Following on from their red-carpet protest at the Suffragette film premiere, we caught up with Sarah Kwei from the group Sisters Uncut to hear why the fight for women’s right is far from over…
The decision to crash the Suffragette premier came out of a casual conversation while on the ‘Solidarity with Refugees’ march, last month.
‘Hey that Suffragette’s film is coming out next month, we should go see it’ a sister said to me.
‘Maybe we should leaflet outside showings and try and recruit some new sisters’ I replied.
‘Hold on a minute, when’s the premiere?!’ said another sister, her eyes wide with the excitement of a crazy idea.
What then ensued was several weeks of precise planning, organising, recess and practice drills. We never imagined the response we would get.
Sisters Uncut has always tried to make it clear that we did not intend to protest the film itself. We simply saw it as an amazing opportunity to capitalise on the feminist nostalgia and huge amounts of press there to tell anyone that would listen that this fight is far from over. Films like Made in Dagenham and Suffragette look back on feminist struggle with rose-tinted glasses as feel-good blockbusters. They always give the impression that the fight has been won and the fight is over. But it clearly isn’t, when two women are murdered at the hands of a current or ex-partner every week. Our message is simple, Dead Women Can’t Vote.
When the subject of domestic violence comes up in conversation, a common response is ‘but why doesn’t she leave?’ The answer is complex, but in the context of austerity the likelihood of survivors making a life for themselves free from violence is becoming almost impossible. Refuges are closing, council housing is practically non-existent, and the introduction of the benefit cap and cuts to legal aid end up a recurring nightmare of doors slammed in the face of women that desperately need help. Women’s Aid estimate that they turn away 150 women from refuges everyday due to the cuts. How many body bags, how many coffins, how many inquests and domestic homicide reviews does there have to be before this government deems women’s lives important enough to provide a safety net?
We organise in the spirit of the Suffragettes and feel that had they been alive today, they would have been lying side by side with us. To learn about the lengths they went to have their voices heard when the world did everything within its power to silence them is a chastening experience. Throwing rocks at shop windows, setting off bombs, kidnapping, prison, the horrors of force feeding, sexual assault and even death. Without all they had done, I would not have the freedom I have today and everyone in Sisters Uncut feels proud and humble to pay tribute to them in our continued struggle for liberation.
The only way we will win liberation is through creating a mass movement of women. The last two days has been a bizarre and dazzling experience. Watching clips of Helena Bonham-Carter and Carey Mulligan singing the praises of Sisters Uncut, seeing that there are 1,066 articles written us worldwide, the constant media requests have all been overwhelmingly exciting. We’ve caught the world’s attention and started a conversation about violence against women. The next step is to turn that into action.
My last message is to all sisters reading this. Get active and get involved! Find us on Facebook and join us! Write to your local MP about the cuts to domestic violence services! Just as the Suffragettes fought to create a world in which women have a voice, so must we fight to see a world in which women can live free from fear and violence.
You can find more information on the Sisters Uncut Facebook Page here.