All Articles Tagged "movies"
Meryl Streep has found herself at the center of a major controversy due to the ad campaign for her new movie, Suffragette. With an all-white cast, the movie has all ready received its fair share of naysaying for participating in the erasure of women of color from the suffrage movement. So when its core cast of white actresses appeared in a campaign donning shirts that read: “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave,” it was inevitable that backlash was soon to follow. When I saw the shirts I clearly understood the message, which was essentially, “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” But still I thought to myself, Rebel? Slave? Now why on earth would they think was a good idea?”
After a quick google search, I found the full quote, which happened to be from Emmeline Pankhurst, the British women’s rights activist whom Streep plays in the film:
“I 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.”
With or without context, this quote comes across as incredibly tone-deaf to people of color in the US and abroad who still suffer the repercussions of slavery. Not long after finding this quote my Google search gave me even more reason to be appalled by this ad campaign. Emmeline Pankhurst once stated that women not being allowed to vote had “grown the most appalling slavery, compared with which negro slavery becomes insignificant.” Pankhurst thought that women not being allowed to vote was a problem so terrible that it shaded chattel slavery in comparison. Is this really a woman on whom you want to base a feminist campaign in 2015, let alone a movie?
Regardless of reactions that are soon to follow over the backlash, like charges we’re being overly sensitive about a simple “t-shirt,” the campaign and all things associated with it are hurtful and trivialize one of the most grotesque eras in American history. Surely, white people will explain to us how we don’t “get” the meaning and the cycle — a sick cycle — of ignorance will continue with our feelings being rebuked and dismissed. No one would dare minimize the Holocaust or Japanese Internment Camps or any of the other shameful acts of inhumanity in our global history (except maybe the elimination of Native Americans) to make a point about a separate human rights issue, and yet here we stand with the reality of what 400 years of slavery does to a people 150 years later and we’re constantly told in one form or another to get over it.
With current voter ID laws still negatively impacting the Black vote in America, this PR move is simply a further slap in the face to those among us still dealing with suffrage issues, not to mention a missed opportunity, particularly on the feminist front. There will always be pushback as long as there are people who aim to erase and rewrite history. Unfortunately, this film, its campaign and the history it aims to echo, only serve to illustrate how racially unaware and divided we remain.
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