herself better understood. Thank God, people are no longer ready to cast ridicule upon what some used to consider the foolish presumption of women to know as much as the men, and this is doubtless due to the fact that the disastrous results predicted by the calamity howlers, the terrible prophets of failure, have not materialized.
Very well; if you allow the instruction and education of woman in all the branches of science, you must allow woman to take on her place not only in domestic life, but also in social and public life. Instruction and education have a twofold purpose; individually, they redeem the human intellect from the perils of ignorance, and socially they prepare man and woman for the proper performance of their duties of citizenship. A person is not educated exclusively for his or her own good, but principally to be useful and of service to the others. Nothing is more dangerous to society than the educated man who thinks only of himself, because his education enables him to do more harm and to sacrifice everybody else to his convenience or personal ambition. The real object of education is public service, that is, to utilize the knowledge one has acquired for the benefit and improvement of the society in which one is living.
In societies, therefore, where woman is admitted to all the professions and where no source of knowledge is barred to her, woman must necessarily and logically be allowed to take a part in the public life, otherwise, her education would be incomplete or society would commit an injustice towards her, giving her the means to educate herself and then depriving her of the necessary power to use that education for the benefit of society and collective progress.
I can not resist this conclusion. If woman is given equal opportunities with man for educating herself; if she is encouraged to learn and study the knowledge of the world and of life, it is but just that the doors of public life should be thrown open to her in order to allow her to play in it the part to which she is entitled.
In backward societies, woman is taught only such knowledge as she requires for the home; that is, she is unconsciously prepared for that gentle, that charming slavery so pleasing to the masculine sex. The question now before us is what system we shall adopt for our women: whether slavery and ignorance, or liberty and education.
Female suffrage is the consequence of the education of woman; it is also the consequence of her liberty of conscience. The vote is the expression of political faith, just as worship is the expression of religious faith. There is no more reason for keeping woman from the ballot box than there is for preventing her from going to church.
There is no reason why suffrage should be a privilege of sex, considering that the duties of citizenship rest as heavily upon woman as upon man. Is woman under less obligation to strive for the welfare and future of her country because she is a woman? To attempt to curtail the activity of woman in public life is tantamount to declaring that a woman must not love her country and must not dedicate any of her time to her duties of citizenship; that she must not feel the affection and devotion which the idea of native land and community awaken in every well-born creature.
Physical barrenness is combated and looked upon as a misfortune in woman; but we condemn her to a perpetual political barrenness, to patriotic barrenness, if we keep her away from exercising the right of suffrage which affords the citizen the most effective means to make his influence felt in social questions and in the improvement of the public affairs. How are we to inculcate in our children, that sacred pledge of the future of the nation, the cult and worship of native land and liberty if we do not give their mothers that practical education involved in the exercise of the right of suffrage; if they are taught that government and politics are strange gods at whose shrines they are forbidden to worship; if they feel upon themselves the stigma of inferiority, of being incapacitated from speaking to their children about the public affairs and the interests of the nation and the State?
All social classes are entitled to representation in the legislative houses and are thus enabled to work for legislation favoring their interests: the merchants, the laborers, the manufacturers, all can choose one of their own number; but the women, who are not merely one group or class, but a collection of groups or classes, who represent one-half of the country and have interests of their own to defend, not only with relation to their sex, but also with relation to their position in the family, are not allowed to vote and are therefore not permitted to have representatives to promote and defend laws and measures necessary for their protection and betterment. Is this just? Is this even moral? Female labor can be exploited in shop and factory; feminine virtue can be made the object of commerce, and yet woman is not allowed to defend directly the interests of her sex, owing to one of those aberrations of the moral sense that spring from the crass egoism and brutal tyranny of man.
If woman were at least exempt from complying with the laws! But no; the law binds the woman as well as the man; the Penal Code menaces man and woman alike with the sword of justice, and the burden of taxation rests upon both the masculine and the feminine wealth. Consequently, before the law, their duties are the same, but their rights are not.
Is it not strange that our laws should contain so much social injustice towards woman, so much exasperating discrimination, all based upon the theory of the servile dependency of woman upon man, resulting from her congenital mental and physical inferiority? Moebius is incarnated in our Codes, governs our policy, and influences all the customs and usages of our social and political life, to such a point that we ought to be ashamed that in the midst of this era of vindication, when all classes have secured their right to liberty and equality, woman has been kept indefinitely upon the same level as in the centuries of subjection and slavery.
True democracy can not exist with one-half of the people free and the other half in a stage of slavery, with one-half of the people with representation in the public affairs and the other half without it. The people does not consist of men alone, but of women as well, and conditions being equal, woman should have the same political rights as man. She should, at least, have those fundamental rights the exercise of which, like that of the right to vote, requires nothing but intelligence and capacity, in order that she may have some voice in the decision of her own destiny and may herself fight the battles for her honor, her liberty, and other rights neglected or ignored by man on account of the undisputed monopoly exercised by him over the public affairs.
The injustices and social and juridical discriminations contained in our codes will not be eliminated in a radical manner and the condition of woman will not improve while man alone legislates and controls all the spheres of public life, dictating to woman what she must do and what she must not do; and woman will be incompetent to take care of her own interests and shape her own life so long as she does not look higher, so long as she consents to the superiority of man and believes that her lot is simply that of serving and pleasing man in bed and home, instead of being his true helpmate and companion, for the progress and felicity of the human race.
All arguments that are or may be adduced against female suffrage tend invariably towards these two objects: the confinement of woman to the home and the perpetuation of her civil and political slavery.
Woman must busy herself with nothing but her household duties and must live only for her husband and her children; she has her hands full from the rising to the setting sun if she manages the cook, cleans the house, and mends the clothes: this is the great argument of the partisans of the old regime. Another is, that it is not in the nature of things that woman should struggle with man in the battle of public life; that if she enters that struggle, man will cease to look upon her as a being to be worshipped, as a sacred idol at whose feet he must kneel, and will see in her a rival to be combated and overcome, for his own preservation, and woman will not only drag the pure flower of her virtue into the mire of political life, but will lose the esteem, respect, and consideration now tributed to her.
I have the most profound respect for all men and women who honestly believe this to be the case. It is not their fault that they believe that what has always been so is the best. They do not realize that life is motion and that the new elements of life and character which are being imperceptibly introduced into society demand changes and innovations. Society can not become stagnant, otherwise it runs the risk of becoming like stagnant water, which generates pestilential miasma. The theory that woman exists for the home alone has been a dead issue for some time past. Woman has quietly taken her place in public life and aids and directs man, even though he may not notice it and may not recognize her right to do so. In modern society, woman participates in the direction of public charity and in the education of the children, she practises law and medicine, engages in literary and journalistic pursuits, occupies many public offices, and takes interest and cooperates in the suppression of social vice and suffering.
Who does not admit that woman has duties towards her home and her husband and children to which she must ordinarily give the preference over all other duties? However, does this exclude the performance of other duties towards God, her neighbor, and the State? Like man, woman has many duties to perform, and the true merit lies in the orderly and complete performance of these duties. Does not the Filipina dedicate part of her time, sometimes a very considerable part, to the church and to her so-called social duties, receiving and making calls and attending celebrations, theaters, and balls?
Has anybody ever complained against this? Has woman ever been criticised for her assiduous attendance of the religious services and the public performance of her religious duties in crowded churches, in the public streets, filled with tumultuous throngs of people, marching in a procession behind some saint, jostled about and exposed to disagreeable incidents, which she bears with resignation because she suffers them for the cause of the public confession of her faith? Our women go not only to church, but to the theater and to popular entertainments and celebrations, where they may show off their elegant dresses and satisfy their feminine curiosity. In all this we see no pitfalls or dangers to their virtue, though we know that the women who go to those places and exhibit themselves in this manner are mothers, wives or daughters who have duties to attend at home.
