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Amid chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go” and signs declaring “Girls Just Want to Have Fun-damental Rights” and “Fuck Harvey,” actress Mira Sorvino made her way through the crowd gathering at Grand Park for the Women’s March rally in Los Angeles on Saturday.
“She won an Oscar,” a rally participant whispered to her friend as the actress walked past. Indeed, Sorvino — like fellow marchers Marisa Tomei, Natalie Portman and Rob Reiner, among others — is an Academy Award winner, but for many of the famous faces addressing the crowd of 700,000, the experiences they shared were echoed across all socioeconomic groups.
Portman told the audience how she at age 13 discovered what it is like to be objectified, when her film debut, The Professional, premiered. “I excitedly opened my first fan mail to read a rape fantasy that a man had written me,” she said. “A countdown was started on my local radio show 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, that if I were to express myself sexually, I would feel unsafe.”
Portman says she adopted a bookish persona and covered her body to avoid unwanted sexual attention. “I emphasized how serious I was,” the actress said. “I built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative and nerdy in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and that my voice would be listened to.”
To those criticizing the #MeToo movement as puritanical, Portman wanted to send a message that that is not the case. “Let’s declare loud and clear, ‘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, let’s find a space where we mutually, consensually, look out for each other’s pleasure.”
Fresh Off the Boat‘s Constance Wu, who joined Portman onstage with actress and activist Eva Longoria, recalled the first time she brushed off a man’s sexual advances. “He called me a bitch,” said Wu. “He said, ‘Who do you think you are?'” The actress acknowledged that the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are making many uncomfortable. “This movement is not about catering our voices to accommodate more comfort. We are here because we deserve our voices and our perspectives, too,” she said. “To the abusers who have said, ‘Who do you think you are?’ I’m Constance Wu. And as for the bitch part, if you didn’t try to do bitch-ass things to us, then we wouldn’t have to be bitches back to you.”
Actress Scarlett Johansson took the stage to explain how she had been conditioned to pander and please because she felt her value as a woman and professional was measured by her desirability to men. “I’ve 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 … because it allowed me to have the approval that women are conditioned to need,” she said. “I’ve come to realize that not just my 19-year-old self, but my schoolyard self, and my married self, and my professional self, have all at times been a victim of this very condition — a condition that I’m certain that a majority of us share.”
Johansson said she hopes her daughter will grow up in a world where she doesn’t have to be a victim of this social norm. “We must make it our responsibility to teach our children to exercise their own autonomy and ego strength by leading by example,” she said. “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 for me. In order to trust my instincts, I must first respect them.'”
But if change is to come, it will come at a cost, said actress Viola Davis. “I’m here today saying that no one and nothing can be great unless it cost you something,” she told the crowd. “The originators of the MeToo’s; the Fannie Lou Hamers, the Recy Taylors, who in 1944 was gang-raped by six white men, and Rosa Parks. It cost them something. Nothing and no one can be great without a cost.
“I am always introduced as an award-winning actor, but my testimony is one of poverty,” continued Davis. “My testimony is one of being sexually assaulted, and very much seeing a childhood that was robbed from me. And I know that the trauma of those events is still with me today. That’s what drives me to the voting booth.”
Director Rob Reiner reminded the crowd of last year’s Women’s March, which took place in response to the election of President Donald Trump. “We were all here a year ago [because] we were scared of who was going to enter the White House,” he said. “A year has gone by, and he has corroborated every one of our fears. And we cannot whitewash this anymore. We have a racist in the White House. We have a sexist in the White House. We have a pathological liar in the White House, and he is tearing away at the fabric of our democracy.
“It’s the women who have given us the power,” Reiner continued. “We’ve seen it with more women running for office, more women taking the true power that they have, and it’s with women that we will take back this country and return democracy to where it belongs.”
Other participants during the three-and-a-half hour ceremony included actress Marisa Tomei, who read a poem about the power of organizing by Marge Piercy, author of Woman on the Edge of Time. Actress Connie Britton congratulated the crowd on being “upstanders — someone who sees something unjust and wrong and stands up to make it right.” Actress Sophia Bush marveled how the day after government shuts down, “We’re here. We’re working. We’re organizing.”
Actress Olivia Wilde called on attendees to vote in the 2018 midterm elections. Her mother, Leslie Cockburn, is seeking congressional office in Virginia, after a long career as an investigative journalist. “This is a winnable fight, but we need everyone to work together to make it happen,” said Wilde, praising women in the country for taking action. “They never expected us to work together. In fact, they counted on us being incapable of such collaboration. We have shown them — hell hath no fury like a woman underestimated.”
Scandal‘s Tony Goldwyn spoke of his great-great-grandmother who, with her husband, worked on the first statutes in the New York State legislature against sexual predation. “I cannot imagine what they would say. If she could witness the courage and the solidarity of the women in this march who have raised their hands and said ‘Me Too’ and ‘Time’s Up,’ I think her heart would have just about burst,” said Goldwyn, adding that “the women’s movement has never been just about women. This movement is about equality.” The actor encouraged women to fight, with the support of his own gender: “Our association with strong women only makes us stronger. On behalf of the other 50 percent of the population, I want to say to the women we love, raise, work with and work for — fight on, because we have your backs!”
Between impassioned speeches, singer-songwriter Rachel Platten led the crowd in “Fight Song,” which Hillary Clinton had turned into her presidential campaign anthem; singer-actress Idina Menzel performed “Defying Gravity” from the Broadway musical Wicked; singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge brought the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles onstage to sing “Uprising of Love”; and singer-songwriter Andra Day delivered “Rise Up.”
“What a great day to be alive,” Ted Danson exclaimed while taking the stage with his wife, actress Mary Steenburgen, to introduce singer Maxwell. “Look at us! We’re not alone watching TV, getting sad and scared about what we see. We’re here embracing each other. As long as we keep love in our hearts and fight like hell, we’re going to be OK.”
There was a sense of celebration backstage as celebrities lingered longer than their appearance required, applauding each other’s speeches and taking pictures with each other. Tomei waved her fists in the air as actress Alfre Woodard led the crown in a chant of “The people united will never be divided!” Menzel and actresses Elizabeth Banks and Allison Janney took pictures together, before Menzel turned to chat with actress Lupita Nyong’o. In the crowd, former E! anchor Catt Sadler, singer Lance Bass and actress Yvette Nicole Brown mingled.
Brown had been part of the march from Pershing Square earlier in the day. “I’ve been horrified this last year,” said the Mayor and Community actress. “Our way of thinking about politics and the people in charge is changing. It’s becoming more cynical. We have a porn star scandal and no one is outraged!” The amount of people that gathered for the march, however, gives the actress hope. Said Brown, “I was nervous that fatigue would have set in, but I love that people are still energized. Everyone still believes that we can make a change, and that’s important.”
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