Brow Beat

Michelle Williams’ Surprisingly Personal Speech About Abortion Was the Golden Globes’ Most Powerful Moment

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose.”

At the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night, Michelle Williams credited her professional achievements to “a woman’s right to choose.”

While accepting the award for best actress in a limited series or motion picture made for TV for her turn as Gwen Verdon in Fosse/Verdon, Williams made an astute connection between the choices an actor makes in her professional life and the choices she makes in her personal life. She thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the award, noting that awards recognize not only the choices an actor makes on-screen but also “the education they pursued, the training they sought, the hours they put in.” She went on:

I’m grateful for the acknowledgment of the choices I’ve made, and I’m also grateful to have lived at a moment in our society where choice exists. Because as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice.

I’ve tried my very best to live a life of my own making, and not just a series of events that happened to me, but one that I could stand back and look at and recognize my handwriting all over—sometimes messy and scrawling, sometimes careful and precise, but one that I had carved with my own hand. And I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose: to choose when to have my children, and with whom.

Without using the word abortion, Williams made a point that abortion rights advocates have used to build support for reproductive rights: that people who oppose abortion should make that choice for themselves, not for everyone else. “I know my choices may look different than yours, but thank God or whomever we pray to that we live in a country founded on the principle that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours,” Williams said.

Many of Sunday night’s acceptance speeches included a personal or political call to action. Russell Crowe, who was in his home country of Australia contending with the wildfires ravaging the continent, sent a message that called the fires “climate change–based” and a reason to “move our global workforce to renewable energy.” Patricia Arquette called attention to the president’s threats to commit war crimes against Iran. Brad Pitt told everyone to … be nice?

But Williams’ speech stood out in its rhetorical elegance, impassioned delivery, and surprisingly personal nature. Its power is a testament to the importance of women’s representation in politics: No one knows the value of reproductive rights like someone who’s exercised them.

And yet, as Williams knows, many women continue to support politicians who are working to roll back those rights. She ended her speech with a plea to those women, that they might start voting in their own self-interest. “It’s what men have been doing for years,” she said, with a sweet smile, to a round of applause. “Which is why the world looks so much like them. But don’t forget: We are the largest voting body in this country. Let’s make it look more like us.”