I told my husband I was thinking about writing a blog about Jane Fonda. The instant I said it, he had a negative reaction--as I expected he would. For those of us who were young adults during the Viet Nam war, Jane Fonda is still a controversial figure.
But I’m not writing about that time and whether or not Fonda was a traitor for going to North Viet Nam. I’m writing about who Fonda is today and how in many ways she’s a model for older women in our society.
Jane Fonda was born into Hollywood royalty. Her father was Henry Fonda, a respected and beloved actor. From what I’ve read, her childhood was not happy or stable even if privileged. She married three times and has throughout her life put herself into the limelight. Sometimes it seemed she’d gone off the deep end, case in point, Viet Nam; or cashed in on her notoriety or celebrity, cue to her exercise tapes. But she never slowed down and she kept reinventing herself.
There were her marriages. First Roger Vadim, the French director and ex-husband of Bridgette Bardot. Then husband number two, Tom Hayden, the political activist, who first came to our attention during the 1967 Democratic Convention in Chicago. These two men could not have been more different except, like Ted Turner, her last, they were famous, successful, and most likely, egotistical and probably narcissists.
But Jane Fonda persisted. You have to admit, if you’re still reading and not turned off by the very mention of her name, Jane Fonda is resilient and now, even at nearly 82, remarkable.
I was struck by that resiliency the other night watching her on the news after being arrested in D.C. She appeared as herself, sans the make up she wears when filming Grace & Frankie. She looked, while fabulous, closer to her age. Nonetheless, besides being attractive and articulate, she displayed an enormous amount energy and intelligence for anyone, much less an older woman.
The person I saw on the screen was not some old lady wacko, but a vital person who believes in climate change and her obligation to do what she could to bring our attention to its dangers. She used her celebrity to get the world to pay attention.
I was impressed and struck by what she said, that being almost 82 she didn’t have to worry about coming across too strong or too aggressive and could say, do, and be whatever she wanted. She didn't have to try and entice a man.
That struck a chord with me and I imagine with many of my peers. We are of the generation that thinks before we speak lest we came across as too aggressive or even too smart or, heaven forbid, unlikeable. It’s been suggested that’s why certain female candidates are unelectable.
There are some men and even women reading this who will deny that there is a prejudice against smart, outspoken women, and maybe in some circles there isn’t. But from where I sit, I see a prejudice against that kind of women that needs to be acknowledged and addressed or else we’re in danger of missing out on the wisdom and assistance of far too many.
I'm not suggesting that Jane Fonda should be a role model. But I do think her responses to the life that she was born are understandable and I'm impressed that she never stopped trying to figure out who she really was and what she could offer to the world. I think she finally has.