$15 Million Legal Defense Fund to Fight Sexual Harassment Announced

$15 Million Legal Defense Fund to Fight Sexual Harassment Announced

Three hundred prominent female actors, agents, writers, directors, producers, and entertainment executives have announced the launch of TIME'S UP, an initiative to fight systemic sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond, the New York Times reports.

Announced in a letter signed by women in show business who have pledged support for working-class women victimized by harassment, the multifaceted initiative includes the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund, which has raised nearly $14 million through a GoFundMe campaign to help women in blue-collar jobs protect themselves from sexual misconduct and/or retaliation when they report it. Spearheaded by Tina Tchen, a lawyer who served as Michelle Obama's chief of staff, and administered by the National Women's Law Center's Legal Network for Gender Equity, the fund will connect female victims of sexual harassment with lawyers. Major donors to date include Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg, Shonda Rhimes, Meryl Streep, and Reese Witherspoon, as well as ICM Partners, Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor, and United Talent Agency.

Run by volunteers and made up of several working groups, TIME'S UP oversaw the creation in December of the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, which is led by Anita Hill. The initiative also includes a push for legislation that would penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment and would discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims; the launch of 50/50by2020, a drive to reach gender parity at studios and talent agencies by 2020; and efforts to ensure that minorities and gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people are heard. The movement also is requesting that women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes Awards on January 7 wear black to raise awareness of workplace sexual harassment.

"The struggle for women to break in, to rise up the ranks, and to simply be heard and acknowledged in male-dominated workplaces must end; time's up on this impenetrable monopoly," the letter from the group states.

The initiative is designed in part to address criticism that the #MeToo movement has focused on the harassment and abuse experienced by female Hollywood stars and largely overlooked workplace harassment experienced by working-class women. TIME'S UP members told the Times that an open letter on behalf of seven hundred thousand Latina farmworkers standing in solidarity with actresses bolstered the entertainers' resolve to expand their efforts beyond Hollywood. "It's very hard for us to speak righteously about the rest of anything if we haven't cleaned our own house," said Rhimes. "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?"

"TIME'S UP." TIME'S UP Website 01/01/2018. Cara Buckley. "Powerful Hollywood Women Unveil Anti-Harassment Action Plan." New York Times 01/01/2018.