Angelina Jolie: Women are ‘nurturing by nature, community-building by nature’

Actress Angelina Jolie wearing Atelier Versace with Cartier jewelry arrives at the World Premiere Of Disney's 'Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil' held at the El Capitan Theatre on September 30, 2019 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States.

Angelina Jolie took part in another Zoom call about important issues. She’s been doing this throughout the lockdown, doing Zoom calls with charities and Zooming on behalf of Time Magazine (where she has a columnist gig). This week, she Zoomed with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a conversation moderated by (sad clown noise) Mika Brzezinski. It was for the National Democratic Institute, and they spoke about women in power, women and girls understanding their political and social power and more:

During a discussion with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright moderated by Mika Brzezinski for the National Democratic Institute, Jolie said that there are many societal factors holding women back. During a portion of the conversation shared by NDI on Twitter Wednesday, Albright said a profound result of empowering women around that world is “women that are able to make a political difference by running for office” and “being part of the decision-making mechanism.”

Brzezinski added that it’s “amazing” to see what can happen when women are told of their value — something that inspired Jolie to chime in.

“Women contribute so much, they are giving, are nurturing by nature, are community-building by nature, are strong, are intelligent, and yet what is it that’s holding us back?” the actress, 45, said. “I think when you speak of value, that’s something to really sit with. Why is it that so many women still don’t know their own value? What is it that’s been done to us, whether it be the rapes and the lack of accountability for the rape, whether it be domestic violence, whether it be … this question where we still, we still are saying, ‘Please stop hurting me,’ and ‘Please hold someone to account if they hurt me.’ “

[From People]

A minor quibble, but I loathe the stereotype that women are “nurturing” by nature. I do feel like there are completely fair generalizations to be made about women being natural community-builders, and women being just as intelligent, strong and capable as men. Completely fair. But I think “nurturing” is more of a societal norm, a gendered expectation that we teach girls, that we show girls that they have to care, to nurture, to empathize and we don’t teach boys the same thing. I’m sure some will disagree! It’s an interesting debate to have and I enjoy the fact that Angelina and Maddy Albright are doing it.

Rome, photocall film "Maleficent"

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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40 Responses to “Angelina Jolie: Women are ‘nurturing by nature, community-building by nature’”

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  1. Eleonor says:

    Nope Angie big no.
    But I forgive you.

  2. Slowsnow says:

    Nope, women are not nurturing by nature, and they don’t naturally grow up to be mothers. That is a terrible thing to say and I hope no one says this to any young girl / woman in their lives.
    That first statement kind of explains her question: maybe because we carry such burdens like this onus of maternal / nurturing fates+ we are desired and hated (i.e: raped, assaulted, cat-called), we are led to a puzzling form of self-doubting obscure objects of desire for the patriarchy.

  3. TeamAwesome says:

    Thank. You. If you are nurturing by nature (new Lilith Fair Lady Folk band name, called it), that’s great, but I feel like that IS a phrase full of gendered expectations.

  4. Darla says:

    I just wrote a whole thing about Katie Miller (stephen Miller’s wife) about just this. She announced that she doesn’t have any feelings at all for the children they’re locking up in cages, the babies.

    This is a harmful stereotype because women can be just as sick and dangerous as men. I mean, look at Maxwell for another example in the news right now.

    • Laura says:

      There are also plenty of women who aren’t all that crazy about children and who choose not to be mothers who are not “sick and dangerous.” I am one of them. What is going on at the border is disgusting and wrong. I don’t have to be a nurturer or enjoy spending time with children to understand this or act on it by working to get scum like the Millers removed from our government.

  5. Samira says:

    Yes, I feel you. No, I’m not nurturing by nature. I’m a mom – love my kids and feel I do pretty good by them but I wouldn’t ever classify myself as ‘nurturing’ and believe like you said pushes generalized gendered stereotypes.

