On the 12th of October, the film ‘Suffragette’ was released in the UK. The film tells the story of women who dedicated their lives to obtaining female suffrage. For those women, gaining the vote was the key to improving women’s rights. Less than a hundred years later, many of the things that those women dreamed of are now a reality. Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter all champion the women they portray in the film, as strong activists who began a movement still going strong today.
During the premiere of the film in London, activists from Sisters Uncut used the red carpet as a stage to protest about cuts to government funding for victims of domestic violence. They caught the attention of the media by chanting ‘dead women can’t vote’ and lying on the red carpet. Though having successfully gained publicity for their movement, it also brought their concerns of current women’s issues into the spotlight. They also gained support from stars on the red carpet, such as Lauren Lavern, who used Twitter to show her support, stating that she will “always support those speaking out against domestic violence.”
After women first obtained the vote in 1918, progress seemed slower than expected, with women not gaining equal suffrage with men until ten years later. Their place in the home and their domestic ‘duties’ still remained a large part of many women’s lives. However, with regards to women’s rights, important improvements were made, such as the increasing acceptance of women in the workplace and in educational institutions, and also the opening of Britain’s first birth control clinic by Marie Stopes in 1921, which gave women more control over their bodies. It seems odd for all these legislations and movement to come into fruition and still have almost 4,000 women die every year due to domestic violence.
But the progress over the past one hundred years is undeniable and should not be forgotten. Despite the problems that still exist, the majority of the western world is much closer to obtaining gender equality. In the UK, women now hold a vital role in the world of education and work, with 55 per cent of undergraduates being women in 2014, according to UCAS. This suggests that women are able to achieve a high level of education and it also conveys that women have the desire and the opportunity to access higher level professions. Slowly but surely, all of the hard work is paying off.
Although much has changed since women gained suffrage, the values of feminism that the women who campaigned for female suffrage created are still relevant. The vision that the suffragettes had is still a dream for the women represented by groups like Sisters Uncut. Women and men who suffer as a result of domestic violence depend on the continuing support of groups of activists who can speak out on the behalf of vulnerable people, and it’s thanks to activists like the suffragettes and Sisters Uncut that these issues are being tackled more and more.