24 October 2015

Suffragette

Emily Wilding Davison
English heroine
(1872-1913)
Why has the story of the British Suffragette movement never been properly told in film before? The long delay seems to me to be a signal that though votes for women were fully secured in 1928, the legacy of our patriarchy endures.

I walked into the city centre yesterday to watch "Suffragette" at The Showroom Cinema. Written by Abi Morgan and directed by Sarah Gavron, the film seeks to dramatise the struggle for female suffrage in Great Britain. It begins in a steamy laundry in the east of London where women graft in oppressive conditions to earn a crust. It is here that we find the central character - Maud Watts played by Carey Mulligan.
Reluctantly, she is drawn into political activism championed by Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the women's suffrage movement. Maud ends up in prison and loses both her husband and her son who is put up for adoption. There is nothing that Maud can do about losing her beloved little George and in a moving farewell scene she clasps the bewildered child's face and says, "Never forget my name Georgie. I am Maud Watts - your mother. Maud Watts."

One of the activists is a quiet but determined young woman called Emily Davison. The Women's Social and Political Union is becoming frustrated because the government are effectively quelling press reports about their members' activities. Accompanied by Maud, Emily Davison attends the 1913 Epsom Derby where the king's horse Anmer is scheduled to run. As the horses gallop towards the finishing line, Emily bravely emerges from the crowd and stands in the path of the king's horse. She is violently knocked over and sustains injuries that kill her a couple of days later. The tragedy becomes worldwide news, like letting a cat out of a bag. It is a turning point in the quest for women's suffrage.

The film ends with a rolling list of countries and the years in which women around the world achieved the vote. The last country on the list is Saudi Arabia where women are still waiting.

The events that the film depicts happened relatively recently in the great span of history. Around our planet, many women are of course still treated like second class citizens and even in liberal western countries, there are still shadowy forces that continue to work against women. But we are surely getting there and we live in a time when there is a much  keener sense of equality than there used to be. In this we should give thanks to brave women like Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Davison and the fictional Maud Watts for they were prepared to raise their heads above the parapet, refusing to surrender for they knew that their cause was very righteous and true.
Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst

23 comments:

  1. It does seem strange and with a few notable exceptions the world is a much better for having women involved. Thatcher and Theresa May would have been better excluded but that would have required impossible foresight.
    I am quite enjoying current politics with the return of Marxism. Groucho not Karl.

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    1. I don't believe in compensatory discrimination but I do believe that having women in high places is good for civilisation and human progress. It is surely one of the main reasons why we have a duty to defeat the medieval arguments of Islamic fundamentalism. In their way of thinking, women would be virtual nobodies and women's rights would be reversed.

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    2. I wasn't been sexist. I believe in gender equality. The only time that toffs do is when we need them to do men's work in a war. They seem to do a good enough job but you do get useless members of both sexes and middle sexes.
      Some are not only useless but evil with it. The more strident the more evil they are. Again it applies to all humanity with the exception of the Royals who are so accustomed to being obeyed they don't feel the need to justify anything they do; fortunately they do bugger all.

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    3. Adrian! The idea of you being "sexist" is absurd! "Sexy" yes but "sexist" - no way Jose!

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  2. Switzerland was surprisingly late, wasn't it? And Saudi Arabia - isn't that a monarchy anyway? I seem to remember that women are not allowed to drive in that country, either.
    Thinking about what life was (and still is) like for women in general, I am truly glad that my life is taking place here and now. I have choices, which is a lot more than many a 47-year-old widow with no children could say about herself in other parts of the world.

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    1. In these times, people are quick to knock what we have got but in reality we enjoy an enormous number of privileges compared with those who went before us.

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  3. We're not there yet however women have more opportunities to get there and change things. We still have very few women representing us in parliament.

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    1. But interestingly when it comes to the cleaning of government buildings women are very much in the majority!

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  4. The stupidity of it all is we are all human...man and woman. There should be no differences in rights....except perhaps who is allowed to have the most dark chocolate...other than that....

    In all seriousness, the women of the world owe so much to Emily Pankhurst and those others who bravely stood alongside her. And it's sad that more work still desperately needs to be done to wipe out arrogant, ignorant attitudes and beliefs of some who I need not mention by name, beliefs or culture because you're fully aware to whom I refer!

    I always watch (or almost always do watch) "The Graham Norton Show" and only a couple of weeks ago I saw the show in which Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep were two of his guests and some of the couch conversation was about this movie, of course. I look forward to seeing it.

    And your post has made me even more keen to see it.

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    1. "...you're fully aware to whom I refer!" Gulp! I hope you don't mean me Lee!
      Men and women are all human - yes I agree. Too much is made of the differences between men and women. For example, I cannot bear all that drivel about women being good at multi-tasking. The truth is that some women will be good at multi-tasking and some men will be good at it too. Trouble is if anybody is multi-tasking they are not properly focussed on the main job.

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    2. Spit it out, Yorkie! Come on, spill! Do you have a guilty conscience! lol

      Stand easy...I wasn't referring to you; but you already know that!! :)

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    3. Phew! That's a relief. I didn't want to stand outside the headmistress's office again!

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  5. Meryl Streep looks like Mary Poppins in that photo. Surely there are other actresses who could have played that role? I think that Meryl Streep is over-represented in the movies (nothing against her as such), I just wonder why we have to keep seeing her in these big roles instead of all the other fine actresses who are out there?

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    1. I love...sorry I admire Meryl Streep and I think it is great that she was prepared to take on this cameo role, so there Carol!

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    2. Carol...as Yorkie said...Meryl Streep's appearance in the movie is minute. I hope somehow, perhaps via your computer, you can see the particular guest appearance she made on "The Graham Norton Show", along with Carey Mulligan who plays the lead in the movie....and you then will understand...and Streep's attitude etc. She by no means big-noted herself. She was willing and honoured to have had the role in this movie - a cameo appearance though it was.

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  6. Whenever I think of the suffragettes in England I think of Glynis Johns singing "Sister Suffragette" in Mary Poppins...rightly or wrongly. In any case, I am curious about this movie and I'm sure I'll see it at some point. It's amazing that in this day and age women are still working to achieve equality in so many places on the planet (including, in some respects, the West). As for Carol's comment above, the fact is, Meryl brings in audiences, and the producers know that!

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    1. Sorry, I don't remember that scene from "Mary Poppins" but this is not surprising as I haven't seen the film since 1965. Was Mary played by Meryl Streep?

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    2. Hahahahahaha! You're madder than I am, Yorkie...and I never thought that would be possible! lol

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  7. I came from a family which had very strong women on both sides and went to a Prep School with strong women teachers so it was a while before I realised just how much inequality of opportunity there was. My mother always taught me that men and women are not equal, that they are different but that their opportunities in life should be equal.

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    1. I would say that every man I have met in my life has been different from the next man and that every woman has been different from the next. Bundling people into two distinct groups - one called "men" and the other called "women" rather glosses over those differences making things seem more straightforward than they really are. We are people.

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    2. I see no inconsistency between our views YP. Men as a group are inherently different because, inter alia, they can't have babies but that doesn't stop them being different one from another or women from being different one from another. I could never be a brain surgeon but there are many men and women who could be and, for those that can, the opportunity should be there equally between them. Some will make it some will not. Sex should make no difference.

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    3. Precisely Graham. I couldn't have put it better than that myself...and in my last comment I wasn't implying that we were at odds on this subject.

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    4. I realised that, YP, but I felt that I hadn't really 'finished' my original comment.

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