Mothers, daughters, rebels


I feel compelled to write this blog. This is not the sort of thing I usually write about, but today I would like to do a bit of a film review of Suffragette.

Suffragette is based on true events and is the story of the militant suffragettes in the United Kingdom. After spending decades peacefully trying to bring about enfranchisement of women though parliamentary debate (how it happened in Australia), the suffragette movement splintered. Emmaline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) called for militant action to bring attention to the cause, with the express purpose of getting it into the press. It traces many well documented events in the militant suffragette movement (spoiler alert) such as rocks through windows, bombings of the communication network (post boxes), force feeding of imprisoned activists and the death of Emily Davison.

I went to see the film on Sunday and walked out of it quite gutted. It’s not that I didn’t like it. In fact I loved it, but it was very sobering. It hit me in both my heart and my mind. Hard.

I read some reviews of the film after the fact and the well-regarded reviews were not great. They point to the lack of scope, the overwhelming intensity, the historical incorrectness, the messiness of ideas trying to do too much. I get what they are saying but I get something else.

There is something about Suffragette that transcends “the system”. The film was not an explanation. Suffragette was an experience and a manifesto. It is meant to be uncomfortable. It is a call to arms.

It seems that despite years of struggle and many battles won; despite Margaret Thatcher proclaiming the feminist cause has been almost fulfilled, there is still so much work to do.

Gender equality is a multi-generational movement. Multiple centuries of ingrained gender roles are not going to be solved in one.

Every day I open my news feeds and see another man has either knowingly or unwittingly placed himself in a position of power over a woman. He has made her feel lesser and feel like a victim. Every day I listen to women complain about how they do the lion’s share of the house work and child care despite working full time. Every day I hear a woman feel like her child caring role does not contribute. I see a news items that criticize women for publicly doing traditionally private work like child rearing in cafes and breastfeeding in parks. Every day I work within a system that preferences outputs that ignore gendered and cultural diversity in research and communication.

That is not equality. That is not ok.

Suffragette reminds us that the struggle is still there because so much of the film was relevant to what I see in the news every day.

I do not care that it is not accurate or brilliantly written. Neither are many of the works that have called for revolution.

Suffragette is a timely reminder that giving up or passing responsibility is not an option. And while it may not seem fair that there is still so much to do in the work of feminism, the reality is that there is still work to be done.

I do not want my daughters to grow up in a world where men do not even realise they are treating them with disrespect. My home is my feminist front line.




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