Meryl Streep, of all people, is speaking out against the popular feminist concept of “toxic masculinity.” And with some gusto.
At a Vanity Fair panel previewing the forthcoming second season of “Big Little Lies,” Streep reportedly broached the issue after co-star Nicole Kidman recalled hearing a male fan relay his enjoyment of the series, which is led by a female cast. Here’s the quote:
Sometimes, I think we’re hurt. We hurt our boys by calling something toxic masculinity. I do. And I don’t find [that] putting those two words together … because women can be pretty f—ing toxic… It’s toxic people. We have our good angles and we have our bad ones. I think the labels are less helpful than what we’re trying to get to, which is a communication, direct, between human beings. We’re all on the boat together. We’ve got to make it work.
Note that Streep didn’t merely object to the term’s assignment of toxicity to one particular sex, but went a step further to argue it actually “hurt[s] our boys.” Her take is shared by many critics of feminism’s fourth wave—mostly concentrated in centrist and conservative circles—which is interesting given the actress’s history of feminist activism. (Although it won’t mark the first time she’s rankled the movement’s proponents.)
It’s not exactly controversial to note that both sexes are capable of toxic behavior. Streep didn’t explicitly argue that male and female “toxicity” can manifest differently, as many critics of the male-specific term do, though you could maybe contend it was implied. Either way, the statements constitute a surprising break from progressive orthodoxy from one of Hollywood’s most visible champions of the liberal women’s movement.