Time's Up: Hollywood A-listers launch initiative to fight sexual harassment in the workplace

The initiative includes a $13m legal defence fund for both women and men

Chris Stevenson
New York
Monday 01 January 2018 21:27
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Jennifer Aniston and Shonda Rhimes are among hundreds of Hollywood women who have formed an anti-harassment coalition called Time's Up
Jennifer Aniston and Shonda Rhimes are among hundreds of Hollywood women who have formed an anti-harassment coalition called Time's Up

Three hundred female Hollywood actors, directors, writers, producers, agents and executives - including Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes and Emma Stone - have launched an initiative to help fight sexual harassment in the workplace.

The new project, called Time’s Up, includes a $13m (£9.6m) legal defence fund to help women in less privileged professions push back against sexual misconduct in the workplace and any consequences that may follow reporting it.

Time’s Up was announced in a full-page advert in The New York Times and Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion, taking the form of an open letter - with the project being described as a “unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere”. Other supporters include Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Aniston.

“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 - also published on the project’s website - read.

The defence fund, which is backed by donations, is aimed primarily at those unable to meet the costs of legal action such as waitresses, nurses and caretakers. It is to be used to help both women and men, and will be administered by the National Women's Law Center. Donors so far include Meryl Streep, Taylor Swift JJ Abrams and Viola Davis.

However, the fund - which is aiming to raise $15m - is just one step in the project’s action plan to combat harassment. The initiative will also include a push for legislation to penalise companies where persistent harassment takes place, as well as discouraging non-disclosure agreements that can silence victims. The group itself is leaderless and is run by volunteers and made up of working groups tackling a number of issues.

In regards to the entertainment industry, the action plan includes a drive for gender parity at production studios and talent agencies and a call for women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes ceremony on Sunday to wear black in solidarity.

“This is a moment of solidarity, not a fashion moment,” actor Eva Longoria told The New York Times about the pledge. “This time the industry can’t expect us to go up and twirl around. That’s not what this moment is about,” she added.

The new initiative, follows months of allegations made against a number of powerful men in the entertainment, political and media spheres, which began with reports of allegations made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The film mogul has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment, saying all sexual contact was consensual.

Time’s Up was formed shortly after the reports of the allegations against Weinstein first appeared, with the #MeToo hashtag - used six million times on Twitter and Facebook before the end of 2017 - also inspiring men and women around the world to share stories of sexual harassment.

Criticism had been building that the #MeToo movement had been dominated by accusers of high-profile men and that the concerns of working-class women had been sidelined. The new initiative appears aimed at trying to redress that balance.

An open letter published in November on behalf of 700,000 female farmworkers, saying they stood with Hollywood actors in the fight against sexual assault is said to be thing that pushed the movement to go beyond the entertainment business.

Rhimes, a producer of shows such as Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, made clear that protecting all women was a central focus of the new project, telling the Times: “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?”.

"Earning a living should not come at the cost of anyone’s safety, dignity or morale,” Rhimes said as part of the announcement. "Every person should get to work in an environment free from abuse, assault and discrimination. It’s well past time to change the culture of the environment where most of us spend the majority of our day — the workplace".

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