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Selma v Iron Jawed Angels

Extra Credit: After watching the 2014 film Selma (directed by Ava DuVernay) and the film Iron Jawed Angels, (directed by Katja von Garnier), post a detailed comment (short essay) below comparing aspects of the two films.  Be sure to focus on aspects of women, gender, and privacy as much as you can. This is an optional Extra-Credit exercise. Earn 0-3 points added to your midterm exam.


  1. The two films “Selma” and “Iron Jawed Angels” depict the actors involved in different movements seeking different rights. I want to start by discussing Selma. In that movie, we see Annie Lee Cooper be denied the ability to vote, which I drew as a parallel with Iron Jawed Angels, both subjects were denied the right to vote. As a result, Martin Luther King Jr. attempts to procure legislation from President Johnson to prevent any roadblocks in the black citizens’ right to vote. For lack of better terms, Johnson essentially brushed off the request claiming to have more important things to worry about, this reminds me of the way that the suffragettes’ requests were ignored by Woodrow Wilson. Something I appreciated about both films is that they portrayed interpersonal aspects of each movement and depicted how the actors involved interacted with one another and how that culminated into the events we hear about today. Both movies also depict altercations with police with both Alice Paul and King being imprisoned as a result of their work in each respective movie.
    I also can’t help but note the way that each leader faced differences in approaches to their movements. For example, in Selma, Malcolm X talked with Coretta about his different views in how to approach the movement and how King’s is less violent than his; in this case, both are significant actors in the civil rights movement but have different opinions on how the movement should be enacted and its methodology. In a similar situation, Alice Paul butts heads with other members of NAWSA about differences in approach, and is consequently kicked out along with Burns and forms the NWP. However, the difference between King’s situation and Paul’s situation is that King still had the support of Malcolm X and there wasn’t significant and deep conflicts within the group. In contrast, the NAWSA was very critical of Paul and the NWP’s methodology and didn’t support NWP’s protests against Wilson and the picketing they participate in outside the white house. This lack of support and cohesiveness caused dysfunction within the suffrage movement, whereas the differences in opinion with King and X didn’t cause serious rift and the movement still progressed as a united front. In Iron Jawed Angels, Paul is more eager for action than Carrie Chapman Catt who seeks to be friends with actors in power, whereas Paul takes a more aggressive stance against those same people in power. In this way, a division of those with a more passive approach and those with a more aggressive or militant approach is seen, and this can be related to King and Malcolm’s different approaches.
    A great disparity between the two movies is the role that women play in the movement. In Selma, the women were shown in scenes that showed them as victims. For example, Annie Lee Cooper was denied the ability to vote, and there were 4 girls killed in the church bombing, and Coretta is the supportive and worried wife, this image only changes when she speaks with Malcolm X and the conversation demonstrates strategizing. The real discussions and actions are carried out by men and in the example I gave with Coretta, her active role was adjacent with a man. This is in contrast with Iron Jawed Angels in which all the activism, strategizing, and lobbying was all carried out by women. Another point I took notice of was the way that the media was involved in both movements and how it swayed public opinion and positively or negatively impacted the movement’s support. In Selma, King is aware of the weight that the media holds and stays mindful of it when executing moves. A scene from the movie shows marchers being assaulted by troopers and being broadcasted on television which consequently impacts the way that people view those involved in the movement and their treatment. In Iron Jawed Angels, the media’s attention to the brutal conditions they faced in prison was instrumental in their release and consequently increased sympathy with Paul and Burns and the other women of NWP. Though it was a traumatic incident, it did help sway public opinion and made those in power have to bend a little to their will. For this reason, media plays an important role in a social movement regardless of its subject, and was instrumental in both Selma and Iron Jawed Angels in getting support from the public and urging those in power to give into demands.
    Overall, both movies are powerful depictions of the inner workings of the suffrage and civil rights movements. Viewers are shown firsthand the political differences and ideologies that make up a movement. The different factors that go into keeping a movement alive are also depicted in both movies, which I believe were essential in understanding what shaped the movement. I also found it to be beneficial that both Selma and Iron Jawed Angels depicted the collective effort rather than focusing on a single actor and making it into a biopic. This kind of portrayal increases the information that a viewer receives about a movement and its contexts and why certain actors behaved the way they did. Though these two movies depicted different movements, they had very similar aspects that showed how the dimensions of social change can align with one another and also divide.

