Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

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

jane fonda lenny letter.jpg

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.”

jane fonda

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. 

grace and frankie

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


gwyneth paltrow.jpg

Gwyneth Paltrow opens up about her separation from Chris Martin

scarlett johansson cosmopolitan interview relationship advice hollywood gender wage gap.jpg

Scarlett Johansson: talking about the gender pay gap feels “obnoxious”


“Fewer women should be allowed to train as doctors” says academic


Gucci advert featuring “unhealthily thin” model banned


The realities of being a Victoria's Secret model

mindy kaling.jpg

Mindy Kaling reveals how she apologises for her assertiveness


How it feels to be a ‘leftover woman’ in China

jennifer lawrence.jpg

Jennifer Lawrence criticises Hollywood's beauty ideals

eating disorder.jpg

“It's time we took anorexia seriously - I should know”



The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Cindy Crawford's Halloween throwback to Alexa Chung's wild adventure

by Nicola Colyer
28 Oct 2016

Is this the Nineties girl band reunion we’ve been waiting for?

We don’t think you can handle this.

by Moya Crockett
28 Oct 2016

Pussy Riot’s new single is pro-vaginas and anti-Trump

“The idea of powerful female sexuality is much bigger than any populist megalomaniac man.”

by Moya Crockett
27 Oct 2016

Mamma Mia! ABBA confirm plans to reunite for “live experience” in 2018

All four of the original Dancing Queens are on board

by Kayleigh Dray
27 Oct 2016

Bake Off’s Mary Berry on her TV reunion with Mel and Sue

The future for these GBBO stars is very bright indeed…

by Kayleigh Dray
27 Oct 2016

Lady Gaga fans, the full Carpool Karaoke video is beyond incredible

James Corden’s face says it all, really

by Kayleigh Dray
27 Oct 2016

Sorry Mel C, Little Mix don't want you to be their mum

You can be ours though

by Anna Pollitt
26 Oct 2016

This Instagram star's honest selfie has gone viral

A glimpse behind the filtered curtain

by Amy Swales
26 Oct 2016

The Alexander McQueen biopic just cast the perfect Hollywood star

Another British bad boy.

by Moya Crockett
26 Oct 2016

Jennifer Garner opens up on co-parenting with ex-husband Ben Affleck

The pair try to teach their children the importance of charity

by Sarah Biddlecombe
26 Oct 2016