Suffrage. Weird word isn’t it? Sounds like something that is either very painful, very boring, or both. I know right, how can something be both painful and boring? Well listening to certain lecturers at university kind of gave me that feeling sometimes.
If you don’t know what suffrage means, it’s probably because it isn’t seen as much of an issue anymore, or it just isn’t referred to as such nowadays. Basically it means having the right to vote in a political election. It may seem boring to some of you, but I for one will never take my right to vote for granted again.
After watching the recent movie ‘Suffragette’ I felt driven to write something about it. To express my thoughts and emotions towards both the movie and the very act of suffrage in relation to feminism.
Identifying as a feminist, I felt compelled to watch this movie, but in all honesty, I believe that everyone in the world should see it. Granted, it was only a representation of one race of people in one part of the world so maybe it’s ignorant of me to suggest that everyone watch it, but the message is pretty important.
I had heard of the group of women dubbed the ‘suffragettes’ but I don’t think I ever fully comprehended the battles and hardships that they endured to allow women to have the simple pleasures that we enjoy today. Again, I am speaking from a predominantly white and I suppose privileged position in terms of these pleasures, so bear with me.
As a woman, I could really relate to a lot of the themes in this movie, but as a feminist, I was shocked and horrified at how complicit and narrow-minded everyone seemed to be. The central character, Maud Watts, finds herself thrust into the world of these ‘shameful’ and ‘demanding’ women, and as she experiences what life is like as a suffragette, it spurs her on to fight back.
In the process, Maud loses her family, her reputation, her job, everything she has. She is scorned, ostracised, declared mentally unstable and is ripped away from her son. All for the sake of trying to earn women the right to vote. Being a feminist in today’s society is pretty difficult, and some will say that it isn’t necessary, that everything is fine. But in comparison, the hardships the suffragettes faced are far worse. But the problem is that it is still relative to feminism today.
Often when people discover I am a feminist, they don’t really know what to say. Some just shift uncomfortably, some laugh nervously, and some just ignore it. And many have engaged me in a war of semantics about the term ‘feminism.’ If that’s not proof that feminism is still under fire then I don’t know what is.I have personally never had to leave my home or been so harshly thrown from society for what I believe in, but it has tarnished relationships and turned conversations from enjoyable to awkward. All because people refuse to educate themselves.
Watching ‘Suffragette’ was an education to me. There is still so much to learn, in every aspect of life. I couldn’t help but feel a whole-hearted gratitude to those women who were abused and even sacrificed their lives so that I could decide which flag I wanted my country to fly (I’m from New Zealand where it seems that arguing about flags is more important than anything else).
And although the film never explicitly discusses feminism, this is how women are able to live how we do these days. Women from ages past have been tortured, ridiculed and shunned so that we may attend university. So that we may have jobs that we actually want to do. So that we may have the right to our own income and to choose how we spend it.
This is why it angers me when people wave off feminism as an unnecessary political pain in the ass. So many people seem to agree with the fundamentals of feminism in terms of gender equality, however because of its name, refuse to associate themselves with it. And to me, this is an absolute slap in the face to women like Maud who gave up everything to fight for women to be free.
“You told me no one listens to girls like me. Well I can’t have that anymore. All my life, I’ve been respectful, done what men told me. I know better now. I’m worth no more, no less than you. Mrs. Pankhurst said, “If it’s right for men to fight for their freedom, then it’s right for women to fight for theirs.”
And still, after all the sacrifice, the protests, the battles, women are still not equal. Disagree with me? Again, educate yourself.
1 in 4 women are sexually abused and/or raped in their lifetime.
Globally, nearly 40% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
Even in Australia, a seemingly more liberated and equal country, women earn 18.2% less than men. So for every dollar men earn, women earn only .82 cents for the same work.
These numbers are ridiculous. So tell me again why we don’t need feminism?
Or would you feel more comfortable with gender equality? Would you feel less threatened if we changed the name? Then maybe changed a few of the ‘rules’? Then maybe we could just tweak a few things here and there until it isn’t even about gender anymore. Then maybe it wouldn’t exist.
Would that make it easier to deal with?
So women, next time you’re out and about by yourself, or you’re going shopping, or you’re wearing shorts because it’s hot, or you’re complaining about going to school, or to a lecture, be grateful that you can actually do all of these things.
Be thankful that those women before you and those women now, those so-called ‘feminizes’, those suffragettes, those rebels, be thankful that they did what they did, and continue to do, for you. Stand up and fight to keep those freedoms.
Because I know that I would rather be a rebel than a slave.