  2. The films Iron Jawed Angels and Selma are both centered around the social justice movements and the right to vote for different groups that were being denied suffrage. Selma tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and his experiences leading the voting rights movement for African American citizens in the 1960s; while, Iron Jawed Angels features Alice Paul as the leader of the women’s suffrage movement around the 1920s. Dr. King is depicted as a calm yet strong leader with strategic decisive control over his movement through the scenes of his many speeches and strategy meetings with his entourage. Alice Paul, contrarily, is suggested to be a more stubborn and radical leader who also spontaneously thinks of the movement’s next actions. The Presidents in both films seem to support this idea as President Johnson seemed to seriously respect Dr. King and wanted to work with him while also being concerned with his plans, so much so that he resorts to wire-tapping and considering assassination through the FBI. In contrast, President Wilson seemed to brush the women off as he met them in person and could also be seen through his flippant tone when he spoke about them behind their backs. Alice’s movement also is seen to have less soul as the women in the film seem to connect less then the men in Selma. The depiction of the leaders could be attributed to the poor qualities associated with women in powerful positions; additionally, Alice’s strategic conflict with the other women could also be seen as disrespecting elders or just petty drama, which further takes away from the audience’s perception of respecting her as a leader due to the subtle prejudices against women. Dr. King is also seen as more sympathetic in his film towards the people he is fighting alongside but perhaps this is achieved so that Alice Paul could be taken seriously as she and the other women would make this their ultimate cause since they would sacrifice freedom and their lives, as they went on a hunger strike in prison. Both protagonists in their respective films also have romantic interests, but in Selma, Codette is disrespected as she advocated in favor of Malcolm X and relegated to the role of devoted wife until later in the film where her character is humanized and recognized for the silent support she has been providing. Contrarily, Alice Paul’s male love interest seemed to do more to help her goals as he had a job with a newspaper but this demonstrates that women were neglected in the movement for Black voting rights in the 1960s. The other women in Selma are only there to follow the ideas of the men and are featured to capitalize on the audience’s sympathy like the mother of the boy who died and the woman whose photo was taken as she was beaten during the first actions of Dr. King’s group in Selma, as they knelt before the courthouse. Selma had encouraged all citizens to join the Black activists as they marched to Montgomery, while Alice Paul had rejected the support of Ida B. Wells and Black women activists, which is due to the inherent racism at the time that prevailed as white women were desperate for their suffrage, so much so that they would step on other women to succeed. Alice Paul faced harder decisions to make whether to allow Black women to join them and isolate southern support or fight for Black women at a later date once they secured the vote for white women but Dr. King’s decision to allow others to accompany them was an easy decision because, as another character mentioned, the police of Selma likely didn’t act violently the second time they attempted to march due to the fact that one-third of the marchers were white. The intersectionality between race and gender is also important to note through Selma because the Black women were much more likely to be seen being beaten and having violence turned on them than the white women in Iron Jawed Angels. The young Black girls got killed in the explosion and police in many scenes are shown beating Black women and men enthusiastically but the police in Iron Jawed Angels had simply restrained and carried the women into the police carriages when they were arrested for protesting outside the White House. The difference in their treatment is likely due to the prevailing opinion that Black women are not delicate like White women and instead are masculinized and demonized because they do not conform to the feminine traits associated with womanhood, which accentuates the reasons that support the understanding of intersectionality. Iron Jawed Angels was less successful in its attempts to prove that the women were facing immense discrimination when compared to Selma because it only showed how the Senator’s wife, Emily, was ignored and demeaned while the Black people in Selma, Alabama were facing violent attacks, murder, and sinister plots to prevent voting–which was featured in the film. The discrimination in Selma had female victims with the young girls in the church, the introduction scene of the woman being denied voting rights, and women being attacked during non-violent protests. In doing this, the movement gains sympathy but also suggests that the women are simply marauders to further the men’s leadership and alteration of legislation. Furthermore, both directors were female, which allows for more representation within the entertainment industry. It seems to be more important in the case of Iron Jawed Angels because women should tell their own story but the director of Selma was a Black woman, Ava DuVernay. Overall, I really liked both of the movies but I think the masterful cinematography and soundtrack in Selma made it a more compelling film to watch.

