The events follow in the wake of a months-long unearthing of sexual misconduct within Hollywood, and more recently, the start of the Time’s Up initiative.
In Los Angeles, Johansson delivered a rousing speech, calling out actor James Franco (though not by name) within the first two minutes of her six-minute speech. A rep for the actress later confirmed to The Los Angeles Times that she was, indeed, referring to the actor.
“In light of the recent revelations regarding abuse of power and sexual harassment and the question of consent versus coercion, I find myself pensive, taking time and digging deep to understand where we are and how we got here,” she said. “My mind baffles: 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.”
Viola Davis reflected on the nation’s history of inequality and abuse of power when she took to the podium.
“The reason why Jim Crow laws were in place, that stifled my rights and your rights, is because we fell asleep,” she said. “We fall asleep when we’re moving ahead and we don’t look to the left and right and see we’re not including people in this move ahead. 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.”
The actress added that though she is often introduced as an “award-winning actor,” her testimony is really “one of poverty.”
“My testimony is one of being sexually assaulted and very much seeing a childhood that was robbed from me,” she said. “And I know that every single day, when I think of that, I know that the trauma of those events are still with me today. And that’s what drives me to the voting booth. That’s what allows me to listen to the women who are still in silence. That’s what allows me to even become a citizen on this planet, is the fact that we are here to connect. That we are as 324 million people living on this earth, to know that every day, we breathe and we live. That we got to bring up everyone with us.”
In New York City, singer Halsey delivered her own version of a speech, wrapped up in the lyrical rhymes of a poem titled “A Story Like Mine,” in which she detailed her experiences accompanying her best friend to Planned Parenthood after a rape, as well as her own experience being forced to have sex by her boyfriend and feeling violated even in the public eye.
“My phone is buzzing in the pocket/ My mom is asking me if I remembered my keys ’cause she’s closing the door and she needs to lock it/ But I can’t tell my mom where I’ve gone/ I can’t tell anyone at all/ You see, my best friend Sam was raped by a man that we knew ’cause he worked in the after-school program/ And he held her down with her textbook beside her/ And he covered her mouth and he came inside her/ So now I’m with Sam, at the place with a plan, waiting for the results of a medical exam/ And she’s praying she doesn’t need an abortion, she couldn’t afford it/ And her parents would, like, totally kill her.”
Alyssa Milano, one of the first celebrities to use the #MeToo hashtag last year, delivered a powerful speech at the Women’s March in Atlanta, in which she recognized the power of many voices coming together to create a more palpable democracy.
“I really want you guys to look around at each other. I want you to look around and I want you to realize, that this, this right here is what democracy looks like. It doesn’t happen automatically,” she said. “It demands our action and participation. It challenges us but it also empowers us because at the end of the day, it is us. With [the] two words [‘me too’], we regained our dignity and #MeToo connected us through our pain but it also connected us, and this is very important. It connected us each one of us to our own power and by saying #MeToo, we formed a bond that is unbreakable. We formed a movement that is unstoppable and when time comes time to vote, you’re gonna prove that it’s also unbeatable. Voting is how we prove that our country is so much bigger and kinder than one man that is in the White House. The good news is that in a democracy like ours, the real power is not with him, it is with you. Let me tell you, we’ve got a whole lot more love and hope on our side than they have assholes.”
Whoopi Goldberg similarly highlighted the change that has taken place and the change that needs to happen for all women, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background and experience, to feel the impact of the movement.
“The only way we’re going to make a change is if we commit to change,” she said at the Women’s March in New York City. “We have to decide that the people who represent us have to represent all of us. They can’t represent some of us. We’re 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.”
Other public figures who spoke Saturday included Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria, Connie Britton, Mila Kunis and more.