Jane Fonda On the Climate Crisis, Getting Arrested and Five Decades of Activism
So I said, “Okay, I’ve got to hook up with [Working America], because they are the people who are most effectively talking to those people.” I think it’s both strategic, because we have to peel away, strategically, a certain percent of the Obama-Trump folks out there, but [it’s] also moral. Some of my liberal friends say, “Why are you wasting your time in Scranton, Pennsylvania, or Modesto, California, or San Diego? Why? We have to go for the low-hanging fruit.” And we know what that is — people of color, women, millennials. I agree, but it’s not either or; it’s both and.
TV: In the ‘60s, when you were supporting the Black Panthers and heavily involved in the anti-war movement, you came under government surveillance; decades later, we’re all living under surveillance all the time. How do your thoughts on that experience line up with how things are now, when everyone — especially people who are more public-facing — is under a microscope?
JF: Don’t let ‘em get to ya. They picked the wrong person when they went after me, and it was on every level — bank accounts were taken [and my mail was opened]. But then also, I’d go stand in a line for something and someone would be standing right in front of me, and they’d have a patch right on the back of their jean jacket: “Jane Fonda [draws finger across throat].” I mean, it was everywhere, and every time it happened, I was just digging in my heels. I was so conscious of the fact that [as a] privileged white woman, Henry Fonda’s daughter, they think I’m gonna be a wimp: “F**k you! You’ll have to kill me. You will never cow me into stopping.” So it just made me more determined, and I hope that anyone who feels that they are being surveilled or harassed feels the same way.
TV: That’s excellent advice, especially now that so many people are voicing dissent against the current administration. I think it’s a good thing that we have public-facing people like you who are saying, “No, I’m not going to go hang out in the Hollywood Hills, I’m going to do something.”
JF: I understand why, right now, it’s very easy for people to feel like it’s all gonna be over anyway, so why not just lead a hedonistic life or tune out. But you know what that leads to? Alienation. I have been rock bottom in my life as an activist — so down that I could barely talk. Greta, when she had been studying climate change and she saw this locomotive heading at her, and she looked around and saw that people weren’t reacting appropriately, she was traumatized into stopping eating, right? [Earlier this year, in an interview with Teen Vogue, Thunberg attributed this to depression.] For a year, she was really sick, and you know what got her out of it? Seeing what the Parkland students in Florida were doing. And the minute she started doing something, her trauma lifted.
TV: Saving the world as self-care.
JF: Heeding the call! And look, [from] Parkland to Greta to the student strike, there’s this ripple effect coming from youth now that is unprecedented, and it’s shaking things up, and it’s having a huge effect. So we grown-ups [chuckles] — well, we’re not really grown-up, they’re the ones who are grown-up — we have to step up and heed the call.
TV: A lot of people who look like you and I do are a big part of why we’re in the situation we’re in. How do we specifically use our privilege as white women to talk to other people like us, and help them to realize that the patriarchy isn’t going to save them, and we need to embrace a broad multiracial, multigender movement, or we’re all screwed?