Natalie Portman was named an honoree at Variety’s Power of Women Event on Friday. In her much-tweeted-about acceptance speech, Portman eviscerated Hollywood predators, reductive myths about women in the workforce, and those who uphold systems in all industries that repress women and allow their oppressors and abusers to thrive.
“Our legal system and our culture protects the perpetrators of sexual violence, not its victims. Harvey Weinstein, the man whose name has become synonymous with sexual violence, might never suffer any legal consequences because of that,” Portman said. “What other women in our industry and in other industries have been silenced and shut out in that way?”
Portman’s speech took on a defiant, triumphant tone as she listed the difficulties women still face in most industries, as well as the successes Time’s Up has had since its inception less than a year ago. One specific example was Brett Ratner and his lawyer, Marty Singer, who recently dropped a libel suit against actress Melanie Kohler. Kohler, who claimed Ratner raped her, received financial assistance from Time’s Up to fund her legal fees.
“He saw that she could not be bullied legally just because he has hundreds of millions of dollars and she does not,” Portman said.
One of the only ways to end the cycle of workplace discrimination, according to Portman’s speech, is diversity.
“If any group you’re in has people who only look like you, change that group,” Portman said. “It’s an awakening experience to hear from women who have different experiences of marginalization.”
She also called on everyone to think critically about what they hear and, in turn, say about the women they work with — or, as Portman put it, to “gossip well.”
“Stop the rhetoric that a woman is crazy or difficult,” she 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 closed out her speech by emphasizing how gender parity in the workforce can benefit everyone.
“Light a woman’s torch,” she said. “The light will multiply and the heat will intensify for all of us.”
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).