With the new year comes new resolve, and it’s shaping up to be a good year for a patriarchal takedown. For those of us who were beginning to despair that 2017 would signal the end of rape culture in Hollywood alone, 2018 has got you covered. A few months ago, 300 powerful women in the entertainment industry got together, forming a initiative that aims to end systemic sexual misconduct — harassment, assault, and abuse — not only in Hollywood, but in workplaces nationwide. The campaign, called TIME’S UP, officially launched on Monday with an open letter signed by hundreds of women in film, television, and theatre, vowing to support working-class women. The letter ran as a full-page ad in a number of papers, including The New York Times, La Opinion, and a Spanish-language newspaper. It reads, in part:
To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile, every garment and factory worker forced to trade sexual acts for more shifts, every domestic worker or home health aide forcibly touched by a client, every immigrant woman silenced by the threat of her undocumented status being reported in retaliation for speaking up and to women in every industry who are subjected to indignities and offensive behavior that they are expected to tolerate in order to make a living: We stand with you. We support you.
The initiative is partially a response to the backlash that the #MeToo movement received for centering on Hollywood and the elite, leaving the struggles of working-class women out. It promises to “partner with leading advocates for equality and safety to improve laws, employment agreements, and corporate policies; help change the face of corporate boardrooms and the C-suite; and enable more women and men to access our legal system to hold wrongdoers accountable."
TIME’S UP website provides statistics on the frequency and type of workplace sexual harassment, and they provide instructions on how to spot and how to deal with it, including HR and legal resources. It also provides a handy list of what you can do to support people who are struggling with workplace harassment.
As reported by the New York Times, the initiative provides legal aid to workers in the service and farm industry through a legal defense fund, currently backed by $13 million in donations. Additionally, they advocate for the disuse of non-disclosure agreements as they are used to silence survivors. The defense fund will also fight to legalize penalties for companies that tolerate harassment.
While the initiative has no leader — volunteers run it — it has already launched a number of other initiatives from within. These include the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, helmed by Anita Hill, centering on fighting harassment in Hollywood, and 50/50 by 2020, a campaign aiming to create gender equity in Hollywood casting and leadership by 2020. There is also a separate commission to ensure that the movement remains inclusive of race, class, gender, and sexuality.
TIME’S UP is urging women to wear black to the Golden Globes would raise awareness about their initiatives and a statement against race and gender inequality. According to the New York Times, most have pledged to participate.
Wearing black is above all an act of solidarity, which is what TIME’S UP is all about. In an interview with the New York Times, Reese Witherspoon said, “We have been siloed off from each other. 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.” Other celebrities involved include Amber Tamblyn, Shonda Rhimes, America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, Jill Soloway, and Kerry Washington.
With the help of TIME’S UP, women can now have the financial and legal support to gain traction en masse, its effects reaching beyond Hollywood into workplaces nationwide.
Photos via TIME'S UP
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Cricket Epstein is BUST's editorial intern. She writes about feminism, films, witches, and all things awesome (and terrible). She is currently working on a health and wellness website and podcast, to be launched in the near future. You can follow her on instagram @t0tally_buggin and at her poorly maintained doodlegram @poorly_drawn_puns.