Over 300 actors, directors, agents, writers, producers, and others in the film industry have penned an open letter and taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times outlining a comprehensive plan to end sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination in Hollywood and elsewhere. The program, which was announced on January 1, is called Time's Up and is backed by the likes of Shonda Rhimes, Meryl Streep, Eva Longoria, Sarah Jessica Parker, Reese Witherspoon, America Ferrera, Kerry Washington, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, and Ashley Judd.
"We write on behalf of [over 1,000] women who work in film, television, and theatre," the letter begins. "A little more than two months ago, courageous individuals revealed the dark truth of ongoing sexual harassment and assault by powerful people in the entertainment industry. At one of our most difficult and vulnerable moments, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (the National Farmworker Women's Alliance) sent us a powerful and compassionate message of solidarity for which we are deeply grateful. To the members of Alianza and farmworker women across the country, we see you, we thank you, and we acknowledge the heavy weight of our common experience of being preyed upon, harassed, and exploited by those who abuse their power and threaten our physical and economic security."
The letter goes on to thank women in various blue-collar industries for their bravery in speaking out against sexual harassment and violence, explaining: "Harassment too often persists because perpetrators and employers never face any consequences. This is often because survivors, particularly those in low-wage industries, don't have the resources to fight back."
According to a separate article in the Times, the Time's Up initiative includes a legal defense fund backed by $13 million in donations to help farm workers, factory workers, janitors, nurses, and other less privileged women protect themselves from sexual assault; legislation that seeks to hold companies that tolerate sexual misconduct (particularly through the use of non-disclosure agreements) accountable; and a request that all women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes wear black to raise awareness of sexual misconduct.
In addition to presenting a real, tangible plan to promote change across industries, the Time's Up initiative will likely help to defray some of the criticism leveled against the #MeToo movement, which some believe has been exclusive of working-class women and women of color. The organization is leaderless, instead run by a coalition of volunteers broken up into several groups, one of which is dedicated to amplifying the voices of minorities and the LGBTQ+ community.
"It’s very hard for us to speak righteously about the rest of anything if we haven’t cleaned our own house," Rhimes told 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?"