The more news that comes out about sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, the more women start to reanalyze their own past experiences. During Monday's Vulture Festival L.A., Natalie Portman reflected on sexual harassment and what she, herself, has encountered over the years from men. The Jackie star admitted that as soon as she started reading the allegations from women made against entertainment power players, she initially breathed a sigh of relief in realizing none of that has ever happened to her, but soon, she started seeing some of her experiences through a new lens.
"When I heard everything coming out, I was like, wow, I’m so lucky that I haven’t had this," she said. Then, she added, "And then, on reflection, I was like, OK, definitely never been assaulted, definitely not, but I’ve had discrimination or harassment on almost everything I’ve ever worked on in some way."
Soon enough, the Oscar winner said after much thought she concluded, "Oh wait, I have 100 stories." As she pointed out, "And I think a lot of people are having these reckonings with themselves, of things that we just took for granted as like, this is part of the process."
Portman even gave one example of the harassment she claims she faced. After allegedly being invited onto a private plane by a producer to a destination that she also needed to go to, she claimed, "I showed up and it was just the two of us, and one bed was made on the plane. Nothing happened, I was not assaulted." The Annihilation actor said she told the producer, "This doesn't make me feel comfortable."
Despite the producer allegedly acknowledging and respecting her uncomfortableness, Portman said it still didn't make the situation she was allegedly put in OK. "That was really unacceptable and manipulative and could have been — I was scared, you know?" She continued, "But just the fact of any woman, if you’re walking down the street alone at night, you feel scared, and I’m not sure guys know what that [feels like]."
She couldn't have spoken truer words. Because of the culture women live in, we are made to feel unsafe — and that's not OK. In a way, it has become the norm. Rather than teaching men how not to harass or assault, women have to learn how to protect themselves so it doesn't happen to them. Basically, women have somehow become responsible for preventing any kind of violation against themselves.
The sad thing is that women have essentially been taught men are allowed to act a certain way, so when a woman is being sexually harassed, she doesn't even think twice about it. It's the angering "boys will be boys" mentality. Like Portman said, the past encounters she and other women have had with men have become so normalized that it's just seen "as part of the process."
Because of everything that is coming to light, there are women, including myself, who are now wondering about situations from a long time ago, "Wait, was that sexual harassment?"
After The New York Times released its exposé on Harvey Weinstein on Oct. 5, which described decades of both sexual assault and harassment allegations against the producer, and Ronan Farrow's New Yorker piece about Weinstein alleging he had raped three women (Weinstein has denied "any allegations of nonconsensual sex" and he is suing the Times, per his lawyer), I had a conversation with my mom about sexual harassment.
I asked, "Have you or I ever been sexually harassed?" She was quick to say no, but then I said to her, "Mom, I bet it's happened to you, but you just didn't know it." She thought about what I said and replied, "You're probably right."
Similar to Portman and every other woman who has spoken up, I, too, have been sexually harassed on multiple occasions. I may have not realized it at first, but that's exactly what it was. There have been times when a man has rubbed my shoulders without my consent. There was one time when a man approached me at a bar and repeatedly tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention, even though I never gave him permission to touch me. There was a time I was at a bar and a guy asked me to dance. I said no — more than once. He kept pursuing me and it ended with me yelling at him to leave me alone. He finally did. And, like so many other women, I've also been cat-called and have had suggestive remarks directed at me.
These are the types of instances that keep coming to my mind every time I read about another woman in Hollywood who has alleged sexual harassment or assault against someone. As frustrating as it is to realize you, like Portman, probably have "100 stories" to tell, the fact that victims feel comfortable speak about them is comforting in a sense. All of this is shining a whole new light on not only what is considered sexual harassment, but how much the culture surrounding it needs to change.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.