Meryl Streep isn’t usually one to be in the center of controversy, but she found herself taking some heat this week after a photo of her wearing a t-shirt for a magazine photo shoot went viral.
Streep, who was promoting her new film Suffragette with co-star Carey Mulligan, appeared in the spread wearing a shirt that read, “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave”, and the sentiment quickly drew the ire of millions of Twitter users, who weren’t aware that it came from a quote by the woman Streep portrays in the film.
Time Out London, the magazine the photos appeared in, released a statement after the backlash, saying that while the message was clear to those who had read the article, it may have been taken out of context when read by itself.
“It has been read by at least half a million people in the U.K. and we have received no complaints. The original quote was intended to rouse women to stand up against oppression—it is a rallying cry, and absolutely not intended to criticise 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,” the statement read.
The entire quote–from women’s rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst–reads as follows:
“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.”
Filmmaker Sarah Gavron teamed up with three women she’d worked with before for the film; writer Abi Morgan and producers Alison Owen and Faye Ward, who did Brick Lane together. For Gavron, the movie is a passion project ten years in the making.
“I’d been wanting to make a project about this for 10 years. While we were looking for something to do together, Alison and Faye started talking about suffragettes, and it was perfect,” Gavron told Variety.