  3. Grace Castillo Rojo Moreno4:36 AM Mar 4
    Comparing Selma and Iron-Jawed Angels is very interesting because they both have a similar perspective regarding women but I have to say that Selma was more interesting for me because it talked about the rights of everyone and not specifically of a gender. On the other hand, I do think that demonstrating on Iron-Jawed Angels how Wells did not want to be segregated anymore demonstrates the force of women and how they wanted to end the discrimination against them. On the other hand, it also demonstrates the privilege of white women. Although women were discriminated by men, white women were privileged when it comes to compare them with black women. As we can see in Iron-Jawed Angels, Alice only fought for white women, especially when it come to the parade and Wells was asked to tell black women to march in the back. Furthermore, Selma was about Martin Luther King and how he fought for voting rights, not only for a specific gender but for a whole race. Both movies demonstrate the effectiveness of the marches and how important is to fight for our rights. In my opinion creating movies like this that talks about social issues as important as this ones, spread awareness about these different topics.
    Comments above copied from original document
    Mayra Villa
    Mayra Villa9:52 PM Mar 1
    After watching Selma and Iron-Jawed Angels, both films dealt with the battle of obtaining voting rights in the United States, but for different groups of people. Iron-Jawed Angels focused on Alice Paul’s life and her involvement in the women’s suffrage movement, pushing for a constitutional amendment that allows women the right to vote. However, the film portrays how the movement was led and dominated by white, middle-class women who intentionally excluded Black women, poor white women, and other women of color which is something that definitely happened. To add on, it softly glosses over the interactions Paul had with activist Ida B. Wells to make it seem like there was only a small amount of tension between the two. An example is when Wells joins one of the marches led by the white suffragists where she could be seen although Paul initially told her she couldn’t, yet Paul notices and faintly smiles at her. In reality, Wells would’ve been confronted by the white suffragists, probably experience overt racist comments, so the film did fail to show the reality between white women and Black women and the intentional exclusion to make it seem like the white suffragists were innocent. On the other hand, Selma shows a much more realistic approach with Dr. King’s battle in the Civil Rights Movement, endlessly having to deal with racist white instigators, who were everyday people, patrol officers, and elected officials and their violence. However, Dr. King was much more inclusive in the movement and would include all Black women, men, and children in his speeches, and he would also encourage other racial groups to join the movement for voting rights which was seen in the famous Selma to Montgomery march. Paul thought that by allowing Black women to join the marches anywhere but the back, it would end up in chaos as an excuse to simply not allow her be included with the rest of the white suffragists, so that was definitely a major difference between the two.
    Mayra Villa
    Mayra Villa
    Both films did portray how the US government intervened in these movements, mainly because they viewed the leaders as dangerous and a threat. White suffragists in Iron-Jawed Angels and Black people (along with white people who supported the movement) from the film Selma experienced various forms of violence, whether it would be from the police, racists white people (Selma), or sexist men (Iron Jawed Angels), and it would be allowed from elected officials who found the movements unnecessary. Their privacy would be invaded, and they’d be thrown into jail even though they wouldn’t be the ones instigating violence. However, both movements turned out to be successful throughout the constant drawbacks and criticism.
    9:58 PM Mar 1 (edited 10:03 PM Mar 1)•Delete
    Comments above copied from original document
    Kevin Lyles
    Osikenoya Usman-Aliu
    Osikenoya Usman-Aliu9:22 PM Mar 1
    I preferably enjoyed watching Selma than Iron-Jawed Angels although both films share the same kind of end goal but they are notebly different. In Alice Paul showed that white women were the only race that mattered in the Women’s suffarage. African Women were not thought about when it came to the Women’s suffarge march. In Selma, Martin Luther King Jr. wanted equal rights for black people and that included ALL people whether it be male or female. It was a joint effort for everyboyd not just one specfic group.

    The similarties as stated before both Alica and Martin faced conflict on their way to victory. They did not have support from everybody some felt that there were more important things to worry about than equal rights. Both faced trials and trublilations as both were jailed and receievd harsh treatment to end their movement. Both never gave up.
    Comments above copied from original document
    Rama Izar
    Rama IzarFeb 28, 2021
    Iron-Jawed Angels and Selma share some similarities when it comes to looking at the movies in the context of this course (women, gender, and privacy). In both films, both Alice Paul and Martin Luther King Jr. (and their followers) are spied on by the government. This shows how their work (which was considered radical) was so disapproved of and how higher institutions really wanted to stop them. They both had to go against so many people that told them that voting rights for women/African Americans respectively was an unattainable goal. Another similarity I found was that both Alice Paul and Martin Luther King Jr. faced opposition from within. Many people who would benefit from their goals being achieved (i.e. women, Black people) thought that they should be prioritizing other things and in Paul’s case, some women didn’t even think Paul should be doing anything at all. This obviously made their missions harder since not only did they have to convince the government/president, but they also had to convince parts of their own respective populations. Additionally, another similarity is that both Alice Paul and Martin Luther King Jr. are arrested and put under abusive treatment to try to silence them.

    While I see some similarities, I definitely think that there are a lot more differences. Unlike Alice Paul, Martin Luther King Jr. fought for the voting rights of ALL Black people, including women. He included everybody in his speeches and encouraged all types of people to join in on the marches. Alice Paul, on the other hand, only fought for the voting rights of white women because she thought that helping Black women would get in the way of reaching her goal (she considered that to be way too radical). I think this is a huge reason why I enjoyed Selma much more than Iron-Jawed Angels; it’s obviously more historically accurate, but it just gives a more well-rounded depiction of the social/political climate at the time.

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