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‘It’s archaic that there aren't better options’: Keira Knightley blasts maternity laws that keep women out of work


Keira Knightley welcomed her daughter Edie into the world some 18 months ago, and given that she’s one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actresses with a Disney franchise (Pirates of the Caribbean) and countless blockbusters under her belt, she hasn’t had to struggle too much with the costs of childcare.

Juggling her career around motherhood proves to be going fairly well, too. She’s set to star in an upcoming Disney adaptation of The Nutcracker, with at least two further big budget films due for release over the coming months.

This privileged position, however, hasn’t been lost on the actress.

Instead, it’s prompted her to speak out in a new interview against the struggle plenty of new mothers face, railing against the inequality of maternity and paternity leave laws.

Keira Knightley and James Righton

Keira Knightley with her husband, musician James Righton

Talking to Harper’s Bazaar, Knightley flags the ‘archaic’ idea that men and women aren’t legally offered the same amount of parental leave, along with the huge burden of childcare costs.

“I think paternity leave should be the same as maternity leave. It’s shocking. Because you need that option,” she says, adding that her husband, musician James Righton, has been an ‘incredibly supportive’ father.

Read more: Netflix introduces unlimited paid maternity and paternity leave for new parents

“One of the things that is [also] so shocking in this country is that childcare is unbelievably expensive,” she adds. “It should be, it’s an amazing thing if you’re good at it. It’s incredibly difficult, it should be well paid. But there is no option for a woman to go back to work unless she’s being paid really, really well and can afford full-time care before [her child can] get into nursery.”

“I think I’ve become unbelievably aware of that and how lucky I’ve been to be able to afford really good childcare, because otherwise it would be at least four years out of my career.

“I wouldn’t be able to get back to where I’d been if I’d taken four years out. I think that’s the same for most women. And I think that’s really hard.”


A photo posted by Harper's Bazaar UK (@bazaaruk) on

Knightley also raised the hugely important crisis, and often open sexism, that some women face, when trying to navigate the workplace as ‘mothers’—whether they’ve had children or not.

“When you’re thinking about an employer looking at a man and a woman thinking, 'Well, at some point you could take nine months or however long off, and the guy doesn’t have to.' Don’t tell me that that doesn’t come into it!” she said of the unequal paternity offering, and the way in which it can skew the hiring process.

 Read more: The shocking truth behind women's experiences of maternity leave in Britain

“You need to be a family unit, not just have the guy there for two weeks and then go back to work, and the mother left desperately trying to figure it out.

“I think it’s archaic that there aren't better options.”

Keira Knightley Will smith filming Collateral Beauty, due for release later this year

Keira Knightley and Will Smith on-set filming Collateral Beauty, due for release later this year

When asked about her body following the birth of her daughter, the Atonement star also hit back at the narrative of ‘post-baby bodies’, revealing that she actively rejected all notions of ‘snapping back into shape’.

“I actually went completely the opposite,” she said. “I went, ‘fuck that, I’m not putting that pressure on myself in any way’.”

This isn’t the first time the actress has tackled the body image pressures heaped on women. In a 2014 interview with The Times, Knightley addressed the ways in which her body has been retouched in the past, and why she makes an effort to limit the amount Photoshopping that is done to her images.

“I’ve had my body manipulated so many different times for so many different reasons, whether it’s paparazzi photographers or for film posters,” explained.

“[The 2014 Interview magazine shoot] was one of the ones where I said: ‘OK, I’m fine doing the topless shot so long as you don’t make them any bigger or retouch.’ Because it does feel important to say it really doesn’t matter what shape you are.”

Applause for the brilliance of Keira Knightley, folks.


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