Suffragette

Just a few weeks ago, Canadians voted for “change” and for “sunny ways.” We elected a young Prime Minister with a famous last name and idealism still twinkling in his eyes. He was sworn in last week and presented us a cabinet that among other things, had gender parrity.

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That’s right. Half men, half women. So of course the very first question journalists needed answered about this tall list of accomplished people was why “he went with gender equality” in his cabinet. Why? Why did he “go” with “gender equality.” Is that really a question you can still ask this day in age? Okay, you know what – it is. Because sadly, this is the first cabinet to achieve this status. But Trudeau seemed to agree in spirit, answering simply “Because it’s 2015” – a mic-drop response that was heard around the world.

But the fact remains that if a Prime Minister chooses a cabinet that has a representative amount of women in it, he’ll have to answer as to why.

Isn’t that incredible? And incredibly sad?

As you know, the boys were dragging me off to see Spectre this weekend, and James Bond is probably the human embodiment of the antithesis of gender equality. To correct the imbalance, Sean agreed to hit up Suffragette with me first, because he’s a 2015 kind of gentleman, even if his movie idols aren’t.

Suffragette focuses on some of the lesser known but pivotal “foot soldiers” of the early feminist movement in Britain. After 50 years of peaceful protest, the women have amped up their right-to-vote rhetoric and are ready to engage in civil disobedience for the cause.

suffCarey Mulligan plays a young woman who was born in a laundry facility and has worked there all her life, working herself raw and having her boss force himself on her just to earn a third what the men take home. And then it goes directly into the pocket of her husband to do with as he sees fit. Not a naturally political woman, she gets dragged into the movement almost unwillingly but once she’s there, you can bet that neither her boss nor her husband are pleased. But it’s the vitriol from her fellow women that’s most upsetting. She doesn’t know her place, and this upsets everyone.

And it’s also enough to have her freedom taken away, and her child too if she’s not careful, so AAantithese are pretty high stakes. The laws are against her – but that’s the point. She is subject to laws she’s not allowed to influence let alone make. Women were property or commodities and laws existed to keep them that way.

Helena Bonham Carter plays a semi-educated pharmacist who is not only a pillar of her community, but an agitator and grass-roots activist. She’s recruiting and planning things when it’s time to start smashing windows and bombing letter boxes. HBC played her part well, suffragetteinjecting a little back bone into the character while still ultimately being subject to her husband’s whims. Helena Bonham Carter is the real-life great-granddaughter of H.H. Asquith, who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916, during the height of the suffrage movement. He was of course a staunch opponent of votes for women.

Mulligan is the perfect choice for a young mother who goes through quite the character arc, from wife and labourer to militant feminist – of course, you might find that the first two under such terrible conditions would inspire desperate reactions from anyone. Brendan Gleeson and Meryl Streep also having juicy roles, though Streep’s there in little more than a cameo, she’s nevertheless the perfect choice for theimg095 down with man movement’s heroine, Mrs. Pankhurst (this is the little detail that got to me – that all of these brave, notable women were known only by their husband’s names, ie, Mrs. Pankhurst. It killed me). Streep is strong and steady as ever. All of this capable acting smooths over some of the flaws in film making. It’s not a perfect piece of art, but it is an important one, and it’s hard not to be stirred by it.

Women in Canada got the vote in 1916, for the most part. It was not granted in the province I layout.inddlive in until 1940. American women got the vote in 1920. Some women in the UK were granted the vote by 1918 but it wasn’t unconditionally granted until 1928. That’s less than 100 years ago: way too close for comfort. Is there a woman alive today who hasn’t wondered what it would have been like to live through that? To still be all that we are and yet to be so diminished in the eyes of the law – and society? It’s boggling. And yet, in 2015, when a Prime Minister hires women to work in his government at an equal rate that he hires men, he is still asked why.

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Suffragette

  1. Sean

    This movie was terrifying. We like to pretend we are enlightened and that we believe in equality, but the wage gap remains and it’s newsworthy that women are equally represented as cabinet ministers (though actually not even because Trudeau is the 16th man and there are only 15 women).

    And that’s Canada…so I can assume the rest of the world is the same or worse (and as pointed out in the credits, women still can’t vote in Saudi Arabia and there are probably more countries in the same boat). Just awful. We need to realize how much more work there is to do and then start getting it done. #RealChange

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  2. Carrie Rubin

    I look forward to seeing Suffragette. Hopefully it will hit a theater near me. Carey Mulligan seems a perfect choice for the role. And yes, why we still have to answer these types of questions is mind-boggling. Sigh.

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  3. fragglerocking

    It’s equal pay day here today!
    Women with full time jobs will be effectively working for free from now until the New Year as a result of the gender pay gap.
    Equal Pay Day marks the point each year at which women effectively stop earning compared with their male counterparts. The average female full-time worker in the UK earns 14.5 per cent less than her male counterpart – or 85.5p for every £1 earned by a man.
    And this in the country where Suffragette happened!!

