Suffragette

I went to the movies on New years day. I thought at the end of Suffragette I would leave the theatre feeling empowered and motivated by the movie that was directed, and written by women. I left feeling grateful, selfish, guilty and in deep thought, with messed up make-up looking like a panda.

Suffragette as defined by the oxford dictionary:

A woman seeking the right to vote through organized protest.

The movie is set in London in 1912. The early years of the feminist movement lead by Emmeline Pankhurst is portrayed and follows one particular foot solider – Maude Watts.

We break windows, we burn things because war’s the only language men listen to.  Cause you’ve beaten us and betrayed us and there’s nothing else left.

The movie portrays wonderfully the fight that ordinary women committed to, working class women with no entitlement, no access to a platform for change. By focusing on the ordinary women who work 14 hour days, by focusing on the wife who dotes and loves her husband and the mother who adores her children, sings them to sleep and showers her babies with love, contemporary women connect with the cause. A fabulous job was done in the depiction of Suffragettes and by baiting the audience with various women but never telling their story, so many more questions and thoughts were raised for me on all of the women. It made me want to learn more about the bigger fight. To learn about the groundswell of ordinary woman that forced change and yet they gained no genuine recognition. Telling the story from the point of view of the foot soldiers, was more powerful for me, than if the story of Emmeline Pankhurst had been told. Emmeline, the powerful woman that had the authorities perplexed, and frustrated at her power and influence over women.

Women, particularly working class women were committed to the cause, losing jobs, losing dignity, losing homes, losing husbands, and losing children. Maude Watts – I’m worth no more, no less than you. We will win. The quiet lady like movement had yielded no results in parliament. So mothers, daughters and rebels went underground. These women fight, they fight dirty – blowing up post boxes, throwing rocks through glass windows in the West End, burning down houses.

Deeds not words (Emmeline Pankhurst) 

The working class women who had no privilege, no money, no rights to their children or any property, endured violent beatings, sexual exploitation, barbaric treatment while incarcerated (being forced feed, with tubes violently shoved down their throats) and putting their bodies on the line.In 1913 at the Epsom Derby,  Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse and died for her efforts in front of cameras to draw attention to the Suffragette cause.

I felt guilty that I had not respected their desperation and I felt selfish, this consumed me while viewing the violence, abuse, loss, and the deplorable conditions that these women endured. The desperation that the working class women felt,  the need for a change to their stations in life, the realisation that they could have a better existence. Once they realised this, they couldn’t go back, they had to fight frantically for what that they felt was right.  For a woman in 2016, I feel I take the privileges that these woman battled for, for granted. In school, I was never taught that Australia was one of the first countries to grant women the vote in 1895. The girls of my generation were never taught about the fight for the vote,  for higher education, and better working conditions, for divorce and for the fight against sexual exploitation. I felt sad that these women gave so much to the cause, lost so much and the modern woman doesn’t understand and is not educated on the depth of the fight for rights that we take for granted and think that we are entitled to.

My heart ached for these women, because I know for a fact that I would have taken the coward’s way and not fought. I know that I would have been too selfish in wanting to keep my husband, my children. I wouldn’t have the rebel in my veins to fight for change and not only change for my generation but all women.

 

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5 thoughts

  1. Of course we need to teach our daughters about the fight, but our sons too: equality not there yet with so recent a change in laws (100 years not long really)… cultural views still changing. My daughter recently asked why we always see men playing sport – that’s what she sees.

    • Totally agree with you westendgal. So important for men and boys to be aware, respectful and supportive. Isn’t great though to see the cricket airing womens games on free to air TV.

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