Last night I finally got to see "Suffragette", the recent movie about women's fight for the right to vote in London. The film started out set in 1912. I don't know how many years were/weren't covered during the movie, but women still didn't have the right to vote there at the end of the movie.
In the United States women gained the right to vote one year after my mother was born. Since this post isn't really about women's right to vote and is, instead, about the nicely done (in my opinion) movie, "Suffragette", I'm not going to get more into the right-to-vote thing here.
After seeing the movie, however, it occurred to me that this is a movie I'd hope today's middle- and/or secondary-school students see (and in the U.S.). Maybe many have. It's been quite awhile since I've had any children of school age. Of course, at this point in history, I'm not particularly thrilled with the idea of using things like setting fires or breaking windows as a way of trying to accomplish the aims of a movement. The movie was careful to include some lines that would let the viewer know (or make the viewer think) that the intent of the women in the movie was to try not to cause physical injury to people. If it were shown to students I imagine there could be discussion about that aspect of things.
As I was thinking about how I thought this was a movie that today's students need to see, I realized that my main reason for that was the usual one that people have when they think today's young people need to see something. That was in thinking that, regardless of the movement, young people need to know how much struggle past generations went through in order to get to where it's so easy to take some things for granted. Complacency isn't a good thing, needless to say; and having been born not too long after WWII, I, like so many others of my generation, am not all that comfortable noticing that so many relatively (relatively) recent events continue to move farther and farther into "that-was-then/this-is-now" past (that no one needs to think a whole lot about now).
It was a good movie, I thought. I knew going in that something set in that time wasn't likely to be a "knee-slapper" (needless to say). I knew that the phrase, "sucks the life out of you", was likely to come to my mind. Rate PG13, it doesn't have anything in it that I don't think young people should see. in fact, the violence is still pretty much "nothing" compared to some of the stuff young people are exposed to today.
As I thought about kids' seeing the movie I wondered if, maybe, many of them would find it a lot less "life-sucking" than I did, mainly because I've always been aware of how my mother arrived into the world only a little sooner than she would have had to have been in order to be born into a world in which women already took for granted their right to vote. I don't know....
Having, myself, been born late enough to have never used a clothes line and never known life without television, I wondered if the movie's heavy emphasis on women (and others) working in a "big laundry sweat-shop type of place" made someone who was a child in the 1950's/1960's feel so knocked out a fairly modern-era sheltered-ness that it was just kind of depressing.
My grandparents were born in the 1880's. I didn't know either grandmother, but I knew both grandfathers (and still had one living until I was in my late teens). That meant I was close enough to stories of how things were at the beginning of the twentieth century (and just before it) that some things in that movie did "sound familiar" (as they say).
In my mind I fast-forwarded to my own generation and the Women's Movement in the 1960's and then into the 70's. I thought about how even though, in some ways, the Movement of that era could be kind of misguided; it was the era that ushered in a kind of progress (yes, progress) for girls and women that would make not having the right to vote seem unimaginable (and maybe even barely worth giving a thought to so late in history, at least in the history of so many countries).
But, there are rights on paper and in laws, which, while (needless to say) a good thing; then there are those things in human nature that make one person or group more prone to trying to oppress another person or group. While laws and rights are so much better than no-rights and no-laws, not only do they do little in situations not covered by them, but they have also, in some ways and some circumstances, only driven some oppressive/misguided/aggressive thinking "underground".
That, I think, is the most depressing thing about the subject of rights and equality. Young kids in school today are generally kids born into a world where so many rights and laws have made so many things better for them and their future. I don't want to be as depressing as that movie was, and I kind of hate to say this; but for all the ways in which things are better for girls and women today, and all the ways in which laws and rights have contributed to things being so much better; the world may well become far less their "oyster" if they grow up and find themselves in situations where nobody gives "a rat's" about their rights or laws, where people still think that women are one, big, club that "all that thinks alike", and where women who "have the nerve" to expect to be seen and treated as equals had better be ready for any number of people who will try to put her in her place.
Before I started to write this I took a quick look for what's out there about this movie, and I ran into things about how it's only within the last (very) few years that women have had the right to vote in some countries. I'm not minimizing the right-to-vote thing or the fact that not all countries have been as "enlightened" as the U.S. has been for over a hundred years now.
People in the U.S. have to be careful, however, not to be too "thrilled with itself" that women have at least had the right to vote for so long and/or that there are now laws aimed at protecting against discrimination and prejudice; because while I certainly don't minimize the right-to-vote thing (and a number of other rights/laws), the thing about aggression and oppression is that when driven "underground" they aren't seen - and I'm guessing you know what they say about unseen enemies