Now, what is the difference if woman leaves her home to attend or take part in a political meeting where the public needs or the election of candidates for public office are discussed? In what way is the virtue or purity of woman imperilled by her taking an interest in public questions affecting the welfare of the families, considering that whatever her status may be in life, woman always occupies some position in the family? Why should we fear that woman will leave the flower of her charms on the brambles of politics if she listens to a political speaker, after having listened to sermons all her life, or if she herself makes a speech giving her opinions on some subject of interest to the family, on the necessity of remedying some social evil or of providing a home for abandoned and indigent children?
Let us take the case of one of the most vital questions of the present time, the subject of gambling. Do you not believe that this question has a direct bearing upon the welfare of the families, especially of the feminine part of them? Who suffers the most if the father or husband spends the money of the family in order to satisfy his craving for gambling? The women, of course, the daughters who are often condemned to undergo unnecessary privations and suffering because of the conduct of the head of the family. And you try to deny to woman the right to take a part in political affairs, to enlighten the electorate with regard to the fatal results of gambling or cast her vote for the candidate who promises to secure the passage of measures against it? And why should the opinion of woman on issues like this not have as much weight as that of man? Should it not be given greater weight, it being she who suffers the consequences and results of the evil? There are many questions like this which vitally affect the welfare and happiness of woman.
I fail to see anything pernicious in the activity of woman in the field of politics: I even believe that her activity in this respect will be highly salutary and beneficent not only for womankind, but for society in general. It will serve to instruct woman and give her a more extensive knowledge of the world and of life. She will not be considered as an outsider where society and government are concerned and will therefore not remain indifferent to their short-comings and progress. Nothing could possibly be more harmful to society than the presence in it of foreign bodies absolutely indifferent to its weal or woe, of useless parts in the machinery of progress.
We are terrified by the idea that the impulsiveness of woman and her fanaticism and narrow-mindedness, according to some, her weakness and lack of character, according to others, and her unpreparedness and deficient culture, according to still others, will make female suffrage a mere farce and will convert it into a tool for certain elements and interests. My opinion is that all these impulses, sentiments, weaknesses, and imperfections of woman are due to nothing but to the seclusion in which she has been kept. They are the effects of an educational and social system tottering to decay, of a system that does not give the natural faculties of woman that room for expansion and development which is as necessary to life as steam is to electricity and electricity to light. And those defects and imperfections can not be cured by continuing the system under which they have formed and developed, but there must be a radical reform, a regeneration, in order that, as a bird on its first flight stretches its wings and soars forth into space, where there is an abundance of air and light, woman may have an opportunity to develop to their fullest extent her faculties and instincts and to show the graceful essence of her being.
We must give woman new objectives in life and lofty occupations in which she can test her aptitude, in order that everything defective and ill-developed in her character and education may be eliminated in the atmosphere of liberty and publicity, where all defects can be brought to light without fear or pity and all vices crushed with iron heel. This is why I desire and demand political rights for our women. I am convinced that one of the results of this concession will be to enrich, improve, and develop her aptitude and aspiration to serve the high ideals of life and society. Woman will devote less time to dress, fashions, gossip and all the other petty and trifling things that are generally the subject of their conversation and will endeavor to study and discuss the more serious questions of social betterment and welfare.
Politics is not a permanent occupation that absorbs all the time of a person who has other regular business to attend to. As a matter of fact, not speaking of political officers and a few professional politicians, most of the citizens devote to politics only the time strictly necessary and which they can spare. Any man or woman depending for his or her living or future upon politics will soon come to the conviction that politics bring starvation instead of bread.
Politics are perfectly compatible with the domestic duties and occupations of woman, whether she be mother, wife, or daughter. An educated woman realizes her responsibilities; she knows how to divide her time and will give her domestic duties the preference over any other duties outside of the home. A woman is not liable to engage in political activity if she is very busy at home, and when confined to her bed by the labors and cares of maternity, she will be unable to engage in politics, even if she were willing. Therefore, when I hear the argument that woman will be remiss in her household duties on account of politics and that she will neglect to take care of her husband and children if she is given the right to vote, I frankly confess that I am, perhaps, too dull to see the truth of it.
You insist that by divine precept the place of woman is in the home and that of man in society, and that this is the true and proper division of labor between the two halves of the human species. If this is really the plan of God, will you tell me then why all religions and all schools of ethics coincide in prescribing duties towards the neighbor and teach us to love our fellow-beings? Did the Lord speak to man alone, and not also to woman when amidst fire and smoke, on the quaking mountain, he gave to the world the tables of the Decalogue and said: "Love thy neighbor as thyself?" And the universal precept contained in every code of morals and in every religion, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,"—does it refer to man alone, or does it include woman also? To me, these precepts indicate that man and woman have duties towards others, that they have duties towards their fellow-beings, and that they must not confine their efforts towards happiness to the home, but extend them beyond it, to society. Will you tell me whether there can be happiness in the homes if society is not happy, seeing that society is nothing but the extension and sum of all the homes, and that all the suffering and evils that afflict society find their echo in the home, just as the happiness of the home exercises an influence upon the happiness of society?
You attempt to do something impossible: You try to divide the human being into halves: one-half that is happy in the home and the other that is happy in society, or vice versa. You can do it if you wish, but then you will either have to consign all your codes which confer upon man the government and administration of the home to the waste basket and make others vesting these powers in woman, or if you do not wish to do that, you will have to give woman a share in the public affairs in order that she may, the same as in the home, assist man in building up and strengthening the happiness of that other big home which we call society.
You say that woman, upon appearing on the stage of politics, will lose the respect and admiration of man; that instead of gaining any advantages, she will lose all those inherent in her present position, in which she is removed from any direct struggle with man, is adorable and adored everywhere, and reigns supreme in her home with the undisputed authority of the wife or mother, clad in the purple of the grace and majesty with which Nature has endowed her, pure and undefiled by the mire with which political strife and intrigue always bespatter the reputation and dignity of those who engage in them.
I believe I have stated the position of our adversaries in terms both poetical and precise, and when I speak of our adversaries, I include that numerous legion of women who still hesitate to ask for the right of suffrage, for reasons which, perhaps, deserve being called selfish.
However, the idealistic woman I have depicted will not disappear if our women are educated in politics the same as they are educated in the arts and sciences. A political education, far from being harmful to the natural charms of woman, will in my opinion enhance these, for the same reason that our modern education has given woman charms which the woman of the past did not possess. Unless you argue that education is in itself an evil rather than a blessing, and that it vitiates the character instead of improving it, you can not escape the conclusion that by increasing the knowledge and experience of woman, you give her more vigor, more energy, and a greater personal charm.
Nothing commands greater respect than education. Education elevates a person. From the moment that you show that you possess education, the consideration and respect of the others are yours. Education does not know the bar of race prejudice; through it an individual of a colored race can win the respect and often the admiration of the white man.
Does woman ever inspire man with greater respect than when she is instructed, when a college education has brought her to his own level? Was woman more respected in the past, when she remained ignorant, than she is now? I am willing to concede that she may have been courted more assiduously, but that does not mean that she was more respected. Do you understand by respect and consideration those empty forms of etiquette which make a man bow down to the ground to a woman and regale her with a few hollow compliments, designed to tickle the vanity or turn the head of a credulous and frivolous being? Do you call respect the singular habit of certain men to always find the eyes of the woman to whom they are speaking divine, to compare her mouth to a rosebud, her teeth to a string of beautiful pearls, and her form to the slender willow, and other stupidities of that kind? If that is the sort of respect and consideration that woman will lose if she goes into politics, she ought to be very glad to get rid of it, because all these empty phrases of gallantry are like the crowing of the rooster who wishes to dazzle a silly hen on which he has designs.
