Faced with criticism that the #MeToo movement, which grew out of the barrage of sexual harassment and abuse scandals revealed since October, served only Hollywood's straight white elite, a group made up of some of the entertainment industry's heavy hitters has helped launch Time's Up, a legal defense fund that's already got $13 million in the coffers to help ensure that survivors of sexual harassment across industries are afforded the resources and support to report sexual abuse, according to The New York Times.
It was reported on New Year's Day that more than 300 women including Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, America Ferrera, Meryl Streep, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, and Kerry Washington helped launch the initiative, but it's not as widely known that out Master of None star and Emmy-winner Lena Waithe is attached to a branch of the group that will address issues concerning LGBTQ people and people of color.
The outpouring of #MeToo stories in which survivors of harassment and/or abuse have shared their experiences, amplifying the magnitude of the problem, helped gain steam when women in Hollywood like Rose McGowan, Alyssa Milano, Judd, Witherspoon, and countless others joined the conversation. But for months, with reports from the arts, the media, and Silicon Valley, it appeared that only harassers in those industries were being held accountable by survivors who had the means to finally speak out.
Recent stories in the Times about decades of abuse at Chicago-based Ford factories and one just the weekend about the dangerous harassment in industries including mining, construction, shipyards, and law enforcement have shined a light on the wider systemic problem. But the catalyst for forming"Time's Up came in the form of a letter on behalf of 700,000 female farmworkers in November saying that they stood with Hollywood actresses who were speaking out.
The letter announcing Time's Up, supported by more than 300 women working in television, film, and theater, began by acknowledging the National Farmworker Women's Alliance.
"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.
It goes on to address some of the criticism leveled against the #MeToo movement.
"We also recognize our privilege and the fact that we have access to enormous platforms to amplify our voices. Both of which have drawn and driven widespread attention to the existence of this problem in our industry that farmworker women and countless individuals employed in other industries have not been afforded," the letter reads.
The letter goes on to point out that a lack of women in management positions fosters more disparity that inordinately affects marginalized people.
"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 continues.
Regarding her participation in the group formed to address issues specific to LGBT women and women of color, Waithe told Times, "No one wants to look back and say they stood at the sidelines."
Meanwhile, Waithe has been vigorously tweeting to help get more people involved with the Time's Up initiative.
"I stand with women across every industry to say #TIMESUP on abuse, harassment, marginalization and underrepresentation," she tweeted, urging people to donate to the fund.