I state my name, address and flash my card. Registered, my details crossed off, I'm handed a white slip. There's no conversational talk, just an uncomfortable silence. I'm dismissed with a single glance. I turn away and approach an empty booth, my footsteps echo behind me. At the front, blue panels close me off from peeking toms, but the back stays wide open. Its structure reminds me of a hospital gown, and yet despite being clothed, I feel exposed. The booths next door to mine stand vacant. I read the instructions pinned up and make a mental note of the most important bit: Mark with a cross, not a tick. I take a deep breath and pick up the blunt instrument left for these purposes. I suppress the urge to request it's sharpened. I study the candidates printed on the white slip, the pencil poised above it. With a shaky hand, I make an 'X' next to my first choice and select my deputy. My hand steadier, the 'X' more definite the second time round. Folding the paper in half as instructed, I exit the booth and return with more confidence to the desk. I give a furtive nod to the presiding officers and post my vote in the box.
After I vote, I'm always hit by a sudden rush of euphoria. My shoulders relax, my arms swing and there's a bounce in my step. I've made a strategic move, my vote will be counted. I don't toe one party line, I cherry-pick. I'm not loyal to one brand, one faith, or one way of thinking. I select views that work for me. The coalition government has re-ignited my interest in politics, but in the past when I lacked interest I still voted. Why? Because exercising that right was given to me. My vote is for the women that fought and the women still fighting for it. I vote as a woman who benefited from the suffragette movement and its tragedies. I vote on behalf of the women who have yet to gain this equality. In the West, we forget that voting for women was/is a luxury. Men will never comprehend this in quite the same way.
I'm saddened that members of my own sex don't seem to care or are unaware of this history. The vote is seen as disposable, just as women are still seen today. The female form is either used up like a dirty rag or thrown away. In the West, we've developed barbaric practices to either accentuate or negate our femaleness. We lope breasts off or pump them up, we have nose jobs, face lifts and tummy tucks. Girls aspire to glamour modelling, women take up pole dancing. Opportunities are taken away if you're a woman of a certain age or child-bearing. Often we do all this to ourselves and call it empowering. We tell ourselves we're pleasing ourselves and at same time pleasing society. Submissive to the male in the word of female.
Is this the subversive route the suffragettes thought women would take? Liberalness and compliance. Leaving the home to conform to an overtly sexual image. Feminists are considered aggressive, others are kept silent. Women are still pieces being moved around in an increasingly sexualised society.
I vote because this is the one true voice afforded to me.