It didn’t take long for speculation to begin about who Scarlett Johansson was talking about during her speech at the Women’s March in Los Angeles. Before a crowd of 500,000—with Natalie Portman, Viola Davis, Constance Wu, Olivia Wilde, Eva Longoria, Mila Kunis and Olivia Munn in attendance—Johansson asked a pointed question.
“In light of the recent revelations regarding abuse of power and sexual harassment, and the question of consent vs. coercion, I find myself pensive, taking time and digging deep to understand where we are and how we got here. My mind baffles: How could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support for victims of sexual assault while privately preying on people who have no power?” she asked.
Without missing a beat, she said: “I want my pin back, by the way.”
Pretty sure Scarlett Johansson just got a pointed dig at James Franco, who has been accused of exploiting his young, female acting students. The accusations were prompted by his wearing a Time’s Up pin at the Golden Globes. pic.twitter.com/ZkdDexPr2Q
— Ricardo Lopez (@rljourno) January 20, 2018
A rep confirms Johansson’s comments were for James Franco
Later that evening, Johansson’s rep told the Los Angeles Times that her jab was indeed meant for James Franco. Franco, who wore a Time’s Up pin on his lapel earlier this month to collect a Golden Globe for his role in The Disaster Artist, has since been accused by five women of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behaviour. Shortly after Franco accepted the award for best actor, Ally Sheedy was among many who blasted him on Twitter. In a now-deleted series of tweets using the hashtag #MeToo, Sheedy asked why he’d even been invited to the awards show at all. The two had worked together back in 2014 in an off-Broadway show.
Johansson continued her speech (which starts around the 32-minute mark in the video below) by speaking about the rage she felt when she recalled what it was like to begin her career in Hollywood.
“Suddenly I was 19 again, and I began to remember all the men who had taken advantage of the fact that I was a young woman who didn’t yet have the tools to say no, or understand the value of my own self-worth,” she said.
“I had many relationships, both personal and professional, where the power dynamic was so off that I had to create a narrative that I was the cool girl who could hang in and hang out, and that sometimes meant compromising what felt right for me.”
Johansson was also called out for her own hypocrisy
While Johansson received praise for her speech, her words rang hollow for some. Back in 2014, Johansson was one of several actors specifically mentioned by Dylan Farrow in an open letter Farrow penned detailing the sexual assault and abuse she endured from her father Woody Allen. “What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?” Farrow asked.
Johansson was a three-time muse for Allen in the early aughts, starring in Match Point (2005), Scoop (2006) and Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008). When asked by The Guardian in 2014 about what she made of the backlash against Allen—just a month after Farrow released her letter and directly referenced her—Johansson wasn’t as searing in her take as she was against Franco.
“I’m unaware that there’s been a backlash,” she said. “I think he’ll continue to know what he knows about the situation, and I’m sure other people involved have their own experience with it. It’s not like this is somebody that’s been prosecuted and found guilty of something, and you can then go, ‘I don’t support this lifestyle or whatever.’ I mean, it’s all guesswork.”
Yes, this is the same Scarlett Johansson who starred in three Woody Allen films and said of the accusations against him: “It’s all guesswork.” https://t.co/yMmDPXKD22
— Zing Tsjeng (@misszing) January 21, 2018
In the piece, the Guardian‘s Carole Cadwalladr notes that Johansson appeared “flustered” by the Allen question. When asked if it had any impact on her working relationship with Allen, Johansson said: “It would be ridiculous for me to make any kind of assumption one way or the other.”
That wasn’t the first time Johansson spoke about Allen. Back in 2007, when the star was 22, she told Vogue that she would “sew the hems of his pants if he asked me to.” Allen turned around and described Johansson as “criminally sexy” in the magazine’s same issue.
It’s hard not to cringe recalling these moments of Johansson’s past, but perhaps the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have helped change her perspective. While she avoided speaking directly about any other experiences in Hollywood in her Women’s March speech, she said she doesn’t want to compromise anymore.
“No more pandering,” she told the crowd to wide applause. “No more feeling guilty about hurting someone’s feelings when something doesn’t feel right for me.”
More calls to action from celebrities at the L.A. Women’s March
Natalie Portman, Viola Davis, Olivia Munn were among the many who delivered powerful calls to action alongside Johansson. Portman talked about growing up in the industry and, when she was 13, excitedly opening her first fan mail—only to find a rape fantasy detailed within. She also recalled how a local radio show even started a countdown to her 18th birthday, “euphemistically the date when I would be legal to sleep with,” she said. These instances were all part of an environment of “sexual terrorism” that Portman said she and many others navigated, before demanding a revolution. “To people of all genders here with us today, let’s find a space where we mutually, consensually look out for each other’s pleasure, and allow the vast, limitless range of desire to be expressed,” she said. “Let’s make a revolution of desire.”
Davis lit the stage on fire with a speech where she quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and called upon people not just to fight for personal rights, but for the rights of everyone on earth. “I am speaking today not just for the ‘Me Toos,’ because I was a ‘Me Too,’ but when I raise my hand, I am aware of all the women who are still in silence,” she said. “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 and rooted in the stigma of assault.”
Munn’s speech was just as rousing. “I’m asking all of you to be the team member for every woman in your life,” she said. Her final words are ones we should all take to heart. “Refrain from judgment. Be the rock of understanding. Be the well of empathy,” she said. “Right here, we all have the power to make sure that our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, great granddaughters, grow up with a mentality, that if you come from one of us, you come from all of us.”
Five Reasons Why James Franco is THE WORST
The 8 A-List Activists Accompanying Celebs on the Golden Globes Red Carpet
Why I’m Marching Again: Stories to Get You Pumped Up Before the Women’s March