In 2018, Time’s Up on Abusive Bullsh*t

It’s safe to say that 2017 will be remembered, in part, as the year in which American women began speaking up in unprecedented numbers about the harassment and abuse they endure in their daily lives. The year was bookended by two massive demonstrations of outrage and solidarity on this front—namely, the Women’s March and the #MeToo campaign. And while these movements were set off by the actions of a few particularly high-profile predators, the innumerable accounts of sexual harassment and assault we heard in 2017 have taught us that abuse of power isn’t just playing out in Hollywood and Washington. It’s everywhere, and it has to stop. 

But if 2017 was a year of symbolic solidarity, 2018 is already shaping up to be a year of more definitive action, thanks in part to the women of a new initiative called Time’s Up.

Announced in the earliest days of 2018, Time’s Up is a sweeping initiative dedicated to ending sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond. Spearheaded by 300 of the most powerful women working in entertainment today (like Kerry Washington, Reese Witherspoon, and Ashley Judd, to name just a few), Time’s Up seeks to dismantle systemic abuse in the workplace with a series of direct, concrete proposals. Chief among these proposals is a legal defense fund—comprised of donations and on track to reach $15 million—that will go toward helping less advantaged workers who have experienced sexual abuse and harassment on the job. It’s in the establishment of this legal defense fund that the shift from talk to action on the issues at hand is most distinct. The women of Time’s Up are making a concerted effort to put their status and wealth to work for less privileged people. Though some of the proposals laid out by Time’s Up are more specifically geared toward Hollywood, the group is making it known from the jump that their goals are ambitious, far-reaching, and adamantly intersectional. 

In an open letter published in the New York Times, the women of Time’s Up were crystal clear on this point: 

"[We] recognize our privilege and that fact that we have access to enormous platforms to amplify our voices. Both of which have drawn and driven widespread attention to the existence of this problem in our industry that farmworker women and countless individuals employed in other industries have not been afforded… 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 Time’s Up letter was actually in direct response to another open letter, released by Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, an advocacy organization comprised of current and former farmworker women. In this earlier letter, over 700,000 women agricultural workers first offered solidarity and support to the women of Hollywood, while reminding the rest of the world that people in other, less glamorized industries are no strangers to abuse in the workplace. 

“We wish that we could say we’re shocked to learn that this is such a pervasive problem in your industry. Sadly, we’re not surprised because it’s a reality we know far too well,” the letter reads, “Countless farmworker women across our country suffer in silence because of the widespread sexual harassment and assault that they face at work… In these moments of despair, and as you cope with scrutiny and criticism because you have bravely chosen to speak out against the harrowing acts that were committed against you, please know that you’re not alone. We believe and stand with you.”

While the Time’s Up legal defense fund will be available to any individual who has experienced sexual harassment or abuse at work, regardless of their industry, the initiative still has plans to transform the way Hollywood operates. Another proposal backed by Time’s Up is 50/50 by 2020, an effort to ensure equality in industry leadership roles for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community. 50/50 by 2020 is encouraging studios, networks, and agencies to cultivate equality at the highest levels of their companies—and many are already pledging to do so. The hope is that when leadership roles in Hollywood reflect real world demographics, representations of oppressed groups in entertainment will become more nuanced and complex, rather than stereotypical or demeaning. And as Shonda Rhimes, a member of Time’s Up, puts it: “Where’s there’s equity, there’s less harassment and abuse.”

Hopefully, efforts like Time’s Up will help draw attention to the systemic abuses that are playing out in workplaces all across the country, and the world. The initiative’s intersectional goals are certainly a gigantic leap in the right direction. And while it’s heartening to see so many powerful women weaponizing their privilege for the greater good, we need more men to join this fight if we’re going to reshape the power dynamics of entire industries. Some high-profile Hollywood men have already started donating to the Time’s Up legal defense fund, and perhaps this trend of male participation will continue as 2018 gets underway. 

 Photo by PAUL DRINKWATER/NBC

Photo by PAUL DRINKWATER/NBC

If 2017 forced Americans to reckon with our pervasive culture of workplace sexual abuse, maybe 2018 will force us to change our collective ways. With women-led initiatives like Time’s Up taking charge, there’s every reason to hope that change is possible, if we’re willing to work for it. As Oprah Winfrey said in her instantly-iconic speech at the 2018 Golden Globes, where she was presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment:

"I want all of the girls watching here now to know, that a new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, 'me too' again"

Cover Photo clockwise from top left: first two by Brinson+Banks for The New York Times; Jimmy Morris/European Pressphoto Agency; Brinson+Banks for The New York Times