The #MeToo movement recently crossed the one-year anniversary, and it’s still going strong. Case in point: On Friday night, Natalie Portman delivered a fiery, passionate, highly-quotable speech at Variety’s “Power of Women” event, which eloquently summed up the Time’s Up mission statement.
The Oscar-winning actress and filmmaker began by excoriating the men who’ve so far evaded legal punishment for their alleged crimes.
“Our legal system and our culture protects the perpetrators of sexual violence, not its victims,” Portman said. She also singled out Harvey Weinstein.
“The man whose name has become synonymous with ‘serial rapist’ might never suffer any legal consequences,” she said. Portman did not name-drop Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court a week before amidst allegations of sexual misconduct, but perhaps the subtweet was loud enough for everyone to hear. Portman then launched into what decades of ignoring Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse has done to Hollywood.
“His abuse was so pervasive that a whole generation of actresses had been pushed out of our industry and deprived of decades of work and the payment that accompanies it,” Portman said, also wondering the impact outside of Hollywood. “What other women in our industry and in other industries have been silenced and shut out in this way?”
Portman then debunked the theory about why women so rarely hold positions of power in most industries. She said she’d always believed that it was because many of them embraced motherhood, but she no longer believes that. She points to all the other workforces — including the service industry or the hair and make-up departments on Hollywood movie sets — where long and trying hours don’t dissuade women trying to care for their children.
“Let’s stop saying women chose to drop out of the workforce because of their families. That’s wrong,” Portman added.
She then offered another theory to explain the gender gap. “The reason women in nearly every industry are not represented in powerful positions is because women are being discriminated against or retaliated against for hiring and for promotion,” she said. “When they do get these jobs, they’re often being harassed and assaulted, and they’re being paid less than their male counterparts. All of which coerce self-preserving women into finding safer options for themselves and different ways to feel valued.”
She also asked people to think twice when a man in power tries to smear one of their female employees. “Stop the rhetoric that a woman is crazy or difficult,” Portman said. “If a man says to you that a woman is crazy or difficult, ask him, ‘What bad thing did you do to her?’”
Portman also asked everyone in attendance — and perhaps anyone watching video of her speech — to stop perpetuating the notion of women being abused.
“What if we took a year off from violence against women?” she asked the crowd. “What if, for one year, everyone in this room — just for one year — does everything in their power to make sure all the entertainment produced in this room doesn’t depict a rape or murder of a woman?”
Lastly, Portman excoriated those who have reacted defensively against #MeToo. “Many men behave like we live in a zero-sum game, that if women get the respect, access, and value they deserve, that men will lose theirs.” Instead, she asked that women work together, that lighting another’s torch doesn’t extinguish yours: “Light a woman’s torch.”
Portman’s speech has been rapturously received by social media.