As women continue to speak out about the sexual misconduct they’ve had to deal with at the hands of powerful men in Hollywood, Natalie Portman says she’s only just now realizing that she’s a survivor of the entertainment industry’s toxic sexism, too. During a discussion at the Vulture Festival in Los Angeles on Sunday, the actress said that, at first, upon hearing other people’s stories about their encounters with power players like Harvey Weinstein, she counted herself among the few unscathed by sexual abuse or harassment in the workplace. But now, Portman said she’s since realized that she, too, has experienced sexual harassment and discrimination on a disturbingly regular basis since she started acting.
“When I heard everything coming out, I was like, wow, I’m so lucky that I haven’t had this. And then, on reflection, I was like, okay, definitely never been assaulted, definitely not, but I’ve had discrimination or harassment on almost everything I’ve ever worked on in some way,” she said, according to Vulture. “I went from thinking I don’t have a story to thinking, oh wait, I have 100 stories. 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.”
The Oscar winner offered as an example the time a producer offered her a seemingly innocent ride on his private jet. “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. I said, ‘This doesn’t make me feel comfortable,’ and that was respected,” Portman recalled. “But that was super not okay, you know? That was really unacceptable and manipulative and could have been — I was scared, you know? 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 also suggested that the fact that women are still struggling to achieve parity with men in both cast and crew roles in the industry could be a reason that it took so long for men like Weinstein and Louis C.K.‘s long histories of sexual misconduct and harassment to come to light. “Usually, you walk into a movie as the only woman, and you’re often the only woman on set. It’s very rare to have female crew members apart from hair, makeup, and wardrobe — the very stereotypical departments for women to be in — and I think women experience this in a lot of industries,” the Annihilation star said. “If you do get the opportunity to work, you’re often the only woman in the room. I hear this from friends of mine who are lawyers, business people, writers on shows.”
Portman continued, “The surprising thing is, it almost feels strategic to keep you away from other women, because you don’t have the opportunity to share stories. All these accusations are like, ‘Oh yeah, everyone was isolated from each other.’ People didn’t share. They didn’t realize that there were hundreds of people with similar stories…It prevents mentorship of women by other women because you’re just not exposed to it. You have to work hard to find and actually connect to people doing the same thing, because we’re often that one seat at the table.”
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