Viola Davis, who got kudos for her inspiring Oscar acceptance speech last year, delivered another stirring one Saturday at the Los Angeles Women’s March.
A survivor of sexual assault, Davis said, "I am speaking today not just for the #MeToos, because I was #MeToo, but when I raise my hand, I am aware of all the women who are still in silence. The women who are faceless. The women who don't have the money and don't have the constitution and who don't have the confidence and who don't have the images in our media that gives them a sense of self-worth enough to break their silence that is rooted in the shame of assault, that’s rooted in the stigma of assault."
She also discussed the racist “Jim Crow” laws and invoked the words of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., the latter urging people who want justice to use their time constructively and move forward. “It is through human dedication and effort that we move forward,” she said. “And then when we don’t work, what happens is that time actually becomes an ally to the primitive forces of social stagnation. And the guardians of the status quo are in their oxygen tanks, keeping the old order alive.”
Davis, who received the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Fences, reminded the crowd that it is not enough just to cheer when someone says something inspiring at a rally. “It’s about keeping it rolling when you go home.”
Other celebrity speakers at the L.A. rally included actress Natalie Portman, who countered criticism that the uprising against sexual harassment and assault is trying to put a puritanical system in place. “The current system is puritanical,” she said. “Men can do and say whatever they want, but women cannot. The current system inhibits women from expressing our desires, wants, and needs, and seeking our pleasure.”
She went on to describe how, upon the opening of her first film, Leon: The Professional, about a young girl involved with a hit man, as a 13-year-old she opened her first piece of fan mail to find a man had penned a rape fantasy about her. She realized even at that age, that if she projected an image that highlighted her sexuality, she would not be safe – so she cultivated a bookish, “nerdy” persona, she said.
The world women want to build is one in which they can wear what they want, say what they want, and express their desire without fearing for their physical safely, she said. “That world is the opposite of puritanical,” she emphasized.
Another speaker was actress Scarlett Johannson, who said women are sometimes reluctant to speak out against sexual harassment because they’ve been conditioned to seek the approval of men. But this has to change, she said, and her new motto is “No more pandering.”
Speakers from the entertainment industry also included Allison Janney, Tony Goldwyn, Elizabeth Banks, Adam Scott, Mary Steenburgen and husband Ted Danson, Sarah Hyland, Mila Kunis, Eva Longoria, Rob Reiner. Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the crowd, and Idina Menzel, Rachel Platten, Melissa Etheridge, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and others gave musical performances.
Watch the speeches by Davis and Portman below.