The Suffragettes were racist & other mind-boggling historical facts

Election time: when women tweet out how they are voting because the Suffragettes fought for the right of women to vote. And, when men come running over to shriek “OMG, the suffragettes were racist”  as if women didn’t realise that the White Supremacy didn’t just start last week. I get so fucking bored with this silencing tactic – because that’s all it is: a silencing tactic. It’s another way of telling women to shut the fuck up. After all, I have yet to  hear anyone in the UK bang on about how the Reform Act of 1832 was a bastion of anti-racism and anti-colonialist discourse.

We all know the Suffragettes were racist. We know it for the same reason we know that white people are inherently racist: we live in a white supremacist culture where it is very, very difficult for white people to identify and challenge both their own white privilege and the structural racism that they perpetuate daily (even if they are aware and trying to challenge).  This is hardly shocking news unless you are a) quite happy being racist or b) a nincompoop. The history of the world is one of racism, violence, misogyny and those in power engaged in constant warfare to maintain that power. The movements for suffrage (whether for all men, women or the right of people of colour) have all been problematic (to understate the issue.) Suffrage movements have always excluded certain groups of people in order to extend power to some. The Suffrage movement for women was no different, yet it is the only one which features constant references to racism. Male enfranchisement, across the globe, has always excluded those deemed “inferior of race” from the British Empire to the US Civil Rights Movement to South African Apartheid and beyond. Yet, we only talk about the Suffragettes (and feminists) as racist.

Why aren’t we talking about the male suffrage movements of the 19th and 20th century as racist? Why do we only recognise racism in the American and South African contexts when the British Empire was founded on racism (and our wealthiest residents living off the fat of slavery and colonialism to this day).

The Suffragettes were racist. Homophobia, disablism and classism weren’t exactly issues they were right-on about either. This is the reality of world history. Only now, in the 21st century, are we seeing progress on issues of racism and even then it’s pretty much non-existent. You only need to look at the Republican’s desperate attempts to disenfranchise African-American voters in the last US election to see how little progress has been made – and that’s without getting into the legacies of colonialism and unfettered capitalism across the globe.

Those in power have very little interest in allowing Sub-Humans access to power structures. They never have and they never will. Men have a vested interest in shutting women up and, whilst I recognise the Suffragettes were far from perfect, their campaigns made it possible for more categories of Sub-Humans to vote – and the definition of ‘sub-human’ remains historically and locally contextualised. Extending the franchise and encouraging those without power is the only way we can cause change with a capitalist-patriarchy. It’s not a great way of causing change but it’s the only we have and we do need to thank those who fought for our right to vote – even if they don’t represent our values.

I’m grateful to those men and women who fought for the Reform Acts of 1832, 1867, 1884, 1918 and 1928. I’m grateful to the women who fought for our right to vote in the 20th century. I’m grateful to the Famous Five of Canada who took the fight for the recognition of women as persons all the way to the British High Court in 1929. All of these were far from perfect but it is because of them that the vast majority of people domiciled in the UK have the right to vote: regardless of sex, gender, ethnicity or faith.

Our political structures are still dominated by rich white men who refuse to share power. We need to do better but crapping on the campaigns that came before us means we’re not focusing on the real problem: the capitalist-patriarchy. We can’t destroy it if we’re too busy complaining about how a group of women a 100 years ago exemplified the racism of their period when we neglect to point out that so did the men!

The right to vote is a precious gift and we can use it today to keep racists like UKIP and the BNP out of power. Surely this is the legacy we want to leave from the Suffrage movement – women defeating racism through the democratic right to vote in spite of whether or not those who campaigned for women’s suffrage would support us now?

The Tories hate children: Or, no/ poor access to education is state-sanctioned child abuse

Cynical Croydon charging children £3,500 for remedial lessons

I would have thought that a party which prefers children to live in poverty than hold their fathers responsible for financially supporting them can’t get any higher on the “Who hates children the most” game.  Turns out, I was so beyond wrong I might as well have been on a different planet. The Tory-led council of Croydon have come up with a brilliant plan to punish children who need extra support. They’ve privatised learning support for remedial literacy, put it in a new building and are now going to charge children a whopping £3,500 for the privilege of learning to read. A government which does not give every single child access to appropriate educational services is committing state-sanctioned child abuse.


This includes any extra support they may need to help them. Requiring children to pay is horrific.

It is unbelievable that we live in a country where a child who needs extra support is expected to pay. And, let’s be honest here, this is a punishment for parents who are guilty of the heinous crimes of being poor, speaking English as a second language or having a child who is not “normal”.

No country which punishes children rather than supporting them is civilised. And, every government which believes it’s okay to force children to pay to learn is participating in state-sanctioned abuse. A child who goes through a state education who cannot read has been failed by everyone.

I know the language of abuse seems almost hyperbolic but, really, a child who lives in the UK who has to pay for support from the state education system is being set up to fail. A child who can not read is severely oppressed by the state. What is forcing a child to live in poverty because she/he has no basic literacy skills but abuse?

Halloween: Let the Xenophobia Commence

Halloween is flat-out my favourite holiday. You get to dress up in stupid outfits and get free candy. What’s not to love?

As a child growing up in Canada, we always had two Halloween costumes: one to wear inside at Halloween parties and one to wear Trick-or-Treating outside when it’s -20c. Dressing up as a witch, skeleton or ghost was considered boring. Over the years, I’ve been a “punk rocker”, Strawberry Shortcake, Barbie rocker, a Ladybug, and a broken heart.* Halloween was a community event with local churches and clubs holding parties for whoever wanted to attend. We always had Halloween parties in school and were allowed to bring in 3 pieces of candy each day to eat at school. As we were not allowed fizzy drinks, crisps, candy or chocolate, this was a big deal! We would go trick-or-treating in massive groups, frequently changing costumes over the course of the night to hit up our neighbours again and again. 