And, tell me, how is it possible for weakness and ignorance to inspire respect? As a matter of fact, when a little cooking, embroidering, and music, and the knowledge of the catechism were deemed sufficient to prepare a girl for married life, which was then the only career open to woman, she was the recipient of great consideration and courtesy from man. These, however, were not inspired by real respect, but rather by a sentiment of chivalry, because man thought woman so weak and ignorant that he deemed it his duty to show her that protection, consideration, and courtesy which are due to weakness and ignorance. Is this the opinion that our women want us to have of them? Respect is a sentiment engendered by the idea of equality, and unless woman is placed on the same level with man in the field of politics, we shall continue to hear ignominious phrases such as "But, woman, what do you know about these things! You go and mind your own business!"
Our women need not worry that if they are allowed to vote, they will necessarily forfeit the consideration and courtesy accorded to them at present, when they do not come into direct collision with man on the field of politics, and that the men will then consider themselves free to attack them as a rival whom they must overcome and destroy for their own preservation. In the first place it is a mistake to conclude that the participation of woman in public life will result in rivalry between the sexes. The attraction and sympathy between man and woman springs precisely from the difference in sex. If there were only men or only women, there might be such a thing as our mutually destroying each other, because there would be no purpose in life and the human race would not reproduce itself. It is in the interest of one sex not to destroy the other. On the other hand, politics is not always a personal struggle. In its proper and loftiest sense it is a struggle of ideas and principles, of theories and methods. Therefore, if a man is pitted against a woman in the arena of politics, they are certainly not compelled to engage in fisticuffs and kill each other, but each will present his own views on the points at issue, with more or less sound arguments in support of them. I do not believe any man has the right to insult a woman because she is his opponent, seeing that he has no such a right where a man is concerned. And if in the heat of political strife such an insult should be passed, has not woman the right to reply or to pay the offender back in his own coin? This is a case where woman will be given an opportunity to learn to be independent in judgment and action, seeing that certain persons do not want woman to vote unless she possesses independence of thought and action. I do not want, either, to give voice to the suspicion that many men are against female suffrage because they fear they might be worsted in a public debate, and what would then become of the prestige of the strong sex?
In the second place, if woman wants man to adore and idolize her, she can get him to do it whether she votes or not. Man does not adore woman because she has less rights than he has; but he worships her because woman is woman, the archetype of grace and beauty of creation, and man will forever burn incense at the shrine of that divinity. Remember that it has always been said that christianity elevated the condition of woman and gave her greater rights, and yet it is the Christian countries where woman is accorded the greatest consideration and respect.
Suffrage will not detract from the beauty of the long tresses of woman, nor will it make her cheeks and lips less rosy and the curves of her body less graceful. On the contrary, it will lend her an additional grace, that of being able to write a ballot in her diminutive handwriting, and man will always feel for her that love, tenderness, and adoration which grace and beauty will always inspire all the world over. Hercules will always bow to Venus because she is Venus, though Venus be a suffragist.
A political education will provide woman with new means for gaining the respect and admiration of man. Woman will realize that her duty does not merely consist in giving sons and daughters to the fatherland, but in educating and training them in such a manner that from their childhood on they will take interest in everything tending to improve social conditions, and in inspiring them with the desire to devote their efforts to a certain cause or party, for the best of their people. Public opinion will become much broader and stronger when it shall reflect the sentiments of our women, who are at present a passive element where the duties of citizenship are concerned; and when in her dark hours the nation shall need assistance, she will receive it not only from her citizens, but also from her citizenesses, who will not be ignorant and inexperienced in the tasks and duties confronting the people, but will be accustomed to the discipline of organization and to the calls of the public service.
There is no doubt, of course, that it is greatly to the advantage of man to maintain woman in ignorance, not only with regard to politics, but also where other matters are concerned. For one thing, it renders it easier for man to satisfy his whims and make of woman a toy which he can use or drop according to his fancy. She is obedient, submissive, and resigned; she never discusses or argues; she obeys and serves in silence, like a beautiful piece of furniture, differing from the rest only in that she is animate; she is a delightful doll because she can speak and has a little sense. I know that this is the ideal of many men, for the only reason that it suits their convenience.
But that is not woman as she should be; the woman that our century has redeemed from ignorance and slavery; the woman whom God has endowed with an intellect, a will and a heart, hers to cultivate and perfect in order that she may be not the servant of man, but his companion, not the subject of the king, but the queen enthroned by his side, to be his faithful and constant ally from the cradle to the grave, in prosperity and adversity, not only in the intimacy of the home, but also in the wide arena of public life. Man and woman were created to mate and to understand and love each other, to work, suffer, and struggle side by side for all that is good and beautiful in life, to perpetuate the sovereignty of human couple on earth, and to make it a place of happiness, free from tyranny and suffering and fit to be inhabited by peaceful and intelligent beings and not by vultures and wild beasts.
This is the mission of woman and man on earth as I understand and conceive it. Until man and woman are placed on exactly the same footing, until they stand on the same plane, so that there can be an intimate communion of thoughts, ideas, and interests, life will always be ominous and unhappy for one or for the other, and humanity will never overcome the evils with which it is now struggling. God made woman as perfect as man, and it is unjust to deprive her of any of the benefits and advantages which man derives from science, arts, and politics. Politics is a noble occupation, as it is the art or science of making nations happy, and it is but just that woman should contribute her share to the attainment of that happiness.
Is there any doubt that woman has faculties, sentiments, views, and methods of doing things of her own, different from those of man? How often has man, when he did not dare to do a thing, left it to woman to do! She has a personality of her own and should, like man, be given an opportunity to develop it; she should be given a voice where her own interests are concerned, and should on her own account face the risks incidental to life, venturing, experimenting, and discovering things for herself instead of having man establish an invariable rule of conduct for her and imposing upon her the methods which she must follow.
Politics is no longer what it should be; it has become too masculine and is brutal, selfish, and altogether too personal, because it lacks the kindness, the self-denial, the altruism, and the spirit of sacrifice which are characteristic qualities of the feminine sex. Why should we not benefit by the energy of woman, by her impulses and her views of things, in order to improve our practices and methods in public life? Perhaps, politics will be chastened and purified to some extent by the intervention and presence of woman, just as her presence at any gathering makes man more careful in language and actions!
Like a number of other institutions that are now a thing of the past, the monopoly exercised by man over the public functions is based on force and violence, and in order to perpetuate this monopoly, its supporters take shelter behind the wall of prejudice erected in the course of the times under the protection of the established order of things, and from there they hurl the shafts of satire and ridicule upon all who demand that this violent condition cease. Ridicule is the most powerful weapon now used against the woman who attempts to obtain justice and the vindication of the rights of her sex, some of which rights, such as that of governing the peoples, were not even withheld from them in many of the primitive states.
The result is that many persons have a very queer idea of the suffragist. She is represented as a woman who dislikes home work and is absent from her home at all hours of the day and night. The most common picture is that in which the wife addresses a gathering of other women, while the husband is busy at home, sweeping the floor and attempting to pacify the squalling baby. This is the idea which has been spread by cinematographs and reviews and which has impressed itself upon the minds of the unthinking masses, who are incapable of rising above a superficial view of things.
Nothing, however, is farther from representing her as she really is. The suffragist is a true product of our era of liberty. Having received the same education as man, she knows and does not shirk her responsibilities towards her family; but at the same time she is free from prejudice and deems it her duty to cooeperate with man in all work concerning social reform and the public welfare of the community in which she lives. She believes that for the very reason that there are duties in the home which are assigned to woman, she has also duties to perform in public life. The distribution of the work between man and woman causes no conflict between them in their home and family life, and there is no reason why there should be any conflict in public life if each sex is assigned the duties adapted to it.
Being a suffragist does not mean being antagonistic to the family duties. On the contrary, the suffragist realizes that the happiness of the family is the foundation of the happiness of society, and she knows that social distress and vices affect the family and that she can and should cooeperate with man in the relief of that distress and the suppression of those vices.
No, the general idea people have of the suffragist is altogether a wrong one and it is high time that at least the educated and intelligent correct their views where they are based on prejudices and ideas belonging to the past. We can not prevent the uneducated masses from thinking as they did half a century ago; but the fact that many serious and otherwise progressive persons content themselves with the opinion of the uneducated shows that here we do not go deep into subjects and allow ourselves to be carried away by the impressions of the moment.
