Jane Fonda describes her struggle to become the 'perfect' woman
Published 10/04/2016 | 11:46
Jane Fonda has told how she struggled to become a perfect woman as her father made her feel fat and unattractive.
The 78-year-old actress said she had battled with her body image since childhood, developing an eating disorder and entering unhappy relationships to "validate" herself.
Speaking in The Sunday Times, the Oscar winner said: "The culture that incubated in me since childhood insists that to be loved, a female has to be perfect: thin, pretty, have good hair, be nice rather than honest, ready to sacrifice, never smarter than a man, never angry. This didn't matter so much when I was a strong, feisty tomboy during childhood. But when I hit adolescence and the spectre of womanhood loomed, all that mattered was how I looked and fitted in.
"My father would send my stepmother to tell me to lose weight and wear longer skirts. One of my stepmothers told me all the ways I'd have to change physically if I wanted a boyfriend. Meanwhile, I sort of … hollowed out. Almost everything interesting about me scooped itself out."
The fitness guru admitted it took years for her to become a true feminist, needing to confront her relationships with men first.
She said: " It's hard to be embodied if you hate your body. I developed an eating disorder (probably to fill the emptiness), and given that it was, at least partially, an inauthentic me that I presented to the world, I instinctively chose men who would never notice because of their own addictions and 'issues'. Ah, but they were interesting, charismatic, alpha men, and they validated me. If he's with me, I must be someone.
"For me to really confront sexism would have required doing something about my relationships with men, and I couldn't. That was too scary."
Confessing she didn't embody feminism until she was 60, Ms Fonda said women were a core issue that needed to be addressed, adding: "We will fail to solve any problem - poverty, peace, sustainable development, environment, health - unless we look at it through a gender lens and make sure the solution will be good for women.
"It took me 30 years to get it, but it's okay to be a late bloomer, as long as you don't miss the flower show."