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“The disease to please”: Jane Fonda nails the problem with the patriarchy

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Kayleigh Dray
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Jane Fonda may be famed for her fitness DVDs, but the 79-year-old has also made a name for herself as a woman’s activist. Now, in a new interview with Brie Larson, Fonda has opened up about the moment she became a feminist – and addressed why women need to stand up for their rights more than ever before.

Speaking with The Edit magazine, she said: “I grew up in the ’50s and it took me a long time to apply feminism to my life.

“The men in my life were wonderful, but victims of a [patriarchal] belief system. I felt diminished. Eventually I decided I wasn’t going to give up who I was in order to please the man I was with. I became an embodied feminist when I was single and saw Eve Ensler perform The Vagina Monologues.

“While I was laughing, my feminism carried from my head into my DNA.”

She added: “It took a long time, though, because I was brought up with the disease to please.”



Larson, who was conducting the interview on behalf of the magazine, pointed out that many women suffer from this “disease” – a statement which Fonda thoroughly agreed with.

“No kidding,” she said. “To show you the extent to which a patriarchy takes a toll on females, I’ve been raped, I’ve been sexually abused as a child and I’ve been fired because I wouldn’t sleep with my boss and I always thought it was my fault – that I didn’t do or say the right thing.”

"I always thought it was my fault – that I didn’t do or say the right thing.”

"I always thought it was my fault – that I didn’t do or say the right thing.”

Fonda continued: “I know young girls who’ve been raped and didn’t even know it was rape. They think, ‘It must have been because I said no the wrong way’.

“One of the great things the women’s movement has done is to make us realise that [rape and abuse is] not our fault. We were violated and it’s not right.”



Larson then posed an important question to Fonda – what would she say to a woman who doesn’t think we need feminism in the 21st century?

Fonda’s answer was simple: “Where to start? Defunding Planned Parenthood: tens of millions of American women get their healthcare through Planned Parenthood. If that shuts down, it is going to be untenable. A lot of women will have nowhere to go.

“Our infrastructure isn’t big enough to absorb those women who don’t have health insurance and can’t afford healthcare.”

It is not the first time that the 79-year-old has called upon womankind to rise up; on 23 January, she proudly marched beside thousands who took to the streets of Los Angeles to fight back at President Donald Trump’s stance on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, immigration and health care.

And, speaking on Real Time with Bill Maher, she condemned Trump as America’s “predator-in-chief”.

“Trump should have more respect for pussies because if penises could do what pussies could do, they’d be on postage stamps,” she said.

“A lot of people are scared of pussy power, because when women unite we are a force to be reckoned with, and we will unite.”

Images: Rex Pictures

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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