  6. wheneight says:

    I think Angelina is much more politically conservative than we’re led to believe. This quote is a case-in-point. So “what’s holding women back” is that they don’t know their own worth and . . . rapes?? I like her and she does great work, but she’s no progressive in her politics.

    • Slowsnow says:

      Wasn’t there a political difference between Brad and Angie with her leaning more conservative (I dear say Republican but I am not sure) and Pitt being more left-wing democrat?
      I always read her as being kind hearted but in the sense of speaking for others rather than working on empowering if that makes sense. But she seems like such an independent person that she may just go to the beat of her own drum.

  7. Jess says:

    Yea, I hate the “nurturing” stereotype. I’m also disappointed to see that, this far into 2020, that any of the participants would have agreed to be part of a discussion that doesn’t involve women of color and representatives of other marginalized communities. We don’t need three able-bodied, cis white women representing all of the women of the world.

    • Otaku fairy says:

      Good point. On what she said about women not knowing their worth- both sexes have to stop treating men like they’re more important. Part of the problem is that, both within society in general and within marginalized communities, girls and women are given very little room or pass to treat each other the way they get to treat their grandfathers, uncles, brothers, male cousins, lgbt male peers, or a boy whose homophobic experience they just heard or read and cried about. The men come first. Female growth and self-sacrifice are seen as the willingness to quickly and quietly make peace with that hierarchy for the convenience of others. That, combined with seeing the violent lifelong cycle of girls and women being mistreated in all kinds of ways and blamed for it, won’t ever teach girls that they or any of the girls they see are equal to dudes in value. What’s just as bad though is that it doesn’t teach guys from any group that women and girls are equal to them in value either, which is why even in marginalized groups you often see guys struggle to come to terms with women they share blood with or sexual orientation with coming for treatment of women that’s been pushed as acceptable.

  8. lucy2 says:

    I agree this is a problematic generalization.
    I also think a lot of women DO know their value, but the patriarchy is so ingrained in society and industry, it’s really hard to get a level playing field and fair treatment, even if we know we deserve it. Add race to that struggle, and for women of color it’s even more of an uphill battle.

  9. Lunasf17 says:

    I love that she does so much with her platform and privilege and genuinely cares deeply about injustices. Regarding the nurturing statement yes it’s a generalization but from a purely biological sense (my husband is a biologist and loves studying biology and it’s affects in behavior) testosterone is such a driving force in (cis)males that it often leads to aggression and fighting while (cis) females don’t have those same urges and focus on the well being of the community, which is the same behavior as chimps and other primates. Obviously humans have a large spectrum but biology plays a part of our behavior and drive.

  10. Alice says:

    Hate this stereotype – I have had feedback from team members (all male) for not “being sufficiently maternal toward me or nurturing me enough”. No man I ever met was given this feedback in a working situation and I cannot imagine the impact if I said this to my (male) boss. It’s another ridiculous standard we hold women to.

    • lucy2 says:

      That is awful. I cannot imagine complaining about a coworker or boss that they were not “maternal enough”. THAT IS NOT THEIR JOB.

    • Joanna says:

      Wtf?! That’s crazy. Say I’m your co worker not your mom.

  11. Mitanh says:

    Angelina says stuff like this a lot. You wouldn’t think it by how she’s lives her life, but she seems to have some pretty outdated views on gender roles.

    Even in the context of relationships, while with Brad she was always making random, unprompted comments about how he was the man in the relationship and she was the woman, which isn’t really something anyone feels the need to say unless they’re trying to get across that they have a ‘traditional’ relationship that enforces gender roles.

    • Zut alors says:

      Her interviews during the Brangelina era were so painful. She sounded like a 1950′s housewife. I don’t know if it was partly in service of the Brangelina image and their fanbase or trying to get away from the femme fatale image thrust upon her. Part of the problem is, she’s not a particularly eloquent speaker. I don’t know if it’s the lack of a higher education, but listening to her on these Zoom calls and Time interviews has been eye opening. She tends to speak in broad terms about a lot of things, almost cliche like if you will.

