Suffragette: No people of color allowed.


we were at a screening of 'spectre' and they showed a commercial for a made for tv series that takes place in a fantasy world where nazi's won the war. i told my husband 'see.. now THAT'S the way to make a movie without brown people.
And if they threw in a non-white character or two, they'd be accused of tokenism. Look, just accept the fact that early 20th century Britain was overwhelmingly white. If you don't want to review the movie, don't be a movie reviewer. Or go watch some Bollywood crap, you won't see any white people. Problem solved.
It's a sad mark against humanity, but to say, or imply, that Black Americans own the term "slave" shows a dangerous ignorance of history. Pretty much the entire length of recorded history on this planet is littered with the corpses of enslaved peoples. The Black experience in this country has just one chapter in the encyclopedia of evil, and to say it owns the book is a middle finger to all those others whose lives were not their own.
I think from here on out every "reviewer" should do this kind of petulant filtering so that eventually no movies are ever reviewed. No movie can possible perfectly reflect the narrow interests and world views of ever single person. And nobody really likes reviews anyway.

Then eventually when artists and film maker cave to our unending outrage we'll be left not with art or particular artistic vision, but rather we'll be left drooling automatons staring at the pandering propaganda that strokes our own justice warrior egos. It'll be great.
I just connected the women's suffrage movement with abolitionists in 1850's America in my classroom recently when looking at "Ain't I a Woman?" by Sojourner Truth. And this is true...the movements had a lot of overlap. Am I a bad white man for doing this? I just don't know how to pursue discussing these topics anymore. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. I'm getting really weary of all of the attacks on allies. Is it better for us members of the dominant culture to just not talk about these things anymore, or can we allow people to advocate even in an imperfect way? (Cue the attacks on me for feeling oppressed at all...)
A few weeks ago I learned that Ijeoma was born to a caucasian mother and a black/nigerian father and actually had a lot of hostility about her father's abandonment of the family. It adds an interesting twist and depth to understanding Ijeoma's frustration.…
And the Tumblr assimilation of The Stranger is complete.
The director's assertion that the British suffragette movement didn't really include any non-whites is demonstrably false. There was a substantial contingency of Asian Indian women involved in that movement, and they started organizing as early as 1905. That tee-shirt is mind-boggling -- I don't even know what to say, really -- and this movie sounds like complete bullshit. I'm glad to see so many reviewers/publications calling this movie out.

This is a great piece about the Indian women involved in the movement, for those who are interested:…
So pleased to read the (mostly) intelligent commentary and dismissal of this woman's non-review.

Often, comments here better than the articles.
"Slavery existed in Britain too" therefore we should have seen some former slave suffragette representation or at least some poc extras. Um, whuuut? Yeah, slavery was legal in the British colonial system but that doesn't mean it existed in the same way that it existed in the colonies (like the United States). I think we'd be hard-pressed to find a historical justification for the type of film this reviewer would like to see. The South Asian critique offered by a commenter (and the film's director) seems way more on point.
I love this non-review. The film doesn't accurately represent the events it purports to, and that is a perfectly reasonable thing for a reviewer to explore.
I met a woman who had lived in Germany, born in 1928 and never saw a black person( she had met Turkish people and some Vietnamese, both worker populations brought in by the West and East German governments) in person until 2007. Not out of the realm of possibility for people of color to basically not exist in some contexts.
Every time I skim a comments section here I remember discussing advertising in massage school, in which someone said "before you advertise your services in a publication, keep in mind the type of people you notice who gravitate toward that publication and determine if those are the kind of people you really want walking into your office"

I never, ever, advertised in The Stranger. Ever.
'So I’m not going to write a review about Suffragette, because I’m no longer going to legitimize films that refuse to acknowledge the existence of people of color. And neither should you'

If black women were well represented by all other WOC were not I don't think she would be complaining. I haven't noticed black activists lifting a finger for under represented minorities in sports or other areas where blacks are well represented.
typo: "If black women were well represented but" is how it should have read.
Friggin' ignoramuses.

You don't notice black activists lifting a finger because you don't notice black activists at all.
And the issue of Indian membership in the suffragette movement IS kinda important because England was NOT devoid of people of color in the early 20th Century.
Comments to essay justify essay, take one million.
boring, dearie, very very boring.
A bunch of prudes who brought us Prohibition. Neat.

