The struggle for women’s rights is embarrassingly timely

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Divine Order
RPL Film Theatre

December 8–12

To its shame, Switzerland didn’t let women vote until 1971 — long after nearly every First World country (WTF, Portugal), not to mention other nations not known for enforcing equal rights.

A referendum (in which only men were allowed to vote) finally granted them the right to participate in the electoral process at a federal level. But 1971? Jeez.

Instead of tackling the subject at a macro level, The Divine Order goes small and is better for it. In the tradition-loving community of Schweiz, women aren’t even supposed to have jobs. And if they get too uppity? Their options range from banishment to jail. Mousy housewife Nora (Marie Leuenberger) is pushed to the brink when her husband refuses to allow her to work and her niece lands in juvenile detention for rebelling against the patriarchy.

Unwittingly, Nora joins the suffragette movement and discovers her calling. Her mission becomes to not only get other women to rise up, but to take a stand against the ridiculous belief that equality is a sin against the “divine order” of things.

The film — chosen as Switzerland’s Academy Awards candidate — is conventional and a bit on the nose (Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” is featured), but it’s a lot more fun than the similarly themed Suffragette. The dramatic beats are practically the same, but The Divine Order has a sense of humour. And sure, it avoids any grey areas — all the men behave like cavemen — but at least it acknowledges that they exist.

Then again, there’s not much “grey area” when it comes to women getting to vote.

In a time when there are new, high-profile accusations of sexual harassment on a daily basis, movies like The Divine Order remind us that gender equality is a long-fought battle.

The fact the fight’s still going on is embarrassing, and awful.