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Meryl Streep Faces Backlash Over 'Slave' T-Shirt

Quote taken out of context is not received well
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2015 10:40 AM CDT
Updated Oct 6, 2015 11:35 AM CDT
Meryl Streep Faces Backlash Over 'Slave' T-Shirt
In this image released by Starpix, Meryl Streep poses at the premiere of her film, "Ricki and the Flash," in New York.   (Dave Allocca/Starpix via AP)

(Newser) – Even if you're doing it to tout a socially acceptable topic like women's rights, you may not want to go around wearing a T-shirt declaring, "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave" unless you're prepared for a bit of a controversy. But that's what Meryl Streep and three other cast members from Suffragette did at a photo shoot last week, and the move is sparking backlash, the Guardian reports. The film is about women's rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst, and the controversial quote is something Pankhurst said during a speech in 1913. "Meryl Streep has to know better. And if not, her publicist should have," wrote one activist on Twitter, though responses to his post were split on the issue: "It is a line from a famous speech by a UK suffragette. She plays her in a movie about that movement. Does context not exist anymore?" wrote one.

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The photos of Streep and co-stars Carey Mulligan, Romola Garai, and Anne-Marie Duff appeared in Time Out London, which later issued a statement noting, "The original quote was intended to rouse women to stand up against oppression—it is a rallying cry, and absolutely not intended to criticize those who have no choice but to submit to oppression, or to reference the Confederacy, as some people who saw the quote and photo out of context have surmised." But not everyone is convinced: "In a bubble, it's a nice sentiment," writes Ira Madison III on Vulture. "But we're not in a bubble. We're in America, and as has been pointed out online, the terms rebel and slave have a much different connotation within the context of our national history." (Here are 5 things you don't know about Meryl Streep—including her real name.)

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