Time Out London Responds To Suffragette T-Shirt Backlash

Update: Time Out London issued a statement in response to backlash the publication received about a quote it used to promote a feature story about Suffragette.

The magazine noted that "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave" — the quote printed on the plain white T-shirts donned by the film's actresses for the Time Out photoshoot — is the last sentence of a speech by renowned suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

"The original quote was intended to rouse women to stand up against oppression," the statement emphasized. "It is a rallying cry, and absolutely not intended to criticise [sic] 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 full quote reads: "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."

The Time Out response also pointed out that the story has been viewed by more than half a million readers in the U.K. and the magazine has not received any complaints.

This story was originally published on October 5 at 2:45 p.m.
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Whittled down to its basic premise, Suffragette is a film about a particular moment in the history of the feminist movement, one in which English women sought the right to vote. It's a violent, powerful movie, based on real-life heroines. That the narrative of the film finds its focus on white women isn't particularly surprising. It's just history.

But, make no mistake: This is a biopic specifically about white female oppression and empowerment. The filmmakers are aware of that, and you're not going to find any historical rewrites to the contrary. (Nor will you find any Black faces in the trailer — a fact that Twitter has already zeroed in on. The real question is whether the lack of diversity in the film impedes its relevance: Frustratingly, when it comes to this topic, there are no black and white answers.)

So, given the sensitive racial tensions in both the historical moment portrayed in the film as well as present-day feminism, one might imagine the film's publicists would be extra cautious about the messages being presented during the promotional period, right? Wrong.

Case in point: It's possible that someone might have thought better than to put the leading ladies in T-shirts which read "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave" in Time Out London. The quote, spoken by real-life suffragette icon Emmeline Pankhurst, gets at a powerful sentiment — in the right context.

But, floating on white tees worn by four famous white women, the phrase seems like low-hanging fruit for stirring up controversy.

So, why this quote, particularly considering there are so many other great options in the film? "We're in every home, we're half the human race, you can't stop us all," might have been a good one. "We don't want to be lawbreakers, we want to be lawmakers," also would have worked. Or, the very simple, very powerful, "We will win" feels just right.

Some corners of the internet are calling the shirts downright offensive. "This is yet another example of White Feminism striking again. All the nopes," The Opinioness tweeted. The same user later wrote that "Co-opting the struggle & trauma of slavery, racism & white supremacy that Black people endured is wrong." It's hard to argue with that: The struggle of the women depicted in Suffragette was real. But, comparing it to slavery? That's a major stretch. Yes, even in England circa 1912.
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