meryl-blog480Ah, headline writing. So tricky, so misleading. If you’ve been paying attention to Facebook today, you would have seen headlines like this:

Meryl Streep Slams Walt Disney, Celebrates Emma Thompson as a “Rabid, Man-Eating Feminist”

Meryl Streep attacks Walt Disney on antisemitism and sexism

I’ll admit, I clicked through … only to find that the real story (set at the National Board of Review ceremony last night, at which Meryl presented an award to Emma) is not Meryl’s “attack” on Disney, her line about Emma as a man-eating feminist, or even Emma’s line about how getting a perm for the role of P. L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks “meant no sex, of course, for months on end. And then only with animal noises accompanying it.” (Also: yes, we three are now on a first-name basis.)

The real story here is that these two women displayed something we almost never see in the media: true affection and huge respect for each other, expressed eloquently (and tartly) and underlined by the pleasure of seeing one another get roles despite the pervasive sexism of Hollywood.

So you see: the story is about two amazing women, and the headline writers still manage to get a dude in there.


If you’re going for a whoa! did Meryl Streep say something she shouldn’t have? response, well then write a headline that mentions her disdain for Disney. But that’s not the real story. In fact, Disney’s only the tip of the iceberg. Their speeches (click on the first link above for a full transcript of both, which are absolute must-reads) are great pleasures to read in part because they’re so full of the very best little zingers. When Emma thanks writer Kelly Marcel for creating a lead character “who’s so relentlessly unpleasant,” for example, she speaks of how delightful it was to torture her fellow male actors, including Tom Hanks. “He’s always looked like he needed a good smack,” she explains.

So write your stupid headlines that miss the point if you insist. But let’s not miss the lead, which is that it’s way more entertaining to listen to women when they’re singing each other’s praises, when they’re showing off their verbal talents at the height of their powers, and when they’re telling it like it is. You know what I want? To be at a dinner party with M & Em. Yes please.

The Tex-Mex food in the Houston airport — mediocre by any ordinary measure — made me so happy I cried. I can’t imagine the public humiliation when I actually get the good stuff after this long delay.

Just one bite of that bacon fat in the refritos, and I’m transported.

I have a new junior colleague who has recently moved to town, so I work up a small cocktail party to bring her together with some other people I’ve wanted to get to know. Nothing fancy — sort of last-minute and casual and all, but with some good sangria and cheeses and friendly women.

My new colleague emails me back this morning. “Sounds great! The only thing is transportation — you see, I don’t have a car.”

I stare at this email for a good while.

Is she really suggesting I come pick her up? Am I a bitch for thinking I don’t need to spend the 30 minutes before the party driving across town and back? The guilt reflex pokes me in the gut.

At first I remember being in her position myself — a new job, didn’t know anyone, and deathly poor. Back in those days we didn’t get our first paycheck til October 1, so us new professors amassed breathtaking credit card debt on top of the debts we already had from grad school. Maybe she, too, is that poor.

Then I remember she’s not coming straight from grad school, but from Private University where she had a one-year position. Not that one year of that salary would have eliminated school debt, but a year of it plus having no car expenses surely would have taken the edge off.

I email back proposing she catch a cab, and tell her I’ll drive her home afterward — a sort of compromise. Public transportation in our city is sporadic and inefficient, while cabs are plentiful.

She replies: “I’m very sorry to miss your gathering, but I’m sure I’ll meet you next week.”

In short, she has told me that unless I pick her up beforehand and drop her home laterin addition to throwing a cocktail party, she will not attend. Her transportation is my problem.

It’s not just that this makes me want to sit her down and give her a lecture on professionalism and collegiality like the bossy mid-career scholar I am.

The worst thing is that I feel crappy. I feel prickly and taken for granted — and above all guilty and somewhat gobsmacked by her behavior. Guilty enough to let it fester, but confirmed enough not to change my mind about it.

And I think: sometimes the biggest roadblocks in feminism consist of those micro-conflicts between one woman and the next — conflicts over how to behave, how to treat one another.

You are not the colleague I want, we say to each other via email. You aren’t behaving as I think you ought to, as my behavior has clearly called forth from you.

And we arrive at the impasse.