Now we gotta deal with Jezebel-brainwashed millennial cat ladies and their idiot (male?) counterparts. Sad.
Who are you to raise your finger? ......So full of it.
Eyeballs deep in muddy waters, fuckin' hypocrite

@28: So sayeth a fool who assumes from the author's name that she is a recent African immigrants. She is neither.
And she isn't calling for people of color regardless of their origins to be shoe horned into events. She is calling for the accurate representation of the people of color, in this case women from Colonial India, who were there and participated in those events.
Many people don't know that Africans trolled the coast of England and Europe and captured millions of whites and enslaved them in Africa. Many people don't know that there were free blacks in the US who owned slaves from the get-go. Why isn't the author complaining about blacks being omitted in these instances?
There was some Capitol Hill group that made up posters that showed crappy behavior on the hill. I didn't notice the posters including any black people as examples. Why were there no complaints?
The reality is that some people complain when anything focuses positive attention on whites. These same people complain when anything focuses negative attention on blacks. The only thing acceptable is positive attention on blacks and negative towards whites. The author is one of those people.
@30: Your lack of historical perspective regarding both the prohibition and women's suffrage movement in the US does not surprise anyone here. And there is of course the fact that this movie is about the suffragettes of Great Britain not the US.
@34 I don't get a huge "solidarity with the two upper class Indian women" vibe from this Non Review. She does really seem to think there should have been people of any kind of color in the movie regardless of historical accuracy. The filmmaker has stated that her drive to include the princess became at odds with her desire to tell the story from the perspective of working class suffragettes, who were fairly rare. For everyone, here's more on accuracy. Be careful ideologues, it's nuanced:…
Beneath all of your vapid tumblr-speak lies a profoundly racialist worldview. I swear that you and your ilk think of people and the world more in terms of race than the goddamn KKK does.
@33: You mean the pirates of the Barbary coast. With whom the United State were at war in the early 19th century along with pretty much the bulk of Europe who fought them on and off from the 15th century to the mid 19th.
They were North Africans and Ottomans.
But by all means use this information to add some Islamophobia to spice up your racism.
@36: That is a really, really good article. Thank you so much for the link.
Criticism of the monochromatic historiography that forms the foundation of the film (published up to a month ago) can be found here, here, and here [and elsewhere].

To it's credit, the film is focused upon the particularly radical character of the movement's working-class roots ( and not as a gift bestowed from above), but beyond that I agree with Ms. Oluo.

I'm sorry but as a British person who grew up in the 30s and 40s my Grandma will tell you she never once encountered a person of color. Never mind 1912. It would be more ridiculous to put token people of color into the movie, or worse still, give them leading roles, for the sake of saying they are represented. Look at the census information from 1912 in England you'll see how small a percentage was non-white. If you want to argue that there aren't enough movies portraying the experience of people of color, I would agree you, but that doesn't mean that we can't take this movie for what it is. Would you also put black people into Pride and Prejudice?
You're right. They should also have included black people in Pride and Prejudice. That Jane Austen was so racist.
@35: To what genre of historical fiction in film making do you refer? What crime dramas have you found based on real events that have erased participants of color who took part in the action being rendered?
@42: So it's your position that since your grandmother didn't know any Anglo Indians the contributions of South Asian women to the Suffrage movement (of which they were already an active part several years previous to the time this film is set) should be discounted entirely.
And since no one but you brought her up your Straw Jane Austin argument is just that I'm afraid.
@42: That your grandmother never once encountered a person of color during the pre-War period may say more about her social network and her geographical location than it would stand as evidence that people of color were absent - which they most certainly weren't.

The UK 1911 Census does show, however, just how monochromatic the UK was in that period: in England & Whales (a population of 36 million) some 66,000 were born in India or Ceylon, and some 30,000 from Africa and the West Indies. It should be noted that The General Report states that: "Except in the case of natives of India and Ceylon of Asiatic origin who have, as far as possible been tabulated separately from those of European parentage, no attempt to distinguish races has been made. The numbers of persons born in the several Asiatic and African countries include, therefore, all persons of European origin as well as those of the native races."

Point being..... is at that time, the non-White population in England and Whales, outside of London and a few larger municipalities, resembled Queen Anne Hill, Laurelhurst, and Windemere. Maybe your grandmother lived in such a neighborhood and didn't venture outside?

Also worth noting is the relative indifference the British Census pays to race when compared to the obsessive space that race and blood-quantum occupies in American censuses. White Supremacy is a pan-European phenomena, surely, but it was (and still is) particularly virulent in the U.S.