The emphasis here is on community-orientated. Obviously, there are always people who want to ruin things for others by throwing eggs at windows and there are always going to be children and teenagers who, for a variety of social reasons, crave negative attention and act out in [self-] destructive ways but, as with everything, these are a minority.

Until I moved to the UK, I had no idea that Halloween was viewed as anything other than a kid-orientated holiday. Back home lots of people didn’t participate due to religious objections or concerns over the commodification of childhood; like with Valentine’s Day and Easter, Halloween is a just another holiday.

Then I arrived in the UK and discovered that Halloween is the celebration of evil children menacing adults for candy. It’s a horrid nasty holiday imported by hateful Americans who want to destroy the planet and do so by sending plane loads of teenagers to the UK for the sole purpose of causing havoc and destruction on Halloween.

The above might seem a little melodramatic but it’s a snapshot of posts about Halloween that are made on Mumsnet every year. The level of anti-American diatribes are so severe that I now deliberately avoid Mumsnet for the month of October every year. I’ve never understood why it’s acceptable to malign Americans using language that would be immediately considered xenophobic about any other culture or country. I’m not even American [and if anyone gets to be anti-American, it’s Canadians.** After all, we’re the only country to have defeated the US militarily on their own soil***].

I’ve gotten bored defending Halloween from people who have no idea what the origins of Halloween are [here’s a huge hint: google guising]. I’ve gotten bored reading posts by people who seem to think a child rocking up on your door saying trick-or-treat and singing a song is akin to having your knees capped for failure to pay off your gambling debts; although, to be fair, hearing me sing is probably on par with that. But, not 6 year olds.

There are always going to be people who ruin things for others but that doesn’t mean that Halloween itself is an inherently evil tradition. Or, that Americans deliberately invented it with a view to annoying British people.

It’s not acceptable to trash a tradition which is important to others just because you don’t like the country that the tradition originated in [ignoring the whole Festivals of the Dead, All Hallows Eve and guising stuff since they clearly don’t count****].

There are lots of valid reasons to criticise America:

  • imperialism
  • war in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • capitalism
  • racism
  • “War” on drugs 
  • genocide
Your neighbour’s kids being an arse on Halloween is not the fault of the American government or the American people. Frankly, it’s a reflection of the capitalist-patriarchal culture of the UK which others huge swathes of our children. It’s our fault and it is the price we pay for treating our kids like dirt.

And, hey, if you don’t like Halloween, just don’t celebrate it. There is no law that says you have to attend Halloween discos or take your kid guising/ trick-or-treating.

It’s another tradition: celebrate it or not but don’t use offensive language or  ahistorical constructions of reality to dismiss it

*Bonus points for those who can guess what decade I was born in.

**After you’ve listed every country and peoples wherein American policy has resulted in genocide or civil war. But, details. Clearly.

*** Granted this was in 1812 and technically we were a British colony and the invasion of the US which resulted in burning down the White House and cracking the Liberty Bell involved British troops but that’s not really all that relevant.

**** If you like to believe in ahistorical conspiracy theories. Obviously.

Amazon’s Halloween with Side Order of Disablism

Mens Adult Psycho Ward Mental Patient Halloween Fancy Dress Costume Outfit + Mask
Amazon has joined Asda in the annual competition for : The Most Offensive Halloween Costume.

There is no excuse for selling these types of costumes. Asda’s apology and donation to a mental health charity is more than Amazon will ever do but it’s also too late once these products have hit the market. 

People with mental health problems are statistically more likely to be a victim of violence than commit violence.

The group who commit the most violence: men. Men who have no history of mental health problems.

If the idea of “killers” is such a great Halloween costume, then we should all go out wearing masks of random men. That would be far more accurate. Instead, people genuinely think it’s hilariously funny to dress up as a “psycho” or a “mental patient”.

Honestly, if you think this shit is funny, you’re an asshole. It really is that simple.

Halloween at Asda: With a Side-Order of Disablism

Everyone will be running away from you in fear in this mental patient fancy dress costume. Comprising of a torn blood stained shirt, blood stained plastic meat cleaver and gory facemask it’s a terrifying Halloween option.

Because we can’t possibly have Halloween without disablism. After all, everyone knows that “mental patients” are totally responsible for committing the majority of violence. Well, everyone who is completely stupid. 

The rest of us, in possession of with some basic critical thinking skills, know that people with mental health problems are one of the highest risk groups for being victims of violence.

This costume just increases the stigma surrounding mental illness. It also obfuscates who the real perpetrators of violence are. The vast majority of violence perpetrated across the world is by men: men with no history of mental illness.

Asda should be ashamed of itself.

They need to remove this product immediately and apologise.

A large donation to a charity wouldn’t go amiss either. 

This is Asda’s contact form. I will be sending them a complaint.

UPDATE: So, Asda has now apologised. Problem is this all too common now. Customers shouldn’t have to be pointing out how offensive this type of product or [or rape t-shirts or a million other horrible products available now]. Corporations need to start taking some responsibility before it gets to this stage and just stop making this kind of shit.

I mean, it’s not that hard to make a Halloween costume which isn’t offensive to anyone. Millions of kids manage it each year. How come adults are incapable of doing so?