Suffragism is a legitimate aspiration, an ideal of our century. It springs from the philosophy and institutions of the modern world and from the growing difficulty of the position of woman in the struggle for existence. It is necessary for her to protect herself and organize, not to create rivalry and make war upon man, but to become an asset in the social progress and protect herself from the exploitation and iniquity of the other social groups, whose victim she would become if she remained indifferent and took no part in the public life.
As a man of the law and a legislator, I would not think of opposing this aspiration. I consider it as natural as the right to live and the right of self-defence. I do not consider it premature for the Filipino woman to demand this right, as her sisters have done, successfully in some cases, in other parts of the world. To me it makes no difference that the number of those now demanding it is small and insignificant. It would even make no difference to me if the women of our country did not demand or want it at all. Where rights fundamentally in accordance with the spirit of our institutions and with the ideals of our times are to be granted, I would not consult those who are entitled to demand them, but would give them without the asking, because it would be just and God wants justice to prevail at all times and everywhere. I am not a judge, but a legislator, and it is my first duty to provide for justice, not to administer it, nor wait for some one to ask for it and some one to object to it.
It is a source of gratification to me that there is a group of women who, voicing the aspirations of their sex, have dared to approach our Legislature and call attention to a void in our statutes. This indicates to me that the consciousness of that right has been born and has revealed its existence in the Filipino woman, and more than that I need not know. I do not have to count and classify the women who think that way. When Rizal espoused the cause of the political rights of our race, his companions were very few, because in the majority of his compatriots that consciousness was lying dormant. But it would be a falsehood and an error to affirm that even at that time Rizal did not voice the cause of his entire race, and that no attention should be paid to his demands because he and those with him were few in number. He knew that his country was oppressed, that he was defending a just cause, and that he was fighting for the rights of his fellow-citizens, and he did not stop to reflect whether or not those fellow-citizens had the consciousness of their rights.
We must conclude, therefore, that the few women who now speak to us of the rights of their sex and for suffrage, represent all the Filipino women, unless we wish to insult our women by saying that they have so little common sense as to oppose the concession to them of rights that will broaden the scope of their lives and of their activity in society. It matters but little that the desire for suffrage appears in its initial stage, in the vague form of an indefinite proposition: the fact is that there has been an indication of that desire, and in my judgment the plant has germinated and it is useless to endeavor to smother it, as it will grow again. The more we delay female suffrage, the more shall we suffer by it, because why should we stifle a budding plant instead of allowing it to grow and in due season produce delicious fruit?
We need not imitate the older nations who have been so slow in recognizing women's rights. We have neither their traditions nor their prejudices and our progress need not come by slow revolutions. We must foster all those peaceful revolutions of ideas that will result in social justice. Just as we accept the latest inventions in mechanics, industry, and art, such as the automobile, the dynamo, and the aeroplane, so must we accept the latest improvements in the social and political institutions of the most advanced countries.
Female suffrage spells justice and vindication for the modern woman and we must adopt it forthwith, without unnecessary delay and formalities. The liberty of worship which gave us religious tolerance; the popular suffrage which strengthened our collective conscience; the free public school which emancipated our masses from the tutelage of the cacique: in short, all the achievements of democracy of which we are so justly proud would not yet be beautiful realities and we would not be able to enjoy their mature fruits as we now do, if we had been compelled to feel our way and make many tentative steps instead of at once entering fully upon our social and political life. We have to move quickly and anticipate the aspirations of the feminine masses, which are as yet vague, in order to save us the agitation which otherwise is sure to come and the justice of which will have to be recognized.
When we are told that our social condition is such that we are not ready for female suffrage, and that our women are not sufficiently educated to exercise political rights, I feel like asking whether we said the same thing when we imported and implanted in our country the democratic institutions that are the base and foundation of our present society. Our traditional education was diametrically opposed to a popular system of government, yet we adopted that form of government, because we considered it better than the other, more suited to our interests and to the ideals of the century, and did not worry about whether or not we were sufficiently educated and prepared for it.
It is more than twenty years now that the free public school has opened its doors to the women, and education has extended its benefits to them in the same proportion as to the men. Many of the women educated in these schools are now wives or mothers, and yet you still ask whether the Filipina has attained to the maturity necessary for her investment with political rights. I am sure there is no idea of requiring them all to be doctors or bachelors of art before we grant them the right of suffrage.
A political education can not be acquired except by education, just as you can not learn how to swim except by swimming. The argument that the Filipina is not sufficiently prepared is a justification of the attitude of a country which never finds its colonies sufficiently prepared or educated to exercise the right of sovereignty themselves.
The other day, when I made a flight in a seaplane for the sake of the experience, I felt—I frankly admit it—some apprehension, a certain fear of the unknown, but after the first few moments were happily past, I felt perfectly comfortable and enjoyed the flight through space and the view of the magnificent landscape far below me. Ah, it is beautiful to cleave the air like a swallow and to ride upon the clouds and the winds of heaven, looking down upon the cities and human dwellings spread like a relief map upon the crystal sheet of the waters, to traverse enormous distances in a few minutes almost without noticing it, and to emulate in everything the bird and like the bird to alight suddenly, without fatigue and physical hardships. When the voyage was over, I realized that my apprehension and fear had been unfounded; that it was not more risky to fly through space on an aeroplane than to speed across country on an automobile, and I then realized the numerous advantages to be derived from the flying machine, that product of our time which is destined to revolutionize not only warfare, but also the pursuits of peace.
The same thing occurs with all new ideas and reforms of a moral and political order. They are adopted with the instinctive fear, the vague apprehension inspired by the new and unknown. There is much talk of their objectional features and dangers for the established order of things. You might think the firmament was going to crumble to pieces or the world was threatening to go out of joint. However, after the innovation has been made, it is found to be quite natural and logical, because things go on in their natural course, the heavenly bodies continue in their orbits as before and the mountain peaks do not slide down into the valleys. Courage and hope are born again in the human breast, the masses get used to the new state of affairs, and soon even the most recalcitrant would be furious if any one should propose to return to the old order of things. This has happened in our country before, and has always been and always will be the way in which progress is worked out.
We must make up our minds to overcome our scruples and fears. If in discussing the aeroplane, we were to speak of nothing but of the number of aviators who have been killed, we would never accept that invention. We must embark in one in order to prove to ourselves that our fears and apprehensions are unfounded. Sight must not be lost of the fact that suffragism is not a new thing in the world, that it is far from being an experiment and is already an established fact in some countries. Exactly the same as the aeroplane: if we desire to become acquainted with the advantages of that apparatus, we do not ask those who have never traveled in it, but those who have experimented with it, and if we wish to know the advantages of suffragism, we must not listen to those who oppose it as a matter of principle and theory, but must consult countries that have made experiments with it and have already had a chance to see its results. We must take note of the fact that suffragism is gaining in strength every day and is becoming a general movement in the countries where it has found acceptance. Exactly like the aeroplane. Would it not be perfectly ridiculous to declaim against the aeroplane on account of the accidents that are liable to occur, and would we not be stupid to refuse to follow the lead of other governments who utilize its advantages for defence or aggression in war and for rapid communication in time of peace? And is it not just as stupid and even senseless to oppose suffragism on speculative or rather hypothetical grounds, instead of being guided by the experience of other countries in this respect and accepting suffragism as part and parcel of our modern customs and institutions?
