Just hours into 2018, more than 300 actresses, writers and directors — including Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, Rashida Jones and Emma Stone — have launched a project to help fight sexual harassment in the film industry and other workplaces.
According to an official announcement, which came in Monday’s New York Times, signatories of the Time’s Up initiative will seed a legal defence fund, backed by $13 million in donations, to help less privileged women protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the fallout from reporting it.
It will also include the legislation needed to protect against sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace, as well as a drive to reach gender parity across Hollywood.
In a “solidarity letter” published on its website, Time’s Up says the “struggle for women to break in, to rise up the ranks and to simply be heard” must end.
Aimed at “every woman… who has had to fend off sexual advances”, the letter goes on to say that such harassment can often continue because “perpetrators and employers never face any consequences”.
“We remain committed to holding our own workplaces accountable,” it adds, “pushing for swift and effective change to make the entertainment industry a safe and equitable place for everyone.”
The letter ends on a positive note, with the signatories promising to tell “women’s stories through our eyes and voices, with the goal of shifting our society’s perception and treatment of women.”
It’s thought that only 344 out of every 1,000 cases of sexual assault gets reported to authorities, meaning roughly two thirds of incidents will never be investigated.
There are a number of reasons why people decide not to report — from fear of testifying or fears their attacker might retaliate — all valid concerns considering that out of every 1,000 rapes, only six perpetrators will go to jail.
Last year, though, countless women — including Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd, two of the first to speak out publicly against Harvey Weinstein — decided to take a stand against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, triggering a massive #MeToo movement across every industry.
Now, it is the hope of Natalie Portman, Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington, lawyer Nina L. Shaw, Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, Tina Tchen, and all those involved with the Time’s Up project, that we can harness the strength and unity of #MeToo and use it to generate positive change.
As Witherspoon points out: “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.”
You can read all about Times Up and learn how to get involved here.
Images: Rex Features