Following the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017 and under the banner of a new initiative called "Time's Up," over 300 hundred artists, actresses, directors, and entertainment industry leaders on Monday issued a "unified call for change" to end the crisis of sexual harassment and assault that exists "from movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms" nationwide.
With an open letter published in the form of full-page ads in both the New York Times and the Spanish-language La Opinion on New Year's Day, the group also launched a new website, filled with resources for working women, and announced the creation of a legal defense fund which will provide subsidized legal services for those subjected to workplace harassment and abuse.
"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 open letter states.
According to this rundown by the Times, the initiative includes:
- A legal defense fund, backed by $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.
As the Times reports, the group is "leaderless, run by volunteers and made up of working groups"—each of which focusing on different areas of the problem or specific populations under threat.
In November, a group of more than 700,000 female farmworkers sent the women of Hollywood a powerful letter of solidarity recognizing the plight of all women subject to sexual mistreatment in the workplace, but asking those in the spotlight to not overlook those who toil in the shadows of sprawling industries like food production, hospitality, restaurants, and elsewhere.
With an explicit thank you to those women for their call and support, the organizers from the entertainment industry behind the "Time's Up" effort say it's imperative to elevate the struggles of all working women. Their letter states:
To every woman employed in agrigulture 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 waitres 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.
Shonda Rhimes—a leading member of the effort and executive producer of several television series, including "Grey's Anatomy" and "How to Get Away With Murder"—says a key component of the effort was making sure that women in those more vulnerable situations and without the name recognition of famous actresses or directors were made central to the effort.
"If this group of women can't fight for a model for other women who don’t have as much power and privilege," Rhimes told the Times, "then who can?"