According to Angelina Jolie, the fight for female empowerment is an international battle.
“We have the freedom to be artists — the freedom to create, to challenge authority fearlessly, to laugh at power and to make others laugh with us. The right to speak truth as we see it,” the actress-turned-director said Wednesday morning during her keynote speech at The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual Power 100 Women in Entertainment Breakfast, presented by Lifetime and held at Los Angeles’ Milk Studios.
“We have a level of freedom that is unimaginable for millions of other women around the world — women who live with conflict and terrorism and displacement and poverty, who never get a chance, whose voices are always silenced,” continued Jolie. “We don’t have to keep our heads down, we don’t have to think that the film we make or our comment on politics, or a joke we tell onstage could land us in prison where we might be tortured or punished. We don’t have the censorship. We don’t have to worry that acting in a play or singing on television will bring violence or dishonor to our families. We don’t have to tailor our clothes or our opinions to when it’s acceptable to religious authorities or violent extremist groups. We are not shunned and considered immoral because we dare to speak our mind about why we consider to be wrong as a society. We have the right to think thoroughly and to speak freely and to put forward our ideas on equal terms. There are women across the world who face serious danger and get hurt just trying to have a voice and an opinion.”
Jolie, who directed the Netflix foreign-language drama First They Killed My Father and executive produced the animated feature The Breadwinner, then called for women to use their freedom to fight for others. “It is hard to celebrate our progress while that is still the case, but it means that asserting ourselves as female artists represents something important in today’s world,” she explained. “Participating in art and culture is not a luxury for a privileged few in society. It is, in fact, a human right, laid down in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every woman has a right not only to independence and security, but to live her life to the full and to express herself to the full, including through art and ideas as well as politics. That right is often denied to women because it is so powerful. Art influences. Art catches the imagination. Art challenges orthodoxy and societies where women are denied freedom of expression are being shaped without the voice and influence and wisdom of women.
“That is why I am so grateful to be part of this community and the wider community of artists around the world,” Jolie concluded. “Together we stand for more than our own rights and freedoms, but the freedom and rights of all women. We in this room have the ability to help find those women artists struggling to make their voices heard today; to show solidarity with them, to champion them, to help them tell their stories. … I pay tribute to all the women before us who pushed the boundaries in their lifetimes so that we could be here today. And above all, I pay tribute to the women artists, journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers around the world who refuse to be intimidated; the brave people who are fighting so that others may one day have the freedoms we now have.”
At the breakfast, Jennifer Lawrence received the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, presented by Lansing; Sarah Silverman delivered the opening remarks; and Gal Gadot and Justin Timberlake were on hand to help present over $1 million in university scholarships to young women from disadvantaged backgrounds who have taken part in THR‘s highly competitive, nine-year-old Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program. Amy Pascal also was honored in absentia with the Equity in Entertainment Award.
The VIP event coincided with the publication of THR’s annual Women in Entertainment: Power 100, the definitive guide to the leading women in film and television, and was sponsored by American Airlines, Fiji Water, Forevermark, Gersh, eOne, SAG-AFTRA and Loyola Marymount University in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles and the Entertainment Industry Foundation.