      • Truth hurts says:

        @ZUT ALORS
        Angelina hardly sounded like a 1950’s housewife during the Brangelina era! She was influenced by Pitt and his PR of course and she even said herself by the end of that she didn’t recognize herself. Even said she lost herself because I think she was trying to dim herself and elevate him. POWERFUL WOMEN ARE NOTORIOUSLY GUILTY OF THIS. Could be one of the reasons for the problems in that marriage. He is factually arrogant, spiteful and selfish even according to him. Imagine living in that and u being strongly independent trying to hold on for the sake of your kids.
        Trying to make her a political conservative and Pitt a liberal is so silly.

  12. AMM says:

    I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, but my experience in aggressive or chaotic situations is that the women tend to be more nurturing in general. I wouldn’t say it’s biological and that every woman is designed that way, but I think we are expected to be nurturing from a young age (given dolls to play with, encouraging to play act at being mothers, allowed to cry and work through pain while boys are expected to toughen up when injured, etc) so that by the time we come adults, more women are compassionate and focused on caring for people.

    I don’t believe that we are necessarily born that way, that every women ends up nurturing or that women should even be expected to be nurturing, but I do believe that they generally end up more caring than men.

  13. SaraR. says:

    Of course women are nurturing “by nature” – their bodies carry babies through pregnancy and after giving birth, their bodies provide nutrients for babies’ survival. By nature, male bodies can’t do that.

    • Ad says:

      Agree, women are naturally nurturers it’s embedded in them. When it comes to nurturing it’s the women who takes the lead & at the same time can do as much as men does.

    • Grant says:

      There’s much more to being nurturing than just carrying a baby. There’s the whole raising the child after their born thing. By your own definition, you’re saying that–for example–a male same-sex couple can’t be nurturing to their child because they didn’t carry said child. Angelina’s statement is very offensive and problematic.

      • SaraR. says:

        That’s absolutely not what I said. I never said that men arent nurturing, that people who don’t give birth can’t be nurturing parents or that all women should be mothers. I said that “by nature” women are nurturing because their bodies have biological ability to nurture child by nurturing them in their womb and producing milk (nutrients) after birth. I am talking about biological capabilities of women’s bodies.

  14. ClaireB says:

    I have always preferred the company of women, because they’re more supportive and communal, but in college I began to believe that this was a stereotype and that men just needed to be taught to be better, more nurturing, and less egotistical.

    After having three children, two boys and then a girl, and trying to raise them all the same way, I am having to readjust my ideas. My boys are very definitely less interested in investing time and energy in relationships and are more competitive and my daughter, on her own, has been more concerned about others and about helping and supporting the family. You can say that I’ve raised them differently, but I definitely tried to raise my boys to be empathetic and kind, more “feminine” traits, and it certainly didn’t stick as well as it has with my daughter! I now believe that the truth is somewhere in between nature and nurture.

    • Slowdown says:

      I have 3 boys between 10 and 19 and I can safely tell you that your education isn’t the only educational influence they have. Actually as kids/teens they also carry the weight if centuries if patriarchy in their bodies and social / school circles. The good news is that when they grow up, if you keep the channels open, your educational efforts resurface. Growing up is a lot about testing and trying to fit in. But we evolve all our lives. And actually your daughter also carries the same weight on her shoulders to be what you describe her to be. It’s actually healthy sometimes to invite a little more masculinity in women (independence, self-affirmation etc) in my experience of course.

  15. Hmm says:

    She’s looked happy and healthy throughout all of her zooms. She doesn’t have to deal with pittstain making her life miserable anymore now that pax is talking. Whooo

  16. yinyang says:

    I’m kind of tired of hearing this, woman are not one dimensional. We can be stupid, uncaring, aggressive, gross, we fart and blech too. Sometimes I go out of my way to be these things in front of men, I don’t want them to see me as some angel, or some other woman as the devil for not being these things. Like we’re somehow less if we’re not perfect or if we are feeling/unfeeling. I don’t know why it makes me angry…and I understand we should be nuturing and community building, but still they’re big shoes to fill. I want my daughters to know they haven’t failed if they’re not all things to all people.

