Jane Fonda at 83, from actress to fearless activist: “I’m prepared to risk being arrested again”

Jane Fonda (New York, 1937) has been so many things and with such intensity that she could dispense with some of her facets and would continue to be a character to interview for hours, days, weeks … But she, who left acting when she got married with the tycoon Ted Turner – and he returned to it after divorcing – he has never given up on a thing. She has been dedicated to activism for six decades, the vocation to which she has dedicated the most time, resources and sacrifices.

Feminist, defender of civil rights and opposed to the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, for three years she has become a powerful speaker for those who warn of the climate crisis. His most recent book, What can I do? From despair to action (Ediciones Camelot), he answers a question that has been constant in his life. For her, it was dropping everything and moving to Washington DC to protest in front of the Capitol and listen to climate experts and leaders who could be her grandchildren … and they have no idea that this lady was Barbarella in 1968.

WOMAN TODAY. The origin of her book is in a question asked by her friend, actress Catherine Keener: “Jane, what am I doing in the face of the climate crisis?”

JANE FONDA. Yes, as I suppose we all do it, right? Many people simply wonder what they can do to improve their life, others go a little further and think about how their actions can improve the world. I’ve been worried about climate change for a long, long time, trying to find out more about it and seeing how I can help.

Given your experience, do you think it is better accepted today that a Hollywood star is also an activist?

Within that community it is received wonderfully, but it is not to them that I speak. I speak to the millions of Americans who are aware of this crisis and have not done anything about it because they have not been asked. It is for people so I have written this book, so that at the end of each chapter you will find a complete list of things you can do today. What really motivates me is that they react. I also have to take advantage of the fact that I am now in a series of success, Grace and Frankie; the public is more willing to listen to me. I know this because I have experienced the opposite situation.

In the book he expressly acknowledges the young people with whom he has collaborated in recent years. You assure that not only were they not intimidated, but that they corrected or clarified some of the things you said.

Of course! You have to accept that you don’t know everything. I decided to move to Washington DC after speaking with Jennifer Morgan, CEO of Greenpeace. All the benefits of this book go directly to your organization. There they put me in contact with other leaders of the climate movement and we decided to hold an online meeting every Friday, the Fire Drill Fridays. This is how I met all these young people, wonderful people who are doing a commendable job. When I met with them, as I tell in the book, I immediately understood that at their age I never had as much security and information as they have. I admire them very much. It is important that we understand that it is for their future that they are fighting. I’m older now, I’ll die before the worst comes. What they demand is simply their future, living in a world where they can go to the beach and where there are still coral reefs and whales; that in winter there is snow in the mountains and you can ski. They know that none of this will be possible if we do not mobilize right now. We only have nine years left to cut fossil fuel emissions in half, and we have to do it now.

In the first chapter, you talk about your meeting with a young Vietnamese woman, Vy Vu, who is unaware that you traveled to her country to demonstrate against the Vietnam War, which earned her many enemies in the US and the nickname Hanoi Jane .

When he asked me if I knew Hanoi I had no choice but to laugh. It was fun. But it is what happens, this is a completely different generation. And to a large extent it is what I like, that now it is possible to be collaborating with a young Vietnamese on a matter like this.

Do you happen more and more often, meet people who you know are famous, but not what they have done?

I try not to fool myself. There are so many people who have no idea who I am, whether I was a Hollywood star or anything else. They haven’t seen a movie of mine or anything like it. And you know what? That is the wonderful thing about activism! It puts you in touch with people who are only concerned with day-to-day matters. And that’s how I like it to be. I enjoy talking to normal people about universal problems.

There are some young people who repeat a word to disavow the older generations: boomer.

You can’t call me: I’m older than a boomer! Maybe they could tell my children, but they don’t even … I don’t know, honestly, I don’t understand that anyone is told that.

The actress in a promotional photo from 1972, the year she won her first Oscar and also became the target of criticism for her visit to Hanoi, Vietnam. /

Getty images

Aren’t you sometimes tempted to tell them little battles?

You’re kidding? Have you read my memoirs? Everything is counted there! Maybe even too much …

Although you are the author and the big claim, in the book, as in your Fire Drill Fridays, the important thing is the testimonies of other activists and experts. How do you decide which people to lend that powerful speaker to?

In a quite natural way. When we were in Washington DC, people came from all over by train, car, bus … Many had not participated in any protests before, did not know what civil disobedience was, nor had they risked arrest. It was a transformative experience for many of them. And that is precisely what interested me.

He writes that civil disobedience represents the best values ​​of American society.

