"We are all worthy." That was the overall message behind Viola Davis' emotional speech at the Women's March. When Davis took the podium in Los Angeles she wanted to give a voice to the voiceless, those women of the Me Too movement that still need to be heard. In doing this, Davis also gave a powerful speech about intersectional feminism that proves why we need it now.
"Every single day, your job as an American citizen is not just to fight for your rights, but it is to fight for the right of every individual that is taking a breath, whose heart is pumping and breathing on this earth," she said, adding, "I am speaking today not just for the Me Toos, because I was a Me Too, but when I raise my hand, I am aware of all the women who are still in silence."
A critique of the Me Too movement has been that it caters to more high profile women, often white women, who have come out against powerful men in Hollywood, but there are women in other fields, specifically domestic workers, whose stories are being ignored. In Davis' speech, she specifically offered numbers for those women of colour who have been sex trafficked or raped. "If you are a woman of colour and you are raped before you reach the age of 18," Davis said. "Then you are 66% more likely to be sexually assaulted again."
It's why many 300 women in Hollywood started the Time's Up initiative, which looks to tackle sexual harassment on a broader scale. Mainly by raising money towards a legal defence fund to "help survivors of sexual assault and harassment across all industries challenge those responsible for the harm against them and give voice to their experiences," as an open letter stated.
Davis wanted to speak directly to those women "who are faceless. The women who don't have the money and don't have the constitution and who don't have the confidence and who don't have the images in our media that gives them a sense of self-worth enough to break their silence that is rooted in the shame of assault and rooted in the stigma of assault."
It's for those women that Davis said we all need to fight, side-by-side, no matter who we are and where we come from, to make sure that real change happens. This won't be easy - she made that clear by putting her own twist on President Donald Trump's slogan of "Make America Great Again" - but it has to be done.
“I’m here today saying that no one and nothing can be great unless it cost you something,” she said, citing the founder of the Me Too movement Tarana Burke, Rosa Parks, and Recy Taylor, who was abducted and raped by six white men in 1944. Taylor, who passed away last month and was also cited in Oprah's now iconic Golden Globes speech, never got justice against her attackers because her case never went to trial, but, nevertheless, she spent her entire life fighting for justice for others. It's what Davis said, "I'm here today saying that no one and nothing can be great unless it costs you something."
Davis explained that she knew this firsthand being that she was a survivor of sexual assault like so many other women. It's easy to forget that, though, she said, because she's now defined as an "award-winning actor," but she wanted women to stop letting others define them. Davis said she is yes, an actor, but "my testimony is one of poverty. My testimony is one of being sexually assaulted, and very much seeing a childhood that was robbed from me. And I know that the trauma of those events is still with me today. That’s what drives me to the voting booth.”
Our perceived differences keep us apart, when in actuality we need to embrace our similarities so that we can come together for a greater good not later, but right now. Davis quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that change happens over time from "human dedication and effort" and if we don't give both of those things the oppressors win.
"My hope for the future, my hope, and I do hope that we never go back," Davis said. "That it's not just about clapping your hands and screaming and shouting every time someone says something that sounds good. It's about keeping it rolling once you go home."
For Davis it's about what you're doing in those days when you're not out marching, so what are you doing today?
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