In conclusion, permit me to quote a few passages on this subject from an address which I made at an entertainment given at the Opera House in honor of Rizal by various schools for young ladies in 1913:
According to the old idea, woman's sphere of action should not extend beyond the home, beyond her domestic occupations, and she should be nothing but the glory and delight of her husband and her children. This is not right. Like man, woman is born and lives in society, and she can not and must not remain indifferent to social distress and suffering. To think otherwise would be selfishness and aberration and would leave society a prey to much suffering which only the blessed hand of woman can cure or relieve. Let woman be the glory and happiness of the home; but do not forget that she must extend her beneficent action beyond the confines of the household, that she must make the world outside the participant of the wealth of kindness and charity that bountiful Providence has lavished upon her. Just as she shares the duties of life with man within the home, so should she without it, in public life, share with man the responsibility of remedying and alleviating public distress and misfortune.
It is very significant that beneficence, charity, and morality are feminine virtues, it being woman's mission to exercise all these virtues in society. She must take a part, and should, in my opinion, always take the initiative, in all work for the protection of the orphans, the relief of distress, and the elevation of the standard of public morality. She must strive and suffer, in the society in which she is living, for all that is feminine in life, must with a wave of her hand attenuate the fierceness of the struggle for existence, and must brighten the gloomy night of human suffering with her gentle presence. Our country needs not only the strength of her men, but the kindness and charity of her women; she needs not only heroes, but also heroines. And heroines exist and always have existed in the history of humankind; and there are and always have been heroines in our country, the special privilege of which, according to serious foreign authors, consists in its women being superior to its men.
And the girls who to-day pay homage to Rizal and dedicate their songs and prayers to him, will to-morrow be citizenesses who will not, like unhappy Maria Clara, be made the victims of social injustice, but will help to banish social injustice and strive for justice, virtue, and the glory and greatness of their native land.
Yes; I cherish that hope and have faith in the liberty of woman. It is not possible to keep one-half of humanity in the upper part and the other half in the lower part of the balance without producing disequilibrium, tears, and suffering. Everything tends to reach the same level in life, the same as in death, the great leveller. Humanity has seen a new light which will shine brightly, though error and prejudice may endeavor to shroud it with darkness. Woe to those who refuse to see the light! The world continues to progress and stops for no one. He who wishes to lag behind is free to do so, but he will surely deplore it afterwards.
I can not prophesy what will be the outcome of the efforts which the Filipino women are now making to obtain suffrage; but I know that these efforts must be to them, and are to us, a source of pride and glory, because they show that there is no part of our people which has remained indifferent to the great movements of the century. There are persons who scoff at them and many shrug their shoulders; but this must not discourage our women, because neither scoffing nor shrugging the shoulders are very weighty arguments. The same persons who now laugh at them and shrug their shoulders, probably because they do not know that the world and society are moving and progressing, will some day recognize that these women were in the right, just as the men who scoffed at Rizal lived to deplore their mistake and have since made amends.
What we must do is to diffuse the light and spread the new doctrines, in order to convince those who unwittingly refuse to see justice and truth, the only firm foundations of the stability and prosperity of civilized society.
Senado de Filipinas Quinta Legislatura Filipina, Primer periodo de sesiones
La mujer y el derecho de votar
Discurso pronunciado por el
Hon. Rafael Palma Senador por el Cuarto Distrito
En favor del proyecto de Ley No. 23 del Senado en las sesiones celebradas por dicho cuerpo en los dias 22 y 25 de noviembre de 1919
Manila Bureau of Printing 1919
LA MUJER Y EL DERECHO DE VOTAR
Sr. Presidente y Caballeros del Senado:
Pocas veces me he sentido tan orgulloso de ostentar la representacion popular como esta vez que me permite abogar por una causa que no puede ser representada ni defendida en este sitio por la parte a quien directa y particularmente interesa, merced a esa levadura de prejuicios que han dejado en la mente del hombre moderno las creencias e ideas del antiguo. La causa del sufragio femenino es una causa que despierta la simpatia de todo hombre desapasionado, porque representa la causa del debil que, privado del medio de defenderse por si mismo, pone toda su razon y derecho al arbitrio del fuerte.
Pero no es solamente por esto que atrae mi simpatia y apela a mi defensa. Es ademas que dicha causa tiene en si un fondo irresistible de verdad y justicia al cual no puede negarse ninguna inteligencia abierta y libre. Si nuestra conciencia como legisladores debe inspirarse en las eternas fuentes del derecho, si las leyes que aqui formulamos deben llevar el sello divino de dar a cada uno lo suyo, no podemos rehusar a la mujer el derecho del voto como no pretendamos renegar de todas las formulas y conquistas de la democracia y de la libertad que han hecho de este siglo el ser llamado con propiedad el siglo de las reivindicaciones.
El sufragio femenino es una reforma exigida por las condiciones sociales de nuestro tiempo, por la elevacion de la cultura de la mujer y las aspiraciones de todas las clases o grupos de la sociedad a organizarse para trabajar por los intereses que tienen de comun. No podemos parar el movimiento de los astros y no podemos parar igualmente ninguno de esos movimientos morales que gravitan con incontrastable fuerza hacia su centro de atraccion: la Justicia. Pues el mundo moral esta regido por las mismas leyes que el fisico y si el poder del hombre es impotente para suprimir una molecula de los espacios necesaria a la gravitacion universal, menos podra contener la generacion de las ideas elaboradas en la conciencia y ansiosas de encarnar en los fecundos senos de la vida y de la realidad.
Es interesante el fenomeno de que cada vez que se trata de realizar una reforma social en consonancia con las ideas y actividades del siglo y en contradiccion con anejas creencias y preocupaciones, no faltan nunca las objeciones fundadas en el mantenimiento del statu quo que se quiere a toda costa preservar. Los eternos agoreros del desastre, los falsos profetas de la destruccion, como no puede menos de suceder, alzan sus fatidicas voces en esta ocasion protestando contra el sufragio femenino en nombre de la santidad del hogar y de la insustituibilidad de costumbres que han sido por largo tiempo admitidas.
Francamente, no tengo ninguna paciencia para escuchar semejantes objeciones. Si este pais no hubiera sido precisamente uno de los pocos lugares privilegiados del planeta en donde se ha realizado con fortuna el experimento de una brusca transicion de sistemas e ideales, sin producir paradas ni retrocesos, sin desarticulaciones ni roturas, yo diria que los sobresaltos y temores de aquellos que se oponen a esta innovacion se hallan justificados.
Pero en menos de una generacion, este pais, sacudido en sus cuatro costados por esos grandes terremotos sociales que por otro nombre se llaman revoluciones, ha visto desmoronarse sus antiguas instituciones para levantarse en su lugar otras enteramente nuevas; ha visto desaparecer teorias, creencias y valores morales que se tenian por inconmovibles y eternos para ser sustituidos por diferentes principios y metodos, fundados en la democracia y libertad; y a despecho de esos cambios y trastornos que han modificado radicalmente su estructura social y politica y gracias precisamente a ellos, nuestro pueblo se ha convertido en un pueblo con pensamientos e ideales modernos, con una constitucion robusta y capaz de afrontar los estragos de la lucha por la existencia, en vez de aquel enfermizo y atrofiado organismo que tenia miedo a todas las novedades y repudiaba las luchas materiales por temor a las iras del cielo y por un pasivo deseo de vivir en paz y bienestar ideales.
En frente de los provechosos resultados que esas instituciones de libertad y democracia han dado a este pais, a la vista de los marcados progresos alcanzados en todos los ordenes de la vida nacional merced a esas mismas instituciones, pese a algunos cuantos reaccionarios y ultraconservadores que opinan lo contrario y anoran el pasado, yo no veo, no puedo ver, como haya gente seria que seriamente sostenga que no debe concederse el sufragio femenino, una de las mas vivisimas aspiraciones que agitan actualmente la conciencia del mundo moderno.
