Not many 80th birthday parties cost attendees $5,000 a seat, but Jane Fonda’s did. The party, aptly named “Eight Decades of Jane”, featured an eight-course dinner – one for every decade – and performances by James Taylor and Carole King. The actress and activist raised $1.3m for the GCAPP, a charity she founded that provides sex education and pregnancy-prevention services for teenagers across Georgia. That’s an impressive figure by any measure.
“I thought that we would have a woman president [by my 80th birthday],” Fonda told Vanity Fair ahead of the event. “I thought that I could maybe take up gardening. I didn’t think that I would be back on the barricades, no. I didn’t think that our freedoms, our democracy, would be in jeopardy the way they are now. I am utterly terrified.” Rather than taking up hobbies traditionally preserved for retirement, Fonda continues to dedicate her fame, time and life to the causes she believes are worth fighting for.
It is this state of terror, brought on by Donald Trump’s election and the deluge of sexual-harassment cases currently drenching Hollywood, that has pushed Fonda to pursue activism well into her seventies. Speaking to the Associated Press recently, the activist linked the rise of women speaking about their experiences of men like Harvey Weinstein with Donald Trump’s attitudes towards women. “The reason it's happening now is because of who our president is... Many women are horrified that a man like that has been elected into office,” she said. “He's triggered a lot of memories in many women who have been victims. I think that it was white famous actresses who stepped forward and kind of opened the floodgates and now people are realising how much of an epidemic it is. Now, they're doing something about it.”
I thought that I could maybe take up gardening. I didn’t think that I would be back on the barricades, no. I didn’t think that our freedoms, our democracy, would be in jeopardy the way they are now
In direct response to Trump’s vitriolic attitude towards women’s safety, Fonda’s charity has turned its attention to teenage boys. “The sense of entitlement that to be a real man you have to grab women and paw women and assault women and knock up women is the underlying problem here,” she explained. “Men do it because it makes them feel like real men. It shows that they have power, and whether you’re at the top of your game in Hollywood or a young kid in Appalachia, that toxic masculinity is gonna affect how you treat girls.” The GCAPP wants to educate boys on this toxic masculinity and the importance of consent.
Fonda, who actually turns 80 on December 21, is well aware of the platform she has, telling Vanity Fair: “If it didn’t make a difference for famous people to speak out, the right wing wouldn’t object.” She went on to compare celebrities to phone masts, spreading messages further and further afield: "That’s what celebrities do, if we’re doing our job right. We’re picking up the voices of people who can’t be heard and broadcasting their story.”
Of course, Fonda isn’t the only woman of note stepping into the activist ring in uncertain times. Comedian Chelsea Handler was recently “galvanised” to cut short her Netflix chat-show series in order to dedicate more time to getting women elected to US office. Rose McGowan, of course, is leading the #RoseArmy in a social-media fight against sexual harassment and the oppression of women. Women like these – like Jane Fonda – are exactly what the world needs – focused, experienced, terrified and, above all, angry.