Strange how in every movement for social progress, be it worker’s rights, children’s rights, gay rights, women’s rights or the rights of national self-determination, the British State is always on the side of reaction. I’ve tried to think of an exception but I just can’t think of one. Whatever the century, whatever the issue, the image of baton wielding thugs in uniform comes to the fore. And so it was for the Suffragettes who had the temerity   to demand something so subversive as the right to vote. And the film, Suffragette, although not a particularly great piece of cinema, is definitely worth seeing, if for no other reason than to be reminded of the essentially reactionary nature of the British State and the ‘special bodies of armed men’ that are there to protect it.

The film itself was rather one dimensional, as so many of these historical drama/documentary films invariably are. The dialogue and acting, with the exception of the mighty Brendon Gleeson, tended to be stilted, and you rarely got away from the sense that the action was taking place on an artificial set with actors speaking artificial lines. Even the fog and grime of early twentieth century London looked fake. It felt like one of those well-meaning Ken Loach films in too many places – great politics but poor film making. Good versus evil with little for the audience to chew upon.

But notwithstanding these criticisms of form, Suffragette is a worthwhile project because it gives a timely reminder of just how mutton-headed the British State was and still is. And lo and behold, in the very month that the film was released , what do we see on our TV screens on two consecutive nights? British police officers smashing into student protesters and anti-austerity protesters with batons in hand and menace on their faces. The very same ugly menace that confronted Britain’s heroic suffragettes at the beginning of the twentieth century. Will the British State ever learn? Obviously not.

Have things improved for British women since winning the vote in the 1920’s? Formally and legally yes, but in so many ways Britain’s women are still at the receiving end of a brutal patriarchy that dates back to pre-Roman times. We all rightly condemn this medieval patriarchy in Asian and African societies, but Britain and Europe generally cannot claim to be on the moral high-ground when it comes to how our societies treat its women. We still pay them less than men for doing the same work. We still discriminate against them, albeit unofficially, when it comes to senior promotions. And most damning of all, we still tolerate an epidemic of violence against women of both a sexual and domestic nature. Two women are killed every week in Britain as a result of domestic violence and a shocking one in four women will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. A staggering 8% of women in Britain will suffer some form of domestic violence in any one year.

These figures are akin to war statistics and that is because huge swathes of British men, in collusion with the British State, are still at war with women. Globally, the statistics are even grimmer. One in three women across the globe will experience violence at the hands of their male partners during their lifetime.

In the light of these gruesome figures, the suffragette movement should be seen as the starting point of women’s liberation and most definitely not the end point.  And if women were to return to the streets to launch a new campaign of civil disobedience, be assured that the British State will oppose them with every repressive means at its disposal. The funding cuts to women’s refuges, part and parcel of the British establishments political policy of austerity, is just one such weapon.  

End JPK Copyright 11/11/15

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 November 2015 16:01 )