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Meryl Streep says she’s a humanist, not a feminist

Only one of these women says she’s a feminist. Meryl Streep and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pose for a selfie in 2012. (Kevin Wolf/AP)
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Meryl Streep, who has a reputation for being a vocal advocate for equality within Hollywood, does not consider herself to be a feminist.

“I am a humanist, I am for nice easy balance,” Streep told Time Out London‘s Cath Clarke.

This puts Streep at odds with friend Hillary Clinton. The two caused something of a girl-power Internet supernova in 2012 when photos surfaced of them posing together for a selfie. Lena Dunham recently sat down with the presidential candidate for an hour-long interview for her newsletter Lenny. She asked if Clinton considers herself a feminist.

“Yes, absolutely,” Clinton said with great relish. “You know, I’m always a little bit puzzled when any woman, of whatever age, but particularly a young woman says something like — and you’ve heard it — ‘Well, I believe in equal rights but I’m not a feminist.’ Well, a feminist by definition is someone who believes in equal rights. I’m hoping that people will not be afraid to say, ‘That doesn’t mean you hate men. It doesn’t mean you want to separate out the world so that you’re not part of ordinary life. That’s not what it means at all. It just means that we believe women have the same rights as men, politically, culturally, socially, economically. That’s what it means.”

[Sorry, Taylor Swift. Being a feminist is about more than just supporting your girlfriends.]

Streep spoke to Time Out while promoting “Suffragette,” the historical film that tells the story of women’s fight to get the vote in England; she plays activist Emmeline Pankhurst. Her answer is pretty unexpected, given that Streep was the one who was GIFed across the Internet, along with Jennifer Lopez, as the most visible amen corner during Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech for her Academy Award-winning performance in “Boyhood.”

Streep is the one who gave an impassioned — and most would say feminist — speech of her own when presenting Emma Thompson with the best actress award last year at the National Board of Review Awards for playing P.L. Travers in “Saving Mr. Banks”:

Some of [Walt Disney’s] associates reported that Walt Disney didn’t really like women. Ward Kimball, who was one of his chief animators, one of the original “Nine Old Men,” creator of the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, Jiminy Cricket, said of Disney, “He didn’t trust women, or cats.”
… When I saw the film, I could just imagine Walt Disney’s chagrin at having to cultivate P.L. Travers’ favor for the 20 years that it took to secure the rights to her work. It must have killed him to encounter a woman, an equally disdainful and superior creature, a person dismissive of his own considerable gifts and prodigious output and imagination. But when we sit in our relative positions of importance and mutual suspicion, and we cast judgment on each other’s work, we’re bound to make small mistakes and misconstrue each other’s motives.
Which brings me to awards season. Which is really ridiculous. We have made so many beautiful movies this year, and to single out one seems unfair. And yet, it’s a great celebration, and I’m so proud to be here, in this group of artists. Nobody can swashbuckle the quick-witted riposte like Emma Thompson. She’s a writer. A real writer. And she has a writer’s relish for the well-chosen word …She has real access to her own tenderness, and it’s one of the most disarming things about her. She works like a stevedore, she drinks like a bloke, and she’s smart and crack and she can be withering in a smack-down of wits, but she leads with her heart. And she knows nothing is more funny than earnestness.

Even within her interview with Time Out, Streep discussed how to eliminate sexism within the film industry. “Men should look at the world as if something is wrong when their voices predominate,” Streep said. “They should feel it. People at agencies and studios, including the parent boards, might look around the table at the decision-making level and feel something is wrong if half their participants are not women. Because our tastes are different, what we value is different. Not better, different.”

But there you have it. Streep says she is a humanist, not a feminist. Perhaps Clinton can call her up and ask why.

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