In light of the revived push for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, the upcoming movie Suffragette has been anticipated by feminists and modern social activists alike. Multiple media outlets have called attention to the upcoming release of the film through feature articles and photoshoots spotlighting the cast. At a recent photoshoot for the October issue of Time Out London, stars Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Romola Garai and Anne-Marie Duff posed wearing shirts that read “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.” The resulting photos have since gone viral on social media and have ignited a strong controversy.
The shirts’ quote comes from suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst’s passionate speech at a London rally in 1913. Within the context of the time, the phrase was highly motivating and inspiring to other suffragettes. However, in the context of a highly publicized fashion shoot featuring famous white women promoting a film about suffrage, a quote that references slavery is likely to be interpreted very differently. On one side are the people who feel that the shirt and the quote are harmless and simply being taken out of context. But as many angry Twitter users have already established, the idea of equating gender oppression and slavery is taken offensively by many people who already criticize the film for failing to recognize the many black suffragettes of the 1920s.
Cover image courtesy of Time Out.