Vous trouverez ici le dossier sur lequel vous avez travaillé:
M1 MEEF DM Women’s liberation documents. Comments on common mistakes and omissions
I will be putting most of my comments here, addressed to you collectively, since I think this will be the most useful to you. The mistake you did not make this time, but someone else did, you might make next time. Incidentally, congratulations on surviving the pandemic so far – vaccination should slowly make the situation better over 2021.
I have preferred to make extensive comments, rather than write a “corrigé” you would be unlikely to be able to match, and I have preferred to write in English, partly for my own convenience, but mostly to help you. In these notes, I will be dealing with a number of elements you could , should or should not have put in your answers. Remember there are dozens of ways of writing a good answer on this set of documents, and I will present here far “too much” information for any one answer. This information may well be useful for you for another set of documents, at exam time.
I have already recommended to you a number of sources on the complex history of UK women. If you search for “women” or for “feminism” on this blog using the search engine at the top of the page, you will find many useful links which I have put up here over the last 15 years.
Note: words in quotation marks are example of correct English, unless they are preceded by an asterisk (*). In that case they are examples of mistakes (in English or in analysis).
Choosing yourself a notion.
As you know, you are expected to choose a notion which the set of documents is linked to. Here are your set of notions. You are not allowed to invent new ones. You must be precise. One otherwise excellent piece of work announced it was going to focus on the notion “past and present”. This will annoy the jury – be precise.
Thème des programmes de collège - Voyages et migrations Axes d’étude des programmes de lycée - Art et contestation - Diversité et inclusion - Le passé dans le présent - Utopies, dystopies
When you announce your notion, it is best to say explicitly in one or two sentences why you have chosen this one. More importantly, you are not supposed to announce the notion and then forget it. The notion you have chosen must be mentioned two or three more times during your work, and definitely in the conclusion.
It seems to me that “inclusion et diversité” is the easiest of the notions to plug into. Pankhurst is struggling for women to be included in the body of judges and in the body of electors. Bakewell is explaining how she was not included in the serious programming and in the respect accorded high level journalists, and the Reclaim the Night network would like walking around the town after dark not to be reserved to men (they also decide to include men in the people who should protest, by inviting “all genders” to come along). It may be possible to justify using another notion, provided you can briefly justify it at the beginning, and meaningfully mention it again a couple more times, and definitely in the conclusion. Students often did not do this, but simply chose a notion without justifying it, and never mentioned it again.
My impression is that some students did not have a clear idea of exactly what was meant by the notion “le passé dans le présent”. The website Clé des langues explains quite well.
Le passé dans le présent
La persistance du passé est au cœur-même de la perception du présent, et le poids de l’histoire, est omniprésent. Cette donnée incontournable peut susciter des réactions opposées : le désir de s’opposer aux traditions ou à l’inverse la volonté de les célébrer. Le retour au passé peut traduire une crainte d’affronter les incertitudes de l’avenir. Le rétro, le néo ou le kitsch cultivent le rapport au passé, de même que certains styles vestimentaires comme le gothique. Le rapport au passé peut être mis en scène à travers des cérémonies costumées, des jeux de rôle ou encore par la fréquentation de musées ou de parcs thématiques, qui recréent les sensations éprouvées autrefois. Il peut être fondateur dans la constitution de l’identité. Les lieux de mémoire se sont multipliés, ils invitent à considérer que l’acte de mémoire est un devoir. Comment cette articulation du passé et du présent se manifeste-t-elle dans une aire géographique ? Quelle est la place du passé et comment lui fait-on une place dans le présent ?
Nevertheless, there were students who wrote very good answers based around the notion of “le passé dans le présent”.
It is best to choose a structure around ideas which interest the student of the anglophone world. “How the women’s liberation movement has changed” is a good focus. “How the women’s liberation movement’s tactics have developed” is very good. “How women’s liberation activists dealt with problems concerning women’s personal lives” is excellent. It is best not to structure around excessively obvious ideas – “I will show that women are still not treated equally” is not a very good focus, because no one seriously disagrees with this. “I will show feminism is very important” has the same weakness.
