Thoughtful words from a blog amusingly titled Gender and the City.
Despite some obvious issues to do with race, I found that the film gets so much right. And, to me, raised one huge question in particular: why hasn’t it been done before?
My mother suggested that this could be because women — or anyone who has risen out of a terrible situation — are inclined to want to leave it behind them. A sort of ‘We have the vote now, let’s move onto the next thing — no need to dwell on the past!’-type attitude. However, I’m more cynical than that. I don’t believe that the reason it hasn’t been done before it because of the attitudes of the women. I think it’s more to do with the way in which their history has been written for them.
Has anyone else noticed that whenever the history of women’s suffrage is discussed, it always seems to be referred to as women having been ‘given’ the vote? What the film Suffragette highlights, unequivocally and unapologetically, is that women were not ‘given’ anything. Women fought — tirelessly and painfully — in a long war that was eventually won. We weren’t ‘given’ shit.
I found that my enjoyment of Suffragette was affected by the memory of how I was taught this subject at school… At the time, I didn’t challenge or question it. Some of it even made sense. I knew vaguely that I must always exercise my right to vote at the very least out of respect for the women who had fought for it for me.
So I decided to write this article, about how pissed off I am at yet another aspect of the cesspit of misogyny that was my education, and thought I would read a couple of reviews of the film. And I was amazed. The tone in which I was taught about the suffragettes was also used in the reviews, even now. Several of the reviews of the film chose to point out that ‘historians have often concluded that enfranchisement of women was actually held back by militancy, rather than advanced by it.’ I also read that ‘historians still debate whether the violence of the women’s suffrage movement was justified…the deeds of the suffragettes did not directly result in women getting the vote.’ These are just two of many examples I encountered.
How is it that these journalists and film critics share the same views as my old history teacher?
The problem is with the history itself. More specifically, the problem is with the historians. To use an old cliché, history has been written by men. And I’m tired. I’m tired of history being about men. I’m fed up of ‘women’s history’ being addressed, taught and learned separately. ‘Women’s history’ needs to be included in what we learn as ‘history’ because, as Maud Watts says in Suffragette, we’re half the human race. I don’t want a Women’s History Month. I want it to recognised that women have played an equal part in literally all of history.
Please read more at http://genderandthecity.com/2015/11/12/suffragette-why-hasnt-it-been-done-before.