After a disappointing home education day, we watched Suffragettes confident it would be great as it was presented by Lucy Worsley who we have seen on telly before.. We love history and like myself, my 14 year old daughter is vocal on women’s issues. To his credit, my husband watched the programme with us.
My daughter was quick to declare that in her opinion no major changes in history have happened without at least a degree of violence. Before the programme started, I mooted the point that the Suffragettes could be described as terrorists.
This programme was gripping. We loved how the real words of the key players were used and how Lucy appeared to be amongst them during the action. I also loved a certain glint in her eye almost as if she were encouraging viewers to conspire with her in a cause.
There were of course the suffragists who wrote letters and so on to try to get the vote for women. As Lucy explained how Parliament which was of course male-dominated played silly games to ensure things were not even debated fairly, I can absolutely see how frustration would mount leading to more violent lobbying methods. Why did women want the vote anyway? Well, there is the concept of equality and fairness but there is also the issue that they must have felt women’s lot in life needed to change generally. That makes me empathise with them as clearly so much still needs to be done despite recent changes and a spotlight on the abuse of women for example. Not surprising and very sadly, there were reports of women protestors and sexual assault at the hands of police and others.
So often us feminists are told we are daft and the battles are won. Yet I find it fascinating how little the Suffragette movement was covered in the schools of myself or my daughter. I remember a fancy dress celebration of 100 years of history and only one teacher and my daughter dressed up as Suffragettes.
To my absolute shame, I did not know the Suffragette movement spread across social classes always associating it with rich women. I also thought it began in London and not Manchester. I had no idea so many areas of the UK had Suffragette action.
I also did not know about the build-up of tools of the trade as time went on including bombs and riots.
I loved how skilled and instinctive the Suffragettes were at using marketing methods to present their case from photography to stunts like chaining themselves to railings. In a way they reminded me of how women bloggers have used PR and marketing methods to have their say and to campaign on some pretty vital issues. These are the bloggers I like – the ones who tell it like it is and don’t just keep touting out picture perfect images adding to the mental distress of others.
How the state dealt with these women was appalling and hard to watch particularly the force feeding when they went on hunger strike. The sending in of law enforcement from other areas reminded me so much of seeing those types of buses during the Miners’ Strike in the Eighties. As ever where there are two different viewpoints, the State started getting their message across with their own PR efforts.
My daughter enjoyed the programme but was saddened by the methods employed to try to silence women. She was clearly of the view that Winston Churchill should not longer be viewed as a hero. Her comments included: “There was no need for the Suffragettes if the Government had listened. If asking nicely does not work, you have to resort to more extreme methods for the greater good”
It made me reflect on my work as a blogger and writer. Words, so many words. Perhaps they don’t have a real impact. Perhaps deeds would be better.
So the film made us feel, think and quite possibly change. That makes it a huge success.
The film was written and directed by Emma Frank so I will be looking out for her work again. In fact with the written words by Emma and the delivery of words by Lucy, perhaps I should conclude by saying both words and deeds can make a difference.
So let’s resolve to always ask nicely and then kick ass if and when required.
Forget Love Island and watch on iPlayer https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b5y4zg/suffragettes-with-lucy-worsley If you are outside the UK but want to catch BBC iPlayer programmes, you can do so with by first connecting to a BBC iPlayer VPN.