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    1. Jay Post author

      We hope he will be. He’s only been on the job for a week, so we’ll see. It’s going to be a lot like Obama though -we’ve been under Conservative rule for too long and now there’s so much stuff to correct it’ll be impossible for anyone to get it all done. But better an overwhelmed Trudeau than anymore of that stinky Harper.

      Justin’s father, Pierre Trudeau, was our PM back in the 70s & 80s and inspired ‘Trudeaumania’ because of his passion and activism. He was beloved and controversial and a huge presence. He died in 2000 I believe and the outpouring of grief was pretty crazy. Pierre married while he was in office in 1971 – a 22 year old actress named Margaret (he was 51) and soon they gave birth to their eldest, Justin, who in 1972, met Richard Nixon at a state dinner, and Nixon predicted that he would one day be prime minister. And that turned out to be maybe the only true thing Nixon ever said while in office.

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  4. Christopher

    Anyone who asks “why did the prime minister ‘go’ with “gender equality?” is assuming one of two things: that the selection systems that until now have disproportionately chosen men are completely equitable or that there aren’t enough qualified women.
    The first is ignorant and the second is ignorant and insulting, especially in 2015.
    “Suffragette” is great for reminding us of how far we’ve come but I also appreciate those idiots who remind us how far we still have to go.

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  5. SLIP/THROUGH - Dan

    Great review, Jay. Really compelling analysis. I loved your preface, thoroughly engaging. Go Canada! The way you frame the context for this movie is brilliant. It’s pretty scary how recently women earned the right to vote. This sounds like an important movie… with an impressive cast. I’ll keep my eyes peeled. Thanks for highlighting message movies like this.

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      1. Sean

        It starts Dec 20 at the Bytowne, but 4 shows a day at Silver City for now. Hopefully it gets a bit wider release in the coming weeks. It is an important movie and I’m glad we caught it.

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  6. Sean

    I thought it was interesting in the movie to see that so many women chastised and berated the suffragettes. I can only rationalize it by thinking it was the result of a campaign of fear, based on the incredible political cartoons you have included here. It fit the recurring theme of using fear to oppose change, which was prevalent in our election and also in Our Brand is Crisis (with opposite results thankfully). Fear is the most dangerous political mechanism and the most irrational but it seems also to be the most effective. We’d be better off if we could resist the fear mongering more often.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes. Also know a bit more about lateral violence today, ie, when a group is oppressed for a long time, they start lashing out at their compatriots rather than directing their anger where it really belongs, because they feel they can’t really hit out at their oppressors.

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  7. ruth

    I’m so bummed I missed the press screening for this. I just read earlier today this film couldn’t find an audience which bummed me out even more. I can see that it’s not a perfect film but it’s an important one, thanks for the review Jay!

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  8. Birgit

    You have stated this beautifully! I love what you wrote and I shook my head at the reporters’ questions about all the women on the team as i like to say. When I visit my mom in the long term care home, there are women there who are over 100 (2 still walk around and can hold conversations)-they were born before they had the right to vote! I watched a documentary where the women were beaten and so mistreated by the police-horrible. I do want to see this film

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    1. Jay Post author

      It must be incredible to have lived through so much. I don’t know that we’ll feel all of that social change in our lifetimes – for better or worse, I guess.

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  9. kmSalvatore

    I cant wait to see this movie. a big part of that History took place here . great review Jay, now i hope it makes it to one of our theaters.
    and i think we are all watching your new PM…lol..instead of whats going on here (in Politics),if ya get my drift. i dont even wanna say HIS name.

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  10. calensariel

    In a short, quick, gotta-go-see-this-movie kind of post, Jane Basil from Making it Write reviewed this in a post last week. Said she cried through it. Made my mind up to go see it though I still knew basically nothing about the movie. Thanks so much, Jay, for filling in the details. I had no idea Meryl Streep was even in it.

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  11. BroadBlogs

    As you know, I wrote about both of these on my blog, But I got a different perspective when I saw them both in the same post, joined together. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. Says a lot about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are headed.

    By the way, I think I’d like to be Canadian.

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  13. reocochran

    I think Carey Mulligan was in “Far from the Madding Crowd ” which showed a woman of mixed emotions, inheriting a farm, which was rare fir the period this was made about. She is attracted to a farm owner and also one who lost his farm, becoming her farmhand. My youngest daughter and I liked how strong she seems but got upset with her indecision about men. 🙂
    I want to see “Suffragette.” My Mom was a teacher, 3 kids in 4 years and never cooking except on holidays. TV dinners, pot pies, fish sticks. . . She insisted my Dad and she needed a week off from their jobs to go March in Washington for Civil Rights. Her own mother, immigrant from Germany got naturalized and voted in the 1930’s. 🙂 Glad you recommend this film and good luck with new PM.

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