Jane Fonda: #MeToo Movement 'Burst Forth' Because Women Speaking Out Were 'White and Famous'

Jane Fonda: #MeToo Movement 'Burst Forth' Because Women Speaking Out Were 'White and Famous'
Actress Jane Fonda leaves a meeting with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Capitol Hill on July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

WASHINGTON – Actress and political activist Jane Fonda said that the #MeToo movement was born because the women coming forward with their sexual harassment experiences “were white and they were famous,” while the voices of female migrant farmworkers are still not being heard.

Fonda also referred to President Trump’s nomination of federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court as a “catastrophe.”

“When the #MeToo and the Time’s Up movement burst forth almost a year ago in Hollywood, I never thought I would live to see a day when women were actually heard. And I’m very aware of the fact that in the beginning, this happened the way it did because the women that were speaking out were white and they were famous. Almost immediately we in Hollywood received a letter, dear sisters, from [the National Farmworkers Women’s Alliance],” Fonda said today during a news conference with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and other groups on Capitol Hill.

“I can’t tell you the effect that had on all of us, the fact that workers from the fields were reaching out, 7,000 of them reaching out to us celebrities in Hollywood saying ‘we stand with you,’ made us all realize that this notion that has become so important of intersectionality was now being fleshed out,” she added.

Fonda continued, “That this was a new reality for many of us and that it was going to be forever, forever, that if we are going to truly confront and solve these issues of workers’ rights and dignity and safety from sexual harassment in the workplace – and those economic and sexual issues are very much interconnected – we are going to have stand in kinship and love and alliance with our sisters across sectors.”

Fonda said that Hollywood is able to help lift the voices of migrant farmworkers and immigrant domestic workers who experience sexual harassment while doing their jobs under poor conditions.

“What is so moving is that for the first time for a lot of women in Hollywood understanding – what women are facing across sectors – is starting to happen and it’s very, very important. You know, we are here with the domestic workers and women farmworkers and as has been said these women, often women of color, often migrants, immigrants, are very, very vulnerable and they work in a very isolated way and their voices are not heard,” she said.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance supports raising “the labor standards for all domestic workers, including housekeepers, nannies, homecare and eldercare workers – groups whose work is often invisible and not afforded the same protections as other workers.” The organization has advocated for policy changes such as increasing the minimum wage and more anti-discrimination laws.

The National Farmworkers Women’s Alliance, another group that was represented at the news conference, is advocating for Congress to close “gaps in existing anti-discrimination laws” such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which “does not cover all workplaces and all workers.”

“An individual who works in a small business or on a small farm or an individual home is not covered by our existing anti-discrimination laws because currently we are only protected if we work in places that have 15 or more workers, so all workers must be protected by Title VII,” said Mónica Ramírez, co-director of the group. “Congress must move to pass a federal domestic workers bill of rights.”

Fonda was asked how she responds to criticism of celebrities speaking out about politics.

“If we’re being attacked it’s because we’re effective. I mean, you know, we are able to amplify the voices of the people that really need to be heard, and that’s really how we have to use our celebrity is raising the voices of all workers and we can’t be cowed by the attacks by the right,” she said. “We have to understand that it’s because we’re doing our jobs as citizens, and I’m very proud of the work we’re doing.”

Fonda blasted Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

“I think it will be a catastrophe, frankly, if this nomination goes through for everyone and our children and, unfortunately, our grandchildren. But women’s rights, workers’ rights will be shunted to the side and that’s just the beginning. It will be a catastrophe,” she said.

When asked if she thinks there should be a Hollywood film dedicated to the challenges female farmworkers and immigrant domestic workers face, Fonda replied, “I can certainly envision it, yes.”

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