Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Suffragette


"Never surrender, never give up the fight"


This weekend I went to see the film Suffragette. I'm sure most of you have heard of it or at least have some idea of what it's about, but for those of you that don't; the film depicts the early suffrage movement of the 1910's involving a group of working class women. The plot centres on Maud Watts, a fictional character who embodies the hardships a majority of women at the time had to endure. The film focuses on a number of important issues including the plight of working class women, female rights over their children at the time and it also alludes to the issue of sexual abuse. I don't actually want to go too much into the film because I think it's so brilliant you should just go and see it for yourself and I'm not aiming for this to be a film review - I want this to be more a collection of thoughts and feelings on the film and where women stand today.



 I'd been looking forward to the film's release for a long time, because learning about the suffrage movement of the early 20th century when I was in high school was where my interest in feminism and gender equality began. I knew I'd love the film and that it would be an incredibly moving and powerful story, but I wasn't expecting the reaction I actually had to it which was a very emotional one. I can't even tell you how many times I teared up during the film and by the end of it the tears were streaming down my face.

 I think what was so striking about the story was the portrayal of  just how hard women's lives were in comparison to today. I'm not saying we've reached absolute gender equality worldwide, but I can't help feel so incredibly blessed that I am alive in Britain in 2015 and not 1915.

I am a young woman that has control of my own money. I am being educated at a university where my views are respected as equal to my male classmates. Next year I will graduate and be able to apply to any job I desire. I can live on my own (well, perhaps with a cat or two). I'm not being forced by my father to marry and have children at a young age. 

Above all else, I have a say in what happens politically; I have the right to vote. 
Watching women like Maud Watts (played by Carey Mulligan) imprisoned, force fed and beaten during their quest to secure the vote, something which is today considered a basic human right, was both disturbing and humbling for me. That I believe is part of the film's magic; this film is a reminder of what women endured so we could vote today and that is what makes it such an incredibly powerful experience, because sadly we often take our right to vote for granted today.

I remember just after the UK election earlier this year I was in a seminar class where we were discussing the outcome of the election and one girl in the class said she "didn't get all this politics stuff", that she had no interest in it at all and that she hadn't voted. I never want to come across as being harsh on someone, especially another woman, but I do vividly remember feeling really sad for her. I think I felt so strongly because I knew she wasn't the only young woman, or man for that matter, that felt disillusioned with today's politics. The channel e4 actually shut down on voting day to encourage its viewers, primarily young adults, to go and vote.

Whether people didn't vote because they couldn't be bothered, they didn't think it would change anything or because this man/plonker told them not to...


Seeing this film only strengthened my opinion that even if it doesn't go your way, at least you've had your say. I do feel our voting system needs a lot of change but by voting your voice is heard. My right to vote is one of the most powerful rights I feel I have and I am eternally grateful to those women for what they went through to get it. Of course their achievement runs so much deeper than attaining the right to vote; it changed the way women were seen in the world. It ensured women were not just seen as wives or mothers, but human beings in their own right. 



I am well aware that I am lucky: I'm lucky to have been born into a democratic country, with access to education and to have been raised by parents who encouraged and supported me and my sisters. I say this because not only does "Suffragette" make you grateful to be alive today, it also reminds us that there are still places in the world where many women do not have the freedom I am blessed with. After the final scene of the film, a timeline is shown of when different countries gave women the right to vote. Shockingly there are countries in the world where women didn't get the vote until recently and there's some countries where women are still struggling for this right. 

There are women in this world that are still being forced to marry men they don't know or even their rapist to avoid "family shame", there are women that can't leave the house without a male chaperone, women that can't hold a driving license or even choose what they wear. 


I think that's what it all comes down to; choiceI am lucky in that I choose a great deal of what happens in my life and that choice feels so incredibly valuable to me after watching this film. But until every woman in this world has that power to choose, the job started by the women's suffrage movement is not yet finished. 

"The Cause" goes on.