Jane Fonda Tells Women Abuse Is Not Their Fault

by Alexis Paige Williams
Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Outspoken actors fearlessly standing up for what they believe in is nothing new in Hollywood. There's a long tradition of "actor-vists" who risk their careers and face endless backlash all in the name of what's right. Jane Fonda and Brie Larson know this all too well. The Academy Award winners had a candid conversation about sexual assault and activism for Net-A-Porter's The Edit. During the interview, Fonda opened up about being raped, sexually abused as a child, and sexually harassed in the workplace herself and credited the women's movement for helping reshape the narrative for rape survivors. Her words emphasize how important it has been for women to be able to share their stories.

Fonda told Larson,

"I’ve been raped, I’ve been sexually abused as a child and I’ve been fired because I wouldn’t sleep with my boss and I always thought it was my fault; that I didn’t do or say the right thing. I know young girls who’ve been raped and didn’t even know it was rape. They think, 'It must have been because I said ‘no’ the wrong way.' One of the great things the women’s movement has done is to make us realize that [rape and abuse is] not our fault. We were violated and it’s not right."

The topic of sexual assault is something that Larson is also familiar with, albeit in a different way. Larson won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2016 for her portrayal of a sexual assault victim in the film Room and also played an assault victim in the acclaimed indie Short Term 12. Larson is also an advocate for victims of sexual abuse. Following Lady Gaga's Oscar performance of "Til It Happens To You," a song about sexual assault, Larson notably hugged every survivor who joined Gaga on stage, according to Billboard. And her recent lack of applause for Casey Affleck — who previously had sexual harassment allegations brought against him — during the 2017 Oscars did not go unnoticed. (Affleck has denied the claims against him and the lawsuits brought against him were settled outside of court.)

These days, it's more and more likely that news of actors raising awareness is seen as a positive thing; a side of him or her that we have yet to see and gladly welcome. This outspokenness and representation at events such as the Women's March or even the Academy Awards' red carpet are a poignant and imperative reminder that there is no such thing as staying in your lane.

Although Larson praised Fonda for paving the way for speaking out against all forms of abuse, Fonda said it took a lifetime. Had she not found her voice, Fonda said, she would neither be the artist nor the woman she is today. "I think my acting improved when I became an activist — I see things from a broader perspective."

Larson said she'd be willing to put her career on the line if it meant expressing her beliefs, because "it doesn't feel right to me to be quiet." Larson told Fonda, "We can't take any steps backward in allowing people to think abuse is their fault. It's the people-pleaser disease."

Thankfully for Fonda, overcoming her "disease to please" led the two-time Academy Award winner to be more resilient in all aspects of her life and career. "I didn’t know how to stand up for myself," Fonda said. "Now, I would say, 'No. This is a piece of sh*t. I don’t like the way you’re treating me,' and leave."