Actresses and activists speak up on women’s rights issues at first-ever Time’s Up event
Women across industries — from Hollywood to hospitality — came out Saturday to support Time’s Up, the anti-sexual harassment movement formed by hundreds of Hollywood females to fight for equality in the workplace, pay parity and diversity, during its inaugural event at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.
“When heinous stories of sexual harassment broke last fall, as an industry, we knew that we had to do something to change,” actress Julianne Moore said while introducing the event to hundreds of audience members who roared for the reckoning.
“Every woman has a story to tell,” she added. “Many men reacted in shock to some of the stories women were sharing. As women, many of us developed a level of immunity of how normalized assault and harassment has always been in our society, and we are not just speaking out — we’re taking action to fundamentally change the system that’s allowed this to be perpetuated.”
The Tribeca conversation is the latest public installment of the Time’s Up movement, which has dominated award season in Hollywood this year. The initiative is a legal defense fund administered by the National Women’s Law Center to support lower-income women, people of color and the LGBTQ community facing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The fund was announced after many women shared their own experiences with sexual misconduct in solidarity with Hollywood women who made similar allegations against Harvey Weinstein in October 2017.
The initiative has sparked a national conversation. The hashtag #MeToo went viral after the Weinstein scandal encouraged other women to share their stories, and a whopping 3.3 million tweets were sent out the day of the Golden Globes, when Time’s Up was officially introduced as an extension of the #MeToo movement to give subsidized legal support to those who have experienced sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace. Time’s Up has already raised more than $21 million for its legal defense fund, and has more than 700 attorneys working towards the cause, the organizers announced Saturday.
Filmmakers, storytellers, lawyers and early supporters of the movement such as Ashley Judd, Lupita Nyong’o and Parkland survivor Sofie Whitney rallied together for a full day of discussion, celebration and a call to action. Here are highlights from the event:
Actress Ashley Judd, a survivor of rape and incest at the forefront of the #MeToo movement, took the stage to stress that healing is a lifelong process.
“We can have peace of mind, even as survivors of violent sexual assault,” she said. “It does take work, and it does take time. It requires transformation.”
The 50-year-old activist, who was one of the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct, read a heartfelt letter to survivors following her experience with sexual assault.
“Whatever trauma looks like in our lives, feelings can be healed. Healing is our birthright. It was not our birthright to be sexually harassed, assaulted or raped based on social constructs or gender, biology, sex, orientation, ethnicity, race, ability or any intersection thereof,” she said. “It is our birthright to know in our bones that it wasn’t our fault. We can make decisions and take actions that free us.”
Judd added that everyone’s “healing” trajectory is different, stressing the importance of self-care resources like meditation, 12-step programs, exercise or simply talking to someone.
“Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s self-esteem,” she urged. “It’s pretty terrifying to lean into memories of sexual assault and rape, or even the aftermath, but there’s such liberation and so many gifts on the other side, and that’s what’s empowering.”
Parkland student Sofie Whitney on activism after tragedy
Students nationwide organized school walkouts following the Parkland, Fla., massacre to protest gun violence and honor shooting victims. Whitney said she grappled with how to turn anger and mourning into something positive.
“We turned our anger and our sadness into motivation to make a change,” she said. “It’s hard because obviously it just happened. We’re all still dealing with it, but being together really helps. Talking about it is the only way to get through it.”
Pushing for greater diversity and inclusion in film
Female directors and producers like Kimberly Reed (“Dark Money”) and Lisa Cortes (“Precious”) discussed the importance of having diverse characters and stories in films, and the struggles they faced when trying to tell them.
“For all my career, I’ve been told that we are not welcome,” Cortes said during the “A New Direction: Behind The Lens” panel. But she didn’t give up — and her 2009 film “Precious” was nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards that year, with actress Mo’Nique taking home the Oscar for best supporting actress.
“It’s always about the story; it’s about the people that are considered invisible, but who really shift the world and create the trends and give heart and spirit to how we move,” she said. “It’s about being curious, and looking for parts of myself in stories that I feel need to be amplified.”
In 2017, just 24% of protagonists in top-ranking films were women — a 5% drop from 2016, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University and noted by journalist and panel moderator Marie Brenner. And the percentage of female characters of color in films increased in 2017, but not by much: Parts for black actresses went from 14% to 16%; roles for Latinas jumped 3% to 7%; and roles for Asian actresses increased just 1%.
Reed, a transgender film director and producer who struggled with her gender identity for years, said when she didn’t see roles that she could relate to in films, she picked up a camera and started making them herself.
“As a trans person, I was not seeing myself reflected on the screen,” she said. “The only way I knew how to make sure that was going to happen was basically just to grab a camera and start filming things. That’s how this autobiographical story got told,” Reed added of making “Prodigal Sons,” her story of returning home to Montana for her high school reunion in hopes of reconciling with her estranged brother.
The panel went on to champion the inclusion rider agreement, a clause introduced at the Oscars by actress Frances McDormand that demands racial and gender equity for film roles and off-camera jobs to increase the number of women, minorities and LGBTQ people working in entertainment. And there’s no excuse for not having equal opportunity on set or in any industry, Cortes argued.
“Don’t tell me you can’t find anybody, because if you can’t, I’ll give you some of the best most talented, brightest people who can work on every single key role,” she said. “The argument of ‘I don’t know anyone’ is bulls–t. Come to my set, and you won’t see that.”
How women can get their voices heard
Hearst’s chief content officer, Joanna Coles, asked media influencers during the panel “Rewriting the Story: Women in Media” to share tips on how women across all industries can become agents of change.
Support and mentor other women. “Bringing other women along is really important. … Mentorship is what it comes down to,” said Pam Wasserstein, chief executive officer at New York Media. “Ask for a plus-one for someone who wouldn’t necessarily have been invited onto that panel.”
Make men allies. “Every single time you find yourself in a situation with someone who is making a position that doesn’t further this cultural shift, engage with them, particularly the men around you,” said Times Up co-founder Nina Shaw. “When good men do nothing, they are complacent. Let’s help them be the good men we know they can be.”
Ask for more. “Get rid of the imposter syndrome,” said Amy Emmerich, chief content officer at Refinery29. “Ask for more. It’s OK if they say no.”
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