Don't know how I missed this one:…
@48: Yes Sargjo @36 posted that too. It's really good isn't it?
@35: You win today's prize for Most Meaningless Statistic.
Look, we all know that you (like Teckel) just hang around here to say racist shit, because you are a racist sleaze who doesn't understand statistics. You don't have to remind us; trust me, we'll remember.
@48 Wow, an objectivity written article without a hysterical (paranoid?) tone actually taught me quite a lot. Who would ever guess the rational and calm voice of your linked article would be more informative and persuasive than the original post? The LGBT angle was particularly interesting, and it sounds like that element was whitewashed as much, or more, than anything else.
@52. Maybe I'm am not comprehending things well, but I think the scope and the takeaway is quite a bit different between what Ms. Oluo is saying and what the linked articles focus upon (even though they all refer to the same litany of events and quotes).
If you don't want to review films, don't be a film critic. You kind of have to like film to be a critic. The writer's political ideology supersedes her ability to simply review a film on its merits. Sure, if the film did exclude historical information, like its lack of people of color, there is certainly space in a review to call it out for that. This is just laziness, phony college paper bullshit.
#47: You make good points, but Whales?
@52: My reading of it was that all of the concerns Ijeoma were validated. Historically South Asian women played an important part of the movement, and they were not included in the movie.
Where there is a parting in of the ways is that the people interviewed felt that telling this story through the lens of class was a valid choice, which it is, and in aid of that very important perspective were willing to sacrifice the fuller story which would also include the very real, and underrepresented contributions made by South Asian women to the movement.
From the point of view of people of color the question, the grinding, disheartening, seemingly never considered by white people question is:
Why is it always their part of the story that ends up on the cutting room floor?
Why is it always the white face that ends up being the face of history?
Yes best to be silent.
And don't ask questions.
Never ever question.
Question = attack.
Your point is fine -- it IS ok to attack historical basis of movie -- but the reviewer doesn't have enough expertise to do a good job.
I'm glad that this conversation is happening. That said, as a middle aged gay man, obese and not interested in gay marriage or the military, I never see representations of myself in popular or esoteric culture. I understand why the author is done w/ mass media representations but if I chose that path I would never see any art or contemporary culture. I am
Not interested in being seen as comic relief of next door neighbor. And I don't see Hollywood representing my life any time soon. So where does that leave a consumer of popular culture?

It's a worthwhile discussion. I'm just not sure of answers, other than seizing production & creating new narratives.
@57: LOL
You have no idea what you're talking about regarding her expertise.
Of course I do have a very good idea.
I read her non-review and she obviously is not an expert in 1912 Britain.
Historically. The population. Immigration. etc etc.
So her opinion about whether the film was accurate or not means that she has no basis on which to offer an opinion (except that anyone is allowed to offer any opinion since it's the law.)
@59: That's s really good point. I think we are so used to the dominant images and scenarios that we don't even notice what's missing until someone kicks a fuss.
And I really don't appreciate your micro-aggression of "LOL".
That's an attempt to marginalize me and I expect SLOG to be a safe space which you are violating.
So stop your harassment.
@61: No, in addition to completely missing her point, you really don't.
There you go again with your micro-aggression and put downs.
I go to SLOG for a warm comforting safe environment and you act the put-down queen.
@63: To which I reply in the only way warranted:
or if you prefer, as the kids say:
You do understand.
Living must really offend you. Offended at the drop of a hat.
To the person who said that the suffrage movement was rather racist -- I'll assume you were thinking of America. The original suffrage movement in the US was very much not racist, although it was mostly white northern women (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, etc.) -- they were trying to tie the women's vote to the emancipation of blacks after our civil war. Sort of a general emancipation, I suppose.

But then, as more American women joined the suffrage movement, it began to include more and more women from the American south, and these younger southern woman took leadership and made the suffrage movement hostile to black women by a decade or two after the 19th Amendment technically gave black men the vote (in practice, many hostile roadblocks were put in the way of blacks voting in so much of the country that you can't say there was even a pragmatic black vote in the US until the 1960s, nearly a century after the US Constitution was amended to allow it, it's truly shameful).

