Crammed between Groupon deals and miscellaneous spam, there's a certain email I'm always excited to see pop up in my inbox. Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner's Lenny Letter has become a platform for some of Hollywood's greats to speak out about all things related to womanhood. For example, Jennifer Lawrence's essay about the wage gap sparked attention last fall. In the latest e-blast, Jane Fonda recounts her journey with feminism in an empowering essay and reminds everyone it's never too late to embrace the F-word. She writes, "It took me 30 years to get it, but it’s OK to be a late bloomer as long as you don’t miss the flower show."
The essay is titled "My Convoluted Journey To Feminism" and the two-time Oscar winner confesses it wasn't until the 1970s that she began to understand what the phrase means. After seeing a self-identified feminist give a speech at a coffee shop, she writes, "Her talk helped me understand that for feminists, a belief system is the enemy, not men. 'Patriarchy' is what she called it. Up until then, I assumed being a feminist meant being angry with men." This is a common misunderstanding, and perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of identifying as a feminist; people lose sight of the true meaning. Following this realization, Fonda began to publicly embrace the label, but it took awhile to learn what that fully means to her.
In the essay, Fonda writes about struggling with an eating disorder, "probably to fill the emptiness" inside of her from trying to please others. She says,
The culture that incubated in me since childhood insists that to be loved, a female has to be perfect: thin, pretty, having good hair, being nice rather than honest, ready to sacrifice, never smarter than a man, never angry. This didn’t matter so much when I was a strong, feisty tomboy during childhood. But when I hit adolescence and the specter of womanhood loomed, all that mattered was how I looked and fit in.
She admits that she let the men in her life validate her worth, even acknowledging that while she was aware of the wage gap, at the time she believed she didn't deserve as much money as her male counterparts. There was a contrast between her public persona as a feminist and how she actually felt inside. She writes, "My feminism was theoretical, in my head, not my blood and bones."
Luckily, that's changed and Fonda is now is ready to accept everything the word means. She realized, "Feminism means real democracy. There’s no road map to get there. It hasn’t happened yet. Women and men of conscience have never had a chance thus far to make our revolution." As for what finally sparked this change, she explains,
When I turned 60 and entered my third and final act, I decided that, no matter how scary it was, I needed to heal the wounds patriarchy had dealt me. I didn’t want to come to the end of my life without doing all I could to become a whole, full-voiced woman... The journey is both external and internal, political and personal. For me, the personal meant becoming a single woman, no longer silencing my voice, slowly becoming the subject of my own life.
Bravo to the Grace and Frankie star for finally raising her voice. In doing so, she proves it's never too late to embrace feminism or work on yourself. It can be a tough journey to focus on self-love and stand up for yourself, but her essay shows it's entirely possible and worth the battle.