Here’s how I kicked off 2018:
Eating Thai rolled ice cream with the nephew I don’t see enough.
Watching Meryl Streep boss “The Post.”
Studying up on Time’s Up, a new initiative to combat sexual harassment, backed by 300 female power players and millions of their dollars.
I like the looks of this year.
Inspired by sexual harassment stories rocking Hollywood and an open letter of solidarity from 700,000 female farmworkers, Time’s Up is a pledge. But it’s also a whole lot more.
It establishes a legal defense fund, to be administered by the National Women’s Law Center, to provide subsidized support to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment, assault or abuse in the workplace or while pursuing their careers.
It encourages Hollywood studios and agencies to strike a 50-50 gender balance of power within two years.
It clearly spells out what is sexual harassment (and what isn’t) and provides a list of groups and hotlines to turn to for help.
And it frames survivors, best of all, as a unified group of stakeholders, regardless of industry or income.
“It’s very hard for us to speak righteously about the rest of anything if we haven’t cleaned our own house,” executive producer Shonda Rhimes told The New York Times. “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?”
Rhimes is one of the Hollywood heavyweights spearheading the effort. Others include actresses Ashley Judd, Kerry Washington, Jennifer Aniston, Eva Longoria, Reese Witherspoon and America Ferrera, chairwoman of Universal Pictures Donna Langley and “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway. Backers pledged $13 million for the legal defense fund, which also accepts tax-deductible donations through a GoFundMe page (www.gofundme.com/timesup).
They announced the initiative Monday, the first day of 2018, with an open letter on behalf of more than 300 women in film, television and theater. The letter ran as a full-page ad in The New York Times and the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion and can be found on the Time’s Up website, www.timesupnow.com.
The letter begins as a response to Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, a national alliance of female farmworkers who penned an open letter in November expressing solidarity with the women and men in Hollywood who’ve experienced abuse at the hands of their employers. (“A reality we know far too well,” the farmworkers wrote.)
Then it casts a far wider net.
“To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss,” the letter reads, “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 in order to make a living: We stand with you. We support you.”
It closes, “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 stories through our eyes and voices with the goal of shifting our society’s perception and treatment of women.”
I encourage anyone who’s interested in a more just world to spend some time on the Time’s Up site. Even if you’ve never been harassed. Even if you’d never dream of harassing. Even if this feels like a problem that doesn’t touch your borders, give it a look — particularly the “What You Can Do” section.
Beyond just “don’t harass people.” (Although that’s a great place to start.)
For example: “If you are part of an organization, look at the workforce and the leadership (management, officers, board of directors). Does it reflect the market where you operate and the world we live in? If not, ask why not and do something to move it closer to that goal.”
And: “Acknowledge that talent is equally distributed, but work and career opportunities are not. Mentor someone from an under-represented group in your industry. If you are in a position to do so, hire someone who can diversify the perspectives included in your organization; your team will be better and stronger for it.”
And: “You can vote with your wallet: in your purchasing, in your investing and in your charitable giving. Spend or give to companies and organizations who have more equitable leadership and opportunities for all.”
All in service of one goal, clearly stated in that open letter: “Shifting our society’s perception and treatment of women.”
It’s 2018. And time’s up on the old way of doing business.
Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.