Ever since Time’s Up was launched at the Golden Globes, it has proven to be a movement that is more than wearing all-black on the red carpet and an accessory you pin to the lapel of your tuxedo jacket. At only two months old, the movement and legal defense fund continues to spread its message at SXSW with the “TIME’S UP! Shifting the Imbalance of Power” panel, with the chair of the organization, Tina Chen, National Women’s Law Center’s Fatima Goss Graves, as well as actress and activist Jurnee Smollett-Bell.
“This is not a moment in time,” said panel moderator and Time’s Up founding co-chair Hilary Rosen. “This is a movement-forever cause. It is up to all of us to make people believe we are not going to forget about this.”
Graves says that since Time’s Up launched, they have been contacted by over 1,900 people — and it continues to grow. In addition, 500 attorneys have signed on to provide free legal consultation and take cases. Over $21 million from 20,000 people around the country and the world has been donated. The amount may seem like a lot, but Graves says, “$21 million is not enough — I know that’s a controversial thing to say.”
Smollett-Bell adds that those accused sexual predators and assaulters have “mountains of legal support and sources” that make it difficult and expensive for victims to fight against.
“We need to match their resources,” said Tchen, former Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama.
Graves echoes Tchen and encourages the development of the movement, saying that they need to grow the fund and recruit more attorneys and garner resources to battle those who want to continue to silence victims.
Smollett-Bell, who has been in front of the camera since she was a 10-month old, points out how this started way before Harvey Weinstein and shared her own experiences, saying that she was harassed on set before she was even a teenager. She felt that there wasn’t a place where she could go or do something about it. “It really didn’t matter,” she admitted. She said that it, unfortunately, became a condition to her work — and it was the same for many other women.
“Enough is enough. We can’t allow this to continue,” she said. “This is about power and shifting the balance of paper.” She says that the majority of industries have solely straight white men in power and “until that changes, we are going to continue being on the receiving end.”
Smollett-Bell, alongside other actresses, has become an outspoken voice in the movement. In particular, she, along with many actresses and women of color, have formed a group under the Time’s Up umbrella called WOC (pronounced “woke”) which addresses the different experiences women of color face when it comes to harassment.
“Women of color are in the center hub of Time’s Up,” said Smollett-Bell. “There is no Time’s up without women of color. There’s no Time’s Up without trans women or women with differing abilities — we’re so focused on that.”
She points out that with every single step, Time’s Up is thinking about intersectionality, because the workplace is for every woman. She gives the example of Laverne Cox, who is a trans woman. “I will never know how that is,” she says, stressing WOC and Time’s Up drive for the inclusion of all those affected by harassment.
“We didn’t realize how conditioned we were to accept it,” said the former Underground actress. She says that women are often isolated on set because they are the only female with a speaking role. Because of this, they didn’t have time to see and talk to each other about their “me too” moments. “When people started telling their story, it was powerful,” she said.
“We’ve been at this work for half a century, yet here we are,” says Tchen. “It’s important to know that sexual harassment is a symptom that happens when you don’t have diverse workforces. We have to pay attention to keep advancing women and people of color.
She adds, “When you have a diverse workforce in addition to straight white men, you will have a place that’s safe and equitable for work.”
Rosen remarks that farm workers reached out to Time’s Up and shared their similar struggles for equality and harassment in the workplace. Their experiences lined up with the fund’s mission, and Smollett-Bell says that the letter they received from these workers outside of Hollywood was “a catalyst.” She said that the group felt a solidarity with their sisters across industries.
“There’s a privilege and burden that we hold,” said Smollett-Bell. “People pay attention to the Natalie Portmans and the Tracee Ellis Rosses of the world. But in this moment, we felt empowered and privileged that they reached out across industries.”
She punctuated, “The patriarchy will fall because we are in this together.”