How Feminism Taught Jane Fonda The Importance Of Female Friendships

She wrote about discovering a deeper, more meaningful feminism in her 60s.
Loreen Sarkis via Getty Images

Jane Fonda is more than an actress-fitness-guru-antiwar activist. She is officially "an embodied feminist."

In the March 22nd Lenny Letter newsletter, Fonda wrote of her journey to "blood and bones" feminism, and growing beyond her public and "theoretical" feminist identity.

Fonda initially discovered the feminist movement in the 1970s. As she became a prominent voice in the antiwar movement, she heard a feminist speak to a group of active-duty soldiers in effort to educate them on the women's movement. This served as a major turning point for her. She realized that feminism was not about women hating men, but about empowering them both.

"Although," she said,"it would be many more years before I would be brave enough to look within myself and locate the multiple ways in which I had internalized sexism and the profound damage that it had done to me."

Of this internalized sexism, she discussed the implications that harmful gender stereotypes had on her:

The culture that incubated in me since childhood insists that to be loved, a female has to be perfect: thin, pretty, having good hair, being nice rather than honest, ready to sacrifice, never smarter than a man, never angry.

Fonda spent much her adult life with an eating disorder -- "probably to fill the emptiness" -- and using romantic relationships with men to validate her self-worth. But that changed completely when she reached a milestone age.

"When I turned 60...I decided that, no matter how scary it was, I needed to heal the wounds patriarchy had dealt me," she said. It was during this time of her life that she shirked the security of romantic relationships:

For me, the personal meant becoming a single woman, no longer silencing my voice, slowly becoming the subject of my own life. My friendships with women grew deeper and more fulfilling...In the process, I discovered that what I’d thought were just my issues were, in fact, shared by other women.

Her friendships grew stronger, her comprehension of feminism deeper, and -- arriving at this wholehearted feminism 30 years after discovering it -- she finally gave herself permission to be a late bloomer.

"It's OK to be a late bloomer," she concluded. "As long as you don’t miss the flower show."

Before You Go

21 Ways Gloria Steinem Taught Us To Be Better Women

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