I am disobedient when the situation calls for it. If I see that something is wrong, that people or animals are suffering and it can be avoided, I always try to fix it. Although that means that some are furious with me. In fact, when it comes to an important matter, those people are always going to get angry. In those cases, I am disobedient.

He also remembers his arrest history: six in total, of which four have been in the last two years. How many more times are you willing to end up at the police station?

Many, I hope. Although in reality what I would like is that no more were needed, I would prefer that the problem be solved. While that happens, I am prepared to take the risk of being arrested again. President Biden made a lot of promises during the election campaign regarding the climate crisis and he is not keeping any of them. He has a lot of work to do and, therefore, so do we.

Are you also disappointed in the role of Vice President Kamala Harris?

I know it is not one of your competences, but I trust that you will also get involved in this matter. This administration must be pushed to take urgent action. We are strong enough to do it.

The first time she was arrested, in 1970, for possession of narcotics – it was later found that they were vitamins – she shared a cell with a drug addict woman with withdrawal syndrome. Who have been your fellow dungeons these last few times?

Only cockroaches, there was no one else in the cell. They treated me well, you can imagine: I am white, famous and popular. Then Nixon was president and I didn’t like him so well, so those policemen thought they could mistreat me and give me some shoves. That has changed, now they respect me. However, there alone, with my cockroaches, I could perceive that around me there were only people of color, almost all of them black. I could hear them screaming and crying and moaning in pain. The majority of them. in fact, they should have been in an institution for the mentally ill and not in a cell. That left me very, very sad …

His awakening of consciousness came with the civil rights movement, followed by feminism, ecology, mental health and antimilitarism. Now that many of those demands have come together, do you think that systemic change is more possible now than ever?

Yes, and there is a word to describe it: intersectionality. We are much more aware that all problems are interrelated under capitalism and patriarchy. Both are the consequence of that greed of someone who sees a wild animal and thinks: “oh, how nice that carpet would look in my house.” Racism, economic inequality, patriarchy, misogyny … They are the different faces of greed, which distances us from justice and goodness.

He has always been very critical of the US role in foreign policy, especially when it comes to its armed intervention in other countries. How do you assess the departure of US troops from Afghanistan?

I am particularly concerned about the situation in which Afghan women have been left. I work with the organization V-Day, which fights to end violence against women, and we have been supporting a center there for a decade where young women receive education. I have followed with great interest the work of women who have been fighting there for equality and empowerment. That is why I am so concerned about what they are going through right now. In fact, in the next few days I will participate in a march to make their situation visible. In Afghanistan there was a war that should not have been started, which occurred for reasons that were false. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney put us in that war and it was a crime for which they did not pay. Then it was the entry into Iraq, another unnecessary war … I don’t have enough information to know if the troops have left when they should or not, but yes I am clear that women are suffering from the decisions our leaders made at the time.

What do you expect from the Climate Change Conference that kicks off in Glasgow on October 31st?

I won’t be there because we’re filming the last season of Grace and Frankie, but I think it’s a good opportunity to get Biden to do what he needs to do before he leaves the presidency. If you decide to do so, you will have the moral and political authority to bring about change. That means stopping the construction of fossil fuel pipelines, not allowing prospecting in the Gulf of Mexico, not granting subsidies to oil companies… Those are some of the things you can do if you want to be a true leader. They are the ones that we citizens demand.

Jane Fonda with Lily Tomlin, with whom she has co-starred in the series Grace and Frankie since 2015. /


Since you mention it, is it hard to say goodbye to Grace and Frankie, a series that you have dedicated the last six years to?

It’s being a wonderful recording, we all love each other very much. It is a happy pity to see that everything comes to an end and that, at the same time, we are prepared. We will be sad when we have to say goodbye, but we will throw a tremendous party to celebrate.

In 2018, a sweet moment for you, Jane Fonda premiered in Five Acts, a documentary with which she made peace with her past. Did she need to understand herself or others after being misunderstood so many times?

I think you have more important things to think about than me, honestly. I would not encourage anyone to waste time reflecting on the various stages of my life, or even trying to understand me.

There is an episode in his life that he has spoken little about: the romance he lived with the Spanish film producer José Antonio Sainz de Vicuña.

Oh my killerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! [Exclama de repente en español] However, I remember everything very well. We keep in touch and write to each other from time to time by email despite the time that has passed. He was and is a wonderful man, yes, an authentic Spaniard, very handsome, very funny, a great dancer and so sexy …

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Jane Fonda at 83, from actress to fearless activist: “I’m prepared to risk being arrested again”