"Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein ," says Natalie Portman
The statement comes after McGowan disagreed with people calling Portman “brave” for supporting female directors at Sunday’s Oscars.
While walking red carpet before the ceremony, Portman, 38, wore a black cape embroidered with the names of several female directors like Greta Gerwig and Lulu Wang who were snubbed for Best Director nominations — which activist and actress McGowan said she found “deeply offensive to those of us who actually do the work.”
McGowan spoke out against Portman’s fashion statement on Facebook, asserting her “Oscar ‘protest’” was “more like an actress acting the part of someone who cares.”
“I agree with Ms. McGowan that it is inaccurate to call me ‘brave’ for wearing a garment with women’s names on it,” Portman said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure.”
McGowan, 46, argued that Portman is “the problem” because she claimed the actress has only “worked with two female directors in your very long career- one of them was you,” adding that Portman’s production company, Handsomecharlie Films, “has hired exactly one female director- you.”
“You ‘A-listers’ could change the world if you’d take a stand instead of being the problem. Yes, you, Natalie. You are the problem. Lip service is the problem,” McGowan added.
Portman specifically responded to that part of McGowan’s post as well, saying that she’s tried to work with other female directors but the projects haven’t worked out.
“The past few years have seen a blossoming of directing opportunities for women due to the collective efforts of many people who have been calling out the system,” Portman said. “The gift has been these incredible films. I hope that what was intended as a simple nod to them does not distract from their great achievements.”
“It is true I’ve only made a few films with women. In my long career, I’ve only gotten the chance to work with female directors a few times – I’ve made shorts, commercials, music videos and features with Marya Cohen, Mira Nair, Rebecca Zlotowski, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, Shirin Neshat and myself,” she continued. “Unfortunately, the unmade films I have tried to make are a ghost history.”
“As Stacy Smith of USC has well documented, female films have been incredibly hard to get made at studios, or to get independently financed. If these films do get made, women face enormous challenges during the making of them,” Portman continued. “I have had the experience a few times of helping get female directors hired on projects which they were then forced out of because of the conditions they faced at work.”
She added, “After they are made, female-directed films face difficulty getting into festivals, getting distribution and getting accolades because of the gatekeepers at every level. So I want to say, I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day.”
In 2018, Portman also made headlines when she called out the Golden Globes for its exclusion of female nominees in the best director category while presenting the award alongside Ron Howard.
“And here are all the male nominees,” she said before introducing the five men up for the award at the time.
There have only been five female directing nominees in the Oscars‘ 92-year history.
In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first and so far only woman to win the best director award for her film, The Hurt Locker.