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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Where Are the Women? Suffragette

Where Are the Women? Suffragette

It is wonderful to see women in roles with historical and cultural significance. This is splendid representation of women as fully human people.


Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]


Is there a female character with insignificant screen time in a position of authority? [why this matters]


[no issues]


[no issues]


Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)

The film is explicitly about the particular problems that women face in the world, from the most intimate domestic sphere to the most public aspects of our society, from men’s presumption that they may do whatever they want with and to women to the long political battles women have raged to secure their human rights.
The major women’s political issue covered here is one that has never been covered in a theatrical feature film before — the centuries-long fight for the right to vote — and so it begins to right a cultural wrong and an erasure of women from history and the pop-culture mythos of the past.


IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? Yes (Sarah Gavron) (does not impact scoring)

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes (Abi Morgan) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: Shockingly, this is the very first big-screen movie ever about suffragettes, and it is wonderful to see women in roles — some fictionalized, some authentic represenations of real women — with historical and cultural significance. And though every woman here is a wife, a mother, or both, not one single female character is defined solely by her relationship with another person who depends upon her for support. This is splendid representation of women as fully human people.

Click here for the ongoing ranking of 2015’s films for female representation.

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Suffragette! It is simply an examination of how well or how poorly it represents women. (A movie that represents women well can still be a terrible film; a movie that represents women poorly can still be a great film.) Read my review of Suffragette.

See the full rating criteria. (Criteria that do not apply to this film have been deleted in this rating for maximum readability.)

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