Jane Fonda – daughter of the legendary actor Henry Fonda – is a world famous, Oscar-winning actress, Hollywood star, aerobics’ guru and a best-selling author. She is also a lifelong social activist who:
- Protested against the Vietnam War and Iraq War
- Took an active part in the Civil Rights Movement for equality for African Americans
- Supports feminism, feminist causes and reproductive rights
- Fights for human rights of downtrodden people worldwide
- Took part in the 2015 Vancouver Greenpeace Rally to protest oil drilling in British Columbia
More recently, Jane Fonda received national attention for her support of protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline is to run from the Bakken Formation oil deposits in North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois. The Bakken Formation oil deposits are believed to be huge and presumably hugely profitable. The crude oil transported via the Dakota Access Pipeline could be then distributed from Illinois to refineries – and then consumers – in other parts of the country. Energy Transfer Partners, the oil company that owns the pipeline, stands to make billions.
The Dakota Access Pipeline however poses serious environmental risks (it is to pass under the Missouri River where it could potentially rupture and contaminate water supply) and encroaches on indigenous lands violating sites which are sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. These two main issues are only the “highlights”. The economic stability of the Tribe and the health of its members which might be negatively affected by chemical contamination are at stake as well.
The leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued and attracted the support of thousands, including army veterans and celebrities. The protests were curbed by authorities; the law suit so far produced a temporary injunction during which additional environmental impact testing is to be conducted.
The fears of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are justified. Energy Transfer Partners (the oil company that owns the Bakken pipeline) is currently sued by five States for contaminating groundwater. Energy Transfer Partners company has extremely poor safety and environmental ratings.
There is no ending of the conflict in sight. Just in case you wonder which side is right: environmental disasters disproportionately affect the poor and powerless (think of the led-contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan).
Jane Fonda supported the protesters and now she is putting her money where her mouth is: she celebrated her 79th birthday by withdrawing all her money from Wells Fargo Bank. (Wells Fargo is one of the banks that finance the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.) On the same day (accompanied by her granddaughter), she marched with American Indian leaders, her friends, allies and fellow celebrities (Lily Tomlin, Catherine Keener, Frances Fisher and Delores Huerta participated. Some of them have also removed their money from the offending banks.) in Hollywood. The goal of the demonstration was to increase public awareness to the #DeFund DAPL movement and urge consumers to follow her lead and withdraw their money from banks that support environmental destruction and trampling indigenous peoples’ rights. Jane Fonda also sent a letter to Tim Sloan, the CEO of Wells Fargo Bank urging him to stop financing DAPL.
We all have convictions that we hold dear. Not all of us have the guts to act or stand up for them in public. Jane Fonda does. She didn’t mellow with age. Once idealist, always idealist. But idealism and social activism come with a price.
Her anti Vietnam War stance cost her dearly. Some considered her a “traitor”. She was forced to live with the “Hanoi Jane” label for many years. (Citizens who protest policies do so out of love of country: to correct its course, to make their country better. Cowardice is unpatriotic. Pacifism is not just patriotic, it is also moral.)
Fonda may still be “Hanoi Jane” to some. To the rest of us Jane Fonda represents courage and American conscience.
She is quoted as saying: “It’s much more important to be interested than to be interesting.” Jane Fonda is both.
Anything L.A. Magazine’s Editor, E. Elrich