Long before women’s lib and feminism were invented – at least in the modern sense – I’ve been an ardent supporter. Probably one of the first males to come out unequivocally (almost) on their side. And I was then just a young schoolboy in the Scottish Highlands.
The inspiration came from learning about the suffragettes and their struggle to win the vote for women. Brave and indomitable females such as Emmeline Pankhurst, who founded the Women’s Franchise League and later the Women’s Social and Political Union, both actively advocating suffrage for married and unmarried women.
And Emily Davison, a militant fighter for the suffragette cause who was arrested nine times, went on hunger strike seven times, and was force-fed on 49 occasions. She died after being hit by King George V’s horse Anmer at the 1913 Derby when she walked on to the track during the race.
My boyhood admiration for the pioneers of women’s rights even transcended the arrival of a new generation of strident libbers such as Gloria Steinem and Germaine Greer – which red-blooded male could reject bra-burning? – but they also led to the ‘almost’ qualifier mentioned earlier.
Strident feminists began tinkering with the English language, succeeding in establishing Ms as an alternative honorific to Miss or Mrs. At the same time, they laid into words with a ‘-man’ suffix, ousting chairman and spokesman and replacing them with a neutral ‘-person’ ending. Much mirth was had renaming Personchester for the city and personhole for the pavement entry to a sewer or power cable.
But the feminists had taken their eye off the ball, concentrating on semantic irrelevancies while real discrimination continued unabated. They also missed a linguistic open goal, one which is all the more obvious now as Brexit threatens the break-up of the United Kingdom.
The operative word is Kingdom. The one in question has existed since the 1800 Act of Union united the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland. Although Ireland has become independent in the interim, the Kingdom designation has survived for 219 years, despite the rulers having been female for 131 of them: Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.
For almost 60 percent of the time – far more than an irreversible Brexit ‘will of the people’ majority – a queen has been in charge, yet never has there been even a hint of changing the name to reflect the circumstances. Time for a United Queendom, surely?
As Queen Elizabeth II, now aged 93, nears the inevitable end of a long and popular reign, and the United Kingdom faces disintegration with Scotland almost certainly opting for independence in the wake of the Brexit disaster, surely this is an ideal opportunity for vocal feminists.
Like the suffragettes, they should raise a call to arms, raise their voices, and insist on a name change before it’s too late. It’s the least they can do for Her (long-suffering) Majesty.
By her own admission, she’s had at least one annus horribilis. As subjects, willing or otherwise, we have a bounden duty to make 2019 or 2020 her annus mirabilis through a long-overdue adoption of the United Queendom.
Over to you, Boris.