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Meryl Streep Wrote 535 Letters To Congressmen On ERA; Gets Five Measly Replies (VIDEO)

Hollywood has long been a bellwether for how women are treated in American society. Just look at the trends there, and you’ll see how American women are faring.

Their power and voice are on the decline. Powerhouse actor Meryl Streep made an announcement at the Telluride Film Festival which brought that fact home.

Streep was at the festival on behalf of her new film, “Suffragette”, in which she plays British women’s rights heroine, Emmeline Pankhurst. Pankhurst helped women fight for, and win, the right to vote.

435 Representatives, 100 Senators — how many replied?

In June, Streep wrote to every U.S. Representative and Senator about the effort in this country to revive the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Along with the letter, each received a copy of “Equal Means Equal”, by Jessica Neuwirth. Neuwirth is president of the ERA Coalition which is still attempting to codify equal rights into law by the adoption of a constitutional amendment.

In the letter, Streep wrote:

“I am writing to ask you to stand up for equality – for your mother, your daughter, your sister, your wife or yourself – by actively supporting the equal rights amendment.”

On Saturday, she delivered the sad news that she received only five replies to her carefully packaged appeal. If a woman of Streep’s stature can’t capture the attention of Congress, what hope do the rest of us have?

meryl streep speaks to women’s decline in hollywood

The actor was appearing on a panel at Telluride about “Suffragette” and the movie’s relevance today. She noted that a few years ago, four percent of Hollywood’s films were directed by women — a disgraceful number in this day and age. However, at this point, the number has declined even further with only one percent being directed by women. Streep said:

“[Young female film-makers] do exist, they graduate, they’re good – and then they don’t get hired. Why? Maureen Dowd is writing a great big exposé about this question in the New York Times Magazine, coming up soon.”

It can’t come too soon. With the Republican party waging an all-out war on women’s rights, the country is in desperate need of seeing a turn-around. “Suffragette,” at least, stands the usual Hollywood formula on its head. The movie’s cast is filled with seven women and one man — a complete flip from the norm.

After all the failures and backsliding of women’s progress, why is the ERA important now? The simple answer is that it’s never been UN-important, but Meryl Streep’s response, when asked the question was:

“It needs to be set down in law. … For the rest of the world, it’s important that this is set down in law.”

That almost implies that women’s rights are where they need to be in this country, but that’s not true. Nor does it seem to be what the star intended to convey. She did, however, refer to the bravery of others, outside of this country, in the fight for equal rights.

She referred to Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai’s battle for education for females. But she also called on a heavy hitter in the more general area of equal rights to step up to bat for women. Streep said that the “amazing” Pope Francis needs to apply his energy to this issue.

She said:

“He must address issues of inequality. The conversation changes when women are at the table.”

It’s an ironic statement, given the Catholic Church’s role in keeping women away from the table. While it would be amazing and wonderful if the optimistic Streep were able to focus the pope’s attention on equality for women, there’s no precedent for believing it will happen.

women: bring Men’s stonewalling to an end!

Men have stonewalled women for centuries, just as Congress has stonewalled Meryl Streep. When women won the vote, less than a century ago, it was only by literally laying their lives on the line — by showing their right to equality was important enough to die for. That’s how entrenched men were in their positions of power then, and the Republican Party has demonstrated that they are just as entrenched now.

If “Suffragette” lives up to its promise — and we’ll see when it’s released in October — it’ll give us some answers on just what it takes to get the attention of those in power. Is it still important to codify equality into law?

Important? It’s absolutely crucial. How else are we going to stop the hair-raising backward slide?

Watch the official trailer for “Suffragette” here:

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Deborah Montesano is a writer and political activist, who has just been freed from decades of wandering in the Arizona desert. She is now stunned to find herself actually living in progressive heaven — Portland, Oregon. READ MORE BY DEBORAH.