Women in Entertainment Industry Say ‘Time’s Up’ for Workplace Sexual Assault

By Sameer Rao Jan 02, 2018

A group of prominent women in the entertainment industry opened the new year by launching Time’s Up, a new initiative to combat workplace sexual violence, yesterday (January 1). 

The New York Times published an open letter announcing Time’s Up. The letter explains the project’s aim, which has its roots in a statement that the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (National Farmworker Women’s Alliance) issued in solidarity with those accusing powerful entertainment moguls of sexual assault in November. 

"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 reads. "We also recognize our privilege and the fact that we have access to enormous platforms to amplify our voices."

"Unfortunately, too many centers of power—from legislatures to boardrooms to executive suites and management to academia—lack gender parity and women do not have equal decision-making authority," the letter continues. "This systemic gender inequality and imbalance of power fosters an environment that is ripe for abuse and harassment against women. Therefore, we call for a significant increase of women in positions of leadership and power across industries. In addition, we seek equal representation, opportunities, benefits and pay for all women workers, not to mention greater representation of women of color, immigrant women, and lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, whose experiences in the workforce are often significantly worse than their White, cisgender, straight peers."

The letter’s signatories include actresses of color like Gabrielle Union ("Being Mary Jane") and Gina Rodriguez ("Jane the Virgin") alongside executives like Shondaland’s Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes elaborated on the initiative’s focus beyond the entertainment industry when she told The New York Times that "it’s very hard for us to speak righteously about the rest of anything if we haven’t cleaned our own house." 

"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?” she added. 

To that end, Times Up created a legal defense fund with the National Women’s Law Center. The fund’s website says that it will provide financial and social resources for women who are challenging workplace sexual harassment or assault in court. The Times reports that the initiative includes working groups that will tackle issues like gender parity in entertainment companies and the legal framework around nondisclosure agreements. The initiative will also support those wearing all black at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday (January 7) to protest structural sexual violence.