This turn in the suffrage movement led to the rise of black women suffrage organizations -- separate and sadly not equal in resources or reach to their white sisters' efforts, but no less passionate. They were also fighting, after suffrage was granted, poll taxes, voting tests, physical violence, and other impediments to actually being allowed to vote that were not put in the way of their white sisters after the franchise was offered to women at last..
@45 since my grandmother never encountered a person of color at all and she lived some twenty years after this movie takes place, what I'm saying is to show no people of color in this movie is plausible. The census information from 1911 that one person posted above shows that out of a population of 36 million, less than 1% was people from the Indian or African colonies, and even within that percentage, many were actually white European who had been born there. So to walk down the streets in those days and see only white people would have been usual. Would the writer be happy if she saw one non-white person in a crowd of 150, since this would accurately represent the racial makeup of the country at that time? Is showing none really that different from showing just one?
I am actually really annoyed by the non-review. Women's rights and voting rights are ongoing issues. Just look at today's politics. The film has the potential to add to discussions of the importance of these rights. Instead, the reviewer threw up a distraction so that the conversation becomes about something completely different. While I do think many of the comments and links were very useful and I learned a lot, I think of this sort of distraction as a complete corporate media move where conflict is introduced to try and distract from the original issue. By this I mean create infighting so that we don't get any further talking about the broader issues of women's rights and voting rights. Instead, let's start arguing about the movement, the film, anything but these broader issues. Let's talk about t-shirts, not laws that restrict voting. Lack of inclusion of women in color in the film rather than the fact that women of color are being disproportionately affected by changes to voting laws. Or how about that Washington DC, with a population larger than 2 states and 50% black, has no vote in Congress.
@69: So classy.
And predictable.
@72: Again, you miss the point. There were actual women of color active in the Suffragette movement at the time. In the urban environment in which this film is set. They were there. Like in real life, in the room.
We are not talking about artificially trying to make this move look more diverse. We are talking about erasing real people from events of which they were a part.
@73: This review is not the sum of her opinion or her work. I invite you to google her. You will find that your opprobrium is misplaced.
Movies can be about anything True, or False. Historical, Fiction, or Historical Fiction. The OP doesn't like how the film portrays a series of events in time. So what? It's not his film. The Director, Producers, Writer(s), and Actors are under No Obligation to do or portray events as the OP wishes them to be. What historical drama is ever actually true? Get over yourself, it's a movie. And not a documentary.
@77: Her. Try to keep up.
@78, Opps! Her
I just assumed it was an example of your whimsical approach accuracy.
@77 I agree with you point that movies can be about anything the moviemaker wants. I just think that POC are getting tired of yet another movie that ignores their existence (and as many commenters have already mentioned - POC were definitely there in this historical context). The director specifically said she wanted to have characters that would be relatable to the audience, but it apparently didn't occur to her that not everyone is white.
That was a refreshing review. Refreshing because it pointed out what was sorely missing in a film supposedly about liberation.
Ms. Ijeoma Oluo is available on Twitter.
Fascinating, in a depressing way.
@83: Look at you, discovering social media!
What did you think of Iron Jawed Angels?
And that question in #85 is for Ijeoma Oluo!
Thank you for writing this. I'm living in London right now (but from Seattle), I've been boycotting this film (they won't stop playing it at the parent & baby cinemas) because of racism & it's delightful to see your article in print.
Listen, Lissa.
The issue is basically whether there were a lot of POC in Britain in that era?
Just factually.
Do we agree?

And then -- as an additional factual question -- to what extent were WOC involved in the Suffrage movement in 1912?

I mean, at the extreme, FOR EXAMPLE, if there were EXTREMELY FEW WOC in the movement, why should they be in the movie?

Me? I don't have the answer.

The few articles (which are hardly last word) I read suggest that while there were some WOC in that era and active, it was by no means a great number.

I may well be wrong.

You may be correct.

But do you really have the facts?
Do you know British history/society of that time?
Really well-versed?

@74- as classy and predictable as your tounge firmly and deeply lodged in the asshole of the stranger.
@88: On point one no we do not agree. That has never been the issue.
The issue raised by the author was that women of color, who were an active part of the movement, were erased from this story. The film makers wanted to tell the Suffragette story using the lens of class. Which is fine, it's a valid point of view. But in the name of expediency they completely excised the contribution of women of color.
As you have undoubtedly read there were at the very least two South Asian women who were very prominent players at that time.
The movie is about a working class woman, and the big historical players like Pankhurst are peripheral.
Why not have a cameo appearance by Sophia Duleep Singh as well?
I give up, Lissa,
Take care.
@89: Lighten up Francis.
You have never made a single comment, in all your time on Slog, that hasn't been an ugly one.
@92- you articulate your arguments well. Happy?
@94: Quite. :)
I should respond to your question
"Why not have a cameo appearance by Sophia Duleep Singh as well?"

Without having some sense of the real historical background the question could also be asked "Why have a cameo appearance by Sophia Duleep Singh?"

