Twitter Drags Meryl Streep for 'Slave' Shirt

Twitter Drags Meryl Streep for 'Slave' Shirt

Suffragette star's marketing campaign is shockingly tone deaf.

Published October 5, 2015

Meryl Streep is being targeted by Black Twitter on Monday for a new marketing campaign she launched for her upcoming film, Suffragette. In the film, the Hollywood veteran plays British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst, who fought to get women the right to vote in the late 1800s. To promote the film, Streep and other stars posed in T-shirts that read, "I'd Rather Be a Rebel Than a Slave."

The quote comes from Pankhurst herself, who wrote, "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."

Unfortunately, the 19th-century quote has angered lots of 21st century Americans — particularly Black Americans who feel the quote reflects the blind eye white feminism regularly turns towards Black issues. For a community whose ancestors were actual slaves, seeing the phrase splayed across the chests of Streep, Carey Mulligan and the film's other white stars stings.

This isn't the first time Black Twitter has taken issue with white progressivism: remember Patricia Arquette's finger-wagging at Blacks and LGBT folks that it's their turn to march for women's rights? Or Matt Damon white-splaining diversity in Hollywood to veteran producer and woman of color Effie Brown? Those instances were cringe-worthy enough, but Streep and the marketing folks at Focus Features, who are distributing the film, went ahead and put that ignorance on a T-shirt.

While we understand the people behind this shockingly tone-deaf piece of marketing probably didn't intend to backhand-slap people who actually do descend from slaves and suffer from its consequences today, it should certainly serve as a wakeup call that, unless there is more diversity at all levels of the Hollywood food chain, "mistakes" like this will keep happening.

Want to hear from someone who always keeps it 100 on matters of race, diversity and equality? Check out our interview with Janet Mock, below:

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(Photo: Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images for "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon")

Written by Evelyn Diaz

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