I am guilty of not thinking a lot about the rights I have as a woman. I know there are countries where women do not enjoy the freedom I have here in the United States and I feel for them but I have never really truly thought about what the women before me went through in order for me to have the rights I enjoy today. I received an email telling me I had passes to the screening of the movie Suffragette at the Alamo Drafthouse. I always enjoy having a reason to go there so I looked up the back story of the movie. It was based on a true story and about women fighting for the right to vote. Sounded interesting so I was looking forward to going.
My day got away from me at work and I almost decided to not go because I was late getting home. I changed into some jeans and a sweatshirt and headed out, hoping I would be able to get a seat still. (When you get passes to a screening, it is first come, first seat, so if you arrive late, you might not be able to get a seat). I didn’t think it would be an “in demand” movie so I figured I would get a seat, I was just hoping it would be a decent one. Sadly, there were a lot of empty seats. I say sadly because the movie was good. It was better than I expected. It moved me. It made me appreciative of what I enjoy today. It made me think back to that time, to a time when women had no rights and it truly made me realize it wasn’t about the right to vote, it was about the right to be free to speak, to think, to have a voice when your voice fell on deaf ears. While the movie was set in England, the lack of respect was not limited to England, it transcended throughout the world.
When we live in a time where courts give such a huge preference to the mothers of children, even when the mother isn’t really fit to be a parent, it’s hard to imagine a time when women did not have that luxury. A time when a child could be taken from the mother with no one thinking anything about it. If the father didn’t want the mother to be part of the child’s life, he had that right, because the courts saw the child as his property.
It went beyond the fact that women worked harder than some of the men and only made a third of what the men earned. It showed the bosses had the right to treat the women any way they wanted. Not only did the courts look the other way, but husbands would even look the other way, because the money was needed for the household. It was OK for the women of the poor to work and be treated in such a horrible way, but not OK for them to want a voice, want a say.
Women had no rights in prison. They could be arrested for “unlawful assembly” and be detained for weeks, months, even years without proof. If they were viewed as “trouble makers” they were watched and arrested with little to no actual proof. Barbaric measures were used on them in prison with no one thinking twice about them.
Girls as young as 12 could be married. Once they were married, they had no rights or any say in anything that happened to them, to their property, to their money, or even to their children. It did not matter if they married rich or were working woman poor, their rights were non existent.
Carey Mulligan, who plays Maud Watts, a wife and mother who had no desire to be a Suffragette but was pulled in and became a voice when she started to see the true reason behind the movement. She did a great job of drawing you into the film, into her character. You felt her pain, you felt her sadness, you felt her loss when her world was crumbling around her.
All of the women in the movie did an amazing job. It was raw, it was moving. They had a story to tell and they told the story. There were moments you laughed. There were moments your heart broke. It isn’t a movie about emotional highs and lows though. It was about helping the audience connect to the story, to get immersed in the story. Meryl Streep, who plays Emmeline Pankhurst has a small part, but her part shows the length, the strength, the depths these women were willing to go to in order to get their voices heard.
To understand that these women were peacefully protesting for 50 years before they took more radical measures as the movie showcases was so surprising to me. I never knew how long of a fight women fought for the rights we have today but then to think about the fights that are still happening when it comes to wage equality and position equality within some companies.
So, while I went to watch a movie to write a review, I left with a new understanding of history. History that affects me directly. History that affects women all over the world directly. I have always been a supporter of all people having equal rights. I have said over and over, as long as a person isn’t bringing harm to themselves, children, animals, or others, then they should have the same rights as the person next to them. It isn’t until everyone accepts the equality measure that this world we live in will truly be equal.
I encourage you to go and see the movie, it isn’t a “feminist” movie, it is a movie about passion for what is right, passion for justice. I think everyone can walk away with an understanding much clearer than the little bit we learned in history class.