LA Women’s March: Natalie Portman, Viola Davis, Scarlett Johansson Speak Out – Update

Dawn Chmielewski

Natalie Portman, speaking at the Women’s March rally in Los Angeles, offered a disconcerting account of her first brush with objectification. She said she was excited about the opening of her first film, and discovering her own sense of womanhood.

“I opened my first fan mail to read some man’s rape fantasy,” Portman said

Portman, one of many celebrity speakers at today’s event, said that, in an attempt to feel safe, she adopted a bookish, nerdy persona and covered her body to avoid unwanted sexual attention. She said she wanted to send a message that she was worthy of respect.

“Let’s declare loud and clear this is what I want, this is what I desire,” said Portman. “Where we consensually meet our pleasure.”

Actress Marisa Tomei took the stage to read a poem about the power of organizing from Marge Piercy, author of Women on the Edge of Time.

Scandal‘s Tony Goldwyn spoke of drawing inspiration from his ancestors: His great-great grandmother worked with her husband, who was in the New York State legislature, to pass the nation’s first law making rape and violent sexual assault a crime.

“They were partners. They were family. They had each other’s backs,” Goldwyn said. “The women’s movement has never been just about women. This movement is about equality.”

Goldwyn said he speaks for the men present at today’s march when he says he is committed to ending the complicity of silence and the abuse of power.

“Our association with strong women only makes us stronger,” he said. “And holding women back from achieving their full potential only leaves us weakened and diminished. “

Olivia Wilde called on the 700,000 people who attended today’s March to dedicate themselves to the 2018 midterm elections. Her mother, Leslie Cockburn, left a career as an investigative journalist to seek Congressional office in Virginia.

“It will be our day of reckoning,” Wilde said, “and our battle cry will be heard around the world.”

Sophia Bush observed the irony of thousands of activists showing up to participate on a day when the U.S. government is shut down.

“I am so inspired by all of you showing up,” Bush said, who singled out the organization of black women. “Black women have shown us what it means and proved to us, this year, what it means to speak up.”

Mary Steenburgen acknowledged the quiet feminism of her mother Nellie. “She didn’t ever march or carry banners or make speeches but she did protest in her own way,” Steenburgen said. “She refused to settle for the word ‘no’.”

She shared the stage with husband Ted Danson, whom she described as one of the “good men.”

Danson injected a note of joy in a day marked by rousing, passionate speeches. “Look at us! We’re not alone watching TV, getting sad and scared about what we see,” he observed. “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.”

Nicole Richie took the stage to declare that this is the year when women have said “no more” to abuse and fear. “I am here today because I will not be afraid, I will not be silenced because I know I am standing on the shoulders of all who came before,” Richie said.

Earlier, Viola Davis quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous statement that time itself can become an “ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction,” and urged Women’s March attendees not to become complacent.

“I am speaking today not just for the MeToos,” she said, “because I am a MeToo. When I raise my hand it’s for all the women who are still in silence, the women who are faceless.”

The Downtown LA crowd had grown to hundreds of thousands of people since this morning, many sporting pink pussy hats, chanting slogans like “This is what democracy looks like,” and carrying signs whose slogans included “Don’t Go Gentle Into That Alt Right” and “Make America Think Again.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti said the March attracted 500,000 people — making it the largest in the nation.

Scarlett Johansson told the gathering, “I had many relationships where the power dynamic was so off that I had to create a narrative where I was the cool girl. It allowed me to have the approval that women are conditioned to need.”

Johansson said that women have been taught to pander and please because they have been taught that their value as women and professionals is derived from their desirability to men.

“Moving forward means my daughter growing up in a world where she doesn’t have to become a victim of what had become the social norm,” she said.

Director Rob Reiner said that when Angelenos gathered last year, they were united by one reason — fear of who would occupy the White House.

“A year has gone by and he has corroborated every one of our fears,” Reiner said. “We cannot whitewash it anymore. We have a racist in the White House. We have a sexist in the White House and he is tearing away at the fabric of our democracy.”

Reiner said it is the women who will take back the country and return democracy “to where it belongs.”

A year after millions of women took to the streets to protest President Donald Trump’s inauguration, marchers once again gathered in Los Angeles and other American cities, including Park City, Utah, where Jane Fonda was among the speakers at the Respect Rally, as the movement seeks to gather momentum leading into the 2018 midterm elections.

Throngs of women — including one wearing the iconic red robe and white bonnet costume from Hulu’s dystopian Handmaid’s Tale — gathered to hear early speeches that touched on themes that have reverberated through social media, including #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. Early speakers talked about women’s rights, civil liberties and social justice — including calls to institute single-payer healthcare and to defend LGBT rights and women’s reproductive rights.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke to the crowd via teleconference from Washington DC, where the Senate is scrambling to put together a short term budget agreement to end the temporary government shutdown. She urged a packed crowd in front of Los Angeles’ city hall to continue making their voices heard. “Don’t give up until we have true equality, equality in health decisions, equality in pay and equal representation,” she said.

Trump remained a favorite target, both in handmade signs and remarks that urged voters to resist. Some posters depicted the president as a poop emoji with flowing yellow locks, or as the Star Wars villain Jabba the Hutt, while one asked, irreverently, “Does This Ass Make My Sign Look Big?”

Many referenced Trump’s infamous brag to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush about grabbing women’s genitalia, with signs including “Power to the Pussy.”

Lucia Grajales, an 11-year-old from Burbank, propped up a sign that read, “I may be a child but my future matters most.” She said she was eager for the opportunity to advocate for women’s rights.

“No one said that kids can’t go protest,” she said. “So I’m here now and I was here last year.”

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