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Jane Fonda: “It took me 30 years to become a feminist”

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Jane Fonda has revealed in an essay, that it took her a while to get into feminism, initially seeing it as a ‘distraction’ from more pressing issues.

The actor, writer and women’s rights campaigner, made the comments in Lenny Letter, the weekly newsletter from Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner.

Describing her ‘convoluted journey to feminism,’ Fonda, 78, admits that it wasn’t until she was in her 60s that she fully grasped feminist ideologies.

“It took me 30 years to get it,” she says. “But it’s ok to be a late bloomer, as long as you don’t miss the flower show.”

Looking back over her views, Fonda quotes a day in her diary from 1970, when she was 33 and had heard that 5,000 women were demonstrating in favour of legalised abortion in New York. The entry says:

“Don't understand the Women's Liberation Movement. There are more important things to have a movement for, it seems to me. To focus on women's issues is diversionary when so much wrong is being done in the world. Each woman should take it upon herself to be liberated and show a man what that means.”

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Jane Fonda at a protest to end violence against women, 2013

But, over the course of her life, Fonda recalls a shift occurring, which eventually resulted in a new belief:

“The personal became the political, and I became an embodied feminist. I had gone. I had gone from believing that women's issues were a distraction, mere ancillary problems to be addressed after everything else had been taken care of, to the realization that women are the issue, the core issue,” she says.

One of the core reasons Fonda began to consider feminism as a personal issue rather than just a theoretical one, was when she realised the effect the patriarchy had had upon her.



“The culture that incubated in me since childhood insists that to be loved, a female has to be perfect: thin, pretty, having good hair, being nice rather than honest, ready to sacrifice, never smarter than a man, never angry,” she says.

Although these attitudes didn’t affect her for a long time, Fonda says that when she hit adolescence, the pressure to be thin in order to ‘get a boyfriend’ had a hugely detrimental impact upon her mental health.

“My father would send my stepmother to tell me to lose weight and wear longer skirts,” she recalls. 

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Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in Grace and Frankie

As a result, “I sort of ... hollowed out. Almost everything interesting about me scooped itself out and took up residence alongside the empty, disembodied me,” she says.

“I developed an eating disorder.”

Finally, the Oscar-winner admitted that she was being dishonest to herself, and had to make an active change, saying:

“When I turned 60 and entered my third and final act, I decided that, no matter how scary it was, I needed to heal the wounds patriarchy had dealt me. I didn't want to come to the end of my life without doing all I could to become a whole, full-voiced woman.”

Fonda is currently starring in Netflix series, Grace and Frankie.

You can read the full essay here

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