Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Suffragette: the fear of change

Family movie night premiered Sarah Gavron’s latest film, “Suffragette”; a raw, eye opening success that has introduced significant thought and discussion both within the public eye and my own living room. Not a single word was spoken as my family and I were fixated on the motion picture. In my awestruck eyes, this interpretation of the development of our democratic history perfectly encapsulates the lengths it took for the women of the past 100 years to get to 1 vote for the women of today.

The film highlights the immense effort, thought and planning that went into protests, both passive and violent.  Beatings carried out in the streets and the death of world-renowned martyr, Emily Wilding-Davison, were incredibly intense moments and were, at times, rather grotesque and shocking,  yet were of paramount importance towards the development of women’s rights. As a viewer, it was clear that the entire film was created as a detailed and revealing build-up to these iconic milestones in history. In particular, we are shown the origin of this movement, with Meryl Streep exhibiting a profound, moving speech as leader of the Women’s Suffrage movement, Mrs Pankhurst. I think the intention of the director and actors was to highlight the profoundness of how hard women have worked towards a change so important to women today. Highly relevant to a world where currently women still do not have equal rights to men so long after this triumphant yet ultimately tragic victory.

With stunning performances from the adored Helena Bonham-Carter and protagonist, Carey Mulligan, an uprising and clearly special star-in-the-making, this film was destined to be at the top of my recommendation list. The utmost eloquence and an irrevocable belief in the deliverance of her words enabled Mulligan to compel her audience with a better understanding of a very important, very real message. Her gentle character, by nature, is at first afraid and vulnerable, however, we see a true growth ignited in her spirit as she gains courage from her friends and co-supporters, acting out against political violence and the controlling hatred of men in the old world. Serving time in prison and losing her son, Carey’s character, Maud Watts, endures a suffering that only a repressed mother could understand. The sensitivity of this topic is hauntingly recognisable in today’s society, not necessarily in the UK, but shockingly in many other areas of the world.

History, and the retelling of it, has shown that only through determination and the sheer will to protest our beliefs will there be change. This historical period drama targets an audience of a vast variety of age groups and political groups, providing food-for-thought for both genders. As Maud passionately professes to the detective she is questioned by, we observe a seemingly obvious yet striking realisation,

“We’re in every home, we’re half the human race, you can’t stop us all.”

Evidently, Maud’s conclusion to the argument is that these women may be mothers, daughters, sisters or wives, but despite this label, this mark burned into their minds and bodies by society, they are an equal part of the world, by percentage, by fact. This rebellion, a force to be recognised and responded to, is what drives even women of the present to continue to fight for true equality. As Mrs Pankhurst, leader of the Suffragette movement, states in her hurriedly anxious speech to the eagerly awaiting women, ‘deeds, not words’ will be the answer to this endless revolution.

Powerful, moving and certainly informative; a reminder of those who died and were knocked down, yet never beaten, against the most just cause. It is an ongoing lesson in the consequences of the power of fear and its hold over the ability to enforce change.