US Jewish actress Natalie Portman on Saturday spoke out against the sexualization of women and girls in the entertainment industry as hundreds of thousands of American women took to the streets in support of female empowerment, on the anniversary of US President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Portman was among dozens of celebrities who joined women in cities across the US donning the famous pink knit “pussy hats” — a reference to Trump’s videotaped boasts of his license to grope women without repercussions.
The Academy Award-winning actress recalled feeling sexualized by the entertainment industry from the time her first film, “Leon: The Professional,” was released when she was 13 and suggested it was time for “a revolution of desire.”
In the 1994 film, Portman played a young girl taken in by a hit man after her family is killed.
After its release, Portman said she could remember excitedly opening her first-ever piece of fan mail, only to discover that it was a rape fantasy sent to her by an adult man. At the same time, Portman, said the local radio station started a countdown to her 18th birthday — the date she would be legal to sleep with — and said critics freely “talked about my budding breasts in their reviews.”
“I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually that I would feel unsafe,” Portman said. “And that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort.”
“At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me,” she added.
Also addressing the marchers in Los Angeles was Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson, whose attendance at the event resulted in a number of pro-Palestinian groups pulling their support for the event.
The Palestinian American Women’s Association cited Johansson’s “unapologetic support of illegal settlements in the West Bank, a human rights violation recognized by the international community whose calls only led to a reaffirmation of her position, sending a clear message that Palestinian voices and human rights for Palestinians do not matter.”
Johansson is a former spokeswoman for SodaStream, whose main plant was formerly located in the West Bank. The plant was moved to the Negev Desert in southern Israel in 2015, where it employs 1,400 workers, one-third of them Bedouin Arabs. More than 70 of the West Bank Palestinians who worked for the company when it was located in Ma’ale Adumim also work at the new plant.
Johansson resigned as a goodwill ambassador for Oxfam, which supports boycotting West Bank settlements, over her employment by SodaStream.
“While her position may not be reflective of all organizers at the Women’s March Los Angeles Foundation, PAWA cannot in good conscience partner itself with an organization that fails to genuinely and thoughtfully recognize when their speaker selection contradicts their message,” said the Palestinian women’s group.
Other pro-Palestinian groups that boycotted the march included Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink, BDS-LA, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return and other organizations.