Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes And 300 Celebs Commit To Fighting Sexual Harassment

Time’s Up is a campaign addressing systemic workplace sexual harassment in all industries.

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Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon and Amber Tamblyn are among many big-time names supporting the powerful new initiative Time's Up
(Photos: Getty Images)

2018 is off to a strong start. On the first day of 2018, Time’s Up — a campaign against systemic workplace inequality and harassment backed by hundreds of Hollywood’s most powerful players — made its debut. The movement will establish a legal defence fund to help people who have been victims of workplace sexual misconduct, particularly those in blue-collar industries for whom the risks of reporting are particularly costly, find legal representation. Time’s Up was formally announced with an open letter published as full-page advertisements in the New York Times and Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion, reading “Dear Sisters.” At press time, the movement’s GoFundMe campaign had collected nearly $14 million of its $15 million goal.

According to the GoFundMe page, the Time’s Up fund will “provide subsidized legal support to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace and while in pursuit of their careers” and will be administrated by the National Women’s Law Center, a U.S. women’s rights legal organization.

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“To every woman employed in agriculture 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 waitress 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 to make a living: We stand with you. We support you,” the letter reads.

“We remain committed to holding our own workplaces accountable, pushing for swift and effective change to make the entertainment industry a safe and equitable place for everyone, and telling women’s stories through our eyes and voices with the goal of shifting our society’s perception and treatment of women,” the call to action continues.

While the New York Times reports that the initiative has no official leader, TV production magnate Shonda Rhimes and actor/producer Reese Witherspoon are two key players in the campaign against systemic workplace sexual harassment. The entertainment industry A-listers are joined by at least 300 prominent Hollywood women — including actresses Ashley Judd, America Ferrera, Rashida Jones, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington, Oscar-nominated director Ava Duvernay, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, Transparent creator Jill Soloway, Universal Pictures chairperson Donna Langley and many more.

Actress and activist Amber Tamblyn, who has written about her own experiences with Hollywood predators (like the open letter she wrote for Teen Vogue about being pursued by a 50-something James Wood when she was just 16), is also lending her support and considerable influence to the movement.

In addition to collecting donations for the legal defence fund (to which many of Hollywood’s most powerful, including DuVernay, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Regina King, Felicity Huffman, Megan Ellison, Kate Hudson, Viola Davis, Alicia Vikander, Amy Poehler, Olivia Munn, Taylor Swift and Jessica Chastain have already donated), the Time’s Up campaign includes support for the “50/50 by 2020” effort to bring gender parity to Hollywood talent agencies and studios, and a call for women to wear black to the Golden Globes on January 7 — a sign of protest against sexual harassment in Hollywood and solidarity with its victims. Comprised of several committees that have reportedly been meeting since last October, Time’s Up’s initiatives also include legislation, corporate policy and hiring practices, as well as the anti-sexual harassment commission chaired by Anita Hill that was announced in December of last year.

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The conversation around sexual harassment and assault in the workplace has reached a fever pitch in the months following the almost 100 allegations of assault and rape levied against disgraced Hollywood film producer, Harvey Weinstein. Since the New York Times broke stories about his decades of criminal behaviour — and the “complicity machine” that kept his predation alive — some of the entertainment industry’s most powerful men have been experiencing a reckoning, with household Hollywood names like Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Affleck and countless more being brought to task for past predatory behaviour.

Major media players like Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose have been fired for their alleged crimes — and, notably, have been replaced by women, with Christian Amanpour’s CNN International show, Amanpour, taking Rose’s PBS time slot and Hoda Kotb taking Lauer’s place as permanent co-anchor of NBC’s Today.

And in one of the most recent post-Weinstein milestones, Time’s Person of the Year for 2017 was bequeathed to not a single person, but a movement, with the honour going to “The Silence Breakers,” including actors like Rose McGowan, Selma Blair and Terry Crews, as well as lesser-known people such as activist Tarana Burke, the woman credited with starting the #MeToo movement.

Can we dare hope that 2018 will bring real change for women across all industries? At the very least, it’s off to a positive start.