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The Angry, Amazing, and Heartbreaking Speeches from Yesterday’s Marches

"I want my pin back."

Screengrab of Viola Davis's speech at the 2018 Women's March

[Content warning: All of these speeches reference sexual assault and harassment.]

At Women’s Marches across the United States yesterday, scores of women gave rousing and heartbreaking speeches about the issues that face us in 2018. It would be impossible to curate all of the inspiration, fire, and catharsis that went on at these marches in scores of cities, so I’ve only collected a few of the high-profile celebrity speeches below. But I encourage you to share links to any other speeches you enjoyed in the comments!

From Viola Davis invoking Fannie Lou Hamer and Recy Taylor to Scarlett Johansoon telling James Franco, “I want my pin back,” these speeches are an excellent reminder of everything we’ve gained by speaking out—and how much farther we have to go to ensure those benefits reach every woman.

Viola Davis
(Los Angeles, California)

In a stirring speech, Davis quoted both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. and testified to the contributions of Fannie Lou Hamer and Recy Taylor, women for whom speaking up about trauma truly “cost them something.” She called for today’s women’s movement to remember those women without the resources to speak up. She urged us not to “fall asleep.”

“We fall asleep when we’re moving ahead, and we don’t look to the left and right and see that we’re not including people in this move ahead,” she said, “because, really, at the end of the day, we only move forward when it doesn’t cost us anything. But I’m here today saying that no one and nothing can be great unless it costs you something … I am speaking today not just for the MeToos, because I was a MeToo. But when I raise my hand, I am aware of all the women who are still in silence, the women who are faceless.”

Halsey
(New York, New York)

In her speech at the New York City Women’s March, singer Halsey turned to poetry to best express herself. “I came back to do a speech this time, but I don’t really know how to do a speech unless it rhymes, so I’m gonna do a little poem for you guys,” she said. The poem, titled “A Story Like Mine,” is about a lifetime of witnessing and experiencing sexual assault. It opens with Halsey in a Planned Parenthood, accompanying her friend after she has been sexually assaulted. Halsey then walks through her own experiences with abuse and sexual assault, both before and after becoming famous.

Natalie Portman
(Los Angeles, California)

Portman talked about her experience as a 12-year-old actress on The Professional, her first film. “I was so excited at 13 when the film was released and my work and my art would have a human response,” she said. “I excitedly opened my first fan mail to read a rape fantasy that a man had written me. A countdown was started on my local radio show to my eighteenth birthday, euphemistically the date that I would be legal to sleep with. Movie reviewers talked about my budding breasts in their reviews. I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually that I would feel unsafe. And that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort.”

“So I quickly adjusted my behavior, I rejected any role that even had a kissing scene and talked about that choice deliberately in interviews. I emphasized how bookish I was, how serious I was, and I cultivated an elegant way of dressing. I built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious. In an attempt to feel that my body was safe and that my voice would be listened to. At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me.”

Scarlett Johansson
(Los Angeles, California)

Johansson spoke about the “rage” that she felt as she tried to be thoughtful and consider all the stories of sexual harassment and coercion. “I had many relationships, both personal and professional, where the power dynamic was so off that I had to create a narrative in which I was the ‘cool girl’,” she said, “who could hang in and hang out, and that sometimes meant compromising what felt right for me. And that seemed okay, compromising my voice and therefore allowing myself to be unseen and degraded … because it allowed me to have the approval that women are conditioned to need.”

“No more pandering,” she said later. “No more feeling guilty about hurting people’s feelings when something doesn’t feel right for me. I have made a promise to myself to be responsible for my self, that in order to trust my instincts I must first respect them. I am finally on a path of forgiveness, not for the people who took advantage of my conditioning to pander, but forgiveness of myself. Forgiving the girl who felt used and heartbroken and confused and guilty.”

Johansson also called out James Franco, her rep confirmed, when she asked, “How could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support for victims of sexual assault while privately preying on people who have no power? I want my pin back, by the way.”

Whoopi Goldberg
(New York, New York)

“The only way we’re going to make a change is if we commit to change,” Goldberg said. “We have to decide that the people who represent us have to represent all of us. They can’t represent some of us. We are all human beings and have a right to say, ‘This is how I want to be spoken to. I don’t want to be spoken to like you own me, like you think you can touch me when I say you cannot.’ We are here to say—as women—we’re not taking it anymore. It’s just not going to happen.”

(Via The Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair, and Billboard; image: screengrab)

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