Top Hollywood women join forces to fight sexual misconduct

Last Updated Jan 7, 2018 7:21 PM EST

Galvanized by the heightened focus on sexual harassment, 300 actresses, directors, producers, agents and other notable women in the entertainment industry are banding together to fight such abuses not only in Hollywood, but also in low-income jobs across the U.S. 

The initiative, dubbed "Time's Up," is fronted by such prominent industry figures as Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of the television series "Grey's Anatomy" and other hit television shows; Donna Langley, chairwoman of Universal Pictures; and actresses America Ferrera, Rashida Jones, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman and Reese Witherspoon. 

In announcing the campaign on Monday, the group alluded to the string of allegations of sexual assault, harassment and other offenses involving powerful men in the film, TV and media industries, while expressing solidarity with women in blue-collar jobs. Writes the group an open letter vowing to challenge inequality and injustice in the workplace:

"To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, 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." 

Those strong words are being backed by action. The campaign also is creating a legal defense fund spearheaded by the non-profit National Women's Law Center and which to date has raised more than $13 million, to offer services to low-income workers facing sexual harassment or any repercussions from reporting it.

Other elements include support for legislation that would target companies that fail to halt harassment and a push for gender equity in talent agencies and film studios. Time's Up is also urging women who attend the Golden Globe Awards, which airs January 7, to wear black to express support for victims of sexual harassment who have publicly accused a range of Hollywood figures.

More broadly, Time's Up says it will work to promote diversity in corporate management and help more women and men obtain legal help to hold wrongdoers accountable. 

The movement was spurred in part by a letter sent in November by the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, an advocacy group representing hundreds of thousands of women who work in the agriculture sector, in support of Hollywood actors battling sexual assault.

"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," Time's Up said.

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