Meryl Streep, Michelle Obama Discuss Gender Equality: "We're Still Not There Yet"
"How do we make it so our equality is not so threatening?"
Meryl Streep and Michelle Obama had an inspiring and candid conversation about motherhood, their legacies and the challenges young girls face today in a new interview with More magazine.
Obama said the challenges young girls face today is "education, education, education" and while Streep agreed that making education important is crucial — to both boys and girls — she brought up a more "specific challenge" facing women and girls today.
"We’re viewed as equals — but we’re still not there yet," says Streep. "For the first time, we have the expectation that we can have a broad array of choices, that we could lead in almost any part of society. And yet we face resistance. We see that here at home in our government — in the House and the Senate. We see that in our boardrooms. We see that in Hollywood."
She continued, "The challenge for our girls, I think, is dealing with that resistance. How can we lift and defuse it, how do we make it so our equality is not so threatening? Our girls are going to have to contend with that. I contend with it right now in every realm I operate in."
When the interviewer commented that people might be surprised to hear Streep faces that in Hollywood, the actress laughed. "Did you hear Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech? She wasn’t talking off the top of her head. It’s absolutely true."
Obama responded to Streep's comments by saying her mom says women have so many choices today. "And she says it in a way that recognizes how hard it must be to have the choices," says the First Lady. "Sometimes we, as women, are critical of each other’s choices. Should I have a career? What if I want to stay home and raise my kids? What if I don’t want power?"
"I encounter this because there are people who ask me all the time, 'Are you going to run for office?' And many of them ask because I’m perceived as a strong woman, and [another] strong First Lady, Hillary Clinton, is, in fact, running for office. But we’re all different people with different aspirations and goals."
When asked about what they each want their legacy to look like, Obama said she wants to feel like the things she did as First Lady made a different in people's lives. "That’s one of the reasons I spend time [greeting people] on rope lines, because I’m always thinking, 'Maybe this interaction, particularly if I’m meeting kids, will change someone’s life.' "
Streep says she feels like her legacy is written by other people. "It trails after me like tin cans tied to the back of a car — that's what all my award nominations and things like that are me."
In reality though, she wants to leave behind what her mother left her, love and strength for the people she has cared about to draw on when she's gone. "My legacy is personal to me. The bigger part of it — the Meryl Streep of it all — I kind of can’t handle that."