• Jane Fonda is an inspiration for more reason than one. (Getty Images North America)
The 81-year-old actress has spent her career campaigning for various causes.
By
Samuel Leighton-Dore

28 Oct 2019 - 1:57 PM  UPDATED 28 Oct 2019 - 1:57 PM

Jane Fonda has been making headlines for throwing her weight behind ongoing protests for climate action. Just last Friday she accepted a BAFTA award while being arrested mid-protest for the third time in as many weeks.

While some have pointed out that the willingness to be arrested so nonchalantly speaks to Fonda's privilege, the award-winning 81-year-old actress has a history of using her profile to further causes she believes in.

Fonda's long political history (which has paralleled her career) was examined in a 2018 HBO documentary called Jane Fonda in Five Acts, highlighting why the queen of reinvention should be celebrated for more than just an iconic series of at-home exercise videos and an early penchant for Lycra.

Here are just five ways Jane Fonda gets fired up about causes. 

1. Protesting against the Vietnam War

Jane Fonda earned the nickname 'Hanoi Jane' in 1972 after touring Vietnam and speaking out against U.S. military policy in the country - urging American troops to consider their role in the war. Fonda claimed that the U.S. was intentionally targeting the North Vietnamese dike system, something she said would create the risk of flood and famine.

“If they told you the truth, of what your targets really are,” she said during a recorded message, “you wouldn’t fight, you wouldn’t kill. You were not born and brought up by your mothers to be killers.

"We must all try very, very hard to remain human beings.”

There was, however, widespread anger from the American public after Fonda posed for a photo while sitting on a gun that appeared to be targeting a U.S. military plane. Fonda has since apologised for the image. 

2. Standing up for the Native American community

In 2016, during a standoff with authorities in North Dakota, Jane Fonda joined thousands in protesting the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, even spending her Thanksgiving standing in protest.

In an article for TIME, Fonda wrote: "It has been 45 years since the Occupation of Alcatraz. At Standing Rock we are witnessing the flowering of the seeds that were planted there and, again, it is the youth who seem to be leading the way."

The pipeline, which was approved by US President Donald Trump as part of a plan to increase domestic energy production, distressed Native communities around Standing Rock, who believed the pipeline's crossing of the Missouri River threatened the region's drinking water, while also posing a threat to ancient burial grounds.

3. She puts her money where her mouth is

When it comes to her activism, Fonda doesn't just walk the walk - she talks the talk.

The star has donated millions of dollars to numerous causes over the years - including the Alzheimer's AssociationBarbara Davis Center for Childhood DiabetesElton John AIDS FoundationHeifer International, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

According to Inside Philanthropy, the Fonda Family Foundation was founded in the 1990s to address an adolescent pregnancy crisis in Georgia - a cause she donated significantly to.

When the foundation's legitimacy was called into question in 2013, Fonda wrote an open letter on her website detailing the foundation's work, as well as the work of her other philanthropic foundation - the Jane Fonda Foundation.

4. She is an honourary recipient of the Doctor of Humane Letters degree

In 2000, Fonda's ongoing activism was formally acknowledged when she was awarded an honourary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by Emerson College Vice President for Academic Affairs Dorothy Aram. The degree is awarded to those who have distinguished themselves in areas other than science, government, literature or religion.

5. Fire Drill Fridays

“Wake up folks. The house is on fire. We gotta come together to put it out.”

Despite being in her 80s, Fonda appears to be upping the ante when it comes to standing up for what she believes in - recently helping to launch Fire Drill Fridays in Washington D.C., motivated by the work of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunburg.

"Inspired by Greta and the youth climate strikes as well as Reverend Barber’s Moral Mondays and Randall Robinson’s often daily anti-apartheid protests, I’ve moved to Washington, D.C. to be closer to the epicenter of the fight for our climate," Fonda wrote on her blog.

"Every Friday through January, I will be leading weekly demonstrations on Capitol Hill to demand that action by our political leaders be taken to address the climate emergency we are in. We can’t afford to wait. Welcome to Fire Drill Fridays."

She continued: "The climate crisis is not an isolated issue - it involves every part of our economy and society. Because of that, each Friday demonstration will have a different focus as it relates to climate. Scientists, movement leaders, experts, activists, Indigenous leaders, community members and youth will come together to share their stories and demand that action be taken before it’s too late."

Fonda also pays the bail for everyone who is arrested during the Fire Drill Friday protests, putting her privilege to good use.

Watch documentary 'Climate Crisis: Make The World Greta Again' on SBS On Demand.

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