Meryl Streep's 'Suffragette' T-Shirt Sparks Backlash
The slogan 'I'd rather be a rebel than a slave,' taken from a speech by British women's rights icon Emmeline Pankhurst, has been attacked for its historical U.S. connotations.
Less than a week after facing the ire of bloggers for suggesting in an interview that she was "a humanist" rather than a feminist, Meryl Streep has come under further criticism while promoting her latest film, Suffragette.
In a photoshoot for Time Out London, the actress, alongside fellow Suffragette star Carey Mulligan, is seen proudly sporting a T-shirt with the slogan "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave."
The line is taken from a 1913 speech by British women's rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst (whom Streep portrays in the film). The full passage reads: "I know that women, once convinced that they are doing what is right, that their rebellion is just, will go on, no matter what the difficulties, no matter what the dangers, so long as there is a woman alive to hold up the flag of rebellion. I would rather be a rebel than a slave."
However, it hasn't exactly received cheers of support from all sides, with the line facing a backlash on social media for its connotations with American history, especially slavery and the Confederate rebellion.
Activist Deray McKesson tweeted that Streep – or her publicist – should "know better."
Meryl Streep has to know better. And if not, her publicist should have.— deray mckesson (@deray) October 5, 2015
Writer Jamilah Lemieux echoed the criticism.
White women have said a lot of terrible things over the course of history, doesn't mean you wear it on a shirt. https://t.co/Y02pmmnJCL— Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) October 5, 2015
In response to the criticism, Time Out London issued a statement in which it claimed the quote has been taken out of context, and that it was a "rallying cry" aimed at rousing women to stand up against oppression, and was "absolutely not intended to criticize those who have no choice but to submit to oppression, or to reference the Confederacy."
Suffragette, which is set for release in the U.S. on Oct. 23, opens the BFI London Film Festival on Oct. 7.