Suffragette: Radicalisation and a story that needed to be told

As a feminist and an admirer of the suffragette movement, I was really excited to see the Suffragette film on the week of it’s release. I had read and admired their stories, and was hoping to come away feeling inspired and uplifted. These were the women who paved the way, in whose footsteps I walked, of whom I was sure I would have stood with 100 years ago.

However I left the cinema emotionally drained and rather stunned. The cold, brutal reality of what these women went through, the reasons behind their drive for the vote and equality, completely engulfing my thoughts. This was no celebration, no story of their march to victory. The truth for women in the 1900’s was sexual abuse and exploitation, violence against them which was rarely punished, no rights over their children along with the poor pay and atrocious working conditions.

They had no voice, and that meant not that they were second class citizens but they were barely citizens of the world at all.

This is what they were fighting for, WHY they were fighting. And after decades of peaceful protest, debates and promises they were no better off. So they upped their game.

Would I have throw stones and blown up pillar boxes? Knowing the unfair justice system, the harsh prison conditions? Its so hard to say; like many women I may have been too exhausted and beaten down to take up the fight. But those who did, those Suffragettes, were all the more amazing for it.

The film tells an important, nay vital moment in this nation’s history, and the script brought to life the rhetoric normally just written on the page. The performances were excellent, from the superb Carey Mulligan to the brilliant Brendan Gleeson, meaning I didn’t just watch the drama, I felt it.

I knew about the force feeding and the events on Derby day, but that didn’t make them any easier to watch. And for me the central story of Maud, wasn’t just about that of the working women of the time, but of radicalisation itself. And not by the Suffragettes; but the police, the prison system, society at large and even her own husband. To punish, exclude and alienate leaves you will nothing left to lose. You take risks you never would have considered before, and highlights why dialogue should always be an option.

This film will continue to stay with me. I’m sure I will return to it many times. It was long overdue, and badly needed – so many people of this country just didn’t know the story. I was never taught it in school, and so much of the history had been suppressed.

The power of a good movie, is to take dry facts and events from history and make you care about the people living through them. And because you care, you remember. Now this story will be spoken about, it will become part of our collective memory and people will want to know more.

And as many in the world are still fighting for their rights, and facing harsh oppression, it is unfortunately still relevant today.


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