Historical Debts

La Voz de Galicia – March 8, 2019 →

Cristina PatoFeminism is one of those words with infinite meanings. According to the dictionary, feminism is “a doctrine advocating that women’s rights are equal to men’s,” but the truth is that feminism encompasses much more than a struggle for equal rights. It encompasses historical debt and thousands of invisible individual truths.

I was in a hurry and, money in hand, I gestured to the waiter for the check. It was then I realized that there was a woman on the Australian fifty dollar bill: Edith Cowan, the first Australian lawmaker and one of the most well-known proponents of women’s suffrage at the end of the nineteenth century. Suddenly, I remembered that we Galicians, in a certain moment in history, also had a woman’s image grace our bills: Rosalía de Castro, on the five hundred peseta bill. And I thought that if I, an outsider simply stopping by, was curious enough to find out about the woman on the Australian 50 dollar bill, how many people must have been about the woman on the 500 peseta bill in the Spain of that time. Representation and visibility are two powerful weapons in all causes.

After reading about Edith Cowan, I learned about the feminism of Australia’s indigenous women, and I realized that the definition of equal rights is as relative and complex as that of feminism itself. In Australia, female suffrage began early, but the right to vote in federal elections for male and female Australian aborigines only started in the middle of the twentieth century.

Today, March 8, let us not forget that the struggle for equal rights must be a plural struggle, an open struggle before all the injustices that make us unequal.

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