50:50 Parliament was lucky enough to attend a special preview of Suffragette earlier this month. This new film, directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan is a must see! It provides a moving insight into the hard-won fight for women’s suffrage and the wider struggle for gender equality in the UK.
The film follows the story of Maud Watts (played by Carrie Mulligan), a young working class woman employed by an industrial laundry in East London since she was a child. Maud joins the Suffragette movement after realising that gaining the vote is the only way to end the exploitation and drudgery suffered by successive generations of women at the laundry. Whilst agitating with the Suffragettes, Maud experiences imprisonment, forced-feeding, ostracisation from her community, and the forced adoption of her son. Maud meets other Suffragettes from a range of backgrounds including doctor Edith Ellen (Helena Bonham Carter), leader of the Suffragette movement Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), and wife of the local MP Alice Haughton (Romola Garai).
Suffragette eloquently shows that inadequate power to shape the political process harms women from all walks of life – then as now. Despite being well-off and married to an MP, Alice Haughton has little more control over her destiny than the impoverished and maltreated Watts. All the women depicted in the film suffer indignities and abuse, which they are expected to endure without complaint. Carey Mulligan’s heartfelt performance captures the determination and anguish of the brave women – and some men – who fought to change to this situation at huge personal cost. Her character’s journey is inspiring throughout, although the film is visceral and harrowing in places.
Although Suffragette is set a little over 100 years ago, there is no doubt of the ongoing relevance of the history it portrays. As such, we hope the film reopens debate about women’s participation in political life. Despite great progress over the past century, women are still not adequately represented in Parliament. Over 7 in 10 MPs are men and there are more male MPs currently seated at Westminster (459) than have ever been women MPs (450). Men still dominate the top positions in British politics. Ordinary women of all backgrounds continue to campaign for equal representation. 50:50 Parliament is a cross-party campaign striving for better gender balance in Parliament via an online petition and ambassadors programme, which raises awareness of the need for more female representatives within all political parties.