When Natalie Portman arrived at the 92nd Academy Awards on Sunday evening, the actress’ outfit quickly became the most talked-about of the night. Dressed top-to-toe in Dior, Portman wore a floor-length black cape with the names of the female directors snubbed by the Oscars emblazoned along the side in gold.
Portman’s statement comes just two years after she famously announced the “all-male” nominees for Best Director on stage and her cape included the likes of Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers), Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood), Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim) Alma Har’el (Honey Boy), Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) and Mati Diop (Atlantics).
But despite women everywhere applauding Portman for her statement, activist Rose McGowan had something else to say.
In response to Portman’s tribute, McGowan took to Facebook to write that she has “some thoughts on Natalie Portman and her Oscar ‘protest.'”
She wrote, “The kind of protest that gets rave reviews from the mainstream media for its bravery. Brave? No, not by a long shot. More like an actress acting the part of someone who cares. As so many of them do. I’m not writing this out of bitterness, I am writing out of disgust.”
McGowan continued. “I just want her and other actresses to walk the walk.” She went on to address Portman directly, writing, “Natalie, you have worked with two female directors in your very long career- one of them was you. You have a production company that has hired exactly one female director- you. I am singling you out because you are the latest in a long line of actresses who are acting the part of a woman who cares about other women. Actresses who supposedly stand for women, but in reality do not do much at all.”
In response to McGowan’s post, Portman issued a statement saying that she agrees it is inaccurate to call her ‘brave’ for wearing the garment. “Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure,” she wrote, according to E! News.
It continued, “The past few years have seen a blossoming of directing opportunities for women due to the collective efforts of many people who have been calling out the system. The gift has been these incredible films. I hope that what was intended as a simple nod to them does not distract from their great achievements.”
“It is true I’ve only made a few films with women. In my long career, I’ve only gotten the chance to work with female directors a few times. I’ve made shorts, commercials, music videos and features with Marya Cohen, Mira Nair, Rebecca Zlotowski, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, Shirin Neshat and myself.”
“Unfortunately, the unmade films I have tried to make are a ghost history.”
“As Stacy Smith of USC has well documented, female films have been incredibly hard to get made at studios, or to get independently financed. If these films do get made, women face enormous challenges during the making of them. I have had the experience a few times of helping get female directors hired on projects which they were then forced out of because of the conditions they faced at work.”
“After they are made, female-directed films face difficulty getting into festivals, getting distribution and getting accolades because of the gatekeepers at every level.”
“So I want to say, I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day.”