The new Hollywood initiative, and its importance across the board.
Recently, the #MeToo campaign took over social media, bringing to attention the number of women that have experienced sexual assault and harassment. Following this social media hashtag, there was an unprecedented surge of outing sexual harassment perpetrators, the majority of which happened to be men with power in the entertainment industry. These two ‘movements’ sparked discussion and action on the topic of sexual harassment and assault; producers, directors, comedians and the like were released from their jobs, the story was covered by numerous news outlets, and perhaps most exciting, 300 women across the Hollywood industry have created the “Times Up” campaign, dedicated to fighting workplace sexual harassment for all.
The campaign, announced January 1st, is based upon the idea that time is up for perpetrators of gender-based harassment, and it is time now for a change. It is signed and supported by celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, Amandla Stenberg, America Ferrera, and more, as well as by executives, lawyers, producers, etc., all within show business. The campaign has many parts; a legal defence fund for less privileged women, a call for gender parity within workplaces, legislation aiming to penalize companies that tolerate harassment, and finally, a request for women in show business to wear black as a means of raising awareness. As the “Times Up” website states, “We… want all victims and survivors to be able to access justice and support for the wrongdoing they have endured. We particularly want to lift up the voices, power, and strength of women working in low-wage industries where the lack of financial stability makes them vulnerable to high rates of gender-based violence and exploitation.”.
This initiative is the biggest step yet in the movement towards awareness and change of sexual harassment, and it is a necessary step. For too long, sexual harassment has been a norm. Victims and survivors have been ridiculed, fired, reprimanded, and ultimately ignored. The outing of Weinstein, Louis C.K and more sparked a change, and with this campaign, the change can now reach further than the entertainment industry. While there are critics, including those who worry about fake accusations, and those who may not understand what constitutes harassment, the reality is that sexual harassment is a common part of life, especially for women. In a world where the US President can be elected after his locker room talk video, there’s clearly an issue.
This issue is also not exclusive to America, although Canada does have a slightly politer Prime Minister. According to The Canadian Women’s Foundation, Canadians not only have a blurred idea of what constitutes “consent”, we also have an issue with victim blaming, meaning that reports of sexual harassment are low, and victims often feel re-victimized and judged when seeking police or legal help. Furthermore, 43% of women reported sexual harassment in the workplace, and women were twice as likely as men to say they had received unwelcome sexual contact while at work (20% compared to 9%). Moving closer to home, approximately half of women respondents in a survey across Canadian universities reported some form of sexual harassment while on campus.
These facts and the recent movements in America should be enough to illustrate that there is an issue with sexual harassment in our society, specifically in the workplace, but no longer will it be an underlying issue. With women speaking up and calling out harassers, with the topic front and centre, and with an initiative dedicated to helping all victims and survivors, change is happening. The #MeToo campaign was the beginning of what some called a revolution, and clearly, this revolution is still going strong.