Was she friends with Pankhurst? Spent a lot of time? Unless _we_ know about the historical context in detail, it seems gratuitous and patronizing to add Singh. The filmmaker didn't add any other ethnic groups. Right? No Irish or Italians or Jews in the movie? Are you sure that they were NOT present in society? (In fact they were.)

My point is not to argue who should be in or out of the movie but simply that neither you nor the non-reviewer know enough to offer an opinion of any importance.
Alright everybody, let's get the old firing squad into a nice circle now.
There were 20,000 black people in England in 1900 out of a population of 38 million, so that's about 1 in 2000.
@96: We once again come to the fact that you have no idea what you're talking about regarding the author's credentials.
What appears to be important to you, more than anything else, is to invalidate her, and thus her point, rather than arguing her point itself.
You should think about what that means.
@98: We are talking about actual people who participated in the Suffragette movement who were erased from a story they were a part of.
Not demographics. Try and keep up.
Actually it's not you, Lissa, or the non-reviewer per se that I care about.
I have no idea who you are or who she is. Nor do I care to know.

I am trying to help invalidate and to marginalize stupidity.
@20 I don't believe that for one second. Where was she when all the black American GIs were there during WW2? Born inGermany in 1928 and never saw a black jazz musician? I call bullshit.
This is rediculous. The storyteller has the right to tell the story they wish to tell. I'm about as liberal as you can get. And this is rediculous. This topic is massive and you can't include everyone. If an author spent their time making sure they included everyone they would never get the story told. Considering women in general have been left out of the historical narrative altogether this is shameful. Instead of nit picking about feeling left out we should be supporting each other. You are the problem. And if you want to see characters of color why not spend your time writing those stories instead of ripping other stories of women apart.
There is FINALLY a major film starring mostly women and made by women and THIS is the one you choose to not review?!?! Are you not also a woman? We NEED more women in film. We are grossly underrepresented on screen and behind the scenes. It seems pretty snarky and petty to choose this film to pick on the racial equity, when a bunch of outstanding female filmmakers got together with some incredible talent and made a powerful film.
@101: Then I suggest you start by looking in a mirror.
Your comment does not refute mine.
You know nothing about the author's credentials but are wedded to the idea that some how you know better.
Again I suggest you think about that and what that means.
@104: Before this thread had you any idea that South Asian women were an active part of the Suffragette movement?
Why is that?
The film makers had an ipportunity and they chose not to take it.
You are castigating the wrong person.
Erasing women of color does not help women.
Gah. "Opportunity"
Me hate phone.
May be a double post, but "opportunity" not "ipportunity".
I apologize for my fat fingers.
Some of these commenters are acting like the hats one puts on donkeys.
Right on. People of Colour have always been in Britain, and they've always been a part of the feminist movement even as they have been so purposely excluded by white women. You shouldn't have to put up with historical revision. Thank you for writing this article.
@104: That was my thought too. Is this reviewer going to write the same thing for every shitty blockbuster made of, by, and for white men, with maybe a token feisty lady or brown person or maybe not? Not that I'd been planning to watch this movie because I don't watch many of them, but I'm not buying that this of all the movies bears all the weight of racism in the entire world of movies.

We need more films by and about women and people of color. Suffragette is not the last chance ever to cover non-white-male perspectives.
@75 I don't think I need to read the reviewers body of work to think she missed the ball on this one.
Oops, 76 I mean.
I applaud your decision, I think it's the only correct thing to do, to start dismissing cultural products that intend to write off black people from history. I have thought of doing the very same thing, and I will follow this lead of yours to never again akcnowledge, or acknowledge only critically in this regard, this sort of products. It is appalling tome how these white fantasies are delivered with such nonchalance, how they have not already been shamed by the public. I guess that's what we ought to generate, to the best of our abilities.
@112: Your criticism was that she should have written about broader issues. She routinely does just that.
Again, I invite you to investigate her work. I think you will find it interesting.
@110: I entirely agree that we need more films about and by women and people of color. And this is how we get that to happen, by kicking a fuss.
And no one, certainly not the author, has suggested that this film is the last chance to do that. That is deflection on your part.
Welp, it will be a shame to lose your deep insight into film criticism, by which I mean you have a keyboard and studied poly-sci.
For those who have the 'damned if I do, damned if I don't' please look into what is known as 'intersectionality' this will both support and challenge how to become a more effective ally. Revolutions are never comfortable, and wow, what a party of change to choose to be in.…

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