As I’m sure most of you can predict, I LOVED Meryl Streep’s speech last night. It was honest, emotional, and classy. As usual, she articulated her informed perspective wonderfully.
However, I know there are many people who did not like her speech or that she gave a speech of this nature in that venue. I’m seeing two dominant thoughts from these folks:
- Meryl Streep is just a rich actress, so that makes her out of touch with the common man. She’s ignorant to our needs, and/or generally ignorant to all things aside from acting, so she has no right to speak her mind on issues like politics.
- If Meryl Streep wants to say stuff like this, she should pick another venue. It’s completely inappropriate for her to make such statements like this during a ceremony like that.
Regarding the first point, perhaps there’s some truth to Streep and other actors being “out of touch” with certain things in the lives of “common” people. Does she worry about making rent or paying her mortgage, for example? Probably not. That said, if she’s so out of touch with us, why do so many of us love what she had to say? Why are so many people agreeing with it? Why are so many people thankful that she said it? Plus, her primary theme seemed to be about not normalizing bullying. Since when is that controversial?
Also, don’t assume that just because she’s an actor, she’s dumb to all other things. First of all, she’s a human, shaped by the entirety of her life experience, much of which probably occurred before she became famous. She has degrees from Vassar College and Yale. Yale, y’all. I don’t care if it’s a degree in drama from Yale. It’s. A. Degree. From. Yale.
She’s also an international role model for women and girls and regularly helps with charities. Do you know what that does? It helps people, yes, but it also likely keeps her at least somewhat in touch with the needs of “common” people – or better yet, marginalized people. She’s been involved with arts-related charities, LGBT-related charities, environment-related charities, international charities, general equality-related charities, health-related charities, and women-related charities. I’m exhausted just looking at the list.
Regarding the second point, I first want to point out the irony that people are using their platform (social media, mostly) to say what they think, which is apparently that they don’t think someone else should be allowed to use their platform to say what they think. Regardless of where we are in life, we all use the methods we have at our disposal to share our perspectives with others. Just because someone has a broader platform than you doesn’t mean they suddenly aren’t humans or citizens or that they don’t have a perspective or aren’t allowed to articulate it. Everyone does this. Everyone.
Meryl Streep WORKED to have the platform she has. Let me repeat that: She worked for it. It was not handed to her. She did not just trip and fall into fame. She worked for it. She is just using the platforms she has to advocate for what she believes is true. Just. Like. You. And what about an acceptance speech for an award is NOT the right time for it? She’s not at a funeral. She’s not at someone else’s wedding. The time for her to speak at that ceremony was precisely so that she could speak. Too many celebrities get up there and just gush about themselves, maybe finding some time to thank a few people, and people get mad at their selfishness. So now we’re mad at someone for using this time to talk about the world she envisions where people aren’t bullied? Seriously?
And if you’re OK with celebrities using their platform to bully people, to call people names, to marginalize people — or at least if you stay silent during those times — why are you choosing to speak out now when someone is suggesting we shouldn’t let bullying become normalized? I have to say: it seems a lot like something more is at play here, whether or not people even realize it.
Finally, this is part of a bigger trend I’m seeing in which people who normally stay publicly silent on things that they consider controversial (like equality) choose to speak out about people speaking out. I know that’s a complicated sentence, so let me offer examples:
They stay silent about Donald Trump using his platform as a presidential candidate to mock a reporter or call people names, but they choose to speak up when they disagree with someone commenting about it themselves. Perhaps they say they remain silent because they want to appear neutral — they say they want unity. And yet they comment on someone else commenting. The issue itself? Stay silent. Someone else speaking out about the issue? Time to speak out.
Another example of this is the whole Chip and Joanna Gaines thing. Let me preface this by saying I think BuzzFeed tried a little too hard to target them based on their pastor’s beliefs. And while I think it’s reasonable to assume they probably believe similar things, an assumption is not worth a whole article about them when they haven’t spoken out about it. I should also add that I was generally a fan of the points Chip Gaines made in his response, given how bad it could’ve been.
But again – people who say they love all people, including LGBT people, and support us being treated kindly – have stayed silent on things that would mean good, equal treatment of our community. They’ve neglected to mention us when things happened in our community. When the Pulse tragedy happened, they didn’t comment about how terrible it was specifically for the Latinx or LGBT community. If they commented at all publicly, they just said it was bad for America. When a trans person gets murdered, nothing. When laws are created that allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people simply for being LGBT, they’re silent. But privately, they’ll tell you that they love and support you. They’re just staying away from controversy publicly. They want unity.
But then, something happens like that article about Chip and Joanna and there they are – publicly commenting. Making sure all their friends know that it’s just not fair. Making sure everyone knows they #StandWithChipAndJoanna or whatever the hashtag was (I’m assuming there was a hashtag).
You know what that says to me? Your words about supporting me are hollow. You will not back them up publicly, much less with action. Perhaps you’re all about unity and loving everyone, as long as you and people who think like you remain on top. You don’t actually love us. You never did. At best, you want to “love on us,” because we’re clearly people in special need of your love. Yeah, you may love on us, but who are you going to support? Not us. That would be controversial and you maybe don’t even believe in equality for us anyway. You’re going to toe the line, at best. Just like Chip did with his statement. People are literally dying on one side, but you’re going to be quiet until someone messes with someone you like. Then, and only then, it’s time to #StandWith them.
It’s the same type of thing with this Meryl Streep issue — people coming out of the woodwork to bash her in one way or another. People who stay silent on matters of consequence.
So here’s what I want, from myself and from others: Stop pretending. Have a backbone. Do some soul-searching. Think about how often you comment about how hard Chip and Joanna have it or how all these celebrities speaking out about bullying, equality, etc. just need to sit down and shut up, etc. Think about how often you comment about that, compared to how often you publicly advocate for the marginalized, whether it’s LGBT people, people of color, the poor, etc.
If you’re the person who comments more about the Chips and Joannas of the world, and you don’t find anything wrong with that, fine. But own it. Don’t pretend to actually support my community, the black community, etc. Just don’t.
But regardless of where you find yourself on this spectrum, I need you to do a few other things: Be open to dialogue. Be open to learning. Be open to changing. Be open to love from all sides. But not that fake love stuff — true, actual, honest, “I fully support you and will advocate on your behalf” love. Because regardless of where you find yourself on this spectrum, we’re all existing in this world together and we’re all considered “beloved.” So have some compassion toward everyone.
I really do try to see the perspectives of people I disagree with, and I hope you do, too. For me, I choose to do my best to spend my time where it counts most — supporting people who need support, whether I know them or not. Not fake need it, but really need it. Because the Chips and Joannas of the world – what’s going to happen to them? Worst case, maybe they get fired. But LGBT people are dying. People of color are dying. Refugees are dying. And you’re up in arms about Meryl. Think about that.
So thank you, Meryl, for speaking up for what you feel is right. I happen to agree that bullying is bad and normalizing such behavior is even worse. And thank you to everyone else who speaks up for those who could really use support from everywhere — from those within their communities and those outside of them.