As the Black Widow in the “Captain America” movies, Scarlett Johansson was the highest-grossing actor of 2016 (not the highest-paid—that designation was given to a man). But her activities in the political limelight may be generating even more attention.
Johansson’s rousing speech at the Women’s March on Washington in January was a pivotal step for an actor not afraid to challenge the current administration and advocate in support of Planned Parenthood. “I believe with every fiber of my being that the conversation that we have with our partners and doctors about what we do with our bodies should not be made fodder for any political agenda, lawmaker and for profit corporation,” she said in Washington, D.C. “We must stand up for our basic human rights and always move forward, never backwards.” On a recent airing of Saturday Night Live, Johannson memorably spoofed Ivanka Trump in a skit about her complicity in her father’s administration.
During the second day of the Women in the World Summit, Johansson, who’s also the mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, spoke with Arianna Huffington, founder & CEO of Thrive, about breaking up the boys’ club, whether she’d ever run for office, and why Ivanka “baffles” her. Here are some of the highlights.
On Ivanka’s old-fashioned attitude
“I’ve been thinking a lot about Ivanka Trump recently. I’m sure you saw the interview with Gayle King [on This Morning]. It was baffling and I think you can’t have it both ways. If you take a job as a public advocate, you must advocate publicly. Yesterday, she said something I found particularly disappointing. She felt that the biggest influence she would have would be behind closed doors, and that no one would actually know that she made this change. And I thought [sarcastically], “Wow, that’s empowering.” That’s so old-fashioned. Why be behind a man? Why not be next to them? Or in front of them? Because people will be afraid that you’re bitchy? Screw that. It’s so old fashioned, uninspired, and cowardly. I was so disappointed by that yesterday.”
Why Ivanka “baffles” her
“I can’t imagine how complicated it must be to see a parent in the position that she’s in and know deep down that it’s not a position he ever really wanted,” said Johansson. “But she has an opportunity to really make a big impact just by being vocal. I have met her several times in the past many years ago, she’s a very well-spoken and smart and intelligent woman, and engaging—and the whole situation baffles me.”
On running for office
“I’ve always been interested in local politics. I think that’s where you make the most effective changes in your community,” Johannson said. “I would never rule anything out. But I have a very full life right now with a very young daughter and my career.” She left the door open just a crack, saying, “I can’t imagine that would be a possibility for a long time.” Huffington wouldn’t take no for an answer: “New York mayor—wouldn’t that be great?”
The power of the women’s march
“It became a global movement. I was talking to friends in France and England and all over the place who participated one way or another in a gathering or march,” Johansson said. “To know that the conversation is happening on a global level is very encouraging. It encourages people to volunteer and activate, to donate their time and money. Just knowing that you have the support of a global community can inspire some forward momentum.”
Activism runs in the family
“I come from a very politically vocal family,” she said. “My grandmother was fighting for tenants’ rights, and my mother used to take us to the voting booth. My twin brother was a field organizer for the Obama campaign and an early supporter of Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders. I believe change happens at home.”
Remaining empowered day to day
“There is a responsible way, I think, to live our lives with technology, where we also take care of ourselves and our mental states, and give ourselves time and space to be clear in our mind and focus on our empowerment and goals,” Johansson said, whether it’s taking the time to meditate and not stare at your phone or strategizing with yourself about the active choices you’re making in your life.
On how motherhood has changed her
As an actor, Johansson said, she’s intrigued by the idea of paring away the noise of daily life, returning to an almost childlike state where imagination takes center stage. “It’s such an opportunity to really enjoy life and the simple things that connect us to one another in this human experience that we share.”
Additional reporting by Kristyn Martin.