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In town, Meryl Streep and Gloria Steinem talk ‘The Post,’ sexism in Hollywood

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Meryl Streep kisses the hand of Gloria Steinem at The Massachusetts Conference for Women Thursday.

By Kaitlyn Locke Globe Correspondent 

Actress Meryl Streep and activist Gloria Steinem looked delighted to be sharing the stage Thursday, discussing Hollywood’s complicated culture — and treatment of women — at the Massachusetts Conference for Women.

Streep, a perennial Oscar nominee, discussed her latest starring role, portraying late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in director Steven Spielberg’s “The Post.” The film’s focus is the Pentagon Papers, which the Post published after The New York Times was blocked from doing so by the Supreme Court.

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“A lot of that (the decision to publish) had to do with the choice Katharine Graham had made, as a woman who didn’t think she belonged in her job,” said Streep, who confessed to an occasional crisis of confidence herself, as when she was about to walk onstage Thursday to speak to 10,000 women at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

The day’s other speakers included fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg, WCVB-TV’s Maria Stephanos and Karen Holmes Ward, actress Viola Davis, chief content officer of Shondaland.com Jennifer Romolini, founder and commissioner of the National Women’s Hockey League Dani Rylan, and chef and restaurateur Barbara Lynch.

Streep encouraged the audience to see “The Post,” saying: “It doesn’t bear any resemblance to ‘Mama Mia.’ ”

Steinem praised Streep for her ability to portray any human being while remaining “authentically yourself.”

“When I act, I don’t think that I can’t be somebody else,” Streep said. “Because I know how much in common I have with so many people. I don’t believe in the dividers. I think you can meet somebody and level your heart and soul if you want to, and absorb it.”

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Asked if she chooses roles that reflect her own values, Streep responded that as a 68-year-old woman, there aren’t so many options for her to choose from.

“But there are more and more, and they’re more and more interesting,” Streep said.

Streep and Steinem did not shy away from the avalanche of accusations of sexual harassment and assault cascading across Hollywood and the media.

“The thing about Harvey Weinstein is that he is sort of the most gargantuan example of a kind of disrespect that permeates every industry, every enterprise,” said Streep, who made several movies with Weinstein. “I’m not sure why — I have a lot of theories.”

She revealed that she and a group of Hollywood actresses have come together to make things better in Hollywood.

“I’m very hopeful that the world is changing,” Streep said. “Right now, I’m getting together with a bunch of actresses that you all know very well, and we’re all sort of going to make a set of non-negotiable demands.”