Watch out, world. Jane Fonda is raising an army.
At Visionary Women’s Thursday celebration of International Women’s Day, Fonda told an audience that she recently met with U.S. senators on the climate change task force in Washington, D.C., to discuss her mission to combat climate change.
From onstage at Studio Beverly Hills, she said, “I said, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ And they said, ‘Yes. You’re building an army. … Make it big.’”
Visionary Women honored the activist and two-time Oscar winner with the organization’s Visionary Activist Award. The presentation followed a Champagne and Petrossian caviar reception, a stirring performance by the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and the launch of the Chara Schreyer Arts Initiative (named for the art collector and philanthropist), which included the unveiling of a sculpture project by artist Rosha Yaghmai.
In her introduction to Fonda, actress Patricia Arquette called the “Grace and Frankie” star “a true force of nature,” “a faithful and fearless female” and “the original influencer,” the latter description eliciting applause from the 500 guests, who were mostly other women.
“Jane has been arrested recently five times,” Arquette said. “At her 82th birthday, she asked her close friends to come and celebrate her birthday by getting arrested in Washington, which we did, of course, in her honor.”
And what was Fonda’s response? “‘This is the best birthday I’ve ever had,’” Arquette said, remembering the occasion.
During Fonda’s turn at the podium, the actress, producer, political activist and feminist icon talked about the Fire Drill Fridays protests she has been leading, along with Greenpeace, to demand action by political leaders to address climate change.
“We’re facing a collective crisis with the climate crisis that can only be solved with a collective response,” Fonda said. “We have a decade. We are alive at a time when we have 10 years to choose to either allow things to get worse or to solve them. And we’re only going to solve them if we stick together. Individually, you know, we can get rid of all single-use plastic and drive Priuses and electric cars and have solar panels … but those things can’t be scaled up in time to make a real difference.”
As for going to jail, Fonda extolled the virtues by saying, “You know, it’s interesting to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested. You’re put into a police wagon and deliberately put in a position of humility, where you’re kind of bent over and you’ve given up all control — and you feel totally empowered.”
Pausing for cheers, she then said, “It’s very hard now to find ways to align your full body with your deepest values. And civil disobedience does that. And risk of arrest does that. And that has to become the new norm.”
After telling the group that we are losing forests and destroying oceans, she said, “There are not two sides to the story. What [scientists] are all saying is this is drastic. This is really bad, and in 10 years, we have to cut our fossil fuel emissions by 50%. … No matter who is elected in November, we have to hold their feet to the fire. If necessary, shut down the government, and I’m not kidding.”
Fonda concluded with a call to join the movement.
Returning to the stage, Visionary Women President Shelley Reid announced that the organization would support Fire Drill Fridays in honor of Fonda. In addition, Reid said Visionary Women has raised more than $2 million during the last three years to fund organizations and initiatives that support women and girls locally and globally.
“This is our great opportunity to stand up, to shout out and to tell the world we are a community,” Reid said. “We are a community of women supporting other women. Our 2020 vision is to make this event the event, the epicenter of Los Angeles for everything that is International Women’s Day. Our goal is to expand across generations. Our goal is to expand across the geography of Los Angeles.” (International Women’s Day is Sunday.)
Guests at the celebration, which was sponsored by Maurice and Paul Marciano, also included Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, Beverly Hills City Councilmember Lili Bosse, former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, Code Pink cofounder Jodie Evans, Hammer Museum Director Ann Philbin and assistant curator Erin Christovale, and, from Visionary Women’s board Angella Nazarian, Thea Andrews Wolf, Karen Murphy O’Brien, Nina Kotick, Price Arana and Nadine Watt.