I am delighted to hear that students are enthusiastic about improving the situation for women. However, activist style “The fight must go on” is not appropriate in university exams.
The conclusion should be a conclusion about what we specifically learn from studying these documents, bearing in mind our chosen notion. It should not be a philosophical conclusion about the importance of action in human life, the evil of women’s oppression etc.
General points on method:
- It is very dangerous indeed to only speak about two of the three documents. Even a not-very-inspired section on the document you find most difficult is far better than nothing, and will be seen in that way.
- Take time to think about the objective of the author of each document: this needs to be at the centre of your analysis. Talk about the objective of each document from the very first time you mention it.
- Do not give the impression that you think that progress in women’s rights came automatically and inevitably. This is not the case.
- Make sure you highlight those elements of each document which place it clearly at a particular point in history. For example, the note on the poster (“All genders welcome”) would have been impossible in the previous wave of activity in the 1970s, since there was practically no consciousness of the situation of trans people.
- It is absolutely essential to leave time at the end to re-read your work. Basic errors (“she protest” instead of “she protests” as two people wrote) are very heavily sanctioned. Th examiner does not say “Oh well, anyone can make a little mistake!” They say, “If this person cannot form the simple present of a verb, do I want them to be teaching English in our high schools?” For similar reasons, make sure you do not spell wrongly proper names which appear in the documents: such errors are taken very seriously.
Several students quoted the documents too much. This takes up a lot of valuable time. You may quote from the documents a particularly important phrase, or a particularly difficult phrase, to help you explain. It is not a good idea to quote dozens of phrases.
Reading the documents
The questions you always need to ask yourself for each document, before you begin to write your commentary, are the following.
WHO? (is expressing themselves)
TO WHOM? (are they trying to communicate)
WHEN? (What is important about the fact that it was at this time and not another?)
WHAT? (is the essential content of the document? Also, what do they NOT say which we might expect them to say?)
WHY? (are they saying all this: what is their objective?)
HOW? (do they try to reach their objective? Irony? Mockery? Rhetorical devices?)
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER? (If the document promises, or predicts or warns, did these elements come true?)
HOW TYPICAL IS THE DOCUMENT? (Is it an innovative declaration of a new movement, or one more cliché from that time period, or what?)
WHAT DIFFERENCE DID IT MAKE? (Where does the document fit in to longer historical processes?)
In any exercise for the CAPES you are unlikely to find something to say on each of the above questions for each document, but the list gives you an idea of where you should be looking.
Small but useful hints
Anyone can forget a date – remember you only need to make sure your information is useful to the reader. If you are not sure of the exact date the Women’s Social and Political Union was formed, it is fine to say, “At the very beginning of the twentieth century”.
In English we write numbers out in full much more than one does in French. Especially numbers under thirty. So it is best to write “twentieth century”, “twenty-five people” and so on. In addition, if a large number comes at the beginning of the sentence, we will write it out in full. “Two hundred thousand people attended”.
There are a few things which immediately signal to the examiner that your work is not up to the standard required.
- Do not use contractions. In written English, these are very informal.
- Similarly, avoid excessively informal English such as *”They were pretty angry.” *”This turned out to be way too difficult”. *”Women received way less respect than men”.
- Do not use French quotation marks like these « ».
- Do not use examples from the United States or from France when writing about Britain (unless you give three British examples then one US example – that then becomes acceptable). If you use other examples instead of British ones, you are signalling to the examiner that you know nothing at all about that particular topic as it pertains to the United Kingdom. Do not begin with a quotation from a successful American woman – this means you do not know any British ones. Similarly, although there are excellent quotations from great French figures, this is not the time to use them.
- Analysis of vocabulary/ style/ lexical fields. These can sometimes be useful to help explain the objective of a document and how that objective is attained. However, listing words used without saying why this is useful is a mistake:
- **”When referring to a woman, she uses: ''womanly'' (line 1), ''feminine'' (line 1), ''daughter'' (lines 5 and 15), ''women'' (lines 14, 15) .When referring to a man, she says ''men'' (line 2) or ‘’sir’’ (line 13). ”
This is not good, because obviously she uses this kind of words – we are not in any way surprised. Listing these words does not help explain what she is trying to do. Similarly, a paragraph about which negative prefixes were used by Pankhurst did not seem to me at all convincing.
