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Suffrage and Political Liberation

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"Just... a really long time ago, when men used to tell women what do to a lot. And then there was suffrage, which is a good thing, but it sounds horrible."
Phoebe, Friends, "The One Where Joey Moves Out"

Suffrage is the right to vote in political elections. In fiction, it describes the process of freeing a group of people from the control of somebody else. In Fictionland, we often meet various groups that try to liberate themselves. The right to vote might be restricted to one group only. Characters who are sick of being treated like second-class citizens have had enough. They begin to demand equality, manifested especially in their right to vote. Racism or mistreatment of the poor and socialism may (or may not) be the cause.

The protests might be peaceful at first, discussing ideas with opposing parties, holding public lectures, writing essays and publishing books. They might carry placards and hand out pamphlets or organize rallies. Later, it may erupt into civil disobedience like acts of vandalism or attacking politicians. The campaign might become quite militant and violent. Some will want to commit a Heroic Sacrifice and become a martyr for the cause.

Fiction that reflects Real Life will often portray the women's suffrage movement. It especially concerns their campaign in the western world in the late part of the 19th century and in the early part of The 20th Century. Another major campaign to get suffrage refers to African Americans in the United States.

This Worldbuilding trope however includes also variants and concepts like Fantasy Counterpart Culture, Recycled In Space and Constructed World. It might be men who are the diminished group under the matriarchal political system. Or perhaps there is a race of creatures or beings that are treated poorly if Fantastic Racism is at play. It could even be nonliving things that revolt, such as robots. Might overlap with Zombie Advocate.

See La Résistance for a group that tries to gain independence or change things profoundly, usually manifested by overthrowing oppressors, establishing a new regime or forming a new state.


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    Fan Works 
  • Dorothy stays the week with a suffragist couple, Miss Amelia and Miss Maud, in The Road Built in Hope. Due to Dorothy's rantings about Oz, they think she's a future suffragist in the making already.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Suffragette: The film portrays harsh parts of women's struggle, like civil disobedience, vandalism, violent protests, Force Feeding in prison and Heroic Sacrifice (Emily Davison flings herself in front of a horse and dies).
  • Winifred Banks of Mary Poppins is involved in suffragette demonstration and is nearly arrested.
  • The movie Selma covers pivotal moments in the real life American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s during which African Americans used systematic and organized protests to demand equal treatment under the law. These sustained protests eventually led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which made discrimination based on protected minority statuses illegal, including the then widely-used arbitrary voter registration requirements that made it notoriously difficult if not impossible for minorities to vote.

  • The Inheritance Trilogy is a fantasy Constructed World. In "The Awakened Kingdom", Eino is a teenage boy advocating for political rights and financial independence for men in the Darre Matriarchy while trying to avoid an Arranged Marriage.
  • Temeraire: European nations treat fully sapient dragons as beasts of war; most of the population isn't even aware of their intelligence. When Temeraire learns that his fellow dragons on other continents are full citizens, he starts to advocate for dragons to gain the vote, political representation, and proper salaries, and convinces other dragons to do the same. By the end of the series, he's succeeded, and one dragon has become a Member of Parliament with the promise of more to follow.
  • Natasha Rostov of War and Peace at the end of the book makes an exemplary wife and mother who focuses all her attention to her family. The narrator mentions that there are now conversations and discussions about women's rights, the relations of husband and wife and their freedom and rights, though these themes were not yet termed as questions or issues. These topics are uninteresting to Natasha and she positively does not understand them despite being an intelligent, spirited and educated lady. Tolstoy seems to be of this opinion:
    These questions existed only for those who see nothing in marriage but the pleasure married people get from one another, that is, only the beginnings of marriage and not its whole significance, which lies in the family.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Horrible Histories: "The Suffragette Song" gives a potted history of the Woman's Suffrage Movement in Britain.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Miss Margaret Haile appears as Historical Domain Character who on the show runs for the provincial legislature of Ontario. Established characters like Julia and Emily join the movement of women's suffrage and they try to get a woman to run for an office. With a brilliant legal argument from a British lawyer Clara Brett Martin, they succeed. In episode "Election Day", Miss Haile's name doesn't appear on the ballot. The lawyer petitions the court for an injunction and the women protest, blocking the doors of the polling station so that people can't vote unless there is Margaret's name on the ballot. Clara Brett Martin soon has her injunction and the name must be corrected/added on the ballot. Margaret Haile receives 79 votes.
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: It is proposed that Colorado Springs should elect Mayor. Michaela and Jake Slicker get nominated. Women aren't allowed to vote unless they own property. Turns out Sully deeded to each of women a tiny part of his homestead which makes them all landowners and they can vote. When Jake and Loren see their certain victory is threatened, they make a deal with Dr. Mike: if she wins, she won't outlaw prostitution or drinking, and if they win, they will allow women to vote. Jake wins and keeps his promise to make it legal for women to vote whether they own property or not. All of this empowers Myra who quits Hank's saloon despite her binding contract.
  • Community, "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons": In the game of D&D which Abed designed and narrates, there is a class of beleaguered gnomes. Britta plays a human warrior Lavernica who speaks gnome. Britta, being the Soapbox Sadie that she is, gets very distressed by their mistreatment and gets distracted from the group's quest. It's clear she would love to liberate those poor gnomes.
    Abed as gnome waiter: How can I help you, dear madam?
    Britta as Lavernica: Oh, please, no need for such deference. I'm no better than a gnome.
    Abed as gnome waiter: You are, madam. You are a human warrior, which is five species classes greater than I.
    Britta as Lavernica: That's disgusting. Don't talk like that.
    Abed as gnome waiter: I am so sorry, madam. Please don't report me for execution.
    Britta as Lavernica: Oh, no, no, I didn't mean that. We've gotta do something about these gnomes!
  • In Masters of Sex, Lester is humiliated after he's rejected at a swingers' party. He goes outside and sits on the curb where he's joined by a black girl who is a cater-waitress there. She's somewhat exasperated with the party. In her opinion, the only "revolution" and "radical thing" of the event is a revolt against being bored. She insists she and her friends are busy with true revolution and civil rights movement. Somehow, Lester scores and they have sex in his car. Before she climaxes, she asks him to say something sexy, quickly. Lester delivers "civil disobedience", which she absolutely loves.
  • Downton Abbey: Lady Sybil is a suffragist and socialist at heart. She tries to help women and takes part in a socialist rally. She bonds with Tom Branson, an Irish chauffeur employed at Downton, who is very active politically, too; he's a socialist and fights for the liberation of the Irish. He had a cousin killed in the Easter Rebellion (an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week in April 1916; launched by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in the First World War). There's also a moment where he and Sybil spar over it when she doesn't understand why Tom has such a strong dislike of the English government and military. She views the issue from the English side of things, and even though she's a rebelling daughter, she still grew up among aristocracy.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: In a flashback in episode "Late", there are shown protests and a huge demonstration that came after the government of The Republic of Gilead has declared it illegal for women to hold jobs, money or own property, and LGBTQ+ have been stripped of their rights as well. The demonstration is violently suppressed by the police.

    Video Games 
  • In Detroit: Become Human, one of Markus's goals for android liberation can include the right to vote and of political representation.
  • In Red Dead Redemption II, the women of Rhodes are rallying as suffragettes to gain the right to vote.