Actresses speak up at Women's March

Actresses (from far left) Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria and Constance Wu at Women's March last Saturday in Los Angeles.
Actresses (from far left) Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria and Constance Wu at Women's March last Saturday in Los Angeles.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • Since last year's Women's March, revelations about abuse by powerful men in Hollywood have fuelled a reckoning on pervasive sexual misconduct.

So the entertainment industry's biggest names had a lot to say last Saturday when marking the first anniversary of the protest movement at events in Los Angeles.

Actress Natalie Portman described how she had to adjust her behaviour to the cultural environment of "sexual terrorism" she encountered as a 13-year-old star of the 1994 film Leon: The Professional.

She said: "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."

Quickly, "the message from our culture was clear to me", she added.

"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."

Adjusting her behaviour, she said she "rejected any role that even had a kissing scene and talked about that choice deliberately in interviews".

She "built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious" in an attempt to feel safe.

Actress 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".

Actress Scarlett Johansson called out actor James Franco, who has been accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour by several women, but who wore a Time's Up pin at the Golden Globes.

She said she was baffled by him. "How could a person publicly stand by an organisation that helps to provide support to victims of sexual assault while privately preying on people who have no power?"

She added, referring to his pin: "I want my pin back, by the way."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2018, with the headline 'Actresses speak up at Women's March'. Print Edition | Subscribe