- Journalistic English often makes a paragraph with just one sentence. In a university essay, this is not sufficient - a paragraph should have at the very minimum three sentences. On the other hand, I just corrected a script where the student had used a paragraph which was 54 lines long (893 words). This is much too long for a paragraph, and it could easily have been cut in three or four.
Some words and concepts to use carefully
When the US wanted independence from Britain, they eventually formed an army. When Irish militants wanted to save local peasants from being evicted in the second half of the 19th century, they shot a few landlords “pour encourager les autres”. The suffragettes, very determined to get the vote for women, did not shoot any ministers or plant bombs in parliament. They carried out a large variety of actions, such as burning letter boxes, smashing windows, interrupting meetings and sporting events, and occasionally even burning a few houses. To use the word “violence” without qualification is therefore unhelpful to understanding. I suppose one might say “violence against property”, although I personally prefer “destroying property” and “disrupting the usual political activities”. I also think “violent words” is better replaced by “radical words” or “angry” or perhaps even “aggressive”.
The Pankhursts and their allies were generally referred to as “suffragettes” at the time, and not as “feminists”. The name of their newspaper was “The Suffragette” until they changed it to “Britannia” once the First World War was under way. It is better to be precise and speak of the Pankhursts using the word which was habitual at the time.
In the 1970s in the UK, the word “feminism” was not coterminous with the women’s liberation movement. Many, but not by any means all, activists for women’s liberation in the 1970s considered themselves “feminists”. I see that the most influential magazine of the second wave, Spare Rib, almost never featured the word on its front page (https://www.bl.uk/spare-rib# ) “Women’s liberation movement” is a good alternative when speaking of the 1970s. In the 21st century, the word became far more popular, though it did not generally refer to a mass movement.
It is best to use “movement” for networks involving many thousands of people. Smaller organizations and initiatives can be referred to as “networks” or perhaps “campaigns”. In every decade of the 19th and 20th, and 21st centuries there were networks and campaigns dealing with different aspects of women’s liberation. From time to time, and most notably in the 1910s and the 1970s, there were important movements.
In English the word “pacifist” is used to refer to people who believe that all war is always wrong and there are no exceptions. This is no doubt not the word you are looking for in writing this assignment.
Basic objective and contents of each document
In the first document the well-known suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, is using her trial as a platform to explain the political objectives and tactics of her movement, since she knows her words will be reported in the newspapers. She protests at the fact that all judges are male, and uses the example of the notorious case of Daisy Lord, an unmarried woman who had killed her baby and was sentenced to death (but later this was commuted to prison). Pankhurst maintains that all-male judges cannot understand the desperate situation of this woman. Pankhurst speaks in a solemn style, underlining the crucial importance of these questions on the lives of women.
The second document is an activist poster calling “all genders” to protest against “gender-based violence” by joining a night-time rally. They are mainly angry at violence against women, but the vocabulary used reflects the fact that modern protest networks of this kind want to underline the fact that they are also thinking about gender minorities such as trans people and non-binary people.
The third document relates the personal experience of a Guardian journalist, who had learned to be a feminist early in life, and found that, although many things had moved forward for women, the discrimination was still strong. She was not treated the same as the men, not given the same salary, not allowed to do the most serious programmes, and comment was always concentrated on her attractive appearance. The women’s movement helped her have more confidence in herself, and because she was earning enough money to be independent, she was able to decide to leave her husband. It is written in a chatty, even entertaining, style.
References and other aspects in the three documents
By 1908, it is probable that the majority of the British population was generally in favour of women’s suffrage (although for many it did not appear to be particularly a priority). A number of leading politicians, however, were very much opposed. Some in the Liberal party were convinced that women would vote more Conservative than Liberal (this turned out to be true for a number of years) and so were determined that women should not get the vote – or in any case this was an additional reason to add to the ideas that it was “unnatural” for women to be interested in politics. The very different roles which women played during the First World War persuaded some of these politicians to change their mind, and so not block the proposal in 1918 to extend the suffrage to all men, and to women over thirty. In 1908 at least a third of men could not vote, because there were property qualifications.
