You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How ‘Yentl Syndrome’ Moved Barbra Streisand to Speak Out on Women’s Health (Watch)

In a speech for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Tuesday, Barbra Streisand called for gender equity not just in medicine, but in Hollywood as well.

“The time is ripe for a great leap forward on behalf of gender equity in health care in science, in the workplace, in Hollywood, politics, media, and even at home,” the singer said.

Early in her talk for the Rall Cultural Lecture series, Streisand compared the professions of artists and scientists, whose life’s work, passion, and purpose “is improving and uplifting humanity.” But she urged that everyone must be included, emphasizing the need for “greater diversity and inclusion.” In particular, she chastised the inequities and biases in the arts and sciences that still persist, including fair access for women — “whether we’re talking about women in Hollywood or women’s representation in medical research.”

Streisand described how she experienced gender inequality in small ways, “but it wasn’t until I wanted to make a film called ‘Yentl’ that I experienced it in a big way.” She had a clear vision of the film she wanted to make and didn’t think it would be that difficult to achieve. “I was a so-called ‘bankable star.’ That is until I said I also wanted to direct it.”

She found that studios kept turning her down, and was frustrated at the demonization in perceptions of women as authoritative and ambitious.

“Strong men were seen as leaders, and looked up to; strong women were seen as suspect and looked down upon. He was called assertive; while she was called aggressive,” Streisand recalled.

Running head-on into such bias was life-changing for Streisand and mobilized her commitment to women’s equality.

She was first connected to the NIH in July of 1991, when Dr. Bernadine Healy, who was the only female director of the NIH, published a piece in the New England Journal of Medicine that she called “The Yentl Syndrome.”

According to Streisand, she found “that women with heart attacks were not getting the same quality of care as men. Unless a woman’s symptoms looked just like a man’s — the classic crushing pain in the chest — too often she would be misdiagnosed or undertreated.” She continued, stating that maybe it would be considered a panic attack or an antacid, or “maybe she would be found dead in her bed the next day.”

Streisand called for acknowledgment of sex-specific differences in approaches to testing treatments and therapies, in light of the painful toll such inequity has taken on women’s lives.

She went on to call attention to her involvement with the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles starting in 2008, as she “wanted to raise awareness among women before they found themselves in the hospital. I wanted to help drive policy change at every level because the fact is, heart disease is killing more women, more people than all forms of cancer combined.”

Streisand also discussed the Women’s Heart Alliance, which she created in 2014 to prevent women from needlessly dying of heart disease and stroke, advocating for funding and research to understand even more, and apply those breakthroughs to improve prevention, care, treatment, and outcomes for all. They started from the recognition that, biologically, men and women are not the same. “We have different equipment … different plumbing!”

Streisand closed by calling for more funding and lauding Katherine Johnson, the subject of “Hidden Figures,” since “we’re no longer content to be hidden figures. Women, like men, are demanding to be valued as creators, innovators, and human beings.”

The whole speech will be available on the Women’s Heart Alliance Facebook page on Friday at 11 a.m. PT.

More Music

  • 50 Cent Power

    NYPD Officer Under Investigation for Allegedly Telling Police to Shoot 50 Cent 'on Sight'

    A New York City precinct commander is under investigation for allegedly telling officers to shoot rapper 50 Cent on sight, a police rep confirmed to Variety on Sunday. “The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD rep said, declining to answer further questions. Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez is accused of telling officers during a June 7 roll [...]

  • Phoebe Bridgers Slams Ryan Adams’ ‘Network’

    Phoebe Bridgers Slams Ryan Adams’ ‘Network’ of Enablers

    Singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, one of multiple women who accused Ryan Adams of sexual misconduct last week in a New York Times article, issued a statement late Saturday slamming the “network” of people who enabled Adams’ behavior. “It’s been a weird week and I wanted to say a couple things,” she wrote on Instagram. “Thank you [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

  • Kacey Musgraves, winner of the awards

    Kacey Musgraves to Present at the Oscars

    Hot off her album of the year award at last weekend’s Grammys, Kacey Musgraves has been tapped to present at the Oscars on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. She joins previously announced presenters Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Awkwafina, Daniel Craig, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amandla Stenberg, Charlize Theron, Tessa Thompson, [...]

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • Panic at the Disco Concert Review

    Concert Review: Panic! at the Disco Brings Theatrical Flair to Forum

    At one particularly crowd-pleasing point during Panic! at the Disco’s show Friday at the Forum, Brendon Urie played the group’s cover of one of the “Greatest Showman” songs, from the recent tribute album devoted to that film, and it’s not hard to see why he would gravitate to the musical. Urie’s so much of a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content