Natalie Portman Is Transforming Gender Norms After Her Husband Couldn’t Find Friends Interested in the Arts

Natalie Portman is one of the world’s most successful and acclaimed actors. She has appeared in some of Hollywood’s biggest franchises as well as stirring independent films. Portman also is very socially conscious and regularly speaks out on behalf of causes and subjects that interest her. In particular, Portman is a champion for gender equality and has opened up on several occasions about how she is determined to raise her children with a “genderless” approach. 

Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

How did Natalie Portman become famous?

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Portman was born in Jerusalem in 1981 and began acting when she was 12 years old. Her breakout role was in the 1994 film Léon: The Professional. Portman earned critical acclaim for her work in the mature drama and quickly followed it with appearances on Broadway. She achieved worldwide fame when she appeared as Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 1999. She went on to reprise the role in two sequel films. 

Portman followed her work in the Star Wars franchise with a variety of dramatic films. A few of her biggest hits include V for Vendetta, Black Swan, Jackie, and The Other Boleyn Girl. She is also a member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, portraying Jane Foster.

Natalie Portman is raising her children to challenge gender norms

In 2009, Portman started dating choreographer Benjamin Millepied. The two got married in 2012 and have two children, a son named Aleph and a daughter named Amalia. While Portman is very private regarding her family and keeps her children away from the spotlight, she has opened up about motherhood and parenting on several occasions.

In October 2020, Portman released a book of updated fairy tales featuring gender-inclusive storylines. The actor revealed that her children were the reason she decided to give traditional fairy tales a twist.

“I realized that the books aimed at my daughter were so different from the ones aimed at my son,” Portman told Yahoo Life. “I wanted classic stories to read to both of them — I wanted regular stories with characters that reflect the way our world is, which is about half male and half female.”

She continued, saying she didn’t want to stress the obstacles people of certain genders might face because those messages wouldn’t necessarily be age-appropriate for her young children.

“They’re so unaware of any kind of gender definitions or restrictions,” she said. “What I wanted to teach both of them was to have empathy for all people. It’s exposing them to stories that have protagonists that are all genders, backgrounds, and ability levels.”

What did Natalie Portman say about men in the arts?

In a recent episode of the Armchair Expert podcast, Portman opened up about gender constructs. And she discussed how her husband has faced his own challenges.

“We talk about it for women all the time,” she said. “About the things that women are not able to do or not able to express or not able to achieve because of these social prejudices. But then to understand that men are so constrained by the things they’re allowed to — like the things they’re allowed to be interested in, the emotions they’re allowed to feel.”

Portman went on to explain her husband’s situation.

“My husband’s French, and he said when he moved to the U.S. he was like, ‘Guys won’t talk to me about theater or music or art,'” Portman said. “All his close friends were gay men because he was like straight men in America aren’t allowed to have interests in the arts. It’s limiting. Are you only allowed to be into cars and motorcycles?”

Clearly Portman is drawing from her husband’s experiences, as well as her own, to help shift society’s perception of gender norms.