Actress Keira Knightley recently penned an essay on her experiences as a working mom in Hollywood, and she didn't hold back. From sharing the details of her daughter's birth, to decrying the sexist double standards when it comes to her industry's expectations of moms versus dads on set, and revealing the disrespect she gets from male colleagues, her account is a brutally honest and scathing look at what it actually means to be a mom in the limelight.
The essay appears in the book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) by Scarlett Curtis, and includes writings from other women in Hollywood like Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Adwoa Aboah, and Jameela Jamil. Refinery 29 published a few searingly candid excerpts from the essay, titled "The Weaker Sex."
In it, Keira describes how she, as a busy, exhausted mom to daughter Edie, 3, still manages to remain professional in the workplace. Meanwhile, the men and dads on set aren't expected to, and don't face any consequences for bad behavior. "I turn up on time, word perfect, with ideas and an opinion. I am up with you [her daughter] all night if you need me. Sometimes I cry I'm so tired. [I'm] up with you all night and work all day," she wrote. "My male colleagues can be late, can not know their lines. They can shout and scream and throw things. They can turn up drunk or not turn up at all. They don't see their children. They're working. They need to concentrate."
What's more, she reveals she's been degraded by male colleagues. "I work with men. I watch them and they watch me. They worry that I don't like them. It drives them mad. They belittle me, they try not to listen to me, they don't talk to me, they don't want to hear my voice, my experience, my opinion," she wrote.
Nevertheless, she refuses to flirt with them or act in a way that would make them feel reassured—because she has no need to. "I work with men and they worry that I don't like them. It makes them mad, it makes them sad, it makes them shout and scream. I like them. But I don't want to flirt and mother them … I don't want to flirt with you because I don't want to fuck you, and I don't want to mother you because I am not your mother."
Perhaps the most memorable part of her essay, however, is the description of her own childbirth story. "I remember the shit, the vomit, the blood, the stitches. I remember my battleground. Your battleground and life pulsating. Surviving. And I am the weaker sex? You are?" She even recalls the moment her water broke while she was walking along London's Clerkenwell Road, with the fluid getting on her shoes, and later, blood soaking through her pad and running down her legs.
She contrasts those images with the polished and everything-is-fine image Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, wanted to project after she gave birth to Princess Charlotte—just one day after Keira had her own daughter. "We stand and watch the TV screen. She [Kate] was out of hospital seven hours later with her face made up and high heels on. The face the world wants to see," she wrote. "Hide. Hide our pain, our bodies splitting, our breasts leaking, our hormones raging. Look beautiful. Look stylish, don't show your battleground, Kate. Seven hours after your fight with life and death, seven hours after your body breaks open, and bloody, screaming life comes out. Don't show. Don't tell. Stand there with your girl and be shot by a pack of male photographers."
This isn't the first time Keira has been candid about women's issues. In 2016, she criticized how costly childcare is in the U.K., during an interview with Harper's Bazaar, and earlier this year, she told Variety she doesn't do many films set in the modern-day anymore because the female characters "nearly always get raped," and she always found something "distasteful in the way women are portrayed," compared to the historical roles she's been offered that feature inspiring female characters.