Suffragette, Directed by Sarah Gavron is a film based on a true story of women who are willing to sacrifice everything for equality.The main character of the film, Maude who is played by actress Carey Mulligan, works in a laundry house where she and the other women work under extreme conditions, work longer than the men and make six shillings less. In addition to this, they suffer mental abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse by their male overseers.
Maude befriends a few women who invite her to join their movement, campaigning for women’s right to vote. They call themselves the Suffragettes. The men in this film stop at nothing in the attempt to stop the Suffragettes. One detective even described a woman as “dangerous” because she was an educated physician.
This film reminded me of the writings of Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich. In “Uses Of the erotic” Audre Lorde writes “As women, we have come to distrust the power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge. We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world, which values this depth of feeling enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men.” Similarly, rich questions the subordination of women “ I question the more or less psychoanalytic perspective that the males need to control women sexually results from some primal male “fear” of women.” This was seen in the film when men would rape the women to get them to submit to their authority. One man expressed fear by stating that women would start taking their jobs if they allowed them to vote.
The Suffragette leader, Mrs. Pankhurst who is portrayed by Meryl Streep repeatedly motivates the women of the movement by telling them to “never surrender, never give up the fight.” This relates closely to Lourdes belief that it is our responsibility to never settle for “the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.” By doing so we’re robbing ourselves of our power. We must follow our hearts desires, love our work, and never deny ourselves as the erotic beings we are. “It is never easy to demand the most ourselves, from our lives, our work. To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society is to encourage excellence.” (Lorde 54) It is hard to watch this film without becoming angry or sad. However, it is clear that the message portrayed through the film, and the writings of authors Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich, have served as a driving force for women of history and in today’s culture, and for that I am grateful.