    • Caty Page says:

      Isn’t “acting” aggressive and performatively passing gas sexist since it’s an action you take based on presumed stereotypes? Whether we are acting in accordance with or against stereotypes, if the primary purpose of our actions is responsive to stereotypes, it’s inauthentic and based on gender roleplay.

  17. diamond rottweiler says:

    There is recent scientific evidence based on DNA research that women are “slightly” more empathetic as a group (University of Cambridge, 2018). But we also know empathy can absolutely be taught. So like most human behavior, it’s a combination of nature/nurture. But I also resist the “women are *born* to be care takers” clap trap that justifies all kinds of sexism in the name of biological essentialism. There are active empathy training programs in Canada for school children, and God knows American boys and girls would benefit massively from such an approach.

  18. TeamMeg says:

    I watched one clip and Angie seems a bit nervous, trying to find her words—(understandable, being paired with a titan like Madeleine Albright!) As for the nurturing comment, she might have meant biologically? Motherhood is certainly central to her life, so nurturing is out in front. On another note, maybe it’s me but doesn’t she seem to have gotten more conventional in her dress and manner as the kids have gotten older? If so, that attitude might carry over to having a more conventional outlook such as “Women are nurturing by nature.” (Whereas in the past, she might have spoken more about women being fierce and wild by nature!)

  19. Marigold says:

    The problem I’m seeing is that many of the commenters here have conflated “nurturing” with mothering.

    They’re not the same word and they don’t mean the same thing. I know many childless (or child-free or whatever word you like) women, and their lack of biological motherhood has nothing to do with their baseline biological drive to nurture. Women — to a degree that men do not — make webs of social community and take care of the other humans in their sphere.

    One woman or ten women’s anecdotal statements of, “I hate kids, so this is a ridiculous stereotype,” or, “I’ve never wanted to be a mother, so this is a ridiculous stereotype” are irrelevant. It’s not about mothering. It’s about the absolutely proven biological fact that females relate to other human beings differently than males do, and it has nothing to do with whether or not they’re given dolls instead of toy trucks to play with.

    She is absolutely correct, and if you add social conditioning to not take up too much room, to allow men to be in control, and to constantly apologize for the oxygen we consume (and this is true in SO many societies to varying degrees), you get what she’s talking about: the overall tendency of women to underestimate what they are worth and what they bring to the table and how much value their lives have in the community.

    This isn’t about asking women to make babies or assuming anything about maternity. That you have conflated the word “nurture” with children alone is understandable, but that’s not what she said and it’s clearly not what she meant.

    She meant that women approach life and employment of all kinds differently than men, and history has proven that women will underestimate their value and their own natural entitlements because of how society ranks the feminine qualities of nurturing and social networking.

    • Amy Too says:

      I thought it was interesting that Kaiser said she agreed that women are natural community builders but did not agree that women are natural nurturers. I think community building is a form of nurturing. You’re nurturing the community, you are creating a comfortable, trustworthy, safe, empathetic environment in which to grow a community. You are open, inviting, and welcoming to people who would be a part of the community.

      But like you said, I think too many people hear “nurture/nurturing” and think of only “maternal/mothering.” And that’s because the word is often used to mean maternal/mothering. But that’s not the original or only definition of the word nurturing. I guess it would be important to know what definition Angelina Jolie had in mind when she commented. The fact that she brought in community building and did not bring up motherhood makes me think she may not have been using the “nurturing=mothering” definition.

      • Marigold says:

        I caught that, as well, Amy Too.

        Community building is borne out of the same feminine impulse. Men are capable of it, but not to the degree that women are. It has nothing to do with mothering aside from the fact that mothering benefits from those same tendencies (and our biological ability to mother is probably where it comes from evolution-wise).

