Rather than responding with major eye roll the next time you hear a man calling a woman, who likely isn't crazy, crazy, you might want to try shutting down that dude the way Natalie Portman does.
While onstage to accept an award at Variety's Power of Women luncheon last Friday, the Oscar-award-winning actress and mom shared some steps people can take to help women advance, and one of them dealt with men who gossip about women. "Stop the rhetoric that a woman is crazy or difficult. If a man says to you that a woman is crazy or difficult, ask him: what bad thing did you do to her?" she said.
Natalie continued, "[Crazy or Difficult is] a code word. He's trying to discredit her reputation." Earlier in the speech, the actress, who expressed her support for the Time's Up movement, discussed how discrediting women was a tactic former film producer Harvey Weinstein used to silence his accusers.
Natalie hit the nail right on the head. Plus, what does a guy even mean when he calls a woman crazy or difficult? More often than not, he gave her the label because she dared to express that she wasn't happy with him or she did something he didn't like, and for him, invalidating her feelings or ruining her reputation, is easier than trying to understand where she's coming from.
During her speech, Natalie, who shares son Aleph, 7, and daughter Amalia, 1, with husband Benjamin Millepied, also dispelled a working-mom myth: that women mainly leave the workforce to spend more time with their kids or because their workplace isn't family-friendly. She said that "there are too many women who either don't choose to have children, do not yet have children or who have grown children to account for the gaping lack of women in leadership positions in almost every industry," and also mentioned that many professions that might be considered incompatible with motherhood, or aren't considered family-friendly, are almost entirely female, like gynecology, or makeup and and wardrobe departments on TV and movie sets, respectively.
"It's much more likely for a woman to stay in a job for her children than to leave for her children. Consider all the women in the restaurant industry or domestic workers who sometimes work many jobs at once in order to support their kids. So let's stop saying that women are choosing to drop out of the workforce because of their families. That's wrong," she said. "Of course, there are women who have a personal preference for being full-time parents, and that's a beautiful and admirable choice, and way harder than working all the time in my opinion—and unpaid—but [they don't account for] all the women who should be in the leadership positions who are not there."
Natalie clarified that family-friendly policies and workplaces, like family leave or daycares at work, can help keep women in their industries, but the lack of both isn't what's causing many of them to leave. Instead, she suggests a reason that movements like Time's Up are shedding light on.
"Let's be clear: the reason women are leaving in nearly every industry and are not being represented in powerful positions is because women are being discriminated against or retaliated against for hiring and for promotions. When they do get the jobs, they are being often harassed and assaulted, and they are being paid less than their male counterparts, all of which coerce self-preserving women into finding safer options for themselves and different ways to feel valued. Many women are further oppressed by intersections with other marginalized identities, whether by sexual orientation, race, age, class, religion, physical ability and are subject to multiple avenues of discrimination and harassment at work at once. And then if they try and report it, there's often a second harassment and their reputations are smeared, their future hiring is jeopardized, and they are further harassed."
This story originally appeared in Working Mother.