As we previously announced, Jessica is among the Variety’s Power of Women Honorees alongside Chelsea Clinton, Gayle King, Blake Lively, Audra McDonald, and Shari Redstone.
Chastain is being recognized for her commitment to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people.
Jessica Chastain turned to Planned Parenthood as a young woman. “That’s where I got my birth control pills,” she says. “That’s where I learned about sex education. It was a very important place to me.” The Oscar-nominated actress acknowledges that such services weren’t always available. “I’m the first woman in my family not to have a child as a teenager,” Chastain says. “I’m the first one to go to college. When my grandmother was younger, she didn’t have access to birth control or sex education. My mom, the same thing. It’s very important in our society to protect women who financially don’t have the means to pay for healthcare, and Planned Parenthood does that.” But Planned Parenthood, which is 100 years old, has been under fire. The Trump administration and pro-life Republicans are threatening to defund the non-profit unless it stops providing abortions in its clinics. “Politicians in D.C. are mounting the biggest attack on women’s health in a generation, and blocking access to Planned Parenthood is their top priority,” says Dawn Laguens, the group’s chief brand officer. “Women are resisting these attacks. They know speaking up and speaking out can change the direction of this government.” If the Republican legislation passes, Planned Parenthood wouldn’t receive federal funds for its 650 health centers across the U.S., where 2.5 million patients visit annually for cancer screenings, breast exams, STD tests, and more. “I’m absolutely worried that if we don’t support Planned Parenthood and healthcare for women, we’ll head backward,” says Chastain. “I guess I’m not surprised by the war on women’s healthcare. I think it’s something I’ve seen for the majority of my life.”
Jessica Chastain has become an outspoken advocate for gender equality in Hollywood, from pushing for the hiring of more women directors and crew, to seeking better representations of female characters on the big screen. On the interview with Variety she spoke candidly about how she negotiates her contracts to make sure her wages are on par with her male counterparts.
I’m not taking jobs anymore where I’m getting paid a quarter of what the male co-star is being paid. I’m not allowing that in my life.
I remember watching Amy Pascal — it was after the Sony hack, and she was giving a talk somewhere. She said part of the reason women don’t get paid equal to men is they don’t ask for more; actresses need to stop being so grateful. That really hit me. At first, I was really pissed off. And then I thought, “She’s touching on something here.” Women need to step forward and demand they’re fairly compensated for their work.
You have a scale to measure it by, because the big agencies know what the male actors are getting paid. So when they’re negotiating, they should feel empowered. They can come forward and say, “This is 2017. We’re not doing this anymore.”
Variety will celebrate their honorees at its annual Power of Women: New York luncheon on Friday, April 21. The event at Cipriani Midtown will be hosted by Vanessa Bayer (“Saturday Night Live”).