Since last year’s Women’s March, revelations about abuse by powerful men in Hollywood have fueled a national reckoning on the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct.
So the entertainment industry’s biggest names had a lot to say Saturday when marking the first anniversary of the protest movement.
Several women who have been publicly involved in the Time’s Up organization, which supports women who have experienced sexual assault and harassment in various industries, delivered speeches at events in Los Angeles.
Viola Davis spoke about how she is “always introduced as an award-winning actor. But my testimony is one of poverty. My testimony is one of being sexually assaulted and very much seeing a childhood that was robbed from me.”
Natalie Portman described how she had to adjust her behavior to the environment of “sexual terrorism” she encountered as a 13-year-old.
Scarlett Johansson publicly called out James Franco, who has been accused of sexually inappropriate behavior by several women, when she said “my mind baffles, how could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support to victims of sexual assault while privately preying on people who have no power?” She added, referring to the Time’s Up pin Franco wore at the 2018 Golden Globes, “I want my pin back, by the way.”
(While Johansson didn’t mention Franco by name, the comments were aimed at him, her representative confirmed to the Los Angeles Times.)
“This march and this movement is far more ambitious in scope and scale, and it extends beyond one political actor or even one political party,” Eva Longoria said, according to CNN. “What we’re calling for is sustainable and systematic change to the experience of women and girls in America. A change from fear and intimidation to respect. From pain and humiliation to safety and dignity. From marginalization to equal pay and representation.”
Olivia Munn, who has publicly accused director Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct, asked the crowd to “be the team member of every woman in your life,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “Refrain from judgment. Be the rock of understanding. Be the well of empathy,” Munn continued. “We all have the power to make sure that our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, great-granddaughters grow up with the mentality that if you come for one of us — you come for all of us.”
Read the full speeches from Viola Davis, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson below:
In the word of my fellow American, Malcolm X: I’m gonna make it plain. In 1877, America, the greatest country on this planet, put in place laws called the Jim Crow laws. And the Jim Crow laws restricted the rights of quadroons, octoroons, blacks, Hispanics, Indians, Malays. Restricted medical, restricted relationships, restricted education, restricted life. It told us we were less than, and it came on the heels of the 13th Amendment. It came on the heels of 55 individuals, great Americans, writing the greatest document, called the Constitution of the United States, saying, “We the people.”
Now, the reason why those destructive laws came into place I think can be greatly described by Martin Luther King [Jr.]. And what he said about time is, he said, I’m not ready to wait 100 to 200 years for things to change. That I think actually time is neutral. That it can either be used constructively or destructively. That human progress rarely rolls on inevitability. It is through human dedication and effort that we move forward. And that when we don’t work, what happens is that time actually becomes an ally to the primitive forces of social stagnation, and the guardians of the status quo are in their oxygen tanks keeping the old order alive.
And so that time needs to be helped, by every single moment, doing right. The reason why Jim Crow laws were in place, that stifled my rights and your rights, is because we fell asleep. We fall asleep when we’re moving ahead and we don’t look to the left and right and see we’re not including people in this move ahead. Because really, at the end of the day, we only move forward when it doesn’t cost us anything. But I’m here today saying that no one and nothing can be great unless it costs you something.
One out of every five women will be sexually assaulted and raped before she reaches the age of 18. One out of six boys. If you are a woman of color and you are raped before you reach the age of 18, then you are 66 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted again. Seventy percent of girls who are sex-trafficked are girls of color. They are coming out of the foster-care system, they are coming out of poverty. It is a billion-dollar industry. When they go into the sex-trafficking business — and they call it a business, trust me — more than likely, they are gang raped.
I am speaking today not just for the “Me Too’s” because, I was a “Me Too,” but when I raise my hand, I am aware of all the women who are still in silence. The women who are faceless. The women who don’t have the money and don’t have the constitution and who don’t have the confidence and who don’t have the images in our media that gives them a sense of self-worth enough to break their silence that’s rooted in the shame of assault. That’s rooted in the stigma of assault.
Written on the Statute of Liberty is: Come. Come you tireless, poor, yearning to breathe free. To breathe free. Every single day, your job as an American citizen is not just to fight for your rights. It’s to fight for the right of every individual that is taking a breath, whose heart is pumping and breathing on this earth. And like the originators of the “Me Too’s,” the Fannie Lou Hamers, the Recy Taylors, who in 1944 was gang-raped by six white men and she spoke up. Rosa Parks fought for her rights. She was silenced. To the Tarana Burkes, to the originators, to the first women to speak up. It cost them something. Nothing and no one can be great without a cost.
Listen, I am always introduced as an award-winning actor. But my testimony is one of poverty. My testimony is one of being sexually assaulted and very much seeing a childhood that was robbed from me. And I know that every single day, when I think of that, I know that the trauma of those events are still with me today. And that’s what drives me to the voting booth. That’s what allows me to listen to the women who are still in silence. That’s what allows me to even become a citizen on this planet, is the fact that we are here to connect. That we are as 324 million people living on this earth, to know that every day, we breathe and we live. That we got to bring up everyone with us.
I stand in solidarity of all women who raise their hands because I know that it was not easy. And my hope for the future — my hope, I do hope — is that we never go back. That it’s not just about clapping your hands and screaming and shouting every time someone says something that sounds good. It’s about keeping it rolling once you go home.
One year ago on this stage, I was very pregnant, and we talked about the beginning of a revolution. Today, my new daughter is walking, and because of you, the revolution is rolling. You told the world that time’s up on violence. You told the world that time’s up on silence. You told the world that it’s time for a new day, a new locker-room culture, time to think about every person’s desires, needs, wants and pleasure. So let’s talk a little bit more about pleasure.
