Meryl Streep

Image via @IrishTimesCultr / Twitter / RNS

The actresses behind Suffragette, the new Meryl Streep-Carey Mulligan film about the struggle to get women the vote in early 20th-century Britain, have landed themselves in hot water.

When asked if she would consider herself a feminist in an interview with Time Out London, Streep declined to take the label, saying instead, “I am a humanist, I am for nice easy balance.” That is one thing you can say when you are doing publicity for your feminist movie, but it has upset plenty of people — probably the very same people who would have been excited to see the movie when it is released on Oct. 23.

Menachem Wecker 10-17-2013

Meryl Streep in “Doubt.” Photo via RNS/courtesy

From Julie Andrews’ performance as Maria in the 1965 film “The Sound of Music” to Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Sister Aloysius Beauvier in “Doubt” (2008), many Hollywood actresses are particularly conspicuous for their habits. But although habits or veils are thought to symbolize purity – and especially chastity — some films presented a more complicated portrait of nuns.

The title of Maureen Sabine’s new book, “Veiled Desires: Intimate Portrayals of Nuns in Postwar Anglo-American Film” (Fordham University Press), refers to the paradox of having charismatic and photogenic actresses playing chaste nuns and, in the process, drawing attention to the desires their habits were thought to stifle.