"I am telling you, I have had men touch me in inappropriate ways throughout my childhood. I have had men follow me on any given day, and I am saying during the day, at one o’clock in the afternoon, and expose themselves to me," the 52-year-old actress says. "I remember one day, when I was 27, waiting at the bus stop in Rhode Island for my niece to get out of pre-school. I was probably there 25 minutes, and I am not lying because I counted, 26 cars drove by with men in them who solicited me, harassed me, yelled at me, verbally abused me. Some of these men had baby seats in the back."
"It makes you feel like crap, it makes you feel like, what would a childhood be if that were removed?" Davis wonders. "And it’s hard to separate that stain from who you are. You tattoo it on yourself. Those personal experiences have allowed me to feel compassion for the women who have spoken up."
During the interview, Davis recognizes how inherent inequality kept #MeToo stories from breaking through before the Harvey Weinstein scandals, while still stressing the importance of community and openness the movement spurred.
“Recy Taylor came forward in 1944 when she was gang raped by six men in Alabama. Tarana Burke was the founder of the #MeToo movement in 2006," Davis shares. "There are plenty of black women who have come forward. I don’t think people feel we deserve the same empathy. Or investment. We are not as valued. If the story weren’t coming out of Hollywood, and the predator wasn’t someone like Weinstein, I don’t think it would have gotten the spotlight [either].”
However, Davis says, “Hollywood is a microcosm, and however you feel about the movement, it has given women permission to talk about their sexual assault and be a community with each other. Community, that’s a good word. I know it’s a kumbaya word, but you know what, the minute you feel isolated and you’re on your own, is the minute you’re dead.”
And, as Davis points out, standing together goes beyond the realm of sexual misconduct in the workplace and into the topics of race and gender discrimination with regard to pay equality, noting how Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer negotiated equal contracts for their upcoming film.
"I don’t want to tell anyone what to do, but I think Jessica Chastain did a really boss move with Octavia Spencer by saying Octavia’s got to be paid the same as her," Davis says. "She actually upped Octavia’s quote for that movie because she took a salary cut. I think Caucasian women have to stand in solidarity with us. And they have to understand we are not in the same boat. Even a lot of female-driven events in Hollywood, like power luncheons, which I’ve been to, and are awesome by the way, there will be 3,000 women in that room and five of them are women of color. And it’s by invite! So, you’re not even inviting us.”