Recuerdo muy bien que en otros tiempos, y no muy lejanos, los mismos temores y sobresaltos se habian abrigado contra la instruccion superior de la mujer. iQue ridiculo, se decia, que ridiculo que la mujer aprenda Historia, Matematicas, Filosofia y Quimica que no solo no puede digerir su escaso cerebro sino que la llenaria de presuncion y soberbia convirtiendola en una especie de criatura hibrida, sin gracia y sin fuerza, intolerable y fatua, con mollera hermosa pero vacia y corazon grande pero seco! Y, sin embargo, hemos dado entrada a la mujer en las escuelas superiores y en las universidades y, al igual que el hombre, hemos permitido que sus cabezas ostenten las borlas de bachiller en Artes, Leyes, Medicina y otras profesiones. ?Podemos, ahora, decir que esas mujeres han pervertido el hogar de sus mayores o cuando se han casado han sido para sus maridos motivo de deshonor o escandalo? Es tiempo de observar los resultados porque si estos resultados han sido perjudiciales al cuerpo social y politico del pais, nuestro deber es deshacer lo hecho y desandar lo andado.
Nadie piensa afortunadamente en esto. Desde los mas cultos centros de poblacion hasta las aldeas mas desconocidas se arrastra silenciosa y majestuosa una ola de opinion popular que aprueba y aplaude la educacion femenina, al punto de que los mas rudos sementereros envian a sus hijas a las ciudades a costa de los mas imaginables sacrificios para que puedan escalar las cumbres mas altas del saber, si a eso pudieran. Esos lugarenos ignorantes saben confusamente que la mujer como el hombre esta hecha de la misma arcilla y no se avienen a creer que por haberles cabido la suerte de tener ninas en vez de ninos necesitan condenarlas a llevar las cadenas de la ignorancia incapacitandolas para ser utiles a sus familias, a su sociedad y a su patria.
La instruccion no ha atrofiado ni desmejorado ninguna de las facultades fundamentales de la mujer, sino, por el contrario, las ha elevado y enriquecido. Lejos de ser una carga constante para la familia, la mujer instruida ha sido muchas veces su sosten y apoyo en apurados trances. La mujer instruida no se ha transformado en la marisabidilla, la fatua criatura forjada por la imaginacion de algunos, ni siquiera ha perdido ninguno de sus encantos femeninos porque razone y discuta con el hombre sobre toda clase de materias; antes bien, a causa de ello, parece que encontramos en ella mayor gracia y encanto, porque nos comprende mejor y sabe hacerse comprender mejor. Hoy, gracias a Dios, ha desaparecido ya aquella comezon de ridiculo que acometia a muchos al observar lo que consideraban necia presuncion de las mujeres de saber tanto como los hombres, y esto se debe, indudablemente, a que los desastrosos resultados que pronosticaron los agoreros de las malas nuevas, las terribles profetas de la destruccion, no se han cumplido.
Pues bien, si admitis la instruccion y educacion de la mujer, en todos los terrenos de la ciencia, debeis admitir la intervencion de la mujer no solo en la vida domestica sino tambien en la vida social o publica. La instruccion y la educacion tienen un doble fin: el individual, que redime la inteligencia humana de los peligros de la ignorancia, y el social, que prepara al hombre y a la mujer a cumplir los deberes de una buena ciudadania. No se educa uno exclusivamente para su propio bien sino principalmente para ser util y servir a los demas. El mayor peligro que existe para la sociedad es el hombre instruido que solo piensa en si mismo, porque su instruccion misma le da mayor poder para hacer dano y sacrificar a todos a su conveniencia, o su ambicion personal. El verdadero objeto de la educacion es el servicio al publico, el de aplicar los conocimientos que no adquiere, al bien y mejoramiento de la sociedad en que vive.
Por tanto, en las sociedades donde se admite a la mujer a todas las carreras y profesiones de la vida, donde no se escatima a la mujer ninguna fuente de conocimiento debe admitirse necesaria y logicamente la intervencion de la mujer en la vida publica. De otro modo, su educacion seria incompleta o la sociedad seria injusta con ella pues despues de suministrarla los medios para su educacion la privaria de los poderes necesarios para emplear esa educacion en pro del bien social y el progreso colectivo.
No puedo resistirme a esta conclusion. Si se ofrece a la mujer igual oportunidad de educacion que al hombre, si se la estimula para aprender y estudiar los conocimientos del mundo y de la vida, deben abrirsela las puertas de la vida publica para que pueda desempenar en ella el papel que le corresponde.
En las sociedades retrogradas se ensena a la mujer solamente aquella parte de conocimientos que necesita para la vida del hogar, preparandola asi inconscientemente para sufrir aquella dulce, aquella encantadora esclavitud que tanto agrada al ser masculino. Es cuestion solamente de escoger nuestro sistema: o esclavitud e ignorancia o libertad y educacion para la mujer.
El sufragio femenino es consecuencia de la educacion de la mujer; es consecuencia, tambien, de su libertad de conciencia. Por el voto se expresa la fe politica, como por el culto la fe religiosa. No hay razon para impedirle a la mujer el acceso a las urnas como no la hay para privarla de ir al templo.
No hay razon para que el sufragio sea un privilegio de sexo, puesto que los deberes de ciudadania pesan tanto sobre el hombre como sobre la mujer. ?Es que la mujer, por serlo, esta menos obligada a velar por los intereses de la Patria, por la felicidad y el porvenir de su pais? Querer restringir la actividad de la mujer para las cosas publicas es como decir que la mujer no debe amar a su pais ni debe consagrar tiempo a las obligaciones que la corresponden como ciudadana, ni debe sentir el carino y la devocion que en toda criatura bien nacida despierta la idea de la Patria y de la colectividad.
La esterilidad fisica es combatida y se considera como una desgracia en la mujer; pero queremos condenarla a una perpetua esterilidad politica—que es lo mismo decir esterilidad patriotica—al impedirla que tome parte en el sufragio que da a los ciudadanos el medio mas efectivo para influir en los destinos sociales y en el mejoramiento de los negocios publicos. ?Como inculcar en los ninos, esa prenda sagrada del porvenir de una nacion, el culto y la fe en la Patria y en la libertad si no se les da a las madres la educacion practica que envuelve en si el privilegio del voto, si se les ensena que el gobierno y la politica son divinidades extranas, en cuyos templos les esta vedado penetrar, si sobre si mismas sienten el estigma de inferioridad e incapacidad para hablar a sus hijos de los negocios publicos y de los intereses de la nacion y del Estado?
Todas las clases o grupos sociales tienen derecho a ser representados en las legislaturas para trabajar por las leyes que afectan a sus intereses; los comerciantes pueden eligir a uno de ellos, lo mismo los agricultores, los obreros y los industriales; pero a las mujeres, que no son meramente un grupo sino un compuesto de grupos, con representar la mitad de un pais, con propios intereses que sostener no solo en relacion a su sexo sino tambien en relacion a su situacion dentro de la familia, no se les permite votar y por tanto no se les permite tener una representacion que sostenga aquellas leyes o medidas necesarias para su proteccion y mejoramiento. ?Es esto justo? ?Es siquiera moral? El trabajo de las mujeres puede ser explotado en fabricas y talleres, la virtud de las mujeres puede ser objeto de trafico en el mercado, y, sin embargo, la mujer no puede defender directamente los intereses de su sexo por una de esas aberraciones del sentido moral proveniente del grosero egoismo, de la brutal tirania del hombre.
iSi al menos las mujeres estuvieran exentas de cumplir las leyes! Pero la ley obliga tanto a la mujer como al hombre; el Codigo Penal alcanza con su espada las infracciones cometidas por uno y otro sexo, y el impuesto y la contribucion gravan lo mismo la riqueza masculina que la femenina. Es decir, ante la ley, los deberes son los mismos, pero los derechos, no.
?Que extrano que nuestras leyes contengan tantas injusticias sociales para la mujer, tantas irritantes desigualdades, basadas todas ellas en la teoria de la dependencia servil de la mujer al hombre causada por su congenita inferioridad mental y fisiologica? Moebius esta encarnado en nuestros codigos, rige nuestra politica y preside todas las modalidades de nuestro vivir social y politico, en forma tal que hay motivos para avergonzarse que en plena epoca de reivindicaciones, cuando todas las clases han obtenido sus derechos a la libertad y a la igualdad, la mujer ha permanecido indefinidamente sujeta al mismo nivel como en los siglos de sujecion y esclavitud.
