Variety‘s annual Power Of Women issue honours influential women who are making a difference in the world by lending their support to important causes and charities. This year, Jessica Chastain, Blake Lively and Chelsea Clinton are among the honourees – each of whom are featured on their own Variety cover – recognized for their contributions in the fight against sexism, gender inequality, childhood obesity, child pornography and Donald Trump.
For Chastain, fighting for Planned Parenthood in the Trump era is a cause that’s close to her heart.
“I’m the first woman in my family not to have a child as a teenager,” Chastain says. “I’m the first one to go to college. When my grandmother was younger, she didn’t have access to birth control or sex education. My mom, the same thing. It’s very important in our society to protect women who financially don’t have the means to pay for healthcare, and Planned Parenthood does that.”
Under the Trump administration and pro-life Republicans, the 100-year-old non-profit Planned Parenthood would not receive federal funds for roughly 650 health centers in the U.S. where cancer screenings, breast exams, STD tests, birth control and more are given to more than 250 million patients each year, according to Variety.
“I’m absolutely worried that if we don’t support Planned Parenthood and healthcare for women, we’ll head backward,” she explains. “I guess I’m not surprised by the war on women’s healthcare. I think it’s something I’ve seen for the majority of my life.”
Life under Trump is obviously a personal fight for former First Daughter Clinton who is working to make her voice heard in 2017.
“I think everything is at risk,” she explains. “Our fundamental rights, our fundamental security, are at risk. If you also believe that, raise your voice and help others raise their voices. If we don’t, we’re going to have a country that doesn’t look like the country that we live in today. This is not the time to be silent or stay on the sidelines.”
Clinton, who also lends her support in the fight against childhood obesity, says she was “deeply saddened” by the sexism she experienced on the campaign trail with mom, Hillary Clinton.
“It’s 2017, and we’re fighting again on fights that were settled a few years ago around gay rights, women’s reproductive health; fights to ensure we’re a country that’s always moving toward a more perfect union and not moving toward disunion, disunity, and segregation. We’re really in peril of moving backward. That’s not what I want for my children and their generation,” she says, adding, “I think it’s important for us to realize we can’t take progress for granted.”
Chastain has also been an outspoken champion for women and is working to close the gender pay gap. The actress reveals she asks about the fairness in pay when it comes to the roles she takes on.
“What I do now, when I’m taking on a film, I always ask about the fairness of the pay,” she tells Variety. “I ask what they’re offering me in comparison to the guy. I don’t care about how much I get paid; I’m in an industry where we’re overcompensated for the work we do. But I don’t want to be on a set where I’m doing the same work as someone else and they’re getting five times what I’m getting.”
Variety also recognizes the charitable work of mom-of-two Lively who has turned her attention to battling child pornography with the Child Rescue Coalition. With the organization, Lively has been promoting a groundbreaking technology that flags the IP addresses of people who share and download sexually explicit images of minors.
“There are millions of files all over the world being traded every single day of child pornography,” says Lively.
The actress and beauty spokesperson was drawn to the cause as the mother of two young children. “It’s so disturbing. A lot of these people are fathers,” she says, adding, “If you proactively find these predators, you can save so many children.”
Variety‘s Power Of Women issue is on newsstands now.