These were the last words a fiery Emily Wilding Davison (played by Natalie Press) implored her fellow suffragette and friend Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) before she ran towards the king’s horse at the Derby on 4th June 1913. What her aims were remain unclear to this day, but her words, however fictionalised, left a powerful message to the cinema-full of young women who fell into a silence of admiration and anticipation. Moments before, the same audience had defied cinematic conventions and exploded in an uproar of cheers as Maud finally stands up to her aggressive and sexually violent boss Norman Taylor (Geoff Bell) and lands her hot iron defiantly on his wandering hand.
Suffragette (2015) certainly did an excellent job of dramatising the suffragette motto ‘Deeds not words.’ However, it was far from being the film for feminism that many have begun to hail it as. Despite its use of a working class protagonist, with scenes obviously aimed at depicting the vastly different treatment of working class suffragettes from their middle and upper class peers, it completely failed to touch on the struggle women of colour have faced and still do. Adding to this, the all-white cast participated in a photo shoot for Times magazine in which they appeared wearing T-shirts bearing Emmeline Pankhurst’s famous line “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.” Evidently, no one realised the inappropriateness of comparing the treatment of white British women to that of slaves. Clearly the fight for equal rights for women are not exclusive to white women, so there needs to be recognition and inclusion of women of colour, not simply in film representations but in discussion and activism alike.
At QMEquality, Queen Mary’s intersectional feminist society, we welcome healthy discussions concerning such issues. Having recently voted new committee members for a design team and women of colour representatives, we now have a bigger society than ever, and are hoping to engage with more young people by holding events both on campus and in London. A few of our events lined up for this year include a spoken word poetry evening, a sexual wellbeing workshop, a craft workshop, panel discussions and self-defence classes, not forgetting our weekly discussion meetings and socials, where you can come and meet and hang out with other feminists – don’t be shy, we welcome all genders and alter between alcoholic and alcohol free events. Find us on Facebook to keep up to date with our events!
If you’d like to become involved with QMEquality, membership costs £1 and can be purchased on the QMSU website or at the Hub.