Una democracia verdadera no puede existir mitad libre y mitad esclava, mitad con representacion y mitad sin representacion en las funciones publicas. El pueblo no es solamente hombre sino tambien mujer, y, en igualdad de condiciones, la mujer debe tener los mismos derechos politicos que el hombre. Pero lo menos debe tener aquellos derechos fundamentales que, como el voto, requieren nada mas que inteligencia y capacidad para ejercerlo, a fin de que pueda tener alguna voz en la decision de sus propios destinos y librar por si misma las batallas que exigen su honor, su libertad y otros tantos intereses que descuidan o ignoran los hombres en virtud del indisputado monopolio ejercido por ellos sobre los negocios publicos.
No desapareceran radicalmente las injusticias, las desigualdades sociales y juridicas contenidas en nuestros codigos ni mejoraran las condiciones de la existencia para la mujer mientras sean los hombres los unicos que legislen y dominen todas las esferas de la vida publica, mientras dicten a la mujer lo que debe hacer y lo que no debe hacer; y, a su vez, la mujer sera incompetente de cuidar de sus propios intereses y de dirigir sus propios destinos mientras no mire mas alto, mientras preste su asentimiento a la superioridad del hombre y crea que su destino es simplemente servir y complacer al hombre para el lecho y el hogar, en vez de ser su verdadera ayuda y compania para el progreso y felicidad del genero humano.
Todas las objeciones que se aducen o pueden aducirse en contra del sufragio femenino tienden invariablemente a estos dos objetos: a la seclusion domestica de la mujer y a perpetuar su esclavitud civil y politica.
Que la mujer no debe atender mas que las ocupaciones del hogar, que no debe vivir mas que para su esposo e hijos; que tiene bastante trabajo para todo el dia con dirigir al cocinero, limpiar la casa y remendar los vestidos; es la formula que sostienen los partidarios del antiguo regimen. O si no, esta otra: que la mujer no esta por naturaleza llamada a luchar con el hombre en la vida publica; que el hombre por razon de esa lucha dejara de considerarla como un ser digno de adoracion, un sagrado idolo ante cuyos pies se arrodilla, sino que vera en ella a una rival a quien hay que combatir y anular para la propia conservacion, y con ello la mujer no solo arrastraria la nitida sampaguita de su virtud en el lodo de la vida politica, sino perderia, ademas, la estimacion, el respeto y las consideraciones, de los cuales se ve rodeada en la actualidad.
No tengo sino el mas profundo respeto para todos aquellos, hombres y mujeres, que piensan honradamente asi. No tienen la culpa de creer que aquello que ha existido siempre de un modo tal, no sea lo mejor. No comprenden que la vida es movimiento e insensiblemente se adhieren a las capas sociales nuevos elementos de vida y caracter que requieren necesariamente el cambio y la renovacion. No es posible a la sociedad estancarse en un sitio, porque ocurrira lo que ocurre a las aguas estancadas, que despiden pestilentes miasmas. La teoria de que la mujer solo existe para el hogar y por el hogar ha dejado de existir hace tiempo. Ella ha tomado insensiblemente su puesto en la vida publica y ayuda y dirige al hombre aun cuando este no se percate de ello, y aun cuando no se la reconozca derechos para ello. En las sociedades modernas, la mujer participa en la direccion de la caridad publica y en la educacion de los ninos; ejerce como medica, abogada, literata; forma parte de la legion de la prensa, de muchos empleos publicos y se interesa y coopera en la supresion de los vicios y miserias sociales.
?Quien no admite que la mujer tiene deberes para su hogar, su esposo e hijos que debe cumplir ordinariamente con preferencia a cualesquiera otros deberes? Pero, ?excluye eso, acaso, el cumplimiento de otros deberes para con Dios, para con el projimo y para con el Estado? El hombre como la mujer esta lleno de deberes: en cumplirlos ordenada y totalmente esta el verdadero merito. ?No dedica la mujer filipina una parte a veces considerable de su tiempo a la iglesia y a otros deberes llamados de sociedad, a ir de visitas o recibirlas, a concurrir a fiestas, teatros y bailes?
?Se ha quejado alguien de esto? ?Se ha criticado al menos a las mujeres porque asistan asiduamente y cumplan publicamente sus deberes religiosos en los templos llenos de bote en bote; en las calles publicas, ahitas de muchedumbres tumultuosas, formando cola a lo largo de las procesiones de los santos, entre empellones y sofocones desagradables que toleran mansamente a causa de la confesion publica de su fe? Ellas no van solamente a las iglesias sino a los espectaculos publicos, a las fiestas populares, alli donde pueden ostentar la elegancia de sus trajes o satisfacer su curiosidad femenina. Y no vemos en todo ello ninguna asechanza o peligro para su virtud, sabiendo que esas mujeres que van a esos puntos y se exhiben de esa manera son madres, esposas, o hijas que tienen deberes que atender en sus casas.
?Cual es la diferencia, digo ahora, de que la mujer salga tambien de su casa para asistir o tomar parte en un miting politico donde se trata de las necesidades publicas o de la conveniencia de eligir a este o a aquel funcionario? ?Que peligros puede haber para la virtud o pureza de la mujer en que ella se interese en los asuntos publicos que afectan al bienestar de las familias, puesto que la mujer en cualquier estado de su vida ocupa siempre una posicion dentro de la familia? ?Por que ha de considerarse que la mujer dejara en las zarzas de la politica la flor de sus encantos si oye a un orador politico—ella que esta acostumbrada a oir sermones—o, si el caso se presenta, pronuncia ella misma un discurso expresando su opinion sobre algun asunto de interes para la familia, sobre la necesidad de remediar ciertos males sociales o sobre la conveniencia de recoger a ninos abandonados o desvalidos?
Tomemos el caso de una de las cuestiones de mas palpitante interes en este tiempo, la cuestion del incremento de los juegos. ?Creeis que esta cuestion no es de aquellas que tienen relacion inmediata con el bienestar de las familias especialmente de las mujeres dentro de ellas? ?Quienes son los que mas sufren de los abusos del padre o del esposo al dedicar gran parte de los ingresos de la familia a los azares e incertidumbres de su pasion? Son las mujeres y las hijas a quienes se condenan a sufrir muchas veces privaciones y sufrimientos innecesarios por causa del vicio y de la falta del hombre en la familia. Y ?quereis negar a la mujer el derecho de inmiscuirse en la vida politica para que pueda ilustrar con su opinion al cuerpo electoral sobre los resultados funestos del juego o para influir con su voto en la eleccion de funcionarios que se comprometan a llevar a cabo las deseables medidas? ?Y por que no ha de ser la opinion de la mujer en un asunto de esta naturaleza de tanto o mejor peso que la del hombre pues que a ella le alcanzan las consecuencias y resultados del mal? Como este asunto se pueden encontrar otros muchos en que el bien y la felicidad de la mujer se halla de un modo o de otro vitalmente interesados.
No veo en todo cuanto pueda hacer la mujer en politica ninguna actividad perniciosa, y si me apurais mas, digo que semejante actividad es altamente saludable y beneficiosa para la mujer y para la sociedad entera. En todos esos casos la mujer se instruye y obtiene mejor conocimiento del mundo y de la vida. No se considera como un ser extrano a la sociedad y al gobierno y no se mostrara por tanto ajena e indiferente a sus miserias y progresos. Nada puede hacer mayor dano a una sociedad como el encontrar en su seno cuerpos extranos, absolutamente indiferentes al bien o al mal, piezas inutiles de una maquinaria que esta en funcion.