Some students correctly took a brief look at the nineteenth century to show that the vote was not the only important campaign, and also to indicate that some progress had been slowly made, even though Pankhurst’s campaign of the beginning of the 20th century under the slogan “deeds not words” was an expression of frustration at the snail-like progress. Unfortunately, some students included false information, for example about the right of married women to own property. This right was won in 1870.
It is not sufficient to say that Emmeline Pankhurst was “a British suffragette”. This is a bit like saying “Shakespeare was a man who wrote plays”. You might say “the historic founder and leader of the British suffragette movement”.
In the para-text, we see “speech from the dock”. Pankhurst is on trial and is speaking to the judge. She is aware, naturally, that what she says will be reported in the newspapers. This is why she spends time explaining her political positions and tactics, although there is of course no chance at all of persuading the judge.
“ without the advantages we have had “
Emmeline Pankhurst came from an elite family. When she was in prison, she says, it made her think about what prison must be like for women from poor families who have not had the education and comfort she has had. It must, she says, be even worse. Indeed, she insists that some poor women end up in prison because they do not have the education to react appropriately to accusations (“who are there because they have been able to make no adequate statement”. [Although you cannot explain every sentence in every document, it is useful to show you have understood some of the more complex ones].
Votes for women is a newspaper, as can be seen by the fact that its title is in italics, and that the date of publication is precise.
“Reclaim the night” is an initiative established in various British towns in the 1970s. It was intended to protest against the fact that many women do not feel safe to go out into the streets alone when it is dark. Night-time marches, often torchlight processions, and often reserved for women, were organized to highlight this problem and sometimes to demand specific reforms such as better street lighting. The initiative is an example of how the women’s liberation movement tried to interest itself in all aspects of women’s lives, not just political rights (such as the right to vote the suffragists and suffragettes had fought for, or equal pay for equal work, which trade unions had gradually taken up as a demand). The initiative might remind us of the 1970s slogan “the personal is political” – that is, to oppose women’s oppression it is necessary to think about personal lives – the experience of women in couples, in the family and so on.
In the last twenty years or so, the term “sex workers” has come into use to refer, mostly, people who would previously have been called “prostitutes”. Those who use the term consider that it is a term which valorises the people involved, since it considers their activity as work. Other groups of people, including other feminists, consider that prostitution should disappear because it is always connected to women’s oppression. The question of prostitution, along with the question of trans identity, are no doubt the two questions which most divide supporters of women’s liberation in the UK today.
It is important to explain this expression. In the 1970s, most people thought that everyone was a man or a woman and that this was decided before birth. Today, there is widespread recognition that “man” and “woman” are genders which are very much socially created (although this idea goes back at least to Simone de Beauvoir’s “On ne naît pas femme, on le devient”). Radical movements today often wish to underline that they welcome people who have changed gender, or who identify as “non-binary” and so on. This is the reason for this term. It is better to try to define this term, even if you are not sure, rather than to avoid the question and hope that the examiner does not notice.
“Reclaim the night” marches in the 1970s were often for women only. This one explicitly says that “all genders are welcome”. It is necessary for the organizers to say this because many sympathetic men might otherwise assume that they were not invited. Some feminist organization today include men. The Fawcett Society, one of the better-known networks active in Britain today, has a few men on its steering committee as well as many women. Feminist networks today are far smaller than in the 1970s, but including men is more common. The Fawcett society, indeed, organized a campaign a few years back which involved getting many celebrities, men and women, to wear a T shirt announcing, “this is what a feminist looks like”.
The Guardian can be described as “ a centre left daily newspaper”. Although it has generally supported the Labour Party rather than the Conservative party, it is not *“a newspaper from the Labour Party”.
Cambridge University, like Oxford University, is made up of a few dozen colleges. Almost all of these, for many decades, only admitted men, until they gradually opened up from the 1970s on. A couple of colleges, including Newnham, were for women only for a period of many decades.
The Cambridge Union
The Cambridge Union, like the Oxford Union, is a prestigious student organization, one of whose most well-known activities is organizing formal debates. It is quite common for UK prime ministers and other leading politicians to have learned debating techniques (and social networking) at the Oxford Union of the Cambridge Union.
