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Natalie Portman Describes Working in Hollywood as ‘Sexual Terrorism’ at Women’s March

There was another Women’s March this weekend to protest Donald Trump on the 1-year mark of his presidency. So of course Donald Trump did what you’d expect him to do in the face of a huge protest against him and thanked the protesters for showing up to celebrate what a great job he’s done. Seriously.

But Donald Trump wasn’t the only thing women were talking about, even if he was the impetus for the march itself. There were a million stories going on at the rallies around the country. It’s the sort of thing you could set a Robert Altman movie at, i.e. following a handful of people and how the day at this big event affected them.

One of the stories we heard was from Natalie Portman, who described working Hollywood as “sexual terrorism.” That seems a little histrionic. What exactly would make it even close to terrorism?

I was so excited at 13 when the film [The Professional] was released and my work and my art would have a human response. I excitedly opened my first fan mail to read a rape fantasy that a man had written me.

Okay, I take it back, sexual terrorism might be the perfect way to describe that. That’s pretty fucked up. Portman’s speech is pretty moving and it gives you an insight into how the culture made her feel, and it’s worth watching.

If you didn’t watch that, and you should, here’s a transcript, via Paper.

Let me tell you about my own experience. I turned 12 on the set of my first film, The Professional, in which I played a young girl who befriends a hitman and hopes to avenge the murder of her family. The character is simultaneously discovering and developing her womanhood, her voice, and her desire. At that moment in my life, I too was discovering my own womanhood, my own desire, and my own voice. I was so excited at 13 when the film was released and my work and my art would have a human response. I excitedly opened my first fan mail to read a rape fantasy that a man had written me. 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. And that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort. So I quickly adjusted my behavior. I rejected any role that even had a kissing scene and talked about that choice deliberately in interviews. I emphasized how bookish I was and how serious I was. And I cultivated an elegant way of dressing. I built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious, 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. 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.

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