Friday, 16 October 2015

Suffragette (5 Stars)

"Never surrender. Never give up the fight".

The Suffragette movement in the early 20th Century was unique in the history of revolutions. All other revolutions were spearheaded by the suppressed workers. The Suffragette movement was a revolution of middle class women. It could be argued that they didn't need to revolt. They had comfortable lives, they had money, they could do whatever they wanted. But there was one thing they couldn't do. They weren't allowed to vote. They took a stand, fighting for something that most of the working class women didn't care about. Why would a poor woman want to vote when she was more worried about earning enough money to feed her children? In that respect, England's middle class women saw more clearly. They fought to give the working class women what they needed, not necessarily what they wanted.

Having said that, what I enjoy most about this film is that it doesn't concentrate on the fight of middle class women. The main character is Maud Watts, a woman who works in a laundry. As she says of herself, she started work part time when she was 7, full time when she was 12, and she was now a forewoman at 24, but she still earned less than the male employees. This makes the film more poignant. We see a woman suffering from issues other than not being able to vote. For Maud the right to vote is a means to an end, she wants women to vote so that new laws can be passed to achieve equality for women.

The film did make me question some of my personal ethics. I'm someone who believes in obeying the law. If I don't like what's happening around me I call upon the law to be changed to stop it happening. In short, I'm a good citizen. That wasn't the case with the Suffragettes. They weren't good citizens, they were rebels. They broke the law. They smashed shop windows and blew up houses. That was the right thing to do. If they hadn't taken extreme measures women still wouldn't be able to vote today.

"Never surrender. Never give up the fight".

Is the fight over? I think not. I'm not just talking about countries like Saudi Arabia where women still aren't allowed to vote. I'm talking about England. Women have equality in theory, but not in fact. Women are paid lower wages, as long as it isn't admitted that their gender is the reason for the discrimination. When women complain about it men point at the few top women who earn more than most men, trying to distract from the fact that they're rare examples.

Emmeline Pankhurst (who we only see briefly in the film) didn't accept the status quo and the breadcrumbs thrown to her by men. She was a revolutionary. She fought for something that the majority of women in England didn't know they needed. In the same way Valerie Solanas fought for the overthrow of male-dominated society in the 1960's, although most women didn't listen to her. I fear that the fight has already been given up. Women today have been brainwashed into believing that they've already won. It's time to take up the fight again, not stopping until all patriarchal structures in government and religion have been overthrown.

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