Suffragette Movie: 3 Alternative Books to Read BY NICOLE FROIO
The movie Suffragette, featuring Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan, premiered in the UK on Wednesday, October 7. In true feminist fashion, the movie was welcomed by feminists who stormed the red carpet to protest against UK government cuts that have been harming British women.
It was a badass show of activism by SistersUncut and I absolutely loved it.
However, I am the feminist killjoy who pops your suffragette-admiring bubble to say that Emmeline Pankhurst (and other suffragettes) was kind of racist (and very pro-colonisation in her later years). As much as the suffragettes were absolutely essential to the fight for equality, they often compared (white) women’s lack of rights to slavery – effectively excluding black women from their fight for women’s suffrage. This was extensively pointed out in social media after Suffragette actresses were picturedwearing shirts with one of Pankhurst’s most famous (and offensive) quotes: “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.” (As if slavery was a choice but OK EMMELINE, WELL DONE). (ALSO, can we talk about why these actresses thought wearing this quote across their chest was OK?!!? Meryl, I thought you were cool.)
There’s a lot to be said about whether it’s right or wrong to admire the suffragettes if we look at the movement with an intersectional feminist lens, but I believe the best way to make that decision is to educate yourself. All of our idols will be problematic in one way or another and while I will definitely be watching the movie, I will also be reading some additional materials to make sure I understand the full picture of the suffragette movement in terms of intersectionality (or lack thereof). Below are the books I will be reading to seek this knowledge.
On a quick side note, it’s important to say that the racism in the British and American suffragette movements were very different (it was definitely more overt in the US, with suffragettes arguing against black men having the right to vote) but that it existed in both countries.