Yesterday, Feb. 6, was the 100th anniversary of certain women obtaining the right to vote in the U.K. To mark the special occasion, a London Underground station shared a quote on a whiteboard earlier today about celebrated suffragette, Emily Davison, but instead of honoring all of Davison’s contributions to women’s suffrage, the chosen quote poked fun at her death and perpetuated sexist notions.
According to The BBC, Davison was an important player in women’s suffrage movement in the U.K., and she was arrested for numerous acts as she fought for women’s right to vote. The outlet also notes she was killed in 1913 after she ran out in front of the king's horse as it was taking part in the Epsom Derby, though the exact circumstances of her death remain unclear.
The sign in question, which you can read below, says, “100 years ago, suffragette Emily Davison died after throwing herself in front of the king’s horse. History remembers her as being influential in giving women the right to vote. What history doesn’t remember is her husband, who didn’t get his tea that night!”
Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long before commuters took to social media to complain about the insensitive sign. One such person was Evelyn Clegg, who said as a “humourless feminist” she was “genuinely appalled” by the display.
Clegg also deemed the sign “incredibly short-sighted & a waste of an opportunity for celebration,” and dozens of others on social media were quick to agree. As one user put it, the sign is “just so, so bad.”
The backlash online led to the situation being addressed. According to a series of subsequent tweets from Clegg, she reached out to Transport for London — the city’s transportation network — on Twitter and was able to get them to remove the sign, which they admitted to Evening Standard was “wrong and inappropriate in multiple ways, and completely unacceptable.”
“I'm pleased with their response, but obviously the sign should never have been put up in the first place, and it looks like they need to provide better training for their staff members in diversity and equality,” Clegg told the publication. “I'm sure I'll be accused of 'not being able to take a joke', but humor based on the death of a woman who was fighting for basic equality is completely inappropriate.”
Added Clegg, “Yesterday was a day for celebration of these brave women, and this sign is so disappointing in its recycling of lazy sexist jokes. It could have been used for a positive and educational purpose, so it's a waste of an opportunity as well as being disrespectful.”
However, it’s also important to remember that the passage of the Representation of the People Act (which was commemorated on Tuesday) only granted some women over 30 in the UK the right to vote, and still left scores of women such as those under 30 and those who didn’t own property, without such a right.
In a tweet shared on Feb. 6, actress Emma Watson called attention to the fact that the act, though worth celebrating in its own right, still denied many women suffrage. “Amidst the celebrations, let's not forget those women that were excluded from voting for another ten years, & the women still denied a political voice even today,” she wrote.