Friday, November 22, 2019


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. 


  1. Deborah, I'm among those who do not approve of the young Jane Fonda, but I read your entire post and have to agree with your depiction of her. I'll never be a fan of hers, but I agree that she has used her status in life to bring attention to what she believes and in itself is admirable. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

    1. Thanks, Fran. I'm so glad you kept reading! And appreciate your comments.

  2. oh yes, I see prejudice against smart capable women like Jane Fonda. Note how Fiona Hill was described by Amb. Sondland as shaking and upset, needing his comfort when she described her emotion at the time as anger at him for not cooperating. I am at an age where I no longer care if men think I am crazy or hysterical when I am just angry. I only wish I had felt that way 50 years ago.

  3. "Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind - even if your voice shakes." - Maggie Kuhn, female activist who started the "gray panthers" when she was forced to retire from her job at the age of 65. We all ride on the backs of those fearsome women. :)

  4. Always controversial and never afraid of controversy: that's Jane Fonda. Whatever else we can say about her, we have to recognize that she is, and has always been, a strong woman with a take-no-prisoners approach to life. That's one thing we can all admire.

  5. Whatever else can be said of Jane Fonda, no one can say she took the easy path. Born into privilege, she could have sat back and enjoyed that privilege. Instead, she spoke out for what she believed in. Agree or disagree with those beliefs, I think you have to admire her for that. Personally, I like her - both as an actress and as a strong woman.

  6. I have mixed emotions about Jane Fonda, but I can still admire who she has become. Age does have the advantage of helping to distill what's really important and freeing us from many of the hang-ups and inhibitions of youth.

  7. Jane Fonda had nothing at all to lose. She was the child of good fortune, opinionated and determined. Her beliefs were unanimously supported by most of the elites of Hollywood, despite their antagonism to America. I was not a supporter of the actions taken by the US in Viet Nam and protested the continuation of the war for most of my young adult years but I did not blame the young men of my generation who were drafted into a war that would not benefit our country. Jane Fonda is in no way an admirable woman, in my opinion. She stood against her country and her fellow Americans because she was assured that she could not be touched. What she has become is in no way a tribute to strong, intelligent, principled women.

  8. Leigh, as I probably intimated, my husband would probably agree with you, at least in part.