Natalie Portman was honoured at Variety’s Power of Women event last Friday alongside Tiffany Haddish, Emma Gonzalez, Regina King, and Lena Waithe. She said something during her remarks that I really appreciate and Natalie Portman hasn’t, in the past, exactly been an all-star on this site. That said, if Natalie Portman’s the one advocating for gossip, I’m all for it.
The speech is called Natalie Portman’s Step-by-Step Guide to Toppling the Patriarchy. You should watch the whole thing, it’s worth your time, I’ve embedded below. For the purposes of this post, the highlight here is Step 5: Gossip Well:
“Stop the rhetoric that a woman is crazy or difficult. If a man says a woman is crazy or difficult, ask him, ‘What bad thing did you do to her?’"
Right. It’s not “don’t gossip”. It’s not “gossip sucks”. It’s gossip… and gossip well. It’s the recognition that gossip, like everything else, can be good and bad. And the acknowledgment that when gossip is good, it can have value – which has been researched and studied over and over again, at Stanford, at Oxford, at so many other academic institutions. As mentioned repeatedly on this site, however, one of the problems is that gossip has been feminised. And whenever anything is associated with women, it’s not taken seriously and gets called trash, preoccupations for the smaller mind.
The fact is, gossip is not a gendered activity. Everyone gossips. Natalie Portman’s point is that not everyone has been gossiping well. Certainly not in Hollywood, a town that would cease to exist without gossip. And, obviously, certainly not outside Hollywood. Most of us have been guilty of not gossiping well. Which, again, is her point. Understanding that gossip is part of every ecosystem, it’s not about stopping it, it’s about modelling the right way to go about it, with examples. And this continues to be what we are all learning in this movement, in this time of interrogation of old systems and processes. That’s the difference here between what Natalie’s saying and the celebrity-simple commentary that we’ve heard in the past from some of her peers about gossip. It’s a more nuanced take on a practice that so many of them claim to not participate in while actively participating it in. So that’s what she’s doing too – creating a space for nuance at a time when it seems like nuance is becoming more and more rare. Thank you, Natalie Portman.