Last night, many of our favorite actresses showed up to the Golden Globe Awards donned in black with a powerful message for the world to hear: The time is up on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace.
On January 1, 2018, a letter was released and signed by over 300 women who work in film, television, and theatre saying that they were not going to stand for sexual harassment in the workplace anymore. This letter and the corresponding Time’s Up movement is in response to the original letter from over 700 farmworkers who wanted to stand with the whistleblowers in Hollywood by letting them know that the pervasiveness of sexual violence is felt everywhere, even in the fields they work in.
“We do not work under bright stage lights or on the big screen. We work in the shadows of society in isolated fields and packinghouses that are out of sight and out of mind for most people in this country. Your job feeds souls, fills hearts and spreads joy. Our job nourishes the nation with the fruits, vegetables and other crops that we plant, pick and pack.
Even though we work in very different environments, we share a common experience of being preyed upon by individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist and otherwise threaten our economic, physical and emotional security. Like you, there are few positions available to us and reporting any kind of harm or injustice committed against us doesn’t seem like a viable option.”
The response to this earnest letter was followed by a powerful movement and organization called Time’s Up. And while sometimes Hollywood can be off the mark with their responses to social justice issues — this movement goes beyond a hashtag and is backed by action with tangible plans to create change when it comes to sexual violence in the workplace.
“Powered by women, TIME’S UP addresses the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential,” it reads on their site.
The movement has a legal defence fund which has already raised over $14 million dollars to help people of all gender identities fight their sexual harassment cases. This fund is housed and administered by the National Women’s Law Center, an established, national women’s rights legal organization.
Many women who took to the red carpet last night were prepared to reroute the conversation from the designers they were wearing and the awards they were nominated for, to the omnipresent reality of sexual harassment. During an interview with Giuliana Rancic, “Will & Grace” actress Debra Messing called out E! News for allegedly not paying its former co-host Catt Sadler equally as her male coworker.
Some women even brought social justice activists as their dates — Tarana Burke, founder of #MeToo, walked the red carpet with Michelle Williams; Calina Lawrence, a Native activist, attended with Shailene Woodley; and Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, attended with Meryl Streep — just to name a few. All of these celebrities drew the conversation away from their awards to focus on the amazing work these activists are doing. They forced America to listen to women who have put in years of unrecognized change-making and advocacy.
While the red carpet step and repeat is usually filled with talk about the excitement over award nominations and who is wearing what — this year it was chock full of inspiring quotes focusing on women and survivors of sexual violence everywhere. I continually had chills while watching the coverage.
“Black represents being in mourning. We’re not mourning the past but we’re saying goodbye to it. […] I felt honored to wear this color tonight. It adds so much more to the night to be able to say something,” Lena Waithe said of her outfit choice last night.
“You’re born worthy, and I think that’s a message a lot of women need to hear. The women who are still in silence because of trauma, shame, due to the assault ― they need to understand that it’s not their fault and they’re not dirty,” Viola Davis said on the red carpet.
“But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue […]
So I want all 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.”
Oprah also made mention of an incredible woman who endured so much in her lifetime, Recy Taylor. Taylor became a catalyst in the movement to put an end to racially-motivated sexual assault and violence that Black women face following her own sexual assault at the hands of six White men in 1944. And while Rosa Parks later took up Taylor’s case in hopes to get her justice, Taylor’s rapists were never indicted. However, Oprah displayed the importance of why we must continue to say these women’s names — they paved the path that we now walk in hopes for a brighter future.
“She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up,” Oprah said after telling Taylor’s story.
The Time’s Up movement doesn’t simply provide space for survivors to seek justice — it also gives tangible ways to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Of some of their suggestions for what people can do to better support survivors and prevent this type of violence from continuing, they list: Believe people when they tell you their stories of sexual assault, bystander prevention and intervention, do something to create a leadership that reflects the diverse communities we live in, diversify hiring practices, and invest in organizations doing the work.
Time’s Up is not simply paying lip service to a hashtag — they are attempting to provide tangible support to people of all backgrounds who experience sexual harassment. Sexual violence is a complex issue that will not vanish overnight, it will take a village to make a difference and I am so excited to see celebrities using their platforms to truly show up for everyone, not just their own kin.
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