Described as “the remarkable untold true story of the real foot soldiers of the Suffragette movement,” Suffragette follows a group of British women in the late 19th and early 20th century who advocated for women’s right to vote.
As the film prepares to hit theaters later this month, its stars are on an all out promotional offensive to spread the word about the movie. Too bad their latest effort is painfully tone-deaf and reinforces the notion that when it comes to feminism, all the women are still white.
Meryl Streep covers the latest issue of Time Out London to discuss her role as Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of Britain’s women’s movement; what she’d change about the film industry (she’d like to see more women in positions of power); and whether or not she considers herself a feminist (she doesn’t, she’s a “humanist”).
While the interview is perfectly ordinary, the visual of Streep and her cast mates rocking t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave,” has many crying foul.
— Daniel José Older (@djolder) October 5, 2015
While the quote comes from Streep’s character, Emmeline Pankhurst, the visual of the all-white Suffragette cast rocking a shirt that mentions a choice between being a rebel or slave–something many Black women in the 19th century did not have–it only furthers the erasure of women of color from the movement.
Despite the assertion of some who believe the Suffragette movement consisted of only well-meaning, concerned white women, all over the world women of color advocated for the right to vote (even when white women shut them out because of their race).
— feminism & burritos (@nashwakay) October 5, 2015
A quick glance Suffragette’s IMDb page indicates the film only centers on the stories of the white women, missing a huge opportunity to give women of color involved in the movement in Britain (and its colonies) their just due, while reminding the audience of the importance of intersectional feminism.
Instead, Suffragette’s cast donned the problematic shirts to promote the film, and Twitter was not pleased.
The slogan on this T-shirt is not okay. I'm saying it again because lots of white film women tweeting this in my TL. pic.twitter.com/48om1FobTS
— Lexi Alexander (@Lexialex) October 5, 2015
Sometimes it's so obvious no black people were in the room when these ideas are brought up. https://t.co/lFgLRmNvTN
— A Man Called Hawk (@AManCalledHwk) October 5, 2015
How tone deaf is this? I put it at Def Con Becky Mary-Sue Level 85 pic.twitter.com/8UJZZoklTC
— X (@XLNB) October 5, 2015
Right. Let's use a quote by Emmeline Pankhurst from a 1913 London rally for today. That makes sense. pic.twitter.com/OdHfygcO5a
— Colorlines.com (@Colorlines) October 5, 2015
White feminism's total disregard for Black women yet again https://t.co/DvCGnnwd70
— The Libyan (@NoDaysOff85) October 5, 2015
Peak white feminism . https://t.co/wtzD9ndwnR
— Serene (@serenitysay) October 5, 2015
Do you know who else would rather have been rebels? Actual slaves.
— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) October 5, 2015
Every American should know better than to wear such a shirt, but only some of us have to know why. https://t.co/x6cjSbhsBd
— Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) October 5, 2015
Meryl Streep just fucked up.
— Sondrea (@ThatsSondrea) October 5, 2015
I'd like to think Meryl Streep is a smart woman but idk after seeing her in that shirt.
— ☠ ghost girl ☠ (@urlildaydream) October 5, 2015
I read the Meryl Streep article. She defines herself as a humanist, not a feminist. But, even there, there is no intersectionality.
— April (@ReignOfApril) October 5, 2015
Et tu, Meryl?
— #Gaytriarchy (@Adamant_Yves) October 5, 2015
We said Meryl Streep looks like Future and this is how she repays us.
— Kar L. Stine (@karyewest) October 5, 2015
What are your thoughts on the t-shirt campaign?