C’mon, Meryl — even Beyoncé doesn’t shy away from calling herself a feminist. Or maybe therein lies part of the intergenerational quandary for Streep, who appeared a bit hesitant to claim the term for herself while promoting her latest film, the 19th Amendment drama “Suffragette,” in a BBC clip posted Thursday.

During the interview, the 66-year-old actor pointed to how up-and-coming generations of women, such as contemporaries of pop star Beyoncé and those even younger, have struggled to overtly identify as feminists because of the ways the word has taken on different meanings in recent years.

Here’s what Streep told the BBC about her take on the term, somewhat disappointingly making sure to issue the defensive “I-don’t-hate-men” disclaimer while she was at it:

I’m a mother, you know, and I am the mother of a son, and I’m married to a man. I love men. And it’s not what feminism has meant historically — it’s what it has come to mean to young women, to make them feel [like] it alienates them from the people that they love in their lives. That disturbs me. I’m of course — of course! — but … The actions of my life prove who I am, what I am, what I do … so I live by these principles.

So there’s that. This is clearly a semantic issue (and a representation issue, vis-à-vis the relationship of certain high-profile women to the word “feminist”) that isn’t easily resolved.

Touching on more concrete territory in the ongoing fight for gender equality, Streep took Hollywood to task for the many ways the movie business, from its structure to its practices, favors men over women. With 19 Oscar nominations and three Academy Awards to her name, she’s Hollywood’s equivalent of a four-star general in terms of sheer recognition from her industry, yet, as she told the British news outlet, she has not been paid as highly as her male counterparts.

“We have to be made equal,” Streep asserted simply.

Since she signaled her enthusiasm — during Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech in February — for achieving pay equality for women, Streep has also taken up the issue on a broader scale, sending a letter to each congressperson in June in support of reviving the push for an Equal Rights Amendment to be added to the U.S. Constitution.

“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,” Streep wrote.

Watch Streep take her stand in the BBC interview here.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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