(JTA) – Jewish actress Natalie Portman told thousands of marchers at the Women’s March Los Angeles that she experienced “sexual terrorism” at the age of 13 following the release of her first movie.
She said her first fan letter after the release of “The Professional,” in which she played a young girl who befriended a hit man in hopes of avenging the murder of her parents, was from a man describing his “rape fantasy,” involving the young actress.
Portman, 36, said she rejected movie roles including a kissing scene, began to dress in an “elegant” style, and built a reputation as a “prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious” young woman “in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and that my voice would be listened to.”
“At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me,” Portman, the first speaker of the afternoon, said. “I felt the need to cover my body and to inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect. The response to my expression, from small comments about my body to more threatening deliberate statements, served to control my behavior through an environment of sexual terrorism.”
In November, the Israeli-born actress was named the winner of the 2018 Genesis Prize, the so-called Jewish Nobel, and said the $1 million prize will go to programs that focus on advancing women’s equality.
Also in November, she told the Vulture Festival LA that she has had “discrimination or harassment on almost everything I’ve ever worked on in some way.”
During her speech to the Women’s March in Los Angeles, Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson called out actor James Franco, accused of sexual misconduct by five women in an article recently published in the Los Angeles Times, for wearing a Time’s Up pin at the Golden Globe Awards.
The “Time’s Up” initiative spearheaded by several prominent actresses including Johansson, and supported by hundreds more, was founded to fight sexual harassment, assault and inequality for women in the workplace.
“How could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support for victims of sexual assault while privately preying on people who have no power? I want my pin back,” she said. Johansson did not name Franco but her representative told Vanity Fair that is who she was referring to.
She decried male abuse of power and spoke of the rage she felt when she heard another woman had been taken advantage of. “Suddenly I was 19 again and I began to remember all the men who had taken advantage of the fact that I was a young woman who didn’t yet have the tools to say no, or understand the value of my own self-worth,” said Johansson.