Time’s Up?

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans  The #MeToo moment may be moving, step by step, in a direction that confronts more than just bad actors and begins to look at the reform of the entire system of sexual harassment, which is simply a manifestation of discrimination, if not outright misogyny. This is good news, even if the debate is unsettled.

Susan Faludi argued an effective case in an New York Times op-ed that essentially argued that the moment needed to become a movement, so that its target was not individual men in high profile positions in the arts, politics, and culture, but the very system of discrimination against women that created these vicious and sometimes criminal entitlements that some exercised as licenses for abuse. She argued for a movement that was comprehensive and did something more than trickle down from the elite to the workplaces of the vast majority of women. Right on!

Interestingly, her argument and the obvious implication it has for the majority of women, seems to have been also taken up by the women of Hollywood. Widely reported and announced with full-page ads, 300 women ranging from A-list actresses to agents, writers, directors and others in the film industry, launched “Time’s Up” with a $13 million dollar kitty raised within days. Their claim is obviously that they are going to cleanup Hollywood where they work, but they were at least sensitive to their exalted place in the sun, and also committed that they were going to devote energy – and resources – to support women farm workers, janitors, nurses, factory and restaurant workers who face much harder and ingrained systemic abuse.

In Hollywood, in the shadow of Harvey Weinstein, it is hard to believe that they can be ignored on their home turf, and that’s not trivial, given the progress that might be made if some real systemic reform there leached into the films they produce. More tellingly than Faludi’s argument was the early open letter from 700,000 women farm workers who had expressed solidarity for the women of Hollywood last fall.

This won’t be Jane Fonda marching with welfare recipients in Las Vegas to protest welfare cuts in the 1970s though. The main thrust of their work seems to be a legal defense fund to represent exploited women that will be administered by the National Women’s Law Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity. The fact that it will be directed by Tina Tchen who served as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff in the White House is encouraging, because we can also hope that part of the edge of their attack and resources might not be sucked into lengthy, time consuming legal efforts but also into the political arena where reform is needed and impact can be immediate.

This is all getting serious, and that’s great news. Hopefully more women at the bottom, will force more women at the top, with all of our support, to make these changes from top to bottom to finally have more gender equity and to make it permanent. That would be good for all of us!