Brow Beat

Isabella Rossellini Says the #MeToo Movement “Has Shown Us All the Subtle Ways Women Can Be Diminished”

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18:  Isabella Rossellini attends the American Theatre Wing Centennial Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on Septembe  (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for American Theatre Wing)
Isabella Rossellini. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Isabella Rossellini has spent the past few days on a media tour talking to various outlets about becoming the face of Lancôme again at age 65—and promoting her very charming book about raising chickens. The latest of these stops is an interview with Vulture in which Rossellini reflects on how the beauty industry is different for older women and recalled the only time she met Donald Trump (“I thought he was going to be obnoxious, but he was very courteous”).

During the wide-ranging conversation with David Marchese, Rossellini also, perhaps inevitably, addressed the #MeToo movement, and particularly Italy’s culture of machismo, where street harassment is commonplace. “I remember when I was a little girl in Italy—not so little, a teenager—men on the street would say, ‘I like your tits!’” she said. “It was vulgar, it was normal, and it was done for different reasons. Maybe nature is one of those reasons but that’s not an excuse.”

But when Marchese asked Rossellini about her experience with sexual violence, she pointedly declined to go into detail, explaining that she does not “have the heart” to identify the man who raped her when she was a teenager.

I do understand the value for some people to talk about their experiences, but for me, there is no value. The person that raped me—I was 15 or 16, he was a year older than I, why would I dig out this story 48 years later? What if people start to say, “No, you have to say the person’s name?” I don’t know what happened to him. He might be married. He might have children. I am a superstar in Italy, if I said who did this, I would destroy him. This man hurt me in the context of a culture that we are all trying to change. I don’t think that pinpointing one person and destroying their life because they made a sin in the context of that culture—I don’t have the heart for it.

Rossellini is not the first celebrity to choose to keep the details of her #MeToo story to herself, but her choice not to name her attacker, in particular, is an important reminder that the movement can, and should, be about more than simply publicly shaming men for bad behavior. Rossellini spoke in support of the women who have come forward, not only as survivors of assault but also harassment, for shining a light on a problem that goes beyond the misdeeds of a few high-profile figures.

“For me, the interesting thing is how the #MeToo movement has shown us all the subtle ways women can be diminished,” she said. “Rape is a way of being hurt that everyone can recognize. There are other ways. It could be your boss saying, ‘I like your skirt on you.’ It’s a compliment, but it makes you feel diminished. To hear other women express their stories and to show how devious some men can be—that is what has been so helpful to see.”

The interview, which is worth reading in full, can be found over at Vulture.