Saturday, 14 November 2015

Film: Suffragette

 This film was well-shot and well-cast and most importantly, fairly important. Not only did it provide some historical backdrop to the younger generation of feminists out there, but it also went from a different angle. The working class angle.

What struck me was the irony that Emmeline Pankhurst, for the period of the film, was at that point just a figurehead. A name. A speaker. She didn't actually do much. She was in hiding, not willing to be arrested, while her working class "sisters" were getting medals for each time they were incarcerated.

This same character appears in the film for about... 5 minutes. Maximum 10. She has very few lines in the entire thing.

She is played by the wonderfully talented Meryl Streep, who is arguably the biggest name in the cast - and it is Meryl Streep who was used in a lot of the advertising!  

The beauty of following the fortunes of reluctant suffragette, Maud, was that we could see just how big the divide was between the privileged minorities and the not-so-privileged minorities. Emmeline had a pretty easy ride of it compared to the mere "canon fodder" (as described by one of the detectives). It was only when a working class member accidentally got hit by horse when desperately trying to get the press and the king to notice her that the movement finally gained any impact.

It's a pretty powerful film. Full of heart-wrenching scenes, incredible acting and some very detailed depictions of what happened when on hunger strike in prison back then. 

One of the things about this film is how, if you are tuned into these issues enough to notice, the opponents of Equal Voting rights spouted the same misogynist rubbish that a lot of anti-feminist and anti-woman men do today!

There was a beautiful (but painful) scene where Maud's husband is quite clearly shamed and ridiculed because she'd been arrested at one of the protests. He was told to "put her in her place" and to "rein her in" and to "be a proper man" (toxic masculinity - something most feminists, male and female, will point out is part of a misogynist society).  It was this shame and social backlash that resulted in their marriage falling apart. 

Feminism is a result of inequality of sexes. The only fault this film had was that it was pretty white-washed. Ok, so there weren't that many POC well-known leading Suffragettes at the time but it wouldn't have hurt to have some in the extras, something the writers have since acknowledged when grilled about it by insightful teenagers. To start with it was for all women, everywhere. It only became fractured when the Black Freedom movements gained a lot more motion and black males were given more rights than white and black women combined.

Powerful white men have had a lot of their power stripped from them - they can't own people anymore. They can't tell "inferior" races what to do or where to go. Power and superiority over women is the only thing that they have left. Which is why sexism is so prevalent today.
Just look at any "Gamergate" news.  If the female market is given just one small token, those who feel their superiority threatened immediately wade in and spout abuse. If anybody totes equality of everybody regardless of gender, they open themselves to abuse online. If this post gained any traction, I'm sure I'd get a couple of hate messages as well. 

Let's face it, even game developers are reluctant to announce their character designs were female original, for fear of alienating these sorts of people....

Suffragette isn't about current inequalities. We've come a long way from there; we have the vote. We have the right to custody over our children. We are allowed a full and fair education. But the dialogue and actions of many of the characters within the film highlighted just how far we still have to go to combat sexism. 



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