Meryl Streep Slams Rotten Tomatoes for Their ‘Infuriating’ Sexism

There are apparently 760 male film critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and only 168 female critics in comparison.

And Meryl Streep is not having it.

The actress is starring as early women’s rights leader Emmeline Pankhurst in Suffragette, in theaters Oct. 23, which is a drama about the British women’s suffrage movement.

At a BFI London Film Festival press conference for Suffragette on Wednesday (Oct. 7), Streep called out one way in which modern-day gender inequalities is manifest: that is, Rotten Tomatoes’ film criticism, which consequently has sway over the nation’s box offices.

“I went deep, deep, deep, deep, and I counted how many contributors there were — critics and bloggers and writers” she said, and what she found was alarming. “Of those allowed to rate on the Tomatometer, there are 168 women. And I thought, that’s absolutely fantastic. If there were 168 men, it would be balanced. If there were 268 men, it would unfair but I’d get used to it. If there were 368, 468, 568…

“Actually there are 760 men who weigh in on the Tomatometer.”

Sigh.

Streep went on to comment on the New York Film Critic’s Circle, and noted that 37 out of 39 of its members were men. Vulture makes an editors note here, writing “Based on their site, it appears that six of its 31 critics are women;” still, that means 25 out of its 31 members are men.

And the numbers don’t lie. Streep added:

The word isn’t ‘disheartening,’ it’s ‘infuriating.’ I submit to you that men and women are not the same. They like different things. Sometimes they like the same things, but their tastes diverge. If the Tomatometer is slided so completely to one set of tastes, that drives box office in the U.S., absolutely.

Streep is arguably the greatest actress of our generation, if not the most celebrated. She’s voiced her support for gender equality before, such as by funding a screenwriting lab for women over the age of 40 called the Writer’s Lab, demanding that there be more roles in Hollywood with female protagonists as a panelist at the Women in the World Summit, and even penning letters to each member of Congress back in June, asking them to reignite discussion on Capitol Hill of an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

That all aside, in the past week during promotion for her movie, she has made some controversial statements on feminism. In Time Out London last week, Streep denied being a “feminist,” opting to call herself a “humanist” instead:

I am a humanist, I am for nice easy balance.

The Daily Beast asked Meryl if she stood by her words, and she replied: “There’s a phrase in this film that says ‘Deeds, not words.’ And that’s sort of where I stand on that. I let the actions of my life stand for where I am. Contend with that—not the words.”

Meryl and Suffragette co-star Carey Mulligan also caused a stir by posing in a t-shirt with the slogan, “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.”

People were upset by Streep’s insensitivity and, as some called it, “white privilege” or “white feminism.”

The slogan in question was actually a line from a speech given by Pankhurst, whom Streep portrays in the film, in 1913. The full passage is:

I know that women, once convinced that they are doing what is right, that their rebellion is just, will go on, no matter what the difficulties, no matter what the dangers, so long as there is a woman alive to hold up the flag of rebellion. I would rather be a rebel than a slave.

Time Out London has since issued a statement, claiming the slogan was taken out of context, and that it was meant to be a “rallying cry” for the gender inequality movement and for women to stand together against oppression. Furthermore, it was “absolutely not intended to criticize those who have no choice but to submit to oppression, or to reference the Confederacy.”

The Internet, of course, if of two minds, but nevertheless it does appear to be both a #publicistfail and poor quote selection.