Meryl Streep and other 'Suffragette' stars criticized for wearing 'slave' t-shirt

"I'd rather be a rebel than a slave."

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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The Suffragette movement is an important, albeit complicated part of history. Although it won British women the right to vote, that only included white women (a fact many gloss over).

A new movie starring Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep, called Suffragette, focuses on this history. However, the cast is under fire for wearing tone-deaf shirts in a photo spread featured in Time Out London on Monday.

The T-shirts feature a quote from British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst (played by Streep), which says, "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave." Critics condemned the shirts online, saying that they "[ignore] the historical context of the term 'slave,'" and the fact that black women didn't get the right to vote until the 1960s.

As race-focused website Colorlines pointed out, just because the quote was said by an actual suffragist, that doesn't mean it's appropriate to say today. 

Right. Let's use a quote by Emmeline Pankhurst from a 1913 London rally for today. That makes sense.

Other Twitter users noted that the quote works against, rather than embraces, the concept of intersectionality.

The #Suffragette movement fought against the right for black people to vote. If your feminism is not intersectional, you are oppressive.
"I'd Rather Exaggerate My Oppression Than Acknowledge Yours" #whitefeminism #suffragette

Although it's unclear whether Suffragette touches on the movement's exclusion of minority women, this misstep highlights the need for a mainstream black feminist film.

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