They are preparing to “make a set of non-negotiable demands” to combat abuse and harassment, Streep said.
Meryl Streep has been privately working with a group of actresses to develop a plan for how to address sexism in Hollywood.
The actress was speaking to legendary feminist activist Gloria Steinem at a women’s conference in Massachusetts when she revealed her behind-the-scenes activities.
“Right now, I’m getting together with a bunch of actresses that you know very well, and we’re all sort of going to make a set of non-negotiable demands,” she said, according to People.
Shortly after it was alleged that Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed and assaulted multiple women, Streep – who has worked with the disgraced producer on several films – released a statement condemning her former collaborator and praising the women who spoke out against him as “heroes”. (Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.)
Speaking to Steinem, Streep said that she believes that men like Weinstein are in part able to prosper because of a lack of women in leadership positions.
“I think I’m very hopeful that the world is changing. I think in this world now of opportunity there’s so many great opportunities for women to enter different jobs, different enterprises,” she said.
“But to rise, [women have] to get up to that top layer which [men] kinda still keep for themselves. There are always three women on a board, and then there are 9 or 12 or 14 other people. Equal means equal.
“And if it starts at the top, none of these shenanigans would have filtered down and been tolerated.”
Streep said that she didn’t think that most white men in Hollywood were deliberately trying to make life difficult for women and ethnic minorities, but were unwittingly perpetuating discrimination.
“Part of the problem is that there’s no horrible plot at the top of Hollywood not to keep people of colour or women out of leadership positions,” she said.
“It’s that ‘like hires like.’ White hires white. A guy who wears his baseball cap backwards hires a guy who wears his baseball cap backwards.
“So we have to encourage the people who are currently in power, who are of one gender, to open the door.”
It’s not known whether Jennifer Lawrence is one of the stars that Streep is working with to combat Hollywood sexism. However, the younger actress recently spoke out about her desire to create a commission to tackle abuse in the film industry.
“I’ve talked to women. We’ve talked about forming a commission,” Lawrence told Oprah Winfrey, in an interview published by The Hollywood Reporter.
She explained that she wanted to put “rules in place where there are certain ways that you just cannot treat people”, particularly to help younger actors who are just starting out in their careers.
“If every A-list actor decides to join this commission, we know everybody in the industry. I know every studio head in town. If I’m on this commission, and [if] I get an email about somebody being treated badly on a set, I can send an email,” Lawrence continued.
“We have to all put our heads together and figure out how to not let this moment go, not just be like, ‘Oh, well, that was crazy.’ Something has to really get done.”
Lawrence also shared her view on the Weinstein scandal. Like Streep, she said that while she knew the producer could be difficult to work with, she was unaware of his abusive behaviour. (Streep has rejected the idea that “everybody knew” about Weinstein, and said that he was “exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship”.)
“Just speaking for myself, I had known him since I was 20, and he had only ever been nice to me – except for the moments that he wasn’t, and then I called him an asshole, and we moved on,” Lawrence said.
“He was paternal to me. So I needed a moment to process everything because I thought I knew this guy, and then he’s being accused of rape.”
She added: “We all knew he was a dog, we knew that he was a tough guy, a brute, a tough guy to negotiate with. I didn’t know that he was a rapist.”
Images: Rex Features