Three hundred powerful actresses and female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives have launched a sprawling initiative to fight systemic sexual harassment in Hollywood and in blue-collar workplaces nationwide.
Called Time’s Up, the movement was announced today (Jan 2) in an open letter signed by the A-list group of women in show business, including Ashley Judd, Eva Longoria, America Ferrera, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Rashida Jones, Emma Stone, Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. The letter also ran as a full-page ad in The New York Times, and in La Opinion, a Spanish-language newspaper.
The campaign has already raised more than $13 million of its $15 million target. Oprah Winfrey and Taylor Swift have donated $100,000 apiece, while Shonda Rhimes, Witherspoon and Meryl Streep have each donated $500,000 to the cause.
“It’s very hard for us to speak righteously about the rest of anything if we haven’t cleaned our own house,” said Rhimes, the executive producer of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” who has been closely involved with the group.
“If this group of women can’t fight for a model for other women who don’t have as much power and privilege, then who can?” Rhimes continued.
Other Time’s Up members include the showrunner Jill Soloway; Donna Langley, chairwoman of Universal Pictures; the lawyers Nina L. Shaw and Tina Tchen, who served as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff; and Maria Eitel, an expert in corporate responsibility who is co-chairwoman of the Nike Foundation.
“The struggle for women to break in, to rise up the ranks and to simply be heard and acknowledged in male-dominated workplaces must end; time’s up on this impenetrable monopoly,” the letter says.
The initiative includes:
— A legal defense fund (backed by the $13 million in donations) to help less privileged women — like janitors, nurses and workers at farms, factories, restaurants and hotels — protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the fallout from reporting it.
— Legislation to penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment, and to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims.
— A drive to reach gender parity at studios and talent agencies that has already begun making headway.
— And a request that women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes speak out and raise awareness by wearing black.
More via the New York Times below:
Time’s Up also helps defuse criticism that the spotlight on the #MeToo movement has been dominated by the accusers of high-profile men, while the travails of working-class women have been overlooked.
Time’s Up is leaderless, run by volunteers and made up of working groups. One group oversaw the creation of a commission, led by Anita Hill and announced in December, that is tasked with creating a blueprint for ending sexual harassment in show business.
Another group, 50/50by2020, is pushing entertainment organizations and companies to agree to reach gender parity in their leadership tiers within two years. It already can claim a victory. In early December, after Rhimes pressed him, Chris Silbermann, a managing director at ICM Partners, pledged that his talent agency would meet that goal.
“We just reached this conclusion in our heads that, damn it, everything is possible,” Rhimes said. “Why shouldn’t it be?”
Several of the women said their work with Time’s Up presented a rare opportunity to meet regularly and pool efforts with other powerful women. In an industry overwhelmingly dominated by men, they said, they were usually one of the few actresses on set, or one of the few female writers or producers in a room.
“We have been siloed off from each other,” Witherspoon said. “We’re finally hearing each other, and seeing each other, and now locking arms in solidarity with each other, and in solidarity for every woman who doesn’t feel seen, to be finally heard.”
No one can predict whether this burst of energy will lead to lasting changes. Time’s Up members said the meetings had brought disagreements and frustrations as well. “It’s not as satisfying as finding a silver bullet,” Ferrera said. “We all recognize there’s no such thing.” But, she added, “not taking action is no longer an option.”
Rhimes said working with the group of women reminded her of a feeling she got as a child, when her mother took her around the neighborhood in a wagon to register black women to vote. “We’re a bunch of women used to getting stuff done,” she said. “And we’re getting stuff done.”
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