Theclamor for women’s rights began in earnest towards the end of thenineteenth century and during the beginning of the twentieth centurythrough the suffragette movement. Some of the central figures in themovement were Christabel and Emeline Pankhurst. The main agenda ofthe women participating in the suffragette protests was to gain equalvoting rights for women similar to the men in society. However, theearly 1900’s society in the United Kingdom was mainly patriarchal.As such, the suffragette movement was met with strong opposition notonly from the men in society but also from some women who believed inthe maintenance of societal structures. This resistance led thesuffragists to take up radical steps such as hunger strikes andbombings to bring attention to their plight (Cowman, 2010).
Thisessay shall focus on the scenes within the Suffragette movie thatcome after the arrest and subsequent release of Maud, Emily, andother minor characters who are members of the suffragette movement.Their experiences in prison transform their approach. They aretortured and force-fed because of their hunger strike. As such, thesuffragettes leave prison in a battered and malnourished state. Maudand Miller display despair and exhaustion in their faces. However,their actions show that their fire and hunger for women’s votes wasfar from being extinguished because hardly had they left the gatethan they had begun plotting their next move. Maud finds that life ishard for her on the outside. When the suffragettes realize that theyhave nothing to lose, they decide to make their boldest move so farto gate crash the King’s horse race (Suffragette, 2015).
Thesuffragette movement provided the women with a reason to live. Forwomen like Maud and Miller, belonging to the movement gave them anidentity, a sense of belonging, and a sense of purpose. The identitythat exists within a group influences the actions of a person (Tylerand Blader, 2014). The feeling of belongingness gave the women thestrength to persevere in prison. For instance, Maud was not willingto become an informant against her fellow group members.Participating in a group’s activities creates the feeling ofethnocentrism. In other words, Maud had become one with the group tothe point that she was willing to die for the suffragette movement(Suffragette, 2015).
Accordingto the theory of path dependence, the current actions of a person aredetermined by their decisions from the past. However, it does notstipulate that dependence is determinism (Ronning and Knutagard,2015). In similar fashion, the choice made by the suffragettes tobomb the minister’s house resulted in their arrest. After theirdetention, they realized that their actions were not generating thesame level of interest that they had anticipated and that thegovernment was downplaying their plight. This compelled them to seekout even more drastic measures to make their plight heard. Everysetback made them come back with better techniques. For instance, toprotest their arrest, the suffragettes engaged in hunger strikes(Suffragette, 2015 Squire, 2012).
Sucha conflict between ideas is enshrined in the ideology of conservatismthat sought to oppose the suffrage movement. Even the female prisonofficers were opposed to the suffragists’ acts to the point thatthey taunted and harassed them (Cowman, 2010). Furthermore, while inprison, Maud was force-fed to prevent her from dying because she hadchosen to go on hunger strike. Her reasoning was in line with therational choice theory. Maud knew that if she died she would become asymbol of the suffragette movement. Also, Inspector Steed did notwant Maud to die because it would exacerbate the suffrage problem andempower more women to join in the protests. In the end, thesuffragettes got their martyr, whether intentionally or by accident,from Edith Davidson (Ericksson, 2011 Squire, 2012 Suffragette,2015).
Accordingto Chirot (2011), human society has four subsystems namely: culture,social institutions, the economy, and political systems. Thesesubsystems interact with each other for the advancement of society.In the Suffragette movie, the grievances of the women do not arisefrom just one problem. This essay shall use the example of Maud, toillustrate the problems facing the women at that time. She has no sayover her child’s adoption, works under horrible conditions, has noright to vote, and is stigmatized by society because of asking forthe right to vote. The suffragettes recognize that all their problemsstem from various sources. The right to vote gives them control overthe four subsystems. When women vote, they can change the officialsin power and the way society treats them (Suffragette, 2015).
TheSuffragette movie ends after the death of Emily Davidson. The radicalattempt of sneaking into the King’s horse race to attract theglobal media’s attention had worked albeit at a cost. It isarguable as to whether Emily had intended on dying that day. However,what is not arguable is the fact that her death ushered in a new dawnin the suffragette’s movement. Subsequent scenes switch to theactual footage of Emily’s funeral procession where a multitude ofpeople had gathered to pay their last respects. In the last scene,the movie shows the chronological gains of the suffrage movementuntil the year 1928 when the women in the United Kingdom receive theright to vote (Suffragette, 2015).
Themovie Suffragette does the suffragettes justice by portraying thehurdles that they had to overcome. Furthermore, it depicts thestruggles of the lower class women rather than the middle andupper-class suffragettes. As seen in the movie, Mrs. Pankhurst was awealthy woman who only acted as the voice and face of the suffragettemovement. However, she did not undertake any dirty work. It took overthree decades for women in Britain to attain full voting rights.Furthermore, they had to resort to violent and dangerous tactics justto get the attention of the patriarchal government of that time.Modern day society needs to be more receptive and proactive when itcomes to the plight of other people, especially the plight ofminority groups. Close-mindedness and conservatism derail humanprogress.
Chirot,D. (2011). HowSocieties Change.Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
Squire,C. (2012). Narratives, connections and social change. NarrativeInquiry,22(1),50-68.
Cowman,K. (2010). Womenin British politics, c.1689-1979.Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Eriksson,L. (2011). Rationalchoice theory: Potential and limits.Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rønning,R., & Knutagård, M. (2015). Innovationin social welfare and human services.London New York: Routledge
Suffragette(DVD).(2015). United States: Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
Tyler,T. R., & Blader, S. L. (2014). Cooperationin groups: Procedural justice, social identity, and behavioralengagement.New York: Psychology Press