I keep hearing a particular gripe about this cultural shift, and maybe you have, too. Some people have been calling this movement puritanical or a return to Victorian values, where men can’t behave or speak sexually around dainty, delicate or fragile women. To these people, I want to say, the current system is puritanical. Maybe men can say and do whatever they want, but women cannot. The current system inhibits women from expressing our desires, wants and needs, from seeking our pleasure. Let me tell you about my own experience.
I turned 12 on the set of my first film, ‘The Professional,” in which I played a young girl who befriends a hit man and hopes to avenge the murder of her family. The character is simultaneously discovering and developing her womanhood, her voice and her desire. At that moment in my life, I, too, was discovering my own womanhood, my own desire and my own voice. I was so excited at 13 when the film was released and my work and my art would have a human response. I excitedly opened my first fan-mail to read a rape fantasy that a man had written me. A countdown was started on my local radio station to my 18th birthday, euphemistically the date that I would be legal to sleep with. Movie reviewers talked about my “budding breasts” in reviews.
I understood very quickly even as a 13-year-old, if I were to express myself sexually, that I would feel unsafe, and that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body, to my great discomfort. So I quickly adjusted my behavior. I rejected any role that even had a kissing scene, and talked about that choice deliberately in interviews. I emphasized how bookish I was and how serious I was, and I cultivated an elegant way of dressing. I built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and my voice would be listened to. At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me. I felt the need to cover my body and inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world, that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect.
The response to my expression, from small comments about my body to more threatening deliberate statements, served to control my behavior through an environment of sexual terrorism. A world in which I could wear whatever I want, say whatever I want and express my desire however I want without fearing for my physical safety or reputation, that would be the world in which female desire and sexuality could have its greatest expression and fulfillment. That world that we want to build is the opposite of puritanical.
So I’d like to propose one way to continue moving this revolution forward. Let’s declare loud and clear that this is what I want. This is what I need. This is what I desire. This is how you can help me achieve pleasure. To people of all genders here today, let’s find a space where we mutually, consensually, look out for each other’s pleasure, and allow the vast, limitless range of desire to be expressed. Let’s make a revolution of desire.
I am proud to be representing Time’s Up, an organization made up of some of the greatest, most determined, most inspiring women that I’ve ever had the great privilege of sharing with and learning from.
In light of the recent revelations of abuse of power and sexual harassment and the question of consent over coercion, I find myself pensive, taking time and digging deep to understand where we are and how we got here. My mind baffles, how could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support to victims of sexual assault, while privately preying on people who have no power? I want my pin back, by the way.
How is it okay for someone in a position of power to use that power to take advantage of someone in a lesser position? Just because you can, does that ever make it okay? If a person isn’t saying yes, but they aren’t saying no, how can anyone feel justified to make that decision for them?
As I pondered on, I began to notice in myself a kind of revelation, too. I started to feel something bubble up inside me, a kind of rage. The revelation that this rage wasn’t just for these women that were taken advantage of and ignored or unseen, but also on behalf of myself. As the rage settled in, it gave way to other feelings: sadness and unexpectedly guilt and grieving. And suddenly, I was 19 again, and I started to remember all the men I’d known who had taken advantage of the fact that I was a young woman who didn’t have yet the tools to say no or to understand the value of my own self-worth. I had many relationships, both personal and professional, where the power dynamic was so off that I had to create a narrative in which I was the “cool girl” who can hang in and hang out, and that sometimes meant compromising what felt right for me. And that seemed okay, compromising my voice and therefore allowing myself to be unseen and degraded, whether it was intended by the other party or not. Because it allowed me to have the approval that women are conditioned to need. I was coming from a place, like so many young women do, of feeling that my creative value and my professional value and my sexual value could only be measured by the approval and desirability of a man.
Even if I had come from a household where the conversation about self-respect was prioritized, just being a woman stacked the cards against me, because for so many centuries, women have been taught to be polite, to please and to pander. And I’ve come to realize that not just my 19-year-old self, but my schoolyard self and my professional self have at all times been a victim of this condition, a condition that I’m certain a majority of us share. I never completely absorbed the “Me Too” phrase because I took the phrase at face value. But I’ve come to realize that while “Me Too” means different things to different people, to me, it is very simply the ability to empathize with the visceral realities of this condition.
I want to move forward and, for me, moving forward means my daughter growing up in a world where she doesn’t have to be a victim of what has cruelly become the social norm. That she doesn’t have to fit into the bindings of the female condition. Time’s up on the female condition.
Gender equality can’t just exist outside ourselves. It must exist within. We must take responsibility, not just for our actions, but for ourselves. We must make it our responsibility to feed our own healthy ego, to teach our children to exercise their own autonomy and ego-strength, by leading by example.
I have recently introduced a new phrase in my life that I would like to share with you: no more pandering. No more feeling guilty about hurting people’s feelings when something doesn’t feel right to me. I have made a promise to myself to be responsible for myself, that in order to trust my instincts, I must first respect them.
I am finally on a path of forgiveness, not for the people who took advantage of my conditioning to pander, but forgiveness of myself. Forgiving the girl who felt used and heartbroken and confused and guilty and taken advantage of and weak. I stand before you as someone that is empowered. Not only by the curiosity of myself and by the active choices that I am finally able to make and stand by, but by the brightness of this movement. The strength and the unity that this movement has provided. It gives me hope that we are moving towards a place where our sense of equality can truly come from within ourselves.