Carey Mulligan covers the new ELLE UK ahead of the release Suffragette in which she stars alongside Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter. This is the magazine’s feminism issue. And this week, many of you have been emailing me about Meryl and Marion Cotillard, and their responses to questions about being feminists. Marion told Porter magazine that she does not want to be a feminist because:
“Film-making is not about gender. You cannot ask a president in a festival like Cannes to have, like, five movies directed by women and five by men. For me it doesn’t create equality, it creates separation. I mean, I don’t qualify myself as a feminist. We need to fight for women’s rights but I don’t want to separate women from men. We’re separated already because we’re not made the same and it’s the difference that creates this energy in creation and love. Sometimes in the word feminism there’s too much separation.”
And then there’s Meryl Streep. In an interview with Time Out, Meryl says:
"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.”
Exactly. But then, later on, when asked about feminism specifically, Meryl wasn’t all that down with the word, and instead of confirming that she is, indeed, a feminist, she offered this:
"I am a humanist, I am for nice easy balance."
The problem with answering this way, to me, is that it’s a defensive response when there should be nothing defensive about feminism. Because there’s no downside to it. Meryl calling herself a “humanist” instead of a “feminist” implies that feminism isn’t inclusively humanising. Marion claiming that we need to fight for women’s rights as a prelude to talking about separating men and women implies that feminism is about division. Which is the fallacy that opponents of feminism have been using to uphold the status quo. And there’s no need for it. There’s no need to justify a basic right: that everyone is entitled to be treated the same. And, really, that’s the best answer to the question. With equality. That’s how Carey answered the question in ELLE UK:
“Someone asked me yesterday, 'Do you think it would be a better world if it were run by women?' And the answer is no, I think it would be a better world if it were run equally – we're still so far from that.”