Suffragettes and Feminism today



There have been a few articles recently about feminism in response to the new film Suffragette.  I saw the film last week and was incredibly moved, shocked and in awe of what these women went through to gain the vote.  No film is perfect and it’s been criticised for only showing one side of the movement lead by Mrs Pankhurst who famously urged the suffragettes to do ‘Deeds not words’ and incited much of the violence that took place.  But the film shows clearly how different life was for women back then, it seems a million miles from where we are now but in reality this was the era that many of our grandmothers lived through.

Because it’s such a contrast I would guess that young women watching this will find it difficult to relate to how things were and they are relevant today. But I believe it’s really important that we continue to tell this part of history.  That’s why it was shocking to see the recent press headline stating that DfE is planning to drop feminism and gender equality from its A level politics syllabus.

There was a brilliant article in The Guardian by a 16-year-old female blogger – June Eric Udorie who wrote about how we tend to dismiss past generations of women because we believe we are better.  This abstract illustrates the problem she sees today.

The feminist academic Lori Marso has argued that “feminists rarely seek to identify with the lives of their mothers”, and it’s hard not to see some truth in this. We roll our eyes and block our ears to our mothers’ generation because, ultimately, we believe we are better. We tear down the work of “second wavers”, those women who campaigned so fiercely for women’s rights in the 1970s; they are now often written off as trans-exclusionary radical feminists… We ignore and conveniently forget the many victories they won on our behalf. As the writer Glosswitch has argued the problem with the idea that feminism comes in waves is that “men get to leave something permanent; we seek to wash away the traces our foremothers left”.

I like to think I’m not guilty of dismissing previous generations – but I think I have been.  I have In the past felt quite angry and sad about my mother’s life and her traditional (dismissive?) role as a housewife and mother.  Why not the career? Why did she choose this?  But now, with hindsight, she probably didn’t have the choices we have now or the support, there were different expectations, realities and more barriers.  But then I think about me and my sister – there was never any expectation put upon us by our parents to get married, settle down, follow tradition.  We were encouraged to make our own choices and supported in our education.  Quietly, without any fuss or pressure.  So you could argue that my Mum and Dad were thinking ahead, thinking of our rights and chances and freedoms, as young women with choices.  So I was to dismiss this as not doing much to promote the cause – maybe quietly supporting your daughters in their choices was good enough, more than good enough.

I still get hung up on the feminist debate, it just all seems so unfair at times, our struggles, there is a long way to go, but there are more choices – even if we see other women making choices we feel are ‘against the cause’ – a choice is freedom from expectation and choice is what we need to continue to fight for.


Scaffolding and the circle of life



I walked past this building the other day as I do most days.  It used to be a big old house before the developers knocked it down to rebuild it into something else. Somewhere along the way the renovation has stopped and it’s been left in mid build.  As I walked past I thought – that’s what I feel like, a bit empty and in need of a rebuild yet held together by support.

I read a couple of blogs recently that resonated with this.  The first was about films being a good illustration of how life often emerges from the middle. We see an opening scene that starts at some point in a character’s life, often we begin in their middle and we go from there full of anticipation about what we are going to find out. It doesn’t matter where they started because we are engaging with them wherever they are now.

The second was about pressing the reboot button like you do on a computer, just a soft reboot to make small changes where things are no longer working for you.  It doesn’t have to be major, just a few adjustments, keeping the core functionality in place.

I like both of these ideas they strike me as an easy and engaging way to think about how we can choose to do things differently or change, even in really small ways.

I think when you get to middle age things naturally start changing around you, you can’t stop it and you have to adapt.  You lose people, age gaps become a little more apparent, priorities start to shift, time starts to race. I see this building as a representation of this – a down to earth gritty reality of the circle of life without the Disney sentimentality.  The emptiness that happens due to the losses and changes and the need to rebuild, reboot and adapt to these losses and changes. Sometimes the adaptations may need to be significant and sometimes tiny, but either way you have to keep developing and adapting to remain relevant, engaged and living.  With any luck the scaffolding you surround yourself with will keep everything solid enough to get through these changes and provide the confidence to reboot or restart your film.

It can feel like a long process, every time I walk past this building now it makes me question how far I’ve come in my own adjustments since I walked past it last time.  Sometimes I feel stuck and empty, other times I feel like I’ve secured a new brick or two and sometimes I think I could even take down some of the scaffolding. If this building ever gets finished I wonder what it will look like and how far I’ve got.

ps – the blog is worth a read.