Footlights is a well-known comedy theatre group at the University of Cambridge.
Labour party peer
The author is a member of the House of Lords. After 1958, in addition to the hereditary Lords, who were Lords because their father had been a Lord, and a certain number of Anglican bishops, it became possible for the government of the day to have “ Life peers” appointed, who sat in the House of Lords but who did not pass their position onto their children. These life peers could be men or women. In 1997, the government of Tony Blair reduced massively the number of hereditary Lords in the House, and “life peers” are now the large majority. A Labour Prime minister asked for this journalist to be made a peer, because of her life’s work, but also because she was close to Labour ideas.
Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique transformed our working lives. In the 70s, feminist writing came thick and fast: Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics and Elaine Showalter’s Towards a Feminist Poetics …
The women’s movement involved very varied activities and ideas – marches, demonstrations, magazines, consciousness raising groups, specific campaigns for equal pay or cheaper creches and nurseries, artistic initiatives, and many more. Here are mentioned some of the most influential books on women’s liberation in that period. You are unlikely to know all of them but if you could say two or three sentences about one of them, that would definitely gain you some marks.
Fleet Street editors
Until at least the 1980s almost all the well-known newspapers had their headquarters in Fleet Street, a street in London. The expression was therefore used, by metonymy, to refer to the national press. Just as we sometimes write “Matignon” to mean “the French Prime Minister”, people would write “Fleet Street was surprised” to mean “the national newspapers were surprised”.
Thinking man’s crumpet
“Crumpet” is a sexist word, also rather bourgeois and out of date, to speak of a sexually attractive woman. The author is complaining that people thought of her appearance and not of her work.
Some misunderstandings of the content of the documents
A few students referred to the jury. There is no indication that a jury is present – these trials for “minor” crimes are presided over by judges or by magistrates.
Infanticide is the killing of a baby after it was born. It is not referring to abortion. Poor and desperate women killed their babies much more frequently a century ago.
Although it is perfectly reasonable to mention other struggles for women’s rights, such as the fight for the right to have an abortion, finally won in 1967, note that Vera Drake is a fictional character from a film, not a historical person.
Stake or at stake
These words are often best avoided when you are writing about politics and you are wanting to translate the French word “enjeu (x)”. See the following errors:
*Here, not only women are at stake ...
*In a first part *In a second part
These expressions sound very French.
All French students use the word “famous” too much. Zidane is famous, Madonna is famous. It is used to mean “universally known” and generally reserved for show business or similar (we do not say “Emmanuel Macron is a famous politician”.) Now people like Posy Simmons or Lucien Freud or the newspaper The Guardian are not *famous, but they are “well-known”. “Well-known” is often the word students need instead of “famous”.
This is a very negative word, suggesting malevolent ignoring of objective facts. Pankhurst’s speech, and the poster must not be described as biased. The speech is an activist’s speech, the poster is a political initiative.
- In adjectival position, nouns are not made plural. The following are correct: “A ten-man team” “a three-week holiday”, “the suffragette movement”.
- Definite article. The name of the document is treated as a proper name, so you must write “document A” and not *”the document A”.
Although we use more capital letters in English than in French, students often use too many. There is no reason to capitalize “women’s liberation” or “public relations”.
J. Bakewell etc.
In French it is quite common to refer to people in articles using their first initial and their last name (E. Macron, K. Marx, S. Freud, S. Royal). We do not do this in English, so to refer to the author of the third document, you may only say “Joan Bakewell” or “Ms Bakewell” (or even “Bakewell”).
n an enclosed space in a court of law where the accused sits or stands during his trial
(C16: from Flemish dok sty) (from Collins dictionary)
 What change din 1918 ? See here : https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/1918-centenary-votes-for-some-women-and-all-men/
 A very short history here.
 It’s fascinating history is sketched out here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newnham_College,_Cambridge
 ♦ a piece of crumpet Slang a sexually desirable woman (from Collins dictionary).
 Much more detail here http://www.midlandshistoricalreview.com/20200513_badormad/