Meryl Streep, decorated actress and veteran of the entertainment industry, talked to Gloria Steinem about tackling the sexual harassment and assault problem in Hollywood. And the Oscar-winning star has a plan to face this challenge head-on.
"Right now, I’m getting together with a bunch of actresses that you know very well, and we’re all sort of going to make a set of non-negotiable demands," said Streep at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. "We’re after 50/50 by 2020."
The idea of a task force, led by actresses with big names, is huge. It means that people in the industry, without big names, will know that someone powerful is on their side. It means that their stories will be told in the press, and continue this cultural conversation without letting it die out before serious, lasting changes take place.
Streep also talked about how Hollywood isn't the only workplace rife with abuse. "The thing abound Harvey Weinstein is that he is sort of the most gargantuan example of a kind of disrespect that permeates every industry, every enterprise. I’m not sure why," said Streep. "I have a lot of theories — maybe its in response to the women’s movement. Maybe its in fear of the women's movement. But these abuses are about dominance."
Streep is right. While movements like women's suffrage, abolition, the women's liberation of the 1970s, and activism by icons like Angela Davis, Marsha P. Johnson, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped women, LGBT people and people of color, the backlash against marginalized people obtaining a piece of the pie has been real. It's contributed to a culture of abuse and violence against women's bodies, as they've struggled to retain the power they feel entitled to.
She further notes that when power is concentrated at the top, it tends to stay there. "Part of the problem is that there’s no horrible plot at the top of Hollywood not to keep people of color or women out of leadership positions. It’s that ‘like hires like.’ White hires white. A guy who wears his baseball cap backwards hires a guy who wears his baseball cap backwards. So we have to encourage the people who are currently in power, who are of one gender, to open the door."
Luckily, Streep looks forward to a more equitable future. "I think I’m very hopeful that the world is changing. I think in this world now of opportunity there’s so many great opportunities for women to enter different jobs, different enterprises."
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