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Meryl Streep recounted two incidents in her life where she dealt with a type of violence that changed her on a “cellular level.”
The Oscar-winning actress, who memorably sent a call to action on behalf of journalists during her President Trump-aimed 2017 Golden Globes speech, made the admission while again praising reporters at the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 27th annual International Press Freedom Awards in New York on Wednesday.
Acknowledging the “exciting, exhaustive and dangerous time to be an investigative journalist,” Streep said that applies, “especially, of course,” to women.
“I say ‘of course,’ because we do recognize the special cocktail of venom and ridicule, which is always tinged with sexual threat that is served up online for women, any woman in any profession, who stands up to tell the truth,” she said. “I revere the people who do this because I am not a naturally brave person.”
She went on to say that though standing up and speaking in front of a room of people who are smarter than her is a nauseating prospect, she does know something about real terror.
“The two times in my life when I was threatened and dealt with real, physical violence, I learned something about life that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. And I was lucky because my instincts served me well,” she said.
In one instance, Streep says she “played dead” and waited until the blows stopped, “watching like people say you do from 50 feet above where I was beaten.”
In the second instance, someone else was being abused and she says she went “completely nuts” and went after the man. She recalled how Cher was also present, and the thug went away: “It was a miracle.”
She explained, “I was changed by these events on a cellular level. Because women do know something particular about coming to the danger place. We come to it disadvantaged through the many millennia preceding our present moment and because of our vulnerability we anticipate danger, we expect it.
“We’re hyper alert to it, we have the 360 on the whole room. We have measurably more acute hearing, we have a better sense of smell, we notice details — what people are wearing, their tics and peculiarities.”
All of these things, she said, come in handy in both acting and investigative journalism.
Streep just wrapped filming on Steven Spielberg’s The Post, which tells the story of the Washington Post’s first female publisher Kay Graham (played by Streep) and its editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and their attempts to publish the Pentagon Papers, and Streep reminded those in the room that in that time period, in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, most reporters and newsrooms were male.
She then applauded a list of women in attendance for their investigative reporting during a “poisonous” time in the country for the press — including ESPN’s Rachel Nichols and the New York Times‘ Jodi Kantor and Maggie Haberman — and remembered the five journalists who were murdered in Mexico who have “paid the hardest price for their questions this year.”
CPJ is an organization that protects the rights of journalists and promotes freedom of the press. Watch Streep’s speech below.
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