As women march to protest Donald Trump’s presidency and “Suffragette” is released in Japan, the words of Helen Pankhurst, activist and British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst’s great-granddaughter, should resonate with many filmgoers.
“It’s actually pretty wonderful to see your own great-grandmother in a movie,” says Helen. Though she was in Tokyo recently to promote the movie “Suffragette,” she also lectures on women’s rights herself. “I did some research before coming here,” she says. “When it comes to the number of women politicians, Japan ranks 155th out of 193 countries.”
Embarrassing as that is, women in Japan have at least had the vote since 1946, and Pankhurst commended that fact: “That’s only two decades after Britain gave women the vote, which was in 1928.”
Dedicated to raising awareness of women’s roles in politics and protecting their rights, Pankhurst says that Emmeline’s legacy runs in the family.
“I often work with my daughter, who is also an activist,” she says. “She is the fifth-generation Pankhurst with the same surname as Emmeline. How many women can say the same? The world is still mirrored with a very male gaze.”
That includes the film industry, which doesn’t escape criticism.
“The whole film industry is male-dominated,” she says with a smile. “It was difficult to get the funds and very hard to find men willing to play roles (in ‘Suffragette’). They read the script and said, ‘No, my part’s not big enough.’ But look at what women actresses have had to endure for so long!”