        I am not what most people think of when they think of a “nurturing” mother. I didn’t have an immediate wave of emo wash over me when my daughter was born. I don’t gush over babies. I am not an overly demonstrative person. I don’t hug people I don’t know. But I am a nurturer, as most females are. I care deeply about the safety, security, and general well-being of people around me. That care drives the way I do things, as it does for most females. I put my needs second to the needs of others around me, and this is the core of “nurture.”

        I am an introvert, but despite that, I have a way of creating and conducting relationships, which is also uniquely female.

        This is what she’s talking about, and for women who’ve been hurt or are defensive about their choice not to have children…I think they’re missing what she’s saying. What she’s saying is more than valid, and it needs to be repeated many times. It’s at the very heart of the societal issues we’re trying to resolve for women’s autonomy, security, and equality in our communities.

  20. ELR says:

    I think her comments are being misinterpreted. Yes they’re talking about families and children, but they’re actually really talking about community building and idea creation and execution. Women are sometimes/often better at nurturing ideas through to fruition.

  21. Mag says:

    Women may or may not be nurturing by nature till the time they are mothers. But once you have a baby all of this just falls into place. You are naturally nurturing and it comes from inside nobody tell you or pushes you into it. You also want safe and strong communities not only for your children but yourselves.

  22. Aurelia says:

    I really belived the same as angelina did when I was young and dumb. Until I had a baby and didn’t have ANY fecking idea of what to ‘naturally’ do. I had to be shown the ropes like millions of other women since time began, until I put 2 and 2 togther for myself. Same with my husband, He learnt as well and was better at it than me I hate to say.

    Same in the animal kingdom. Take primates, older mothers literally show the new mothers what the hell to do. Elephant older mothers will rain hail and brimstone on new mothers who aren’t getting it either. I saw a fascinating doco about how closely aligned homosapien and elephants are emotionally. This older matriarch elephant mother chased down this young mother for neglecting her calf.

    • enike says:

      I think it would be nice, if the older matriarch elephant mother would chase down the young mother AND father, for neglecting THEIR calf.
      It would be nice, if it will be the same with people. Women often have no other choice than to be nurturing, bc otherwise no one else would nurture their baby as many fathers are absent, either psysically or emotionally (obviously, there are many good fathers), but if the father is absent, the mother gets all the slack from other mothers, mainly.

    • Marigold says:

      I didn’t know what to do with a baby, either, and we learned (my husband and I) from our own mothers and grandmothers and friends who already had kids. We also learned by trial and error.

      That’s not what nurture means, though. Nurturing is the natural tendency (which women have a larger share of than men, generally speaking and which has been proven in brain studies) to put the needs of others ahead of your own. The assumption is that women have this in large share because of our biological functions in birthing and nursing children, but that is not the only area of life in which it applies.

      Jolie was speaking of the nurturing impulse as it relates to community-building. She was not wrong, and it needs to be spoken of more frequently, in my opinion. It’s at the core of what female human beings are (whether they mother or they don’t), and this tendency of women to nurture is also at the heart of why society devalues women and produces so many women who do not fully understand their own natural entitlement to voice and security and respect and…value.

  23. Truth hurts says:

    The power of journalism and the personal opinion/interpretation of something is so detrimental. Prime example here and the differences of opinions here influenced by Kaiser.
    Angelina isn’t a natural interviewer, she is a speaker. She isn’t good at asking questions due to lack of experience doing that. She has always been in the opposite. In these zoom calls and discussions. They have asked her to talk about some things she had to brief herself on. She is not dumb or ignorant by any means. It seems she is trying to educate herself, which she says, during these calls on some subjects. Others are just her speaking with people allowing them to introduce their work to the listeners.
    Lastly women’s can be tough, smart, and nurturing at the same time. They are more of those than men I don’t care what people here say to stir the rift or incite a conversation. Really is sad that women here feel like this was wrong to say. Think for yourselves and don’t let people lead you! Nurture this!