Keira Knightley is happy with her anatomy.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian, she recounts how, through her roles in films like Bend It Like Beckham, she often tried to explore “the masculine side” of female characters. “Almost every character I’ve played has tried to break out of that image of femininity. That’s why I like period films, because it’s such an overt cage you put the woman in. That’s always something I’ve really identified with,” the Collette actress says. “I feel like I sit somewhere else.”
“I’ve never wanted a penis,” the 33-year-old actress is quick to clarify. “Apart from to piss up a tree. Being able to do that standing up: so convenient. You can just whip it out and whatever. But the idea of something so vulnerable swinging between my legs, I think I’m all right without.”
In the profile, she speaks at length about how gender politics in movies can affect society as a whole. “We all empathize with men hugely because, culturally, their experience is so explored,” says Knightley, who’s spoken about the issue many times over. “We know so many aspects of even male sexuality. But we don’t feel like men can say, ‘Yes, I understand what you’re talking about, because I’ve got this wealth of art and film and theater and TV from your point of view.'”
“We’re saddled with a system built on inequality,” she adds. “Progress is going to be slow and painful and uncomfortable. But I want to make sure I’m not raising my daughter in fear of the whole other half of the human race. Just as it’s important to raise boys seeing the whole of a woman’s experience, not simply one aspect of femininity. Otherwise, how can you respect it?”
The actress is particular about the roles she accepts, as she doesn’t want to be sidelined as a supportive significant other with no agency of her own. “Women are meant to play the flirt or the mother in order to get their voice heard,” Knightley explains. “I can’t. It makes me feel sick.”