When tackling the F word, it really doesn't seem as though celebrities can do right for doing wrong, as Emma Watson proved last week when she called for equality and was instead bashed for "seeking male approval." Now, Hollywood's leading lady, Meryl Streep, has now come under fire for calling herself a "humanist."
When asked by a Time Out journalist whether she considers herself a feminist, Streep responded, “I am a humanist. I am for a nice easy balance," and now the internet has done a backflip. Some bloggers in particular have expressed disappointment with the actress's response.
Teresa Jusino of The Mary Sue, wrote:
“Meryl Streep not wanting to use the word ‘feminist’ in reference to herself, when everything she’s been doing lately screams ‘feminist’ has me scratching my head so hard I’m starting to see scalp.”
While Jezebel’s Joanna Rothkopf scathed:
“In early September, Streep sent a package to each member of Congress urging him or her to support the Equal Rights Amendment, which would make it illegal to discriminate against women. She whooped when Patricia Arquette spoke about equal pay at the Oscars ... But for some reason she doesn’t feel comfortable calling herself a feminist.”
Meryl's reaction to Patricia Arquette's equal pay Oscar speech was a passionate whoop of gratitude and support (video below), yet for some it seems that the use of the word humanist, rather than feminist, somehow devalues her sentiment. Although, of course, it's debatable that the removal of the identifier feminist is aggravating to a certain extent, I don't see how Streep adopting the term 'humanist' is a negative thing, when essentially both groups are reaching for the same end point.
A 'humanist' is defined as:
A philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism).
And 'feminism' is essentially:
Which boils down to two groups of people appreciating the value of every individual, aiming for a collective and equal community.
Meryl -- who will soon play Emmeline Pankhurst in the upcoming movie Suffragette, which will be on limited release in the USA from October 23rd -- has hardly hidden her views on gender equality and has openly lent her views to Congress, as Rothkopf points out above.
Like many other female actresses, Streep acknowledges that sexism certainly occurs within the film industry. When asked what she would do to change this, she offered:
"Men should look at the world as if something is wrong when their voices predominate. 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."
Perhaps the use of 'humanist' was intended as a way to make the agenda of feminism more accessible to a wider audience, especially since people seem hellbent on turning the term into a synonym for 'us vs. them.'
At the end of the day, Meryl Streep is still standing up for a cause that both parties are aiming for, so what's the big deal?