Justice

There's Backlash Against This Celebrity-Endorsed Feminist T-Shirt

October 9th 2015

By:
Laura Donovan

Meryl Streep and several other A-list actresses are under fire for wearing a shirt that says "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave" in a TimeOut London cover story.

The celebrities were promoting the upcoming film "Suffragette," which is about how women earned the right to vote after World War I, and the t-shirt quote is from British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, whom Streep portrays in the flick.

The shirt received a lot of flak on social media, as many found it insensitive towards the Black community. Though it was a quote from Pankhurst years ago, many were upset that the actresses chose to promote the message in clothing form.

"Pankhurst's full quote may be important, but within it lies both the freedom of choice and the choice to be free," Kirsten West Savali wrote in a piece for The Root. "The message that Streep and company are co-signing with their grinning faces and suffragette tees is that one cannot be both enslaved and a rebel; and tucked between those lines lies the erasure of a dual existence that black women have been forced to navigate in one form or another throughout history."

Responding to the backlash, TimeOut London stood by the photo shoot and released a statement, which wasn't well-received by critics of the shirt:

While Streep was not the only actress to sport the shirt (Carey Mulligan also donned it for the story), she received the bulk of the criticism on social media. During that same interview with TimeOut, Streep refused to label herself a feminist, a move that puzzled many since "Suffragette" is all about women's rights.

“I am a humanist, I am for nice easy balance,” Streep said.

The Daily Beast asked Streep in a more recent interview whether these remarks still stand. She said:

"There’s a phrase in this film that says ‘Deeds, not words.’ And that’s sort of where I stand on that. I let the actions of my life stand for where I am. Contend with that—not the words.”