Nos aterrorizamos ante la idea de que los impulsos de la mujer, su fanatismo, su criterio cerrado, segun unos, su debilidad o falta de caracter, segun otros, su poca preparacion o poca cultura, segun otros mas, hagan del derecho de sufragio una mera farsa o una comedia ridicula por la que han de entrar a tener predominio elementos o intereses privilegiados. Lo que yo digo es que todos esos impulsos, sentimientos, debilidades e imperfecciones de la mujer se deben precisamente a su estado de seclusion domestica, efectos de una educacion o de un sistema tocado de senil debilidad, que no permite a las facultades naturales de la mujer aquella expansion que es tan necesaria a la vida como el vapor a la electricidad y la electricidad a la luz. Y que para corregir esos defectos e imperfecciones, no es lo mas cuerdo mantener el sistema bajo el cual han crecido y prosperado, sino producir un cambio violento, un vuelco regenerador para que ella pudiera, como el ave que ensaya sus alas, volar a los altos espacios, abundantes de aire y luz, libre para derramar alli la graciosa esencia de su ser y ensayar los limites de sus facultades e instintos.
Tenemos que procurar a la mujer nuevos objetivos en la vida, otras ocupaciones elevadas para que pruebe su aptitud y de esta manera todo eso que se senala como defectuoso y deforme en su caracter y educacion se eliminara en un ambiente de libertad y publicidad, donde sin miedo ni piedad se puedan sacar a colacion los defectos y expurgar al individuo de sus vicios. Y por esto quiero y pretendo para la mujer derechos politicos, porque entiendo que uno de sus resultados sera enriquecer, mejorar y favorecer sus aptitudes y aspiraciones para servir a los altos ideales de la vida y de la sociedad. La mujer se ocupara menos de fruslerias y pequeneces, de cortes de vestidos y modas, de chismes y otros topicos comunes, que constituyen por lo general, el asunto de sus conversaciones y se esmerara en aprender y tratar de las cosas serias que atanen al mejoramiento y bienestar sociales.
La politica no es una ocupacion permanente que pueda absorber el tiempo de una persona que tiene otros negocios regulares que atender. De hecho, con excepcion de los funcionarios politicos y ciertos profesionales, la mayoria de los ciudadanos no emplea en politica mas que el tiempo puramente preciso que le permiten sus ocupaciones ordinarias. El hombre o la mujer que haga depender su suerte o sus medios de vida de la politica tiene que convencerse de que la politica no da para comer pero si para tener hambre.
Es perfectamente compatible la politica con las ocupaciones y tareas domesticas de la mujer, sea ella madre esposa o hija. La mujer educada sabe sus responsabilidades y conoce la manera de dividir su tiempo y anteponer sus obligaciones domesticas a cualesquiera otras fuera del hogar. Y cuando la mujer esta muy atareada en casa, no hara politica; o cuando se ve atada al lecho por los dolores y cuidados de la maternidad no podra hacer politica, aunque quiera. Y, por eso, cuando se dice que la mujer va a descuidar el hogar por la politica o va a desatender el cuidado del esposo y de los hijos por el mero hecho de obtener el sufragio, realmente confieso que, por mi torpeza quiza, no puedo entenderlo.
Insistis en que la mujer, segun el plan divino, es para el hogar y el hombre para la sociedad y en eso consiste la verdadera division del trabajo entre las dos mitades del genero humano. ?Me quereis decir por que, si eso fuera el plan de Dios, todas las religiones y todas las escuelas de moral coinciden en prescribir el deber al projimo, el amor a los semejantes? ?Se ha dirigido el Senor solo al hombre y no a la mujer tambien cuando entre temblores de tierra y llamas resplandecientes entrego el mundo las tablas del Decalogo y dijo: "Ama a tu projimo como a ti mismo"? ?Se refiere al hombre y no a la mujer inclusive aquel precepto universal, contenido de toda moral y de toda religion, que dice: "Haz a tu projimo lo que quieras que hagan contigo"? Estos preceptos me indican que el hombre y la mujer tienen deberes para con los demas, tienen deberes para con sus semejantes y que no deben concentrar su felicidad en el hogar sino tambien, fuera de el, en la sociedad. ?Me quereis decir si el hogar puede ser feliz entretanto que la sociedad no lo sea, puesto que la sociedad es nada mas que la ampliacion y la suma de todos los hogares, y todas las miserias y males de la sociedad repercuten en el hogar de la misma manera que la felicidad y el bienestar del hogar influyen en el bienestar y felicidad de la sociedad?
Quereis hacer una division imposible, dividir al individuo humano en dos mitades: mitad feliz en el hogar y mitad infeliz en la sociedad, o viceversa. Podeis hacer, si quereis, esa division; pero una de dos: o teneis que barrer por inutiles todos vuestros codigos que dan al hombre el gobierno y administracion de la casa para arreglar otros que entreguen ambos poderes a la mujer; o teneis que admitir a la mujer, si no quereis eso, en la participacion de los negocios publicos para que ella pueda, como en el hogar, ayudar al hombre a formar y cimentar la felicidad de ese otro hogar grande que se llama sociedad.
Se dice que la mujer al presentarse en el escenario politico se enajenara al punto el respeto y la admiracion del hombre y, lejos de ganar, perdera las ventajas en que su actual posicion le coloca, fuera de toda lucha directa con el hombre, siendo adorable y adorada en todas partes y reinando suprema en el hogar con la autoridad indiscutible de la madre o de la esposa, envuelta en ese esplendido manto de gracia y majestad de que la ha dotado la Naturaleza, pura e impoluta de las manchas que las luchas e intrigas politicas dejan siempre en la reputacion y en la dignidad humanas.
No creo que haya dejado de expresar deliberadamente en terminos mas poeticos y exactos la posicion de nuestros adversarios, y al decir "de nuestros adversarios" yo incluyo a la innumerable legion de mujeres que titubean aun en pedir el sufragio por consideraciones que no se si llamarlas egoistas.
Pero, con todo, digo que ese ideal politico de la mujer no puede desaparecer porque ella sea educada en la politica a la manera que se educa en las ciencias y en las artes. La educacion politica, lejos de perjudicar los encantos naturales de la mujer los realzara, a mi juicio, por la misma razon y motivo que la educacion actual de la mujer moderna le ha dado otros encantos que no poseia la mujer antigua. A menos que sostengais que la educacion es en si misma un mal mas que un bien, que desmejora el caracter en vez de mejorarlo, no podeis eludir la deduccion de que ampliando los conocimientos y las experiencias de la mujer, dariais mas vigor, mas energia y mas encanto a la personalidad femenina.
Nada infunde mayor respeto como la educacion; la educacion es lo que eleva el nivel de las personas. Desde el momento en que uno muestra ser educado, al punto obtiene la consideracion y el respeto de los demas. A pesar de los prejuicios de raza, solamente por su educacion el hombre amarillo u oscuro puede conquistar el respeto y a veces la admiracion del hombre blanco.
?Cuando ha inspirado la mujer mayor respeto al hombre sino cuando la ha visto instruida y educada a su altura en los colegios y universidades? ?Antes, cuando la mujer permanecia en estado de ignorancia era acaso mas respetada que ahora? Estoy dispuesto a convenir en que era mas asediada, mas agasajada quizas, pero no por eso mas respetada. ?Llamais respeto y consideracion a aquellas vanas formulas de etiqueta que hacian doblar el espinazo del hombre a la vista de una mujer y le hacian decir cuatro frases vulgares de cumplimiento, para hinchar la vanidad o marear la cabeza de una mujer credula y fatua? ?Llamais respeto a ese habito singular de algunos hombres de calificar siempre de divinos los ojos de la mujer que tiene delante, de comparar sus labios a lindos petalos de rosa, sus dientes a sarta de diminutas perlas, su cintura a cimbreante tallo de azucena y otras tantas necedades de ese jaez? Si es esa la forma de respeto y consideracion que perderia la mujer por dedicarse a la politica, ella debe celebrarlo, porque todas esas formulas insustanciales de galanteria no pasan de ser lo que el cacareo del gallo para sorprender y asaltar repentinamente a la descuidada gallina.