Movie Criticism: Meryl Streep on Gender Imbalance in Reviewing Films

Meryl Streep has long been an advocate of seeing more female stories, written by women, find their way into cinemas.

But now the three-time Oscar-winner is outraged by the vast gender imbalance among critics, those individuals who generate the all-important film buzz through their reviews.

Speaking on Wednesday at a BFI London Film Festival press conference for her new movie Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan, Streep took aim at the gender imbalance among U.S. film critics, using the review aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes as an example.

“I went deep, deep, deep, deep into Rotten Tomatoes, and I counted how many contributors there were — critics and bloggers and writers,” she said.

“And of those allowed to rate on the Tomatometer, there are 168 women. And I thought, ‘that’s absolutely fantastic.’ And then, 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 weight in on the Tomatometer.”

She then went on the website of the New York Film Critics, and found that there were 37 men and just 2 women.

“The word isn’t ‘disheartening,’ it’s ‘infuriating,’ ” she said. “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.”

Last week, Streep faced criticism for suggesting that she was a “humanist” rather than a feminist in an interview. At the press conference she responded to the backlash with a passage from Suffragette, in which she plays the iconic British women’s rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst who fought for social change at the turn of the 20th century.

“There’s a phrase in this film that says ‘deeds not words’ and that’s sort of where I stand on that,” she said. “I let the actions of my life stand for what I am as a human being. Contend with that, not the words.”