Natalie Portman made a statement at the Oscars on Sunday when she wore a Dior Haute Couture cape embroidered with the last names of 8 women directors who were snubbed for a Best Director nomination. The sartorial tribute was lauded (at first), but then some people began to question whether Portman’s own actions within the industry reflected this outward championing of women.
Actress Rose McGowan, a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement, took particular offense with Portman’s performative gesture, writing a lengthy post about it on Facebook.
“Some thoughts on Natalie Portman and her Oscar ‘protest.’ The kind of protest that gets rave reviews from the mainstream media for its bravery. Brave? No, not by a long shot. More like an actress acting the part of someone who cares,” McGowan began.
“Natalie, you have worked with two female directors in your very long career — one of them was you. You have a production company that has hired exactly one female director — you.
What is it with actresses of your ilk? You ‘A-listers’ could change the world if you’d take a stand instead of being the problem. Yes, you, Natalie. You are the problem. Lip service is the problem. Fake support of other women is the problem.”
She continued, “There is no law that says you need to hire women, work with women, or support women. By all means, you do you. But I am saying stop pretending you’re some kind of champion for anything other than yourself.”
Portman responded to McGowan’s criticism with … agreement. “I agree with Ms. McGowan that it is inaccurate to call me ‘brave’ for wearing a garment with women’s names on it,” Portman said in a statement. “Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure.”
Addressing McGowan’s claim that she’s not walking the walk, Portman explained, “The past few years have seen a blossoming of directing opportunities for women due to the collective efforts of many people who have been calling out the system. The gift has been these incredible films. I hope that what was intended as a simple nod to them does not distract from their great achievements. It is true I’ve only made a few films with women. In my long career, I’ve only gotten the chance to work with female directors a few times – I’ve made shorts, commercials, music videos and features with Marya Cohen, Mira Nair, Rebecca Zlotowski, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, Shirin Neshat and myself. Unfortunately